|Report by William Howell, Paul E. Peterson and Martin West|
You can't fix something if you don't know what is wrong. The fundamental problems with the public school system have been discussed and written about by educational activists but these voices are ignored and the false choices are offered. Do you want to go to war in Iraq or Afghanistan? Which will lead to peace? Clearly, neither one and the current so-called reforms will not lead to change either.
The Green Party (and here) definitely has more going for it as regards homeschooling. Free college, like many other industrialized countries, should be on the national agenda. Yet even the Green party does not seem to understand that our citizens are not free to choose their education. (see my Ten Key Values tab) Compulsory attendance laws are not all that old nor were they popular and homeschoolers must fight against these laws today. We are far from functioning as a democracy when even education has a police arm, compulsory attendance, which then sets up an administration opposed to the citizen's desires.
Compulsory attendance creates a police arm, truancy, that creates an adversarial relationship to the people it should serve instead. And it is the children and families that use this service that will keep it on track, keep it efficient, if they are allowed input. Schools that serve families can find a way: schools whom families must serve will never work.
Schooling should be voluntary. The nation-state should not police education nor does it need to in order to have an educated, thriving citizenry. In fact, the policing arm of schooling, compulsory attendance, harms education by setting up a bureaucracy that will over time, since it has a guaranteed job, begin to manufacture unnecessary services. A large and dedicated bureaucracy must somehow be anchored to the actual needs of people and this is why citizen-driven services, democracy, will be more efficient every time.
Most people want educational services. Why would they not? I suspect a large majority actually want services somewhat different than what is offered today. Changing the compulsory nature of school attendance could be the first step in restructuring this mass institution. It would allow citizens to drive the process by requesting and refraining from educational services based on their needs and desires.
This is not an issue even on anyone's radar it seems but it is something that has already been accomplished by scores of homeschooling parents in 50 states, parents of all political stripes, have been activists working for their kids and in doing so, showing that a grassroots, hands-on approach to changing education is possible, indeed, it is already happening.
Homeschooling is real multi-partisan change led by citizens. The first step has been finding a way to educate their families at home. The next step is for communities to start learning the lessons of homeschooling. Lessons start with compulsory attendance laws and the large damage they have done, how they exclude families and citizen, how they limit what community learning centers could offer, how they employ many who thrive off the ranking and grading of others. All schools should be community learning centers: the dedicated bureaucracy created by compulsory attendance laws restricts parental and child input by design. These parents are fighting back and their situation is a good example of what could be done by parents everywhere.