Denying diplomas no way to help high school grads, political writer argues
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel needs to go back to the chalkboard and map out a better way of improving public education than holding high school diplomas hostage, a political writer said on a radio talk show recently.
Emanuel has proposed withholding diplomas from Chicago Public School graduates who can't prove they have a life plan by showing an acceptance letter to a four-year university, a community college, a trade school, an apprenticeship, an internship or a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
A CPS student with a job or job offer would also be allowed to receive the diploma.
"I think it's pretty ridiculous," Bethany Mandel, a political and cultural writer on the website Acculturated said on "Illinois Rising." "I think it's one thing to think that people should have a plan for after they graduate, in some capacity, but what really goads me is the government is basically holding these well-earned degrees hostage for their own win. You can think that people should have a plan for after graduation, but to force them to prove it by withholding the degree that they've earned, to me, is just the epitome of unfairness."
Mandel also is a senior contributor to the Federalist.
Illinois Rising is co-hosted by Dan Proft, a principal of Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication.
Emanuel argued that the measure would set a strong precedent.
"Just like you do with your children, college, post-high school, that is what's expected," Emanuel said during the April news conference at which he announced the plan. "If you change expectations, it's not hard for kids to adapt."
Emanuel's idea immediately attracted criticism, including from Mandel, who said in a National Review Online article that the suggestion is a perfect example of what public policy looks like when it is shaped by individuals raised with advantages.
"Yet again, those in the business of expanding the government’s role in citizens’ private lives think they know better how adults should be living after graduation; so much so that the City of Chicago has the chutzpah to hold an earned high school diploma hostage in order to ensure those graduating choose the 'right' path," Mandel wrote.
Instead of forcing students into another school, issues within CPS should be fixed, Mandel said.
"That would be a first good step," she said.
Emanuel's requirement amounts to a government denial of individual agency and does not address the myriad scenarios and even unforeseen circumstances in which a graduating CPS student might not be able to comply but still has earned the diploma, Mandel said.
"You can't withhold someone's degree for that," she said.