In the third unit of A Nation’s Argument, my English/History class, we studied abduction and the Haitian Revolution. Abduction is a form of argument that picks the best solution of many in order to reach a desired result. After the Haitian Revolution transferred power from white plantation owners of the French colony Saint-Domingue to former slaves, many stages of new regimes were tried, similar to abduction. After studying both these topics, each person in the class drafted an abductive argument proposing changes to the school. I suggested an alternative to the current tardy policy, but when we gathered over Haitian food to discuss and debate the proposed changes, it was overturned in favor of another proposed tardy policy. Our final product was a GCE student constitution, which you can read below along with the minutes from our meeting and my personal argument, which follows the abductive format of Result, Rule, Case.
For the winter term at GCE, a new attendance policy was implemented regarding morning tardiness. If a student arrives to school past 8:50am, they are required to do community service, and after being late three times it becomes an unexcused absence on their record. The goal of the new policy is to increase attendance and punctuality by discouraging people from arriving late, but students have been very frustrated with the new rules and do not want to cooperate. It is time to find a new system that will satisfy both students and teachers.
The main complaint about the new attendance policy is its harshness. Multiple punishments (after-school service time and being marked as unexcused) are frequently administered over a matter of minutes. While some repercussions for tardiness are necessary to avoid constant lollygagging, some of these measures can be dropped. Essentially, I am proposing adjustments to the system to make it more flexible: firstly, some leeway should be allowed concerning what constitutes a tardy. Secondly, students should not face both community service and unexcused absences as punishment.
If a student arrives between 8:50 and 8:55 am, and it is the first time that week, their tardy is waived. After 8:55, they are marked tardy. At this point they are given the option of completing half an hour of community service in order to revoke the tardy. If a student is late three times without completing community service, then they receive an unexcused absence.
With this more lenient policy, students will feel less like the system is set up to punish them and more like it is there to keep them accountable, which was the original intent. In this way, consistent and blatant tardiness still has no opportunity to go unchecked. However, the adjusted system allows students flexibility in cases such as occasional oversleeping or transportation–particularly important at a school for teenagers who often use public transportation. Teenagers need over nine hours of sleep, but only 15% even come close to this*; and it is common knowledge among Chicagoans that the train is not the most reliable or quick form of transportation. Additionally, even when a student is exceedingly or consistently late to school, the repercussions outlined in the proposed policy allow more opportunities for students to prove their accountability by navigating the options given to them.
*National Sleep Foundation (2011). “Teens and Sleep.” Internet: NSF.
[Image: New York Public Library (1801). “Constitution de la colonie française de Saint-Domingue.” NYPL Digital Gallery]