Does government control your school?

Engage with the young children in your life about the role of different levels of government in your school.

Who determines what happens in a school day? Who should determine what happens in a school day? Should the school experience be consistent across the country or changed to fit local needs? Should federal, state, local school boards or a combination determine what should happen?

In Michigan, there are many laws that affect what goes on in a school day. Local school boards, the Michigan Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education deal with these issues on a daily basis. Who should regulate the things that go on in a school, if anyone?

The following questions are meant to have a good discussion with youth about your local school system. This activity can be done within a family, as part of school activities, a 4-H club or with any group working with young people. Have a robust dialogue about these issues, and encourage young people to find data to back up their opinions. During the discussion, try to limit interjecting your own opinions and let the youth discuss it among themselves.

Let’s start with the most basic item with school. Who should be required to go to school? If a parent chooses to home school, should they be allowed to do so? Should home school parents have to meet a minimum set of requirements? How many days of school should be required? Should there be limits to how long a school day is?

What about the bus ride to school? Should there be a limit to how long a student can ride a bus? Should there be aides to help the bus driver? What training should a bus driver have? Should buses be required to have seat belts?

What kind of food should be offered at school lunches? Who should determine that? Should the school have to accommodate all food allergies? Should schools be required to accommodate religious dietary requirements? How about personal choices? Should schools be able to offer candy or soda pop as part of the lunch? Why or why not? Should schools be required to offer healthy meals? Should schools do anything about food waste? Should schools do anything about disposable trays and silverware? Should there be any regulations on school lunches at all?

Who should be able to teach students? Should teachers have to be certified? Who should do that certification? Should substitute teachers have to meet any requirements? How should teachers be evaluated?

Who should determine what material is taught? Who should determine graduation requirements? Should there be a limit to the types of courses offered? If a school wanted to offer a “Study of Batman” course, should they be able to do that? Should curriculum have to meet standards?

Should students be required to take tests? Why or why not? If you don’t have tests, how do you evaluate if a student has learned? Should test scores in any way connect to school funding?

Should there be limits in the type of discipline a student can receive for misbehavior? How do you determine what is appropriate? Should corporal punishment be allowed? Why or why not? What is the purpose of disciplinary actions? How can you tell if they are effective?

Hopefully these questions will get some good discussion going about your local school system. If you have some great ideas, share them with your local school board, the Michigan Board of Education, or your state or federal legislators.

“To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders." Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.”

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