Monday, May 24, 2010

Jail School Bus or Bust?

schoolbus In the article Choice Bus Aimed At Reducing Drop Out Rates, it states that a school bus has been renovated so that “The bus is half-school bus and half-prison cell and is designed to show young people the power of education.”

I’m not sure this is the best way to use our money.

Yes, I agree we need to send the message that education will benefit students and that dropping out is not the thing to do.

But I’m not sure that the students will get the message just from this school bus. I think there are better ways we can use money.

We could fund programs that teach students a skill, a trade that they can use in real life. I can see that a positive outcome can be shown from spending money in this way. It could be documented when students get a job using the skills they learned. By following up with the student, it can be shown that the student made a career choice.

Yet, by showing the students a jail cell, how can the effect be documented in the future?

Maybe we are making jails and the penal system too common place for students. Maybe kids are being desensitized to this so it just doesn’t mean as much.

I remember having the fear of the unknown and it kept me from doing things that I shouldn’t. I knew my mother never said things she didn’t mean and if she told me that I would regret it if I did something, the fear of what would happen kept me from doing it.

Now kids see the jail as a place to sleep and get three square meals (and many kids don’t have that). They also know that there is a weight room for inmates (so why pay all that money to join a health spa!). They don’t realize the ramifications of being locked in and being told what to do every minute of the day (they feel like they exist that way anyway between home and school so what’s the difference?). We need to stop romantizing the way these students see jail.

These students see way too many movies about how wonderful it is to be an ex-con and how gangs are just like being on a baseball team. Money should be focused on steering our students in a different direction and boycotting movies like this. It is time for society to stand up and take responsibility by putting companies that promote this behavior and thoughts out of business.

No, I think we need to go back to putting fear of the unknown into our students. We don’t need to show them what the inside of a jail cell looks at. We don’t need to share specifics about life in prison with them. They just need to hear that it is the worst possible place in the world to be and how much they want to avoid going there. We want to do whatever is necessary to keep from doing things that will land them there.

We don’t need to waste money with building a bus that looks like a jail cell and paying for all that gasoline going around the state. We need programs that will help students survive in today’s world. We need to teach them skills that will keep them out of jail. We need to focus on showing them how to stay out of jail and not assume that they already know how to do this.

I feel the sentiment is nice but is that really what we need to waste our money on? Will it really help reduce the number of drop outs? Isn’t there a better way to spend our money and achieve these results? What do you think?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

1 comment:

Shane said...

As a teacher who has been on that bus with middle school students and has seen the look in their eyes when they are taken to the back of the bus and put inside the cell area, I have to say that it is worth it. Are their students who are desensitized? Sure, but the young men and ladies that live in that grey area between good choices and bad benefit from the experience. Then they need to be given alternatives whether it be training programs or attention from a positive role model. The bus works. Its just not a magic school bus here to make them all angels