Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More on Compulsory Attendance Laws



HARBESON: Here’s to open discussion

My column from last week, “Is this school or prison?” which discussed the problems associated with raising Indiana’s compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18, was very successful — so much so that it convinced a reader named Sandy to conclude that I am, indeed, a moron.

I’m glad to know that this person is no longer suffering a continual state of anxiety, as she struggled through her doubts, wondering if it was true. I feel good knowing Sandy can rest easy now.

I also heard from Kurt Fetz who wrote: “A hypothetical situation wherein an adult is forced to stay at a job for two years is not even remotely ‘similar’ to the education requirement age being raised to 18 — it’s not the same ballpark, it’s not even the same sport.”

I think Kurt is right because I neglected to consider one very important aspect for the employee — he’d still get paid. Which means the prison comparison is much more accurate. Thanks for helping me get clarity on that, Kurt.

Sandy and Kurt were not the only people who responded. Last week’s opinion caused a flurry of comments on the newspaper’s website that lasted several days. The most interesting part about the response is that this activity in itself provides several great examples of how education can work without government involvement.

First of all, people of all ages were participating and interacting with each other as they contributed to the discussion. There were no artificial separations or groupings of people according to their age. Teenagers, young adults and people in their 50s were pondering, sharing and discussing their views on a topic in which they shared a mutual interest.

Many people told personal stories about their educational experiences as teenagers. Others shared stories about people they know. These stories varied widely, clearly demonstrating why it’s so important to always look at education from the standpoint of the individual and not the collective.

Another way the responses show how education works in the real world is that information gathered in the context of daily life is much more effective than an artificially created lesson plan designed to be dumped into a student’s brain at a specific age. I saw this happen when several people displayed an ignorance of the journalism profession and the newspaper business because it led to the editor of the paper giving an impromptu lesson explaining the difference between a news article and an opinion column.

He sounded frustrated that people did not already understand the difference, which in itself also demonstrated that government compulsion does not necessarily match with everyone’s definition of an educated populace.

Another important aspect of education demonstrated by the comment activity is that people will do traditional academic activities with no compulsion at all. People voluntarily chose to read the column and some of those readers, including my friend Sandy, voluntarily chose to take time out of their lives to comment and participate in the discussion. No one compelled any of these people to read and write. They did so for their own individual reasons.

Everyone was free to read and respond and even though there are responses that seem to add little to the discussion, it was precisely because those questionable responses were there that encouraged other people to get involved. This process resulted in many thoughtful and respectful comments on the topic of government compulsion in education.

What if Sandy were compelled by the government to continue reading my columns, even after deciding that they add no value to her life? Would Sandy object to such compulsion? And if so, could she relate that experience to the experience of a teenager who has decided, for whatever reason, that a government school adds no value to the teen’s life?

Who knows how Sandy would react, the only thing we do know is that if she were compelled by the government to read my columns, the compulsion would not help Sandy at all.

Even a moron like me understands that.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson feels compelled to put her moronic opinions on display often.

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