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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
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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
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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
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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.


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.
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                                        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


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.


“Trends in Education.” The Educator 01 Dec. 2006.
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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
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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.