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What if Education was Not Mandatory?

Historically, education was a privilege.  It was also elective.  Many parents on farms, gave their children basic instruction on reading and writing, and arithmetic.

At what point did education shift from a right, to an enforced obligation? Who came up with that brilliant idea?

Should education be required?  What if it wasn’t?

Kids have a natural curiosity/  They are inherently inquisitive, trying to learn about the world around them as it presents to them.  So what happens in the educational system that kills this? Hopefully, if needs have been well and adequately met in the earlier years- this is less likely to be the case.  Especially if the old-model is broken and rebuilt.  Kids should enjoy learning. The distinctions between formally educated and home schooled kids is phenomenal, stunning and frightening. Home schooled kids- learning is an ongoing and engaged experience 24 hours a day.  It is not something that is squeezed into a certain 45 minute period and then stops.  It is not necessarily broken down into neat categories. Life is not that way, the brain is not wired that way.  So why are we perpetually teaching that way?? Formally educated children shut off all learning processes the minute they walk out the classroom door; and frankly, they were never that turned on when they walked IN that classroom door.

Choice: if education was not mandated- every single kid would know when they walked through that door, that they had CHOSEN to be there, at some level.  Choice is huge in terms of creating commitment and involvement in the process. One of the biggest things schools SAY they want to teach their students is decision making.  And yet the one BIGGEST decision.. is not theirs to make:  whether to be there.  If they are not making that one, not ALLOWED to make that ONE single MOST important decision.. everything that follows.. is negated.

Secondly, if every student knew he or she had chosen to be there, at some level.  they also know that they are not being FORCED to be there.  They can get up and walk out that door at any time they like. However, just like in real life, or a job, they would be accountable for their actions.  Every day they are there is a contractual agreement.  And by showing up, they are agreeing to certain terms and expectations: a social contract of educational expectations.

Thirdly, every student will also know that as much as they have the right to not-be there.. they can also have that right, that privilege, removed from them for not meeting the expectations and agreements. This empowers everyone involved. Being kicked out of school is a very real possibility.  A game changer.

How might that play out on the ground?  With most families having two working parents? Parents would be much more likely to make sure their child is cooperating, compliant and up-holding their part of the agreement- whatever that agreement may be, in any particular educational environment. Parents would be taking heed of their child’s progress and participation, since being dismissed from school would be a very real possibility. A call from school would have weight.. something a parent needed to pay attention to.  The alternative to being in school is arranging for day-care themselves, or some other form of mentoring situation.  How many parents are really going to want to address that?  Not many.  So they are going to make sure they instill in their child, on a regular basis.. the importance of being prepared (by asking them), checking on their progress, asking if assignments are done, what help they might need- etc.

Will some children fall through the crack?  Probably.  BUT- those kids are already falling through the cracks.  They are being passed without learning.  If education was not mandatory- a teacher might have more latitude about which students need to repeat a year (or maybe half-years, like colleges have semesters).  But ultimately, a teacher has more power within her classroom- since a student can be removed.  The educational journey and process shifts from being a teacher-centered power.. to a partnership and cooperation.

As students get older, they may find that they don’t like school.   They might have a few various options:

  • The regular classroom with a different teacher/approach.
  • A vo-tech program– many of which are available today, a growing approach to the regular classroom, so long as it is an equal calibre of learning online programs and home schooling.
  • Apprenticeship: Restoring the old traditional model.. a child goes to work with a relative, who has a career that either interests him or suits him/ her in some way.
  • Or maybe the child will just gravitate to something of interest, hanging out around a construction site, or following around the repairman when he comes to the house. Fetch and grab for someone.. put them to use/ work as they present themselves.. kids WANT to feel useful, helpful and essential to whatever community they are associating with.

There are soooo many possible models by which kids can acquire the skills and learning they need to be successful in life. Should that path be one that is killing the very best parts of who they are? How can we bring out the best and brightest parts of ALL of our kids?



I am an Education Specialist, Health Coach and Author. I work with aspects of the teachings I have learned from Andean shamanic and cosmology, to health, nutrition and education.  Everything is energy. Energy must flow. Like water, when it does not flow, it stagnates and is not healthy. These techniques help your life to flow. I have been initiated into many of the ancient lineages and learned ceremonies, rites of passage and healing techniques.  I have worked as a healer and done workshops and taught some of these aspects – passing the teachings on.

Author of:
Dancing in Your Bubble : ancient teaching, modern healing
Natural Support for Alzheimer’s
Getting a Handle on Happy : find and fix causes of stress and depression
The Naturally Smarter Kid : a parent’s guide to helping kids succeed in school and life
Cafe of the Hungry Ghosts : behind the veil of ordinary – a paranormal-ish fiction book





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