Seven reasons for making schools voluntary rather than compulsory

Jul 12 2013 - 12:06pm

Here are seven reasons for making schools voluntary rather than compulsory:

1) Students will learn more of what's important -- to them and to society. 

The difference between required and self-chosen learning is immense. When students learn something to pass a test, get a good grade or credit, the learning is shallow and temporary, but when they learn for personal wanting to know, the knowledge is deep and enduring. 

Students are different from one another and have a built in drive to become whole and develop their unique talents and interests. With nearly 50 million students in our public schools, there are that many student differences, 49,809,606 with unique talents to be developed. That's why students need a great variety of choices. We need people to grow our food, make and fix our machines, repair our plumbing, paint beautiful pictures, compose and sing great music, write good books, and build our homes, as much as we need engineers and scientists. 

Voluntary education will provide something for every interest and societal need. It's time to stop trying to standardize students, time to stop requiring students to take courses in which they have no interest or need. Students should spend time on obtaining personal knowledge that is deep and enduring rather than on that which is shallow and temporary. 

2) Teachers will provide learning experiences that are not only challenging and rewarding, but interesting and enjoyable. 

To attract students, teachers will provide experiences that stimulate curiosity and creativity. Basic skills of reading, writing and math will not be taught as ends in and of themselves, but learned as students inquire into things they want to learn about. Classrooms will be alive with opportunities for students to imagine, explore and create things. Talent shows will attract performers and audiences. The school media center/library will become a center of investigation. 

Teachers are also unique and different. They each have something to offer that is special to them. Many have hobbies that will attract and engage the interest of students. 

3) Parents will be meaningfully involved as coaches and mentors to guide and support both students and teachers. 

Because parents are the ones who know each child best, they are the ones who should be the main guides and support for students. Voluntary education will offer numerous ways for parents to be meaningfully involved in sharing their talents and interests and in supporting students and teachers. Parents also have hobbies, talents and interests that should be shared in schools. 

4) Dropouts, bullying and school vandalism will no longer be issues. 

Education based on freedom instead of compulsion will eliminate dropouts, bullying and school vandalism. Students will love school and want to be there, not because the government compels them to do so. Every child will have a chance to excel in something and thereby feel they can be contributors rather than burdens to society. Even suicides will be prevented when students feel schools are there to serve their needs. 

5) The U,S. Department of Education will have to change its role or go. 

Ever since the "Nation at Risk Report" in 1983 the federal government has tried to reform public education. Summits were held without inviting teachers. Now we know what a dismal failure those reform efforts have been. We are still suffering from the effects of the No Child Left Behind Law which demoralized teachers, limited the learning of students and kept parents on the sidelines. The USDOE has cost taxpayers billions of dollars for making public education worse. With an emphasis on standardizing students it has become a big stumbling block to progress. 

6) Each state separtment of education will change its role to support voluntary education. 

State Departments of Education will need to invent ways to support local schools and districts in changing from compulsory to voluntary education. The 10 th Amendment makes public education a state responsibility. 

7.)Amazing things will happen when parents, teachers and students in each local school are freed to develop voluntary education. 

Because every student is different from all others, schools and communities will offer a great variety of enticing avenues to education. Parents, teachers and students will be enthused about inventing strategies for stimulating curiosity, respectful communication, creativity and character. We will finally have a school system that honors student's right to be in charge of their own lives from the age of accountability and on. Freedom in education will make it possible for human beings to soar above the dark clouds of compulsion. Voluntary education will result in a renaissance in learning and human development. 

Lynn Stoddard is a retired educator who writes about the need for a transformation of public education. His latest book, Educating for Human Greatness, contains a framework for redesigning the system. Stoddard lives in Farmington and can be reached at

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