Forcing High School Graduates to do Community Service in Order to Graduate?

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I swear I try to write every day. I really do.  Sometimes it’s really hard to find the time.  Have lots of topics though.

Anyway, I was reading in my old home town newspaper on their website that the local school board has voted 12 to 4 (with a handful of absentees) to require 20 hours of community service of all high school graduates, starting with the graduating class of 2013.  This is on top of 17.5 credit hours already required by the state of Maine. (That’s the newest version of state by state requirements for high school graduation that I could find.  I’m sure there’s something newer out there.  edit: 2006) This stems from an agreement of sorts between the Oxford Hills school district and the Maine’s commissioner of education, Susan Gendron, to trade off community service for an over abundance of used snow days that could have pushed back that year’s graduation date.

Now mind you I’m a bit of a fan when it comes to community service.  I do a fair amount of volunteerism myself. (Some days, it seems like that’s all I do.) In fact I think it should be recommended to high school students that they should at least chip in and help.  I don’t think it should be a requirement for graduation though.

  • Who’s going to determine what organizations will be allowed and if time served will be counted?  As noted in the article on the Advertiser-Democrat site, while the teachers are going to have first approval on what’s allowed and what isn’t, the final decision will come down to the high school principle and the director of guidance. I’m sure they’re honorable folks and all that but who’s to say what will be allowed and what won’t be? I’m sure there won’t be any issue with working 20 hours at your local church or library but what about 20 hours at your local Planed Parenthood? How about 20 hours for your non main stream presidential candidate?  Will those students who choose to spend their 20 hours helping out with Ralph Nader, if he ever runs again, find out afterwards that their time was wasted?
  • Will there be enough volunteerism opportunities for everybody?  The Oxford Hills isn’t that large of an area.  Last time I checked, the eight towns together made up about twenty thousand folks with a graduating class about just under 200 students. (It’s been awhile so those numbers have probably changed by now, for better or worse) Are there enough places students can go and volunteer?  Also remember that not all high school students have access to cars so getting to and from opportunities may be an issue.  Not everybody is going to be able to shelve books at their town’s library.
  • Ability.  Let’s be honest here.  Not everybody has the mindset to volunteer.  Sure, they may be gung ho going in but after 2 hours of ladling grits at six on a Sunday morning underneath an Interstate overpass isn’t for everybody.  And shelving books at the library isn’t for everybody either. 
  • Time. Sure, twenty hours over a four year period doesn’t seem to be a lot and I have to admit that I don’t think it is either.  But what about those teenagers who are working forty hours a week during the school year trying to make money for their families?  Or two jobs during the summer?  Are they going to be able to find the time to do their time?
  • Will it be worth it?  I have to wonder if students will get anything out of completing twenty hours of volunteerism.  As noted in the article, doing community service is usually done as a punishment instead of serving jail time.  Also, as noted in the article, colleges and universities look down on compulsory community service.  Will that reflect badly on graduates trying to get into a decent college?
  • If it’s so important, why isn’t anyone behind it?  I know I keep going back to the article but you’ll note that none of the board members spoke in favor for it.  Are they really behind it or just trying to appear to be politically correct?  Where were the community members speaking for it?  The students?  Seems like the only people behind it was Dr. Eastman, the district’s superintendent, and Ted Moccia, the high school principal.
  • One final thing: What happens if at the last minute it’s discovered that a student doesn’t have their twenty hours?  Is it a waste of four years?  If I was the parent and was presented with such an event, I’d been picking up my phone and calling my attorney.

What’s your opinion?  I do want to point out that as far as I’m able to tell via a quick search, there is no state level requirement for such time.  The volunteerism, as well as the senior project that’s also required, are above and beyond what’s required by the state.  A state that requires only two years of mathematics to graduate while most others require three.  A state that only requires a number in the teens of credits while most other states are over twenty now.  I think there’s a lot more things we need to be worrying about than having little Sue or little Tommy picking up leaves at the town beach.

