My view: The benefits of voluntary schooling

By Lynn Stoddard

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, July 31 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Parents will become partners with the school in helping students be contributors.

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After years of government-imposed, failed reforms of public education, we now have a chance for genuine school improvement. Here are some of the good things that could happen if Sen. Aaron Osmond's, R-South Jordan, bill to repeal compulsory education is passed:

We could adopt a better goal and purpose for education.

The main purpose of compulsory education is standardized student achievement in a fixed, narrow curriculum. It could be replaced with a purpose such as this: Help students aspire and learn how to be unique contributors to society. This will reduce the jail population, end dropouts, bullying, suicides and school vandalism.

Every child could have a teacher friend and mentor.

At the beginning of the school year, teachers could be paid and given time to visit with each child and her parent(s) to form a friendly relationship and learn four things:

What does the parent or other care provider want the school to help them do for the child?

What is the child like and what does he/she want to learn and do at school?

What are the child's special talents, gifts, needs and interests that should be developed?

How can the teacher, parent and child form a partnership?

These interviews would ensure that virtually all students will choose to attend school.

Junior and senior high schools will be reorganized so that every child can have at least one teacher mentor who cares, watches over the child and communicates regularly with the parent(s).

Students could learn more at a deeper level than when required or compelled.

The difference between required and self-chosen learning is immense. Victor Weisskopf said, "People cannot learn by having information pressed into their brains. Knowledge has to be (pulled) into the brain, not pushed in." With this understanding, teachers will encourage and honor student's questions. Schools will emphasize things that are harder to measure like curiosity, creativity and character.

Every student will be able to excel in something.

Teachers, parents and policymakers will have an attitude of respect for human differences and individuality. They will make sure every child can excel in something.

Teachers will perform and be regarded as professionals.

Teachers will be trusted and recognized for their knowledge, training and ability to help each unique student learn and develop according to their own interests and needs. Teaching that meets individual needs and inspires students to achieve and contribute will be adequately funded. Classes will be smaller.

Graduation should be different for each student.

Graduates from our high schools will no longer be standardized in required knowledge and skills. Anytime after the age of 14 and before the age of 20, a student can apply for graduation. Each student will be valedictorian in his or her own rite of passage to adulthood. He/She could show portfolios, videos and/or other documentation of courses taken and service rendered that he/she is ready to be a contributor to society.

Public support will increase.

Parents will become partners with the school in helping students be contributors.

Parents will be meaningfully involved, depending on circumstances at home that will allow various levels and kinds of support.

These are just a few of the good things that could happen if Sen. Osmond's bill to repeal compulsory education passes. Let's not let this opportunity pass us by.

Lynn Stoddard is a retired educator who writes about the need to reinvent public education. His latest book, "Educating for Human Greatness," supplies a framework for redesigning the system. He lives in Farmington and can be reached at lstrd@yahoo.com.

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