If we have compulsory education, then we have forced education. The term compulsory, if it has any meaning at all, means that the person has no choice about it. ~Peter Gray
I think most folks in America realize that by and large our government schools (a.k.a. the public education system) are failing. We could point out several, valid reasons for this declension—such as the disintegration of the family and the subsequent loss of authority; the secularistic, godless ideologies which underpin (or should I say undermine) curricula; and of course, the self-serving NEA which is entirely concerned with protecting and promoting itself even to the detriment of students.
All of these things contribute to the downward spiral of government-run education. But I would like to focus on something which gets less attention: compulsory education.
The philosophical question is this: Can a person be compulsorily educated (not to be confused with indoctrinated)? Certainly, we can—under threat of law—force a person to attend school. But can a student be coerced to think, to learn? I don’t see how.
The pragmatic question is this: What does forcing students—who have no desire to be in school and have no intention of learning—do to the environment and morale of the school? Our would-be educators are required to play the part of peace officers and wardens. Presumably they want to teach but much of their energy is wasted in policing folks who don’t want to learn.
In short, it seems to me that “compulsory education” is a misnomer. And it’s a dumb idea. (I use the word “dumb” in its informal sense meaning stupid or moronic.)
But wait. There’s something even dumber.
Not only does our government force people to attend school, it also forces schools to be, in a manner of speaking, fail-safe. In other words, our government says to the recalcitrant student, “You will go to school” and it says to the beleaguered school, “You will graduate every unwilling—or even unable—student.”
No Child Left Behind!
Consider the law’s absurd demand to prohibit the normal variability of human ability so that all children, from the unusually gifted to the mentally retarded, must achieve above the same “challenging” level of proficiency by 2014. The only way states could fulfill this requirement would be to define “challenging proficiency” at such a low level that even the least talented of students could meet it.
Mr. Duncan’s [the Secretary of Education] philosophy has been revealed: if a policy fails, the solution should be to do more of it. So the secretary is now kicking the ball down the road. States will be excused from making all children proficient by 2014 if they agree instead to make all children “college-ready” by 2020. ~Richard Rothstein
Bill Bennett once remarked: “The longer we stay in school the dumber we get.” Thus we have increasing numbers of people who are graduated but not educated. Surely, there’s a better way.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)