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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Driver's education should be required

Sunday, February 24, 2002

Public education has certain responsibilities to students and parents when it comes to teaching our kids the ingredients needed in life and society. And I, for one, think the education system by and large is successful. But sometimes between algebra and mandatory foreign language, the system fails the students when it comes to teaching life skills. My issue is driver's education.

I have long advocated that driver's education be a mandatory aspect of public education. Granted, it's costly and time-consuming. But I can argue that teaching young people proper driving skills is more important than some other aspects of education that are mandatory. I could also say virtually the same for home economics where every student should learn some very basic skills on how to survive in the day-to-day world. But today's topic is driver's education. And here's why.

State officials this week reported that more than half of the new drivers taking their license exam in Missouri fail the written portion of the testing. They are given the opportunity to repeat the test until successful. But at the same time in neighboring Illinois, just 8 percent of those new drivers failed their written exam. The difference? Illinois mandates that all students take 30 hours of driver's education; Missouri does not.

In fact, only 164 out of 524 school districts in Missouri offered some form of driver's education last year. Sikeston offers the program in the summer months but it is not required. In all, 75 students took the driving class last year.

Maybe the candidates for Sikeston's School Board might consider a push to make the driver's education mandatory here. I know that this subject has been addressed in the past but it may well be time to reconsider. If you really look at how we prepare young people to enter the "real world," it could easily be argued that driving skills are indeed important. Granted, parents should also accept this responsibility but the fact of the matter is that many parents don't provide proper training. Where else can we turn but to the schools?

In many ways I find it frightening that half of all driving candidates cannot answer 25 simple questions on the rules of the road. These questions may be less important that actual driving skills but they provide an indicator of the level of expertise these driving candidates have. And a 50 percent failure rate is dismal.

If you honestly look at preparing students to enter the real world, issues like balancing a checkbook, simple cooking skills and especially rudimentary driving knowledge are key ingredients. None are mandated here. So are we doing a disservice to these kids? Perhaps.

When I travel down an interstate I have little interest if the kid driving in the other lane knows squat about the hypotenuse of a triangle. But I'm keenly interested to know if that kid has any driving skills or any training behind the wheel. And you should be too.

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