Friday, December 16, 2005

Silly teenager...driver's licences are for students

The Ontario government is proposing new legislation which would ban highschool dropouts from being able to get a driver's licence.

"The law also provides for fines of up to $1,000 for students who are regularly absent from school and would fine parents the same amount, up from $200 under current legislation. Employers who have students working during school hours could also be fined $1,000."

Education Minister Gerard Kennedy notes:
"This by itself can't make the difference," Kennedy said of the driver's licence restrictions, which will apply with some exceptions for "family situations."

"We're saying to people that you shouldn't be going into a job, no matter how attractive it looks, that doesn't have a learning component, if you're 16 or 17," he added. "You're short-changing yourself. The success of this will really much more depend on the (educational) program that we're putting forward," he said. "What we're doing, mainly, is opening up better choices for students."

I think that "choice" is a very pertinent word in this instance. The word choice implies that people are able to freely choose to attend school or not attend school. But is this always the case? As Kennedy notes, "family situations" can often get in the way for many students. But, what counts as a "family situation?" For instance, it seems obvious that the Liberal government does not include having to work to support your family or yourself, as a "family situation" since you "shouldn't be getting a job, no matter how attractive it looks." However, this elides the fact that there are certain students who are more likely to be absent than others, such as poorer students, rural students, etc. Students, in other words, who are already disadvantaged. What the proposed legislation assumes is that students are freely choosing to work instead of go to school, which may not often be the case. Furthermore, fining students and their families up to $1000 dollars for missing school seems to completely miss the point. Attending school is not always a choice for some students, and this legislation does absolutely nothing to address underlying issues such as poverty and discrimination. In fact, it seems to do the exact opposite. Instead of creating more "choices" for students, it seems to be decreasing the already limited choices certain students have.

As the following highschool student notes:

Molle Dorst, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Seed Alternative School, said the legislation won't encourage students to stay in school."By not letting a student get their licence, it is saying, `If you drop out, we're going to cut your choices you have in life,'" she said."There's lots of experiences they can have based on their life experience, which are just as valid as having a university education."


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