Teens Need Real-Life Lessons


Last week I ranted about who’s responsible for the growing
misbehavior, some of it nasty, among teenagers.
Last week I ranted about who’s responsible for the growing misbehavior, some of it nasty, among teenagers.

This week I have a solution.

As a requirement of high school graduation, every student must apply for, be accepted at, and keep a job at a fast-food or other chain eating place for six months.

While most places won’t hire kids under 16 years old, the activity will be introduced freshman year so kids will have time to improve any skills or attitudes that might prevent their fulfilling this requirement.

For kids who want to graduate, this will introduce them to the concept of having to take something seriously.

For kids who are already well-behaved, this will correct any tendency they might have to think they are better than other people.

For kids who don’t think they care if they graduate or not, this will introduce them to the non-criminal job opportunities that await the high school dropout, and allow them to experience the potential of the dead end.

For all kids, every aspect of this requirement contains valuable learning.

They will need to fill out an application form neatly (which will focus on penmanship and spelling) and accurately, which will draw their focus to past experiences, if any, and will highlight the value of involvement in school or volunteer activities. It will also encourage treating potential references with respect.

They will need to show up for an interview on time and reasonably dressed. Managers at most places (even those barely out of high school themselves) frown on overly-sagging pants, too many tattoos or piercings, and strange-colored hair.

At minimum during the interview, they will need to sit still, make eye contact, and answer questions audibly and politely.

Answering an awkward question with anger or profanity will terminate the interview.

And to succeed in the interview, they will need to do more than answer questions. They’ll need to carry their side of the conversation and ask intelligent, relevant questions in return.

As you can see, students will need mastery of a lot of different non-academic skills to complete this requirement, and that’s before they even start on the job.

For the kids who are headed to a trade or college, the job itself will be valuable exposure to the world of actual work. Any of them headed for an ivory-tower existence will benefit not so much by having glimpsed what faces them if they fail, but by doing work that requires cooperation, focus, good cheer and a methodical approach.

For kids who are labeled “at-risk,” this might provide the kind of structure they’ve been missing, and could also be a head start out of repeated entry-level experiences.

Kids who are contemplating a career in drug dealing will regard the pay as chump change, although the direct correlation between behavior and tips tends to get everybody’s attention.

Not only that, but some of the perks, such as cops leaving you alone, freedom from beatings and other violence, and a steady and predictable, if low, paycheck, are attractive.

Keeping the job long enough to meet the requirement will require repeated punctuality and the maintenance of a good attitude to managers, co-workers and the public.

And while it might be hard for Hollister’s fast-food and chain eateries to absorb this sudden influx of workers, all that new disposable income could do wonders for the local economy.


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