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Stoddard: Brilliant way to transform public education
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In the next legislative session, state Sen. Aaron Osmond will introduce a bill to eliminate compulsory education. This law has potential to make sweeping, beneficial changes in our public education system.

Repealing the compulsory education law will allow this forgotten law to take effect: "The primary responsibility for the education of children within the state resides with their parents or guardians and that the role of state and local governments is to support and assist parents in fulfilling that responsibility." (Utah Code, 53A-6-102-1b)

Did you catch the two main parts of this law? Parents are responsible to educate their own children. State and local governments are responsible to support and assist parents. Parents, teachers and students will all benefit from reviving this forgotten law.

• Parents:

Removing compulsory education will put parents back in charge and make the Legislature, state board and local school districts responsible to support and assist them. Parents will be authorized to ask for the help they need.

With Utah parents, there is a wide range of abilities to educate children. It ranges all the way from some who can do it completely at home, all the way to some who hold down two jobs or, for other reasons, spend little time with their children. Others, who may have time, would rather have professional teachers help them with it.

In assisting parents, the state and county will need to adjust to a great variety of needs. Some parents will ask for no help or half-day help. Others may ask for full-time help starting after Labor Day and ending before Memorial Day. Parents will differ on what ages they want to enroll their children in school. They will also differ about how much they want the federal government and the state to dictate what their children are to learn. They will differ about what is required for graduation. With compulsory education gone, and the responsibility back on their shoulders, parents will be able to ask for the help they need to educate their children.

• Teachers:

When schools become voluntary, teachers will rise to the occasion and make school so interesting, challenging and enjoyable that nearly all children will choose to attend. Teachers will perform as professionals to work with parents to meet the needs of individual students. They will have smaller class loads.

Local district boards of education will give teachers time for pre-school visits with parents and students to form a partnership and make plans on how to meet the specific needs of each child.

Teachers will be respected and paid what they are worth.

• Students:

The greatest benefit of voluntary attendance and voluntary learning will come to students. They will be encouraged to ask questions and look for answers. This process will result in learning that is much more deep and enduring than required learning. Students will surprise everyone with what they can accomplish when supported with their individual projects.

Students will not be standardized but will be helped to grow as individuals with a unique set of talents, abilities and interests. Parents and teachers will unite to help each child aspire to be a valuable contributor to society and chart his or her own ways to do it.

Parents and teachers will unite to help find and develop each child's genius, curiosity, creativity and character. This process will develop these qualities in parents and teachers as well.

Voluntary learning and student accomplishment will be so impressive that people will wonder why we didn't do it a long time ago. Let's get started.

Lynn Stoddard, Farmington, is a retired educator and the author of "Educating for Human Greatness." He can be reached at lstrd@yahoo.com.

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