New York (June 11, 2008) /PRNewswire—Cristo Rey New York High School (CRNYHS) will hold its inaugural commencement exercise on June 12, 2008. Forty students from low-income families successfully completed the school’s college preparatory coursework while financing 70 percent of their education through an innovative corporate work-study program. The vast majority of the graduates will be the first in their families to go to college. The class earned 109 college acceptances and 24 academic scholarships. Graduates will attend such prominent institutions as Swarthmore, Lehigh, Fordham, Santa Clara, and the University of Rochester. Among the academic awards garnered by the seniors are a New York Times Scholarship, a Philip Evans Scholar designation at Swarthmore, a Thomas G. Labreque Smart Start Scholarship from JP Morgan Chase and a RMHC/HACER Scholarship.
Normally I would support anything that gives underprivileged children a chance in this world. Stop and think about the fact that children must labor to pay the cost of their tuition. All children regardless of their economic background should have access to good, and free education. They are couching this work program as experience based, however what it essentially amounts to is a form of slave labor. In the name of “charity”, companies get four workers instead of one worker and due to the part-time nature of the students work, the company avoids paying medical benefits. This is a win/win for all parties involved except the students. Companies get even cheaper labor and the school gets funding that it otherwise would not have had. This is the equivalent of modern chain gang labor.
On top of having their labor exploited the students must subject themselves daily to religious ideology. The director openly stated in the video posted below that it was important that students practice the Catholic religion. Again I stand firmly against this. If a student freely chooses to attend mass and participate in religious services on her/his time that is acceptable, but to make it necessary to achieve a good education is simply taking advantage of an individuals economic positioning. It is religious indoctrination through coercion. Coming from the socio-economic backgrounds that these children do, they are all to aware of the necessity of a good education for the purposes of social mobility in a capitalist state.
I am truly happy that these students have earned a good education. I am truly happy that the majority of them will go on to college. Education should be a right, and not a privilege. Using the model of Cristo Rey, the school administration, and businesses are exploiting these students. Instead of perpetuating this model, more money should be invested into the system as a whole so that all children will be able to fulfill their aspirations. Companies should not be able to exploit the labor of the poor and then claim it as a charitable deduction. The Catholic church should not be able to amass new converts due to economic disparity. The education of children is a responsibility that we as a society should all gladly undertake.