De-schooling our lives
Matt Hern is a Canadian advocate for alternative education -- he explains why he thinks public education should be available to everyone, but not compulsory.
Hern has written a few books on the topic, including "Field Day" and "De-Schooling Our Lives."
"If you think about the institutions that matter tremendously to us, and are the best of our common cultural life, most of think of libraries, museums or parks, or pools, or walkways, or bikeways. Even if you want to expand it to institutions like hospitals or bridges or roads, for example, those are good, but none of them are compulsory. None of them are required to go.
"I like libraries, but I would like them a whole lot less if people told me I had to go, when I had to go, what I had to do when I was there, and how to behave when I was in a library.
"So, the bulk of my argument, or at least the simplest part of the argument, is that I would like schools to look a whole lot more like actually public institutions--not mandatory, not compulsory, and not monopolizing institutions, but institutions that function in communities, for example, parks or libraries do."
He feels that a greater degree of flexibility should be given at the local level when it comes to determining what school attendees need to successfully participate. The degree of flexibility he proposes slies in the face of many established state and local laws in the United States.
There is a growing movement of alternative education in the United States that follows some of the examples learned in Canadian models, explains Hern. Charter schools are popping up more than ever, as are magnet schools.
Some of the ideas draw upon older models of apprenticeship, community service, and home schooling, as well as more recent models like autonomous learning and online courses.
"Everywhere I go I see people grappling with the same issue, which is how to diversify this in a away that makes equitable sense across the community. I cannot image that thirty or forty years from now we will be sitting here having this same conversation.
"Compulsory schooling is only 150 years old in the United States. The first compulsory education laws were passed in Massachusettes in 1852. That's really not that long ago, and I can't image that compulsory schooling in a diverse society is going to last. I think that when we have this conversation even twenty years from now, we are going to be having an entirely different conversation."
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