Monday, June 18, 2007

End Compulsory Education - And What Exactly Is Educational Neglect Anyway?

Before your read Mr. Maymin's article below, you must know that there is a vast difference between Compulsory Education and Compulsory Attendance.

In CT, both can be found in CGS 10-184
Here is CT's compulsory education law and it is the first line of CGS 10-184:
All parents and those who have the care of children shall bring them up in some lawful and honest employment and instruct them or cause them to be instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including a study of the town, state and federal governments.
So parents have the duty and obligation to teach their children or cause them to be instructed (i.e. have someone else teach them or send them to school). In CT homeschoolers do not "opt out of the system" - rather, parents who send their children to school are "opting out of their obligation". It's been that way ever since the inception of this colony. It was like that pretty much for all the original colonies.

So if you choose not to undertake your obligation to educate your children then you must cause them to be instructed, and the next sentence of 10-184 spells out the rules of government school compulsory attendance:

Here is CT' compulsory attendance law:
Subject to the provisions of this section and section 10-15c, each parent or other person having control of a child five years of age and over and under eighteen years of age shall cause such child to attend a public school regularly during the hours and terms the public school in the district in which such child resides is in session, unless such child is a high school graduate or the parent or person having control of such child is able to show that the child is elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools.
Important to note is that the phrase "elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction" is what allows private schools to exist in CT! as no where else in the statutes mention the reason why or how private schools can exist in CT.

So the statute says parents are responsible to educate their kids, and if they choose not to undertake their obligation they can send them to public schools during certain ages and hours, or send them to private school.

(As a Side Note: I posted an article about "equivalent instruction" and how no such thing can ever really exist unless we all use the same curriculum for every single person.. equivalent instruction does not even currently exist in government schools! Also an excellent discussion about the history of compulsory education and compulsory attendance can be found in John Taylor Gatto's book..The Underground History of American Education - which is free to read online and should be required reading for every parent).

That all being said this article by Phil Maymin really caught my eye..

This article appeared in the Fairfield Weekly and was written by Phil Maymin - you have to read this guy's biography - he is a Harvard grad and incredibly accomplished. But first read what he has to say about compulsory education!
Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) can seek custody of your children for “educational neglect,” a charge typically levied against homeschooling parents. But can educational neglect even be defined in a way that applies only to homeschooled students, excluding both publicly and privately schooled children?

Suppose a child hasn’t been adequately taught how to read and write. Is that educational neglect? Sixteen percent of all adults in Connecticut—more than half a million people—are functional illiterates, according to a 2001 municipal report for the town of Hartford. Meanwhile, Joseph Henares, a homeschooled 14-year-old from Avon, just tied for third place in the national spelling bee. How many public school students can spell punaise, furfuraceous, or triticale? How many private school students?

Suppose a child hasn’t been taught astronomy or chemistry or biology or creative writing. Any of those assumptions apply equally well to a large fraction of public and private school students. Should they be taken away from their parents for educational neglect as well?

Clearly the definition of educational neglect cannot include the failure to learn or be adequately taught any subject matter that is also taught in public or private schools, because there would be plenty of failing school-attending students who would be subject to such a definition, too. And definitions that touch on religious subjects, such as creationism vs. evolution, are properly prohibited by the separation of church and state.

Could an explicit exception be made for publicly or privately schooled children? Define educational neglect as, for example, illiteracy, but make parents who send their children to public or approved private schools exempt from the charge because it is the fault of the teachers, not the parents.

Such an exception would be patently absurd. It’s like exempting the people who hire mercenaries from murder, or the board of directors from fraud committed by their chosen CEO, on the theory that if you hire someone, you’re no longer responsible.

Parents, not the government, are responsible for their children.
If they choose to outsource certain aspects in order to benefit from the free market, whether it’s traditional education, karate, or music classes, the responsibility is still theirs. Finally, if an exemption for public and approved private schools is built into the very definition of educational neglect, then homeschooling becomes essentially illegal. And Connecticut has no right to pass such a law. Even the threat of persecution by the DCF sends a chill down the spine of anyone who sees parents hiding their homeschooled children during daylight hours so truancy officers or DCF agents don’t demand entry into their home.

Indeed, the whole concept of mandatory schooling is, if you take a broad perspective, quite shocking. The Connecticut Constitution ensures “free public elementary and secondary schools in the state,” but nowhere does it state that education is compulsory. That law is Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-184. And what should be done with truants? Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-200 elucidates: “The police... shall arrest all such children.” Are these laws even constitutional?

Mandatory education is even worse than a sentence of forced community service. It’s more like school arrest. All children between the ages of 5 and 18 must spend six hours every weekday, nine months out of the year, in a brick building with other inmates, where they must sit when told to sit, eat when allowed, and walk in slow circles catching only brief glimpses of the sun and the earth during periods called recess. They are allowed home for dinner and bed but they must do additional work even at home or face disciplinary action. The few who escape are caught by truancy officers and forced back in. Repeat offenders go to juvenile detention. The forced attendance has the same effects in schools as in jails: boredom, recidivism, sex, and drugs. Probably the only places in America that have more illegal drugs than prisons are schools.

What have all these children done to be punished this way? Their only common factor is age. Since when do we punish people for being a particular age? Even a sentence of forced community service requires a trial. When was the trial held that hammered down more than a decade of school arrest on each of these innocents? Both the American and the Connecticut constitutions guarantee that “no person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Where was the due process that this September will put another estimated 50,000 Connecticut 5-year-old kids under school arrest for the next 13 years of their lives?

Saying it’s for their own good only adds insult to injury. Their parents should decide what is good for their own children. If the parents choose to send them to school, that’s their decision.

The DCF claims that they never seek custody unless a child is in “imminent danger.” If a child is being starved or beaten to death, they should be protected from the assailant, as should any such victim. Nutritional neglect, for example, could pose an imminent danger.

But educational neglect? Imminent danger? The next doctor who shouts, “Quick! Get this kid some Chaucer! And a line of algebra problems, stat!” will be the first.

I can’t think of any possible definition of educational neglect that excludes publicly and privately schooled students, or one that could pose any imminent danger to anybody, let alone the student. Can you?

Then why do we let our government take our children away from us, the very children we have freed from their jail-like schools?

It’s time to get government out of the forced education business. It’s time to separate school and state.

The author was a Congressional candidate in the 5th district (against Chris Shays) in the 2006 election. You can find out more about him here.

Important Note: Homeschoolers in CT cannot be considered truant... CGS 10-200 states " For purposes of this section, "habitual truant" means a child age five to eighteen, inclusive, who is enrolled in a public or private school and has twenty unexcused absences within a school year." and CGS 10-198a which says pretty much the same in sections a and e.