Ending Compulsory Education
Utah state senator Aaron Osmond has announced that in 2014 he’ll sponsor a bill proposing to end compulsory education in Utah. The announcement got national attention, as Utah would be the first state to have this in a hundred years if it passes.
There is a bit of panic and a lot of misunderstanding about this.
“Compulsory education” is not the same as “public education”, and under his proposal, public education would remain solidly in place. What would change is the parents’ ability to determine what is best for their child, would give teachers more respect by not forcing those who don’t want to be there on them, and would return the role of the state as a supporter of the family—the basic unit of society-- rather than the current view of the family being the supporter of the state.
The principle involved here is whether or not we will allow parents to make decisions based on their own projected outcomes, or whether they’ll be compelled to do what bureaucrats think best for their children. I believe the purpose of life is for each person to learn from their own choices and learning and the consequences that naturally follow. We are much less likely to learn –or value the chance to learn- when we’re forced into anything. Our current system’s promise is that every person will turn out to be ‘educated’, without regard to individual preference, agency, or voluntary dedication. They fail, as they must.
I have children in public school, in a charter school, and homeschool. Even though I’m ‘allowed’ to homeschool, the state requires me to get their permission to take care of my own children’s education, to promise to have them in ‘school’ for a certain number of hours and days, and to teach them the same topics the state Board of Education determined were most necessary. This is wrong for a few reasons.
- Do individuals and families exist to serve the state, or does the state exist to protect natural rights of individuals and families?
- My children, not having to compete for attention with 30 other students in a class, can get their work done in fewer hours.
- There are multiple reasons for education- and the UBOE’s objectives are not the same as mine.
- There’s never enough time to get everything done that anyone would like; I want to spend the limited time with my children teaching them things I think most important in helping them be hardworking, loving, responsible people who search for wisdom and reach out to others on their own initiative.
Before acting on your fears that Utah will suddenly be a hotbed of juvenile delinquents and welfare recipients if this law passes, please research the history of compulsory education and what the alternatives yield. Some good places to start are (please at least watch the video! the same one as embedded above):
- Youtube video: ABE 2012 Conference- Ending Compulsory Education by Oak Norton
- LibertasUtah.org blog article “The Presumption of State Stewardship Over Children”
In addition, this will help relieve the huge financial burden that comes with our local student population predicted to double over the next 15-20 years.
According to http://boostup.org we currently have a 24% dropout rate in Utah. I think that this will not change much when ending compulsory education. Others are worried that some parents are lazy and will not have their children attend- but I believe these parents are highly motivated to have the children at school where others take care of them and leave the parents with free time during the day.
What about those who worry that children not educated at a school (home-schooled) will end up on the welfare rolls?
Look at the track record of those who ARE in public education! Two years ago (2011) we had about 32 million households who receive means-tested government assistance like school lunches, Medicaid, and food stamps, and 49% of American household have at least one member who receive some sort of government assistance. And the numbers continue to climb. We have a government that discourages personal initiative and effort, and protects us from the natural consequences of our actions, which would yield growth, understanding, and drive.
Here's something else that Oak (the guy from the vid above) has said:
"Why don't parents parent? Because once the state takes that authority from a parent, they are absolved of responsibility. If you want parents to parent again, give them back the authority and responsibility so they are empowered. If their child doesn't want to go to school, it's not the state's job to call the child a criminal and force him/her to school, it's then the parent's job to teach the child (perhaps with the help of concerned family and neighbors) the value of an education. If the child doesn't see the value, he/she won't learn. You can't teach someone who refuses to learn and you only hinder those who are there to learn. Removing compulsory education will help children become self-motivated just like we expect of them in college. It's not going to introduce child labor and sweat shops. It's going to open up new paths in education as educators innovate to provide a reason for those children to be in school."
“Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.” –Milton Friedman
"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." — James Madison
In the War in Heaven, some were willing to trade their agency to choose, for promises of security. Christ’s plan is for agency, personal effort, and learning from natural consequences-- the path that leads to personal, meaningful growth; Satan’s plan is of control and coercion.
"We must be careful that we are not led to accept or support in any way any organization, cause or measure which, in its remotest effect, would jeopardize free agency, whether it be in politics, government, religion, employment, education, or any other field. It is not enough for us to be sincere in what we support. We must be right!” -Marion G. Romney
Summary of my thoughts- I see this as an issue of whether the parents or the state is the ultimate authority over each child, and also as a perfect example of the continuation of the War in Heaven. In addition, scaling back the arm of government to its proper role here will have cost benefits.