Tuesday, July 13, 2004
John Sirvaitis had lost his chemistry textbook and needed the money before class to pay for a new one. He didn't have cash, but breathed a sigh of relief when he remembered his school had recently installed an automatic teller machine (ATM).Providing students with convenience, choices, and a means of developing their sense of responsibility over their own lives: These are not desirable things in the modern American high school?
His high school in West Linn, Ore., joins a growing number of high schools with ATMs. The Illinois-based Teen Research Unlimited surveyed 2,000 youths across the country and found that one in 200 of those ages 12 to 15 had access to a cash machine at school. The number increased to one in 50 among those ages 16 to 17. The survey also found that 17 percent of teens had a debit card, up from 12 percent in 2000.
Not all students, parents, and school district personnel, however, approve of the ATMs. Some kids feel that it encourages rampant consumerism. Molly Doyle, an editorial writer at Oregon City High criticized her school's decision to install the machine. "I don't think it belongs in a school setting," wrote Molly, saying that the machine is next to an area where snacks and lattes are purchased. "We're here for an education, not for buying things."
In West Linn, the city with the highest median household income in Oregon, many students at West Linn High School are concerned that they are expected to grow up too fast. "We're only in high school, so why do we need an ATM right now in school?" asks Jane Lyons, a junior. "I feel that too much responsibility is being pushed on us."
Some kids feel that the machines - where transactions cost $1.50 each - are divisive. "There are so many kids that aren't as rich as other kids and the ATM puts barriers between us," says Rebecca Immel, a junior. "It separates us into two groups: the people that get to use the ATM because they have enough money from their parents, or a job, to open an account, and the kids whose mom gives them just enough money for lunch."