Should High School Students Work?

With two kids in high school, and especially having a daughter who wants to work,  I did s little research on the subject of high schoolers and employment this week.  My sources were a couple articles and some key individuals I trust.

I subscribe to having a work ethic and believe it is important that kids work to earn money. I am guessing that my views are common with men of my age group.

My daughter is a hard worker and is no stranger to doing odd jobs, having done tasks for pay  for people over the years. In addition, she is highly respected and has had a stellar academic record to date.

However, my wife and I have been discussing the impact of a job on her schedule, and most importantly, on her future academic performance. Furthermore, having a job we believe  (or should I say, my time- management expert spouse believes)  will be a damper on things like regular exercise. It is to be noted here that my wife hails from a European country where health and fitness is high on the list of personal values.

As part of my research, I looked at two articles which published the results of a study in a 2011 issue of Developmental Psychology. What I learned from a piece in USA Today is that students who work more than 15 hours a week are prone to not finishing college. As this is a goal that both my child and her parents have, this article set off little alarm bells in my head.

Another article in a University of Michigan publication which summarizes the  study indicates that there is a connection between part-time work engaged in by high school kids and a list of undesirable behaviors.  These findings also made  my brain ring.

There does seem to be a correlation between the working activity of high schoolers and lack of sleep, poor eating habits and lack of exercise. Considering that one-third of American high school students work more than 20 hours a week, we must have a lot of beat up kids in this country.

My own anecdotal research was done by sending Emails to a high school principal, a mentor of mine, my pastor and the leader of a high school church ministry. I asked them for their opinions on the subject.

The principal flat out said that high school kids should not work. He added that high school juniors should definitely avoid it as this particular year is crucial in obtaining scholarships for college.

One respondent, who himself worked his way through both high school and college and notes the emphasis given by young people today to such things like computer games and other leisure,   emphasized the need for setting priorities. Knowing my daughter is a person of faith, he wrote that personal devotions should be number one, followed by academics and then work. What would slide it seems would be family fun times, time with friends and church activities. Another suggestion was to have my daughter set goals for things like academic performance and finances.

All my respondents suggested limiting the hours of work to a few a week.  Other advice included making the possibility of  work dependent on academic performance.

I am grateful for these caring men, all who responded within a  couple of hours of my Email. If I learned nothing else from this exercise, it is to not remain a loner when you have tough decisions to make. I surely don’t know it all, and should be seeking the advice of wise people.


1 Comment

Filed under Christianity, education, work

One response to “Should High School Students Work?

  1. Kids sometimes do not have enough experience in developing cooperative work habits, because some classrooms do not support them. Work can fill in that gap as long as it does not go overboard and begins to affect sleep and concentration on their academics. The extra money, can be useful but not always given the sacrifices.

    For example, I remember I once got up in my teens at 4:30am to run a paper route, before dashing off with my father to that gulag (pardon my humour) of a top private school far across the river where I had to beat my academic brains out, (just an average learner like so many) practice/play on the various school teams and do a few hours at least of homework in the evening. (I won’t talk about the oppressive school uniforms with ties that chafed my terrible acne -that is for another time.)

    Well back to the matter at hand. I had to give up my semi-lucrative paper-route that provided me a good deal more money outside of my banker father monitored budget.(Good for him). In the end, I was just too exhausted. And I think that is one of the problems. A lot of kids like me at the time, want(ed) the extra pocket money to buy all sorts of things sometimes that they do not need while certainly others have to work for the money. (At least I obtained a Bursary from my school that helped my dad not to have to worry about our “penury” and more importantly, my budget busting behaviour of buying one too many chocolate bars and red liquorice when I should have been using my budget allocation for subway fare!)

    In the end ,each parent and teen or young adult needs to think carefully about how much work outside the school is practical and whether they and their parents can work harder to find necessary savings where possible. There are no easy answers.

    Sadly this reminds of the pure hell sometimes of being a student and having a job at the same time and that not all bankers and other professionals got that well paid, at least back in the good ole days of my bank manager father. It should also make us appreciative of those teens or youth who are coping with combined work and study and the need for parents to be more emotionally supportive of their kids that have this extra work load outside of school. It is indeed a brutal world for many young people -but that has been the case before, not only today.

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