Lefty Parent


Circle of equals

Posts Tagged ‘compulsory education’

Compulsory Schooling – The Hammer of Educational Equality

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Other than paying taxes and attending school when you are young, a human being pretty much decides for themselves how they are going to make a living and lead their life. I understand the taxes part, that’s the “ante” we pay to participate in a larger community that is not just about us but about the common welfare. But why is it so sacrosanct that kids must go to and be in school all day under penalty of law?

So in trying to resolve these sorts of questions I tend to look back at U.S. history to try and start to divine some answers. Compulsory schooling was a new idea in the 1830s when Horace Mann and his fellow Massachusetts educational reformers set up the first compulsory state “common” schools in Massachusetts. From what I’ve read, Mann and his comrades were inspired by the universal compulsory education that had recently been set up in the European state of Prussia. Throughout the 19th century, Prussia was on the leading edge of state-directed K-12 education along with developing the modern state university system that was later mimicked in the U.S. and the rest of Europe.

I think it is important here to come to grips with the reality that huge endeavors like implementing universal mandatory public education for all young people are motivated and justified by the logic of building the state. Helping individual young people with their development is really not part of that calculus. Prussia in the early 19th century was a totalitarian militaristic state rather than a democratic republic. The goal of the elite that controlled the Prussian state was to leverage state directed educational and industrial development to build the country into an unrivaled military-industrial power. A power that would be ready to fight and win the next war, and never lose another war like they did to Napoleon’s French army in 1806. Giving every young person in the country a state-directed “free” education was all about that goal.


Schools: Trying to Balance Coercion, Inspiration and Facilitation

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Derry, another member of our Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) forum, has worked in the state (public) school system in the UK for 21 years. He joined into our current discussion about the compulsory nature of our public school systems and whether we have reached a point in our social evolution that we don’t have to compel kids to go to school. He considers himself a progressive educator who has spent his years in the system working to make state schools more democratic (less authoritarian). Trying to imagine what is possible within the current educational context (of compulsory attendance), he felt the best possibility for kids from families who can not afford private (including democratic private) was…

Attendance at a compulsory state school staffed by a significant number of adults who are able to inspire each other to work within the compulsion to create democratic-ish sub spaces and times.

Though he said that finding such a school in the UK was not very likely, he felt neither of the other alternatives available to these kids were very good…

1. Attendance at an authoritarian test-ridden non-respecting compulsory school

2. Refusal to attend such a school by ‘voting with their feet’ and just not going (assuming they can successfully avoid school attendance and police officers)


Starting to Imagine Non-Compulsory Schools

Friday, April 1st, 2011

As I have mentioned before, I’ve been involved in an ongoing email “forum” over the past five years with fellow members of the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO). Topics revolve around youth, learning, and our societies educational institutions and possible alternatives to those institutions. Admittedly, we forum participants can be guilty of arguing perhaps from more of an ivory tower rather than from the trenches at times, but then again you have to be able to see the entire forest at times to best take care of all the trees.

One of the topics that keeps coming up and engenders a lot of impassioned prose on our forum is the reality of compulsory education for youth and the possibility of making it non-compulsory instead. The opinions on what would result from this change run the gamut, even among this self-selected group of alternative educators and other supporters (like me) of learning alternatives. Some of the forum participants (like me) take a more left-libertarian position and argue that our schools and the formal education process in general would be transformed for the better by shedding coercive elements of compulsion. Other list colleagues think that though in some ideal world this would be the way school should be, in our all too real and non-ideal world ending compulsory school attendance would be a disaster, and particularly for poor families that live in dangerous neighborhoods with little other infrastructure to offer youth.


Does Compulsion Still Work?

Friday, June 18th, 2010

I am convinced that we are in an historic transition in our society and our entire world from patriarchy to partnership. From a model of organizing society’s institutions around hierarchy, top-down control and “power-over” towards a very different model where the “world is flat” and decisions are made collectively in a “power-with” arrangement. Like all profound transformations, besides the visible changes in how our institutions are organized, how we lead our lives and interact with each other, there are internal realignments in what we value and how we frame the world and our participation in it.