Letter: Voluntary education could restore order

Voluntary education could restore order

To the editor:

At the root of the charter school debate is the question of school climate and student expectations, of student readiness and student responsibility. Thus I offer for consideration a solution common to the motivations of both sides in this debate: The commonwealth — we — repeal the compulsory education law and make public schools voluntary. Consider this:

Suppose my daughter "Missy" announces to my wife and I that she is suspended from school for not bringing her textbooks to class adding that she arrived a few minutes late, without a pass, but insists that everybody does that. She complains that her tardiness shouldn't matter because she didn't have her homework ready, and besides, all they ever do at the beginning of the class is go over homework!

Or perhaps my son "Junior" announces that he is suspended from school for talking while the teacher was delivering the lesson. He reveals that he swore at the teacher and gave the teacher the finger. He said the class laughed about it and when he was told to leave the classroom his friends walked out with him thus proving that the teacher was no good. Now, as parents, what do we do?

The next morning we tell the principal that we want Missy (or Junior) re-admitted. The principal informs us that the school is now acting in compliance with the state's newly enacted "voluntary education" law. The principal explains the ramifications of this recent change and suggests that we could, (a) find another school within the district that will admit Missy (or Junior), (b) send Missy (or Junior) to an adjacent school district, (c) send Missy (or Junior) to a private school, or (d) move to a new town or state.

We consider these options and return home. Along the way we give Missy (or Junior) a crash course in manners, civility, respect and responsibility. They develop a deeply profound understanding of the true purpose of public education and the meaning of "school climate" and "student expectations."

This scenario shouldn