Friday, March 9, 2012

Shooting Ourselves in the...

In two shocking bills working their way through different state legislatures, politicians show how little they understand people and students especially.

The first bill, hailing from Arizona, targets college students. The gist of the bill is that all students, with two exceptions, would have to pay at least $2000 a year out of their own pocket towards their tuition without the aid of financial aid. The idea was that students would have a greater interest in graduating if they had "a bit of skin" in the game, and they point to the dropout rate as well as the percentage of students who pay none of their tuition. Never mind that the fees and books can be a good portion of a student's expenses.

Now, I did mention two exceptions to the law. The first is the student athlete. The politicians said that student athletes are exempt from the law because they bring in money to the school. Reasonable enough. Of course the schools put a lot of money into those students, but that's a minor detail.

The second group of special students are honors students. The only things these students bring to the school are their brains and the fees that the honors colleges charge. These students will not have to pay because they have "earned" their free ride.

Now I have a few questions about this bill.

  1. How many students fully pay for their tuition through loans, as opposed to just grants and scholarships? I fall into this group, where I get only $500 a year from a Pell Grant, no scholarships, and an employee dependent waiver and use loans to pay for the rest of my tuition. 
  2. How would they prevent the disbursement of financial aid refunds to students who haven't paid that bill? When would the money be due by? Would it be due at the start of the semester, or would there be due dates spread throughout the semester?
  3. How would this increase graduation rates? With the economy as it is, students have enough trouble finding a job already, and probably many of those that do have a job find it stressful to juggle school and work. I can already see the dropout rate rising as students struggle to pay this fee, and fewer students will enroll. 

Let's turn our attention to the second bill. This one comes from Utah, which might explain its... ideas. The congressmen here want to eliminate sex education to reduce the prevalence of teen sex and premarital sex. This also comes with a prohibition on discussions about homosexuality and contraception by teachers.

Now, I don't know what they taught in sex ed when these men and women went to school, but I certainly didn't hear about homosexuality being taught to any degree during sex ed when I went. Contraception does more to protect people than just preventing pregnancy. Removing any instruction on how to properly use condoms increases the probability that kids won't use them right and expose themselves to STIs and other dangers.

Additionally abstinence-only sex ed puts teens at risk. In the guise of protecting their health and virginity, they tend to engage in behaviors, such as oral and anal sex, and there has been a corresponding increase in STIs coming from the behaviors.

Teens will be teens. They are basically bundles of hormones and new urges. With underdeveloped impulse control, they're going to experiment with sex. There's no way to stop them unless you lock them up until they're 25, which is when their brains finish maturing and the impulse control kicks in.

Leaving the problem up to parents doesn't solve anything. If parents don't know anything about sex ed, then how can congressmen expect kids to learn safe measures? Of course, if they think that "OMG, they're not teaching sex ed! We're going to stop having sex" is going to work, maybe they don't expect parents to have to teach their kids anything. After all, abstinence worked so well before.