Go to school, then to work

“The ‘C’ students run the world.”
—Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States

This week your host departs from his normal routine and has to vent. This publication ran a story titled “Second Jobs” (“Back to school”, Aug. 9), which shot me straight into the stratosphere. The point of the story, of course, was that teens’ emphasis should be on school. Hard to argue with that. If a teen is a “slacker” with a bolt through his or her nose, my beef is with one or both parents, not the school.The story quoted Eugene Paslov, a former superintendent of Nevada’s schools: “And I would argue that kids need to work less, if at all, and they need to spend more time in school.”

Now, if you’ve frequented This Place before, you know your host is a genuine, bona fide conservative. I’ve been accused of seeing a liberal behind every tree, an accusation to which I plead guilty as charged.

As Thomas Paine famously wrote, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” (And of course, ever since then, conservatives have been asleep at the switch.)

When I first took this gig, one reader gave me credit because I wasn’t born with the proverbial “silver spoon” in my mouth. Perhaps some history is in order: Right Hook is the product of a teenage mother. She not only raised me, but also managed to put herself through school, as well. She managed to graduate from medical school about the time I started high school. (So much for “it takes a village.")

For obvious reasons, my first job came at the age of 12. It was a newspaper route that consisted of 38 daily deliveries and 76 on Sundays. By the time I graduated from high school, I had grown that to more than 1,000 a day and 1,956 on Sundays.

During that time, I managed to buy my first and second cars. I graduated from high school with a 3.6 G.P.A. and took advanced placement courses in chemistry, biology and English, not to mention organic chemistry, calculus and physics. I also lettered in varsity swimming for four years, which required about five hours a day in a pool, five months out of the year.

The point, lest it be lost over the drone of ex-educators, is that while not all teens are mature enough to handle school and a part-time job, I suspect many more are.

Perhaps even more important is that learning discipline, work ethic, prioritization, handling money and dealing with people outside your own peer group are all skills that must be acquired and that can’t be taught—no matter how skilled the teacher. The time to learn them is while teenagers are still living at home with a safety net, not when they’re on their own—when the consequences of misjudgments can be severe.

Even more important is that when one is busy engaged in positive and productive activities, one is less apt to engage in inappropriate, stupid and otherwise destructive behavior. You know, like sex, drugs, alcohol and generally sucking up oxygen and space that the rest of we productive people need.

I could even argue that a part-time job for teens should be mandatory, not optional.

Although considering Paslov and those who think like him, perhaps that brings us back to Truman’s assertion