By Ben Velderman
SALT LAKE CITY – One Utah lawmaker wants to return public education to how it was in the ‘80s – the 1880s, that is.
In a recently published blog, state Sen. Aaron Osmond contends that Utah’s compulsory education law is to blame for the chaos and inefficiencies found in many public school classrooms.
Osmond writes: “Before 1890, public education in America was viewed as an opportunity – not a legal obligation. Prior to that time, the parent was primarily responsible for the education of their children. The state provided access to a free education for those that wanted to pursue it. The local teacher was viewed with respect and admiration as a professional to assist a parent in the education of their child.”
But that all changed when in 1890, when the state began requiring all parents to send their children to school. According to Osmond, compulsory education allowed some parents to shirk their child-rearing responsibilities, and forced teachers to pick up the slack.
“As a result, our teachers and schools have been forced to become surrogate parents, expected to do everything from behavioral counseling, to providing adequate nutrition, to teaching sex education, as well as ensuring full college and career readiness,” the first-term lawmaker writes.
Many teachers are overburdened by this “all things to all people” approach, and they simply can’t provide the necessary attention to students who actually want to be in school and are anxious to learn, Osmond argues.
That could be solved by scrapping the compulsory education law, and restoring the idea that receiving a public education is an opportunity, instead of an obligation.
“When a parent decides to enroll a child in public school, both the parent and child should agree to meet minimum standards of behavior and academic commitment or face real-life consequences such as repeating a class, a grade, or even expulsion,” Osmond writes.
The lawmaker also wants teachers to have the right to send consistently misbehaving children home until they are “ready to respect and appreciate their opportunity to be educated.”
Judging by readers’ comments, Osmond’s idea is striking a chord with many taxpayers – and at least one (self-identified) teacher.
Others warn that allowing parents to keep their children at home would be a detriment to the health and well-being of innocent kids.
“We live in a society where some children require help beyond the ability of their parents. Those students don’t deserve to be punished, they don’t deserve to be disqualified,” State Board of Education member Leslie Castle told the Desert News.
Castle added that without educators’ watchful eyes, some children would stay trapped in dangerous and abusive home situations.
Osmond told the Desert News he’s not in favor of getting rid of all the nonacademic services being delivered by schools. Instead, he wants officials to re-evaluate how they are meeting those community needs.
Osmond plans to introduce legislation to repeal the compulsory education law during the upcoming session, the Desert News reports.
“What I’m hoping to accomplish with this bill is to restore the trust and respect and professionalism of teachers as a facility of learning and not as a social worker,” he said.