Thursday, August 25, 2005

Learning responsibility

American inventiveness has always impressed me. Here is an excellent example of what I mean:
On a sweltering morning in early August, a couple of dozen teenagers fresh out of eighth grade are lining up outside a classroom to learn from a nun how to give a firm handshake. The reason: These teens, mostly born to Hispanic immigrants, want a shot at success. And corporate America is ready to give it to them, helping to reduce the cost of a Catholic-school education from the Sisters of Notre Dame to just $2,200 per year. In exchange, the students agree to work in a real business setting one day per week.
Here's how it works: Participating companies divide one full-time, entry-level position among four students who take turns doing the work, which typically includes filing, copying, or answering phones. They pay market rates for entry-level work, but students never see the money. Instead, the school gets a check, puts it toward operating expenses, and thereby keeps tuition well below the $5,000 to $9,000 tuition charged by Boston-area Catholic schools.
Clearly academic standards and curriculums have to be carefully monitored to ensure that the interests of the sponsoring companies do not get in the way, but offering these opportunities to under-privileged students, while at the same time teaching them a sense of responsibility and the skills needed to be successful in life at such an early stage seems like an excellent idea. Additionally the sponsoring companies are saving on personnel costs, therefore avoiding the unpleasant feeling that one is being offered handouts: these students can honestly feel that their contribution counts, making it easier to replicate the program.

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