Accuracy in Media

Normally spring break for high school students involves taking a trip to the beach or some other warm weather locale, lounging around the house, putting in a few more hours at work or maybe, just maybe catching up on schoolwork.

In Montgomery County, Maryland students have another option. They can attend today’s immigration rally in Washington, D.C. and earn community service hours for doing so. That is because the county allows advocacy to count as community service as long as the activity is sponsored by an approved non-profit organization. In this case the approved group is Casa de Maryland an activist organization for immigrants legal or illegal. In 2001 this organization received a $308,000 grant from the Open Society Institute which is funded by George Soros to “extend its community law, advocacy and organizing activities to day and temporary laborers from Baltimore’s growing Latino community.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know the immigration status of those workers.

It isn’t known how many students will actually show up today since it is spring break and it will require them to spend their precious vacation time unlike past demonstrations across the country where students walked out of class often with approval from school administrators, but I am sure there will be some egged on by their parents and with the lure of earning some easy hours. For once students who yell, curse and scream will be rewarded rather than be punished.

The bigger question here though is what is the school system doing promoting advocacy as community service or in the system’s terms student service learning hours? Most people thought that this program (SSL) was to actually provide service to the community, yet as I discovered that isn’t necessarily the case. My youngest son who will be entering high school in the fall will automatically receive credit for 30 hours (60 needed for graduation) because he has been in the school band for the past 3 years and has had a few performances for the community. Even my other son who is a senior and needed 5 more hours because the system lost track of his hours is covering the shortfall by helping his teachers do things like clean out a lizard cage. For him, this is great since he doesn’t have to leave the school to “help” the community”.

This qualifies because the rules state that “Participation in student-service learning activities sponsored through a course, school clubs, or organizations. The teacher or advisor verifies the SSL hours”. In other words, students can perform their community service without ever having to ever leave school as long as the teacher approves of it.

The real losers in this are the community groups that had hoped to benefit by having thousands of teenagers volunteering their time to help their cause and the teenagers who wind up in political rallies or in school sponsored activities that will never learn what community service truly means.

Chalk up another one for “quality” education in Maryland.

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