Mandatory volunteerism: The latest in public school gimmicks

It’s an oxymoron — mandatory volunteerism — but a California school district is requiring parents to do it at their child’s school, or else.

In San Jose, a school board is working on a proposal to require all families to perform 30 hours of voluntary school work annually. And just so you know, 88 percent of students in the district are poor, and many of the district’s school’s don’t even have a Parent-Teacher Association.

The “why” isn’t hard to figure out: If parents are involved in their children’s education, it just about always improves the students’ performance. The question is whether compelling parents, particularly parents who already are “too busy” to volunteer, really will improve the learning environment.

In DISD, it actually has become more difficult to volunteer lately, as the district has cracked down on volunteers who have criminal records and/or are registered sex offenders by using a piece of software that analyzes driver’s licenses (they must be presented to obtain a visitor’s badge) to weed out security risks. Compelling some kids’ parents to volunteer no doubt would flaunt that requirement, and the resulting disclosure of the parents’ problems to the school population would probably trigger another school problem — bullying.

And then there’s the question of whether compelling someone to “volunteer” is really productive. I know what happens at my house when a child is compelled to “volunteer” to take out the trash. Yes, it winds up being taken out, but it’s quite an adventure, and that’s the problem — spending all of that time and effort struggling to get someone to do what they don’t really want to do is difficult enough when you’re dealing with a kid or two. How much more difficult would it be to corral an entire school of parents?


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