Preparing youth for adult culture

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It can be jolting when young people discover the demands of the workplace.

ORLANDO RAMOS, the new principal at Beloit Memorial High School, said it well: "Kids are brutally honest, and they don't have a political agenda. They tell it like it is."

Ramos was responding to questions posed by the Beloit Daily News about the district's program requiring students to deposit their cell phones into locked individual pouches during classes. The student representative to the Beloit school board, at last Tuesday's meeting, told board members that kids were figuring out how to beat the system and get at their phones. Lakya Jackson went on to suggest it would have been cheaper and more effective to have students deposit their phones into a cardboard box at the beginning of each class, to be reclaimed when the bell rings.

For the record, the district - read: you, the taxpayer - is spending $24,000 for a first-year lease of the specialized pouches, with a $12,000 annual fee thereafter.

IN THE CONTEXT of the annual school district budget, which exceeds $100 million, that's not a lot of money.

And, as most parents already know, separating a kid from his or her phone can escalate quickly into an exhausting battle of wills.

Likewise, as Principal Ramos aptly pointed out in the interview, "teenagers rebel sometimes."

So let's not dwell long on the particulars of cell phones, pouches and rebellious teens.

Instead, apply this exercise as it relates to what we believe should be the guiding and overriding principle whenever it comes to setting rules and guardrails about student work ethic and behavior.

IN THE BLINK of an eye, relatively, those high school students will be out of school, off the campus and for many, striving to find a job and make it as an adult.

Training students to expect others to accommodate them is not wise, or compassionate, or encouraging of future success.

There will be workplace rules and expectations. Employers are not likely to bend or break those rules to accommodate a rebel or, for that matter, tolerate any kind of entitled attitude. Bosses won't spend thousands of dollars to buy pouches, or accept anything else that smacks of surrendering authority.

It's not hard at all, in fact, to find employers who have fired workers for fiddling with cell phones or misusing devices in some other way that wastes the business's time and money. Out there in the adult world, a worker either follows rules and brings value every day or the employer will show the wayward individual the door.

Harsh? Maybe. But that's the way it works - discipline is demanded, and no whining allowed.

SO IN OUR VIEW, the number one job of educators is to prepare kids to succeed in the adult world. That means developing a proper work ethic, discipline and respect for rules is just as important as academic learning.

Do the kids a favor: Drill into their heads that employers simply do not care about their habits or their feelings about those habits, but rather expect them to stay focused and help the business make money.

That world rewards discipline and hard work.

That world punishes rebels.

Not to mention, slackers.

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