Picture from here by the way.  Please excuse any typos up there.  Kind of rushed through this.

Is Harvard having a problem with keeping it up?

spam.jpgI know that I’ve talked about sites going prospam or ignoring their spam problem in the past but even I have to admit that this borders on being obscene.  For a good time, go over to Google and see how many times Viagra appears on their site.  I had originally thought it was more of an issue with their student blog site and with comment spam that hadn’t been dealt with (edit: Oh wait, I guess that is an issue.  Maybe they need to try Typepad Antispam instead of using Akismet.) but it now looks like some wikis (and maybe a forum or two) are where the problem lies.

I wonder if someone knows something about the professors over at Harvard.  Maybe the medical school should form an outreach program.

And it looks like other folks have noticed the problem as well.  Heck, Microsoft even used Harvard.edu as an example of how to search for such problems.

I’m purposely not giving links so not to add to the problem.  You can find enough of them via the Google search up there.

Animaniacs – Presidents

Animaniacs_PresidentsRichard Byrne over at Free Technology for Teachers posted today a video showing the 44 United States Presidents in order.  Have to admit I prefer, even if it is a bit out of date, the Animaniacs version.

One has to wonder which young students will remember ten years down the road.

Continue reading

Toilet Water or Ice?

Jasmine Roberts, 12, won a top prize in Florida’s Hillsborough County’s regional science fair Wednesday for her project “How Safe Is Fast-Food Restaurants’ Ice?” She compared bacteria found in ice from fast-food restaurants with toilet water from the same restaurants. Her results showed 70 percent of the time, the ice held more bacteria than the toilet water, the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Tribune reported Thursday.

From United Press International – Florida kids win science fair top prizes. Read about it from here.

Would Shakespeare Get Into Swarthmore?

It’s old news. I know. I just found it. I also like how this professor has saved the entire webpage, including the adverts for his class.

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Would Shakespeare really blow the new SAT? Some Princeton Review people talk about what it takes to ace the new essay section of the SAT.

“To receive a high score a student should write a long essay of three or more paragraphs, with each paragraph containing topic and concluding sentences and at least one sentence that includes the words “for example.” Whenever possible the student should use polysyllabic words where shorter, clearer words would suffice. The SAT essay will not be a place to take rhetorical chances. Flair will win no points; the highest-scoring essays will be earnest, long-winded, and predictable.”

They then proceed to analyze writing samples by Hemingway, Shakespeare, Gertrude Stein (who does particularly badly), and the Unabomber. Of course, the Unabomber’s writing style is what the “holistic” graders at the SAT will be looking for. Very amusing, but should we worry that something is terribly wrong with the test?

Read more here

Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School

`Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School.’ by Charles J. Sykes, author of the book Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, Or Add:

Rule 1:
Life is not fair – get used to it!

Rule 2:
The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3:
You will not make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4:
If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5:
Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping – they called it opportunity.

Rule 6:
If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7:
Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8:
Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 9:
Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10:
Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11:
Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Rule No. 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you’re out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That’s what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for “expressing yourself” with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.

Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven’t seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.

Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school’s a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you’ll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now. You’re welcome.

IP Sharing

Found this paper on the net: Web Sites Sharing IP Addresses: Prevalence and Significance. It’s an interesting read as I’ve always thought that blocking via just IP addresses would never work.

It’s also cool to note that the number one IP address with the most websites hosted is 209.67.50.203, a Register.com “Holding the domain name for future use” site.

Abstract: More than 87% of active domain names are found to share their IP addresses (i.e. their web servers) with one or more additional domains, and more than two third of active domain names share their addresses with fifty or more additional domains. While this IP sharing is typically transparent to ordinary users, it causes complications for those who seek to filter the Internet, restrict users’ ability to access certain controversial content on the basis of the IP address used to host that content. With so many sites sharing IP addresses, IP-based filtering efforts are bound to produce “overblocking” — accidental and often unanticipated denial of access to web sites that abide by the stated filtering rules.

Granted it’s out of date having been written in 2002 but it’s an interesting read.