That's because I know that nearly 20% of teens leave formal education with no qualifications and very limited numeracy and literacy skills. They toss school uniforms in the bin and then enter a culture of dependency. Some supplement State handouts with occasional criminal activity, becoming ODCs (Ordinary Decent Criminals) in the process.
I am no sociologist, just an American living and teaching in Ireland (photo evidence attached). Since the mid-90s while living in four different Irish counties, I've seen teens at the bottom of the social ladder. I watch community youth groups try to capture the attention of those teens but those truly at the margins lack the ability to talk coherently with anyone other than fellow illiterates in their peer group.
Those at the bottom can't complete job applications. They have no track record for holding down a paid position. They wouldn't know how to respond during an interview, unless it is in a Garda Station.
When I lived in California, I taught adults to read in a Survival English Course. One student was a Vietnamese refugee and another an American Native Indian. Our joint goal was to be proficient enough to read California Driving Applications, to pass that written test and to be able to read the classified advertisements. It was a voluntary position and I felt good teaching people 10 to 15 years older than me.
Today, I teach in a third level institution that will shed its special teaching assistants on account of cost-cutting austerity measures. This will affect the ability of some our new first year students--primarily those at the bottom of literacy skills--to survive in creative multimedia classrooms. I cannot reduce the level of proficiency that I require in my Media Writing module, so I am validating a system whereby I return to my roots as a Survival English Tutor.
When I set practical review sessions outside of my timetable, I'll be at variance with the standard workload set across Institutes of Technology in Ireland. I think it's worth the extra (voluntary) work because if I don't try to boost the proficiency of students, I'm going to be reduced to the role of a conductor watching the movement of students from full-time education to part-time job seeker. At its highly-subsidised rate, Irish third level is a gift to society. Even one year at third level enhances a person's abilities to read, speak, converse, share, think, and dream.
And for those idealists who have read this far, may I suggest the advice of Rosamicula on LiveJournal:
Get off twitter, put down your placard, stop gazing at your navel to examine your privilege. Put your money and time where your mouth is. Go and volunteer in a primary school and sit with those who are struggling to read, go and become a school governor, go and do a bit of training to become an adult advocate so that when one of these kids goes through the judicial system and their parents can't or won't participate in the process, you can be called on to speak to and for them. If you can't do any of those things, work an extra shift or do some baby-sitting to free up a colleague or friend who can. Unlike gesture politics, these acts will make a difference. Aspiration, like alienation is very easy to spread. You just have to get off both your arse and your moral highground to spread it.
Bonus Link: The ALIVE programme.