No. 956



The famous American Poet Robert Frost (1875-1963) once said that education is “Hanging around until you have caught on.” This is certainly a true statement, but was probably more true back in his day than it is today. This is because far too many students all across our nation are truant. This is to say, far too many students are enrolled but not physically present, during the school day.
This has resulted in a controversy in at least one state, the Wolverine State of Michigan. Fuel was added to the fire when Rep. Andy Schor (D-Lansing) introduced a bill in the Michigan Legislature to take away the driver’s license of students who miss a certain number of school days.
As you can imagine, reaction came pouring in from educators, parents, business and civic leaders and others who are interested in students getting a quality education, not only in Michigan but in other states as well. While I don’t have any current information on how the legislation fared, because it is fluid, I would like to present my views on the idea of punishment for truancy, in this case taking away a student’s right to drive a motor vehicle. When I first heard of Rep. Schor’s bill, my first thought was, he is “a day late and a dollar short.” This is to say that it is a little bit late to try to force a student to be in school when they are old enough to legally be able to drive a truck or car.
It seems to me the logical way to approach this problem is to learn why so many students are truant these days. It just follows that when a particular student is absent a great number of days that he or she does not like school. In most cases the reason students do not like school is because they are failing, and of course there are a good number of other reasons as well. To continue this line of thinking, why are so many students failing? Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but the basic problem stems from lack of preparation in the early years of a student’s life. It always comes back to the home, and it is the responsibility of parents to nurture and prepare them for getting a good education.
As I have said countless times, reading quality material is the key to getting a good education, and parents can definitely help here. If students are not reading at grade level by the third grade, it is highly likely they will become a statistic. It is important here to note that we are talking about a relatively small number of students when it comes to total enrollment of any given school. While I have not done any research on this topic, I can almost guarantee you that the students who are most guilty of truancy are those who later get in trouble with the law. The students who fail in school are the ones we most often read about in the news be it illegal drugs, teen pregnancy, crime – categories too numerous to mention individually, and the ever-increasing prison population, that we all pay for through increased taxes.
It should be noted that Rep. Schor’s bill, introduced in Michigan, may be better than not doing anything because many students may attend more school days if they are faced with the prospect of losing their driver’s license. For me, here is the real question that should be the focus of every parent, every school, and every teacher: how do we make school so important, so interesting and so vital that all students will want to be there, for fear they will miss something? This is especially true for very young children, who are establishing study habits that will last them a lifetime. Parents read to them, from the cradle until they walk into school for the very first time.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)