Compulsory schooling has been around so long that nobody questions it. But in today's world we need to re-think. Here are some of the problems with compulsory schooling:
school shootings: Why do crazy people shoot up schools? One reason might be that school was one of the great miseries of their childhood and they are angry. If school were optional, school shootings would most likely disappear.
bullying: One reason kids hate school is that they are picked on by other kids. This is difficult to control in a classroom of 30 or 40 kids. We have set up school so that it enables kids to pick on the kids who wore the wrong clothing, or didn’t know the right answer, or said something dumb. In real life, we can avoid people who belittle us. In school we cannot.
poorly paid teachers: If kids had their choice of schools (or the choice to not go to school) we would value teachers more. No one would choose to go to a school where the teachers were unhappy because they were just eking out an existence. Happy teachers help make happy kids and we would find a way to encourage those teachers to stay in teaching.
buildings in disrepair: More and more we hear about the disrepair of older schools. No money to fix this? There would be money if anyone really cared about kids, but kids don't vote and politicians are really not worried about them. Fancy private schools keep their buildings in good repair. Let kids opt out of school and we can close down these dangerous places and build places kids can’t wait to go to.
segregation: We live under the delusion that segregation is over in schools. Really? Schools reflect the neighborhoods they are in, and neighborhoods tend to be homogenous. If school weren't compulsory, kids in “bad” schools (which means there are lots of poor people really) could opt out and live less danger-filled lives
constant test prep: Why do we permit school to be about testing and test prep? We seem to have no choice. But, if schools didn't look at test scores, this would go away. Colleges look at test scores in order to spend less time considering each kid. Special high schools use them because otherwise it would be difficult to decide who gets the privilege of going to a school that has only smart kids in it. If school were not compulsory, schools would need to compete with each other on the quality of the experience provided in order to attract kids.
high anxiety: It is compulsory education that makes school such an anxious experience. Students are tested, graded, and constantly compared against each other, There are winners and losers. Every day is a kind of contest. Who thought that up as a way to learn? Learning is supposed to be fun. Proponents of school typically claim that learning is hard work. That is only true if you are learning something that doesn’t interest you.
government propaganda What is school really for? I can say it simply —Indoctrination. We want you to sit still, do what you are told, and do mindless repetitive tasks so you can work on a low level boring job when you grow up. We want you to know who is in charge and to respect their right to be in charge, We expect you to believe that we have the best country in the world, and that you should be thrilled to fight for and defend that wonderful country. How can we do that without compulsory education? Who would voluntarily attend a school where such rules are hammered in daily?
truth Lastly, we know the truth. Students need to know the truth as well. No matter that the “truth” might be in question. We want you to memorize simple truths: the quadratic formula, the laws of physics. We want you to know that George Washington never told a lie and that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. We don’t want to hear any other point of view. (Please don’t tell me that Washington owned 300 slaves.) We want to make sure you learn lots of mathematics because mathematics teaches you to think and we don’t want you to ask how we know that or what evidence we have for that. We want you to memorize facts about science, not actually do science (which might include questioning things we tell you and demanding evidence for them.)
What would happen if school wasn't compulsory? We would have to find other methods of day care for children. We would have to invent hundreds of new curricula that students could choose between. We would have to have teachers who weren’t actually teaching but were helping kids do what they want to do. We would have to realize that experts are everywhere (but maybe not in your home town) and find ways for those experts to be available virtually as needed. We would have to make sure that our day care locations are safe and that the kids who choose to go to them are happy.
Please… no more compulsory school.