Utah legislator: End compulsory education

It’s time to end compulsory education and hold parents responsible for their children’s learning, wrote Utah Sen. Aaron Osmond on the Utah State Senate blog.

Some parents act as if the responsibility to educate, and even care for their child, is primarily the responsibility of the public school system. As a result, 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.

Unfortunately, in this system, teachers rarely receive meaningful support or engagement from parents and occasionally face retaliation when they attempt to hold a child accountable for bad behavior or poor academic performance.

The schools are “obligated by law to be all things to all people,” Osmond complains.

Learning is an opportunity, not an obligation, Osmond told the Deseret News. “Let’s let them choose it, let’s not force them to do it,” he said.

Utah spends the least per-student on public schools of any state and has the largest class sizes. I’ve always thought they got away with it because so many kids come from two-parent Mormon families. I guess even Utah has problems with under-parented kids.

“Utah lawmaker calls for end to compulsory education” is the Deseret News headline, which Jeff Landaw posted on Facebook. I responded: “There’s no such thing as compulsory education. We do have compulsory school attendance.”

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  1. YES!! How can we call ourselves a free people if we subject our children to 13 years of being penned up? And what teacher hasn’t seen the effects of “I don’t want to be here and will make everyone else miserable” in the classroom? I know some will say that then we’ll have a larger welfare crisis on our hands. I’d submit to you that those are two different issues and that school is not the cure-all for society’s ills.

    • I’m not ready to declare this the first robin of spring even though I agree philosophically with the senator. There are an array of powerful forces that stand in opposition to the de-socialization of education not the least of which is a public that has never known anything other then the overwhelming presence of the public education system. For many people an end to the public education system they detest and understand to be wasteful and ineffective by nature is as inconceivable as an end to gravity or sunrise.

      That’s obviously changing as evidenced by the recent flurry of state laws that’ve chipped away at the district-based public education. And change, even monumental change, can happen with shocking swiftness as evidenced by the collapse of the Soviet Union. But it’s a hugely complex situation with many urgently interested parties quite of a few of which have enough political clout to make them difficult to ignore.

      Being an optimist my prediction is that the all-too-common fiscal irresponsibility of school districts will lead some state in the union to take the cap off of charters resulting in the collapse of a number of large, municipal school districts. Since Michigan’s already taken the charter cap off, due to go into effect in 2015, and is amply supplied with ghastly school districts, I’m hoping Michigan will lead the way.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Utah. Yep. Places like Utah will lead the way. The entrenched interests in the big-city blue states would never tolerate such foolishness. New York, L.A, and D.C. have TOP MEN and WOMEN (highly qualified and earning large paychecks) who will come up with thoughtful, nuanced “solutions” which will fail to improve the schools. While silly, retro-grade Utah will quietly find a solution which will be ignored by those “experts”.

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    See, the best part about removing the compulsory schooling laws is that it gives expulsion some real teeth.

  3. Certainly, the senator has valid points about the conflict of compulsory behavior in a free nation, and individual responsibility leads to greater valuing of many things. In terms of rigid expectations on seat time and the K-16 – or worse P-20 – model, we can absolutely use an easing of the idea of compulsory ed. I think of it in terms of school choice. The choice crowd is huge on selection of which school, but not on whether school. And that’s important. We should, at the very least, look at the un-schooling movement promoted effectively by people like Dale Stephens in his book Hacking Your Education. And, of course, consider the TEDTalk on unschooling and hacking your education by 13-year-old Logan LaPlante.

  4. I’m in full agreement, we absolutely do NOT have a compulsory education system in the United States, we have a compulsory ATTENDANCE system, which is a completely different animal.

    Lets see if the legislation makes it to the governor’s desk before everyone goes nutso 🙂


  5. Utah does not exactly “get way” with low education spending. Its education results are mediocre at best.And it has a huge achievement gap.

  6. Cite Rachel Jeantel

  7. I conditionally agree with the idea. A large part of the problem with public education today is intentional non learners who don’t want to be there and refuse to learn. However:

    1) What are we going to do with all the kids who drop out? The military doesn’t want them anymore, the factories don’t want them anymmore and there are no farms for them to work on.

    2) How are we going to handle those who abuse their children by not allowing them to go to school?

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      The categories, Intentional Non-Learners [going to be an official category before long, so I used caps], dropouts, aren’t going to learn jack anyway. Those parents who won’t allow…. Guess is some of them have kids hidden from the Eye of Sau… the government. Not sure people who don’t want their kids in school but won’t homeschool are all that common, but if their kids were being dragged to the school, the work results would still be pretty bad, as the parents can disrupt the process. Parents that bad probably lose their kids to Child Abductive Services before kindergarten, anyway.

    • 1. Not our kid, not our problem. Once the “Nanny State” doesn’t nanny any more, parents decide those things.

      2. How about we handle it the same way we handle parents who abuse their infants and toddlers? It’s a pretty rare parent who keeps their children home specifically so that he can abuse them. Those people tend to (unfortunately!!) find a way despite any law we might make.

      I think my only concern with this proposed legislation would be, how to ensure reasonably stable systems. In other words, should students be expected to sign up in May for the following school year? How would principals and administrators plan wildly fluctuating enrollment?

  8. See http://NoCompulsoryEducation.org for more information about the proposal to change Utah’s law.

    • After going to that site, I have decided that I do not support the proposal. Frm the site:

      “Does my child have to be in class when they aren’t doing worthwhile things?

      No. If a teacher is unable or unwilling to provide meaningful educational experiences in class and resorts to showing movies or playing games in order to fulfill the current minimum classroom-time requirements in state law, the student could skip class without threat of punishment, or perhaps go to the library and study something else of interest. ”

      This would in effect be anarchy.