Should Compulsory Education be banned in your country?
Okay, I’m being facetious. Obviously, the availability of an education to everybody has huge benefits. However, it is worth examining whether the current system of compulsory education is appropriate.
There are many stories in the popular press about the sad state of affairs in US education. We hear about declining test scores, bullying, even shootings.
The routine answer seems to be to make more rules and regulations, and to throw more money at the problem. And yet, this routine approach does not work, and may be making the problem worse. It currently costs $12,296 per student annually (Fast Facts), while private schools tuition averages $9,582 annually (Average Private School Tuition Cost (2015-2016)). I think it is fair to guess that the average home-school family spends less.
So what’s the problem?
Various authors (such as John Taylor Gatto) have outlined how the school system developed as a factory system; a pipeline for producing docile, compliant workers for an industrial society. They liken the experience of being in school to that of being in prison (in fact, in some cases prisoners have more freedoms). Peter Gray, a researcher and author on alternatives to education, notes how schools damage our children (How Forced Schooling Harms Children):
- Loss of creativity (watch Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk)
- Bullying (correlated with depression & suicide)
- Perfectionism (teaching to the test; cheating)
- Perpetuation of Economic Divides
- Lost Opportunities (from spending 15,000 hours in school)
Our (US) school system is broken, but the methods of teaching have not changed significantly for the last hundred years or so.
What’s the Solution?
There are numerous interesting alternatives to traditional schooling, and many of them have proven positive results. Some of the alternatives have been applied, mostly in private schools:
- Project-based learning (I like Jo Boaler’s Inspiring Students to Math Success and a Growth Mindset)
- Interest-Based Learning (also known as Delight-Based Learning)
- Charlotte Mason
- Unit Studies
- Classical Approach
- Charlotte Mason
- Homeschooling (which may employ virtually any of the above methods)
- Democratic schools (such as the Sudbury School)
Back to Reality
Obviously, universal education is not going to disappear from US society. However, in my opinion, it is only a matter of time before the existing system must undergo radical change. The fact that 2–3% of the current school population is currently being homeschooled (and is rising every year) suggests to me that parents are voting with their feet. There will come a tipping point when enough families will conclude that the school system is not providing what is needed, and will demand a change.
There are a lot of smart people out there, with many wonderful ideas on better ways for our children to learn. An example is “flipped” learning, where students learn topics and ideas from videos (or other sources), and the teacher then reviews and mentors the students. There are many technologies available which will allow us to tailor an individual learning plan for EVERY student. The future role of the teacher is to facilitate the student’s learning. And many, many other alternatives …
So where does homeschooling fit in?
The current, compulsory school system does not address the needs of many of today’s families, and does not provide any alternatives. Homeschooling allows the family to choose a learning strategy that best fits the student’s needs. If the educational system (in the US) provided alternative learning opportunities, then homeschooling would not be as popular, or as necessary.
Homeschooling is therefore like a startup company, or a technology incubator – it allows us to experience a variety of learning methods, and ultimately to select which methods work best.
Long live homeschooling!