Editor’s note: Utah state Sen. Aaron Osmond raised eyebrows and sparked debate last month with a provocative post on the senate blog that called for ending compulsory education and, essentially, expanding school choice options to include no school at all. The post drew coverage from Fox News to the Huffington Post (see here, here, here, here and here) and a fair bit of commentary, too (see here, here, here and here). On a related note, a fascinating case in Virginia – involving that state’s broad religious exemption for school attendance – prompted the Washington Post to weigh in with this editorial over the weekend.
Here is Osmond’s post in full:
Before 1890, public education in America was viewed as an opportunity – not a legal obligation. Prior to that time, the parent was primarily responsible for the education of their children. The state provided access to a free education for those that wanted to pursue it. The local teacher was viewed with respect and admiration as a professional to assist a parent in the education of their child.
Then came compulsory education. Our State began requiring that all parents must send their children to public school for fear that some children would not be educated because of an irresponsible parent. Since that day, the proverbial pendulum has swung in the wrong direction.
Some parents completely disengage themselves from their obligation to oversee and ensure the successful education of their children. 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.
On the other hand, actively engaged parents sometimes feel that the public school system, and even some teachers, are insensitive to the unique needs and challenges of their children and are unwilling or unable to give their child the academic attention they need because of an overburdened education system, obligated by law to be all things to all people.
I believe the time has come for us to re-evaluate what we expect of parents and the public education system, as follows:
First, we need to restore the expectation that parents are primarily responsible for the educational success of their own children. That begins with restoring the parental right to decide if and when a child will go to public school. In a country founded on the principles of personal freedom and unalienable rights, no parent should be forced by the government to send their child to school under threat of fines and jail time. Continue Reading →