An End to Compulsory Education?

A few years ago, we had a number of states that looked to increase the “drop-out age” in their states, under the premise that if we keep kids in high school until the age of 17, we would increase the odds that they would complete their k-12 experience and earn their high school diploma.

Now it seems the pendulum is swinging in the complete opposite direction. Earlier this week, Utah State Senator Aaron Osmond offered up a blog post under the title “Accountability for Parents + Respect for Teachers.”  A great title and a great premise we should all get behind.
But the headline is a little misleading.  Senator Osmond used the platform to call for an end to compulsory education, suggesting that moves in the late 1800s to require all kids to gain an education was the beginning of the end of western civilization.
Some of the “nuggets” from his musings include:

“Before 1890, public
education in America was viewed as an opportunity—not a legal obligation.”

“Then came compulsory
education. Our State began requiring that all parents must send their children
to public school for fear that some children would not be educated because of
an irresponsible parent. Since that day, the proverbial pendulum has swung in
the wrong direction.”

“Our teachers and schools
have been forced to become surrogate parents, expected to do everything from
behavioral counseling, to providing adequate nutrition, to teaching sex
education, as well as ensuring full college and career readiness.”

“Actively engaged parents
sometimes feel that the public school system, and even some teachers, are
insensitive to the unique needs and challenges of their children and are
unwilling or unable to give their child the academic attention they need
because of an overburdened education system, obligated by law to be all things
to all people.”

“We need to restore the
expectation that parents are primarily responsible for the educational success
of their own children. That begins with restoring the parental right to decide
if and when a child will go to public school. In a country founded on the
principles of personal freedom and unalienable rights, no parent should be
forced by the government to send their child to school under threat of fines
and jail time.”

And if that isn’t enough for you, he offers up a support document, The End to Compulsory Education – A Freedom-Based Argument.  That doc is written by a gentleman named Oak Norton who, among other things, heads a group called Utahns Against Common Core.
In this day and age when we know a k-12 education (and some postsecondary) is necessary to success, when we know far too many kids rely on the formal school system to provide them needed social services, when we know we should be investing more time and resources in expanding formal pre-K options, when we know that we should be working to level the playing field and ensure equity for all students, are we really to the point where we want to pull all our kids off the field entirely, and let them fend for themselves in a family-led Lord of the Flies education scenario?
Of all of the problems facing our modern society and all of the challenges and opportunities before our K-12 structure, has ending compulsory education risen high enough on the list that it now warrants state senate review and consideration?

One thought on “An End to Compulsory Education?

  1. “[A]re we really to the point where we want to pull all our kids off the field entirely, and let them fend for themselves in a family-led Lord of the Flies education scenario?”ALL our kids? No. But what’s wrong with parents evaluating what is best for each individual child that year, and then acting accordingly? The system shouldn’t own my kids or yours. You should decide what’s best for your own children.I homeschool some of my children. You might not like it. You might think my children would do better in a class of 27 of their peers for eight hours a day with a certified teacher. But barring extreme abuse, it shouldn’t be for you or anyone else to decide.I think that’s what Mr. Osmond is getting at, because I’ve read his links before and at no point did I see him advocating for a total defunding of the public education system. I think he just wants to make parents feel empowered to make decisions that might seem odd to others. If, say, a couple just adopted a child from Haiti, they might want to spend that first year just talking with him, playing with him, bonding with him, and teaching him English. It shouldn’t matter that the child is 11 and the standards say x, y and z need to be learnt. There are all kinds of reasons why people do things differently and I’m not going to judge them unless they’re abusive.

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