If school is so good for you, why is attendance compulsory? Vitamins are good for me, yet there is no law that threatens the use of force against me if I don't take my One-A-Day. Milk, broccoli, and church are generally considered of value, yet I am allowed to forgo all three with no more than a dirty look from my wife. Why is it that I am free to choose most of the things I can put in my body, but when it comes to what goes into my brain I am told when and where I must go, and, increasingly, what I will be taught?
Men have, on average, about 75 years (the women get two extra years for having to put up with us) to get the most out of what life offers us. What right does anyone have to tell us how to spend such a large chunk of such an important time in our lives? School takes enough time from our lives as it is. Check out John Gatto's essay, We Need Less School, Not More.
The effect of compulsory attendance on the teacher/student relationship is just what you would expect. Because many students feel they are in class against their will, forced there by coercive legislation, they react as most sane humans would - they resist in countless ways large and small. If the teacher is lucky, this resistance takes the form of truancy. More often than not however, it manifests itself in behavior intended to disrupt the class.
And yet, there are currently, three bills introduced in the Michigan legislature that would extend the amount of time our children are in the grasp of government schools.House Bill 4042 and Senate Bill 11 would increase the compulsory attendance age to 18, while Senate Bill 162 would make kindergarten compulsory. All are currently in committee, and I sincerely hope they die there.
Of course, the rationale for all this is the "global economy" as presented in Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat. I am sorry to admit I purchased his book, mainly to see what all of the hubbub was about. As soon as Friedman started quoting Marc Tucker in his chapter on education, "This Is Not A Test," I knew where he was headed. Tucker is most recognized as the author of the leaked "Letter to Hillary" that outlined a "cradle-to-grave" government run educational system to develop the workforce according to the demands of big business. The current demand of big business is that we bend over and except the outsourcing of our jobs, and place ourselves (and our children) on the treadmill of government schooling in order to keep us occupied and out of trouble. The fantasy of higher paying careers is the carrot used to keep us running.
On a brighter note, Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin were among those signing a letter calling for an overhaul of No Child Left Behind, and Representative Peter Hoekstra is introducing an legislative alternative to NCLB.. To Hoekstra's credit, he has been against NCLB from the outset, recognizing it for the governmental intrusion into hearth and home that it is. I hope our legislators at the state level are as sharp, but past experience (i.e. our new graduation requirements) makes me doubtful.