I’m in Canada this week visiting friends and family and the house that we are currently staying in, that of one of my oldest friends, is home to a 14 year old girl who is especially interested in helping out.
She spent most of last evening tending to and hovering over my 5 year old, who is by far the youngest in the group.
Over dinner we parents were discussing why the girl seemed to be so community-minded and my wife and I, who have lived in American for almost 25 years, were filled in on some relevant details. My friends think that her willingness to help out is at least partially attributable to the Canadian high school graduation community service requirement.
Americans might not be aware of this, but since 1999, most Canadian provinces have had some sort of requirement that community service be performed before high school graduation credentials can be received. Here in Ontario, the rule is that 40 hours of unpaid volunteer work be performed.
I’m not saying that forcing a kid to dig a ditch for free will make him or her a better person, but rather, as in the case of our friends’ daughter, the community service requirement can lead one to ask herself, “If I can’t be doing what I really want right now, what would I like to be doing?”
Getting kids in this mindset can’t start early enough in my opinion. Sure, while you’re young a lot of time will get devoted to just having fun, but actively deciding what the “work” portion of your week, month or year is going to look like is very positive and a good setup for the rest of your life.
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