Mustang 1 Molly Mustang Mrs. Spectacular English IV-1 10 January 2011 To Work or Not to Work? In today’s unpredictable economy, many families depend on the income of both parents. Very often, their sixteen- and seventeen-year-old teenagers also choose to join the work place. Many students work part-time jobs that comprise as many as twenty to thirty hours per week. As a teacher and someone concerned with the educational welfare of her students, I must draw attention to an issue that concerns the entire nation – high-school students working long hours on school nights. Although some may argue that part-time employment for students can benefit the American society, stronger evidence supports limiting teenagers’ working hours in order to ensure a quality education. Of course, many arguments support the opposing viewpoint. Financial concerns force many teenagers to seek employment while in high school. The recession has mandated that some teens enter the work force to help their families to survive. According to economist Ralph Jones, “This is an unprecedented time in American culture. Many families are facing a financial crisis that affects parents and children equally” (45). Some teenagers actually contribute to the rent and to other family expenses. Their income may mean the difference between a family’s ability to keep a home and being turned out on the street. An article describing the economic crisis in America illustrates this possibility: “These teenagers don’t work because they want to; they work because the welfare of their parents, and, often, their little brothers and little sisters, demands that they contribute to the family income” (“Family”). Finally, a job may help a Mustang 2 student gain maturity and achieve responsibility as well as answer necessary financial obligations. John Richmond, a psychologist who was interviewed for to the article mentioned above, says that a part-time job can teach “self-reliance [and] adult realities” (qtd. in “Family”). Teenagers who are working may learn important lessons about budgeting money and setting priorities. They may learn how to deal with co-workers and a demanding boss. A recent article in Newsweek indicates that jobs in a grocery store or a fast-food restaurant can teach young people discipline and skills they need for a productive future (“Teenagers”). Seemingly, financial assistance to families as well as the development of character and maturity for teenage workers constitute sound reasons for teen employment. Admittedly, the preceding arguments hold merit; however, we cannot ignore certain reasons why teenagers should not be allowed to work during the school week. First of all, many teenagers do not work because they have to; they work to be able afford a nicer car or the latest designer clothing. In the latest edition of The Educator, for example, research shows that teenage spending “is up 55% over spending in 1995” (“Trends”). Teenagers today spend more than twice as much as people in their age group did just ten years ago. Clearly, many teenagers work not out of necessity but out of a desire for material goods. Are these material concerns sufficient justification for allowing our young people to work an unlimited number of hours, time that would be better spent on academic pursuits? Furthermore, is work experience the only path to maturity and responsibility? Recent studies negate these questions. For example, a study conducted by Princeton College reveals the following disturbing information about the increased number of high-school students working part-time: “Although the bank accounts of many of today’s teenagers may have improved, their performance and behavior in school as a result of their time on the job have shown no such improvement. In fact, our study found that truancy Mustang 3 and discipline referrals increased in direct proportion to the number of hours students worked in a given month” (“Teenagers”). Unfortunately, the idea that a job will magically instill responsibility and maturity in students proves to be untrue, as does the notion that most teenagers have to work in order to keep their families from bankruptcy. Most importantly, we should limit the number of hours high-school students can work simply because these work hours adversely affect their education. First, teenagers are still growing, and they need plenty of rest and sleep. Dr. Lawrence Steinberg reports that a teenager who works long hours and then tries to his homework “is forced to go to bed very late. This lack of sleep causes a person’s resistance to disease to be low” (qtd. in “Family”). In essence, then, teenagers who are employed may be more susceptible to colds and other ailments than teenagers who do not work outside the home. This health problem then affects their performance in school, proving that their part-time job is detracting from their education. In addition, many teens report that their supervisors do not take their academic commitments into account when creating schedules and assigning shifts. One survey shows that “more that 60% of the teenagers interviewed worked more hours than they had originally agreed to” (“Trends”). The managers who take advantage of a young person’s inexperience contribute to a serious consequence of teenage employment: tired, overworked students frequently sleep in class, and when they are awake, they cannot concentrate. Furthermore, a number of educators note that “many students who need extra help cannot come after school for tutoring because of work obligations” (Jones 2). Students who allow the demands of a minimum-wage job to supersede the opportunity to improve their grades may suffer serious consequences. And, we have to wonder, will this mind- set result in students choosing less-rigorous course loads, adversely affecting their preparation Mustang 4 for college? The Princeton survey provides these unsettling statistics regarding jobs versus school work: According to our data, high-school students who spent more than 10 hours per week at a part-time job outside of their homes saw an average drop in their GPA of 1.2 points. Although this may not seem like much of a drop, keep in mind that a student’s GPA is the most important factor in the college admissions process. Furthermore, the number of college-prep or “Honors” courses taken by these students also declined. (“Teenagers”) Clearly, a student’s employment is not in the best interest of his/her education. Research proves that students’ grades and attitudes suffer as a result of this occupation, undermining any reasons to support this growing trend. In conclusion, employment for high-school students is not advisable. Both their health and their education can be negatively affected, perhaps jeopardizing their future. The United States has a higher rate of youth employment than many countries, including Germany and Japan. One historian worries that “[l]ess time in school, more time at work and incredible amounts of time allocated to dating [may] preclude America's youth from competing in a global society” (Berliner). Certainly, high-school students who are tempted to work should consider whether being the first to purchase “The Chocolate” is more important than ensuring their academic success. Mustang 5 Works Cited Berliner, David C. "The Quality of Public Education Has Not Declined." Education. Ed. Mary E. Williams. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Thomson Gale. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. 18 Dec. 2006. “Family.” U.S. News and World Report 10 June 2004. 7 Jan. 2007 <http:///www.usnwr.com/2004/06/10/family/employment.htm.> Jones, Ralph. “The Effects of Teenage Employment.” Taking Sides: Family. Guilford, Connecticut: The Dushkin Publishing Group, 2001. 40-50. “Teenagers in the Work Place.” Newsweek 25 Oct. 2005. 7 Jan. 2007. <http://www.newsweek.com/2005/10/25/teenagers.htm.> “Trends in Education.” The Educator 01 Dec. 2006. www.nea.org/takenote/neaythwork.html Mustang 6 Some Alternate Introductions General Example Many controversial issues exist in today’s society. People have differing views on abortion, gun control, and even stem-cell research. One topic that provokes heated discussion is the issue of teenagers working. Although many reasons exist as to why teenagers work, overpowering evidence proves that limitation of teenage work hours would help a student’s academic success. Ethical Proof Example As a teacher who is concerned with the academic success of her students and for the future of our educational system, I feel I must address an issue that is important – the issue of teenagers working. In my twenty years, of teaching, I have seen part-time jobs for teenagers evolve from a few hours per week to over thirty hours per week. I have seen students exhausted in my class who choose to sacrifice their education in their education in their pursuit of monetary gains. I have heard countless times, “You don’t understand; I’ve got to work tonight. I can’t do homework.” Because of my personal experience, I feel something needs to be done. Although reasons exist as to why teenagers should work, overpowering evidence proves that the limitation of teenage work hours will lead to academic success. Scenario Example Imagine the following scene. Healthy, bright young teenagers with no mental or physical impairment attend the average classroom. The class is reading a play aloud, and most of the students are engaged in the plot, anxious to see what happens next. Out of those thirty students, however, approximately ten of them put their heads down and go to sleep. Are these students ill? Are they on drugs? No, they are so tired from working that they cannot keep awake. This Mustang 7 scene is happening in schools all over the country. Although reasons exist as to why teenagers should work, overpowering evidence proves that the limitation of teenage work hours will lead to academic success.