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Socialized Bounty Hunters And Other Accessories to Truancy

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I wonder if the children are as confused as I am by a school system that hires truant officers to drag students into school and vice principals to kick them out.

It can only be a matter of time before the schools begin punishing students for truancy by suspending them from school, a little like using the death penalty to punish people for attempting suicide.

Students are taught that writing is desirable and fun--and they are sometimes punished for their misbehavior by being told to write essays. No wonder most students regard writing essays with the same fondness as doing pushups.

It was the practice on the farms where I grew up to teach chicken-killing dogs to avoid chickens by flogging them with the carcasses of the chickens they had killed.

Similarly, it was the practice in the schools of that farm country to flog children with their own language, punishing them with essay writing--and then wondering why so many of them hated English.

Teachers even tried to drive you away from the language itself as soon as you were old enough to enjoy it. A boy and I were spanked one day by our first-grade teacher for sneaking into the school at recess and reading several pages ahead of the rest of the class in the reading book. That's right, we were spanked for reading.

Indeed, we often are successful in driving kids from things that are good for them--like reading and exercise--by using those things as punishment.

Typical of public-school inconsistencies are two recent items in the Idaho papers. One is a report that the Clarkston School District has just hired a truant officer. The other is a report that a high-school senior at Tacoma was caught with the aroma of champagne on her breath at a school dance and was expelled from school--for the rest of the semester!

Actually, Clarkston School District doesn't call the man it hired a truancy officer. He is an "attendance officer," an illogical term tending to suggest that he arrests students for their attendance.

It's a vice cop, not a goodness cop, and a homicide detective, not a life detective. Why is a truant chaser called an attendance officer?

But isn't it wonderful that the schools hire truant officers simply because they care so much about keeping all those kids in school for their own good?

Actually, it isn't all that wonderful because the prime reason school districts hire their attendance officers is money. School districts get paid so much in state aid for each kid in school. So they can usually pay the cost of hiring a truant chaser with the money he raises by bringing them back alive. He's a socialized bounty hunter.

But the same school districts that hire people to drag kids into school hire other people--vice principals and the like--to kick kids out of school.

A rather large number of the students who get kicked out of school are kids who don't want to go to school. Thus, we punish kids who don't want to go to school by telling them they can't.

There's a far more efficient way for the attendance cop to keep kids in school than running around rapping on the doors of absent students. You could keep a lot of kids in school simply by arresting the vice principal as an accessory to truancy.

Vol. 02, Issue 20, Page 18

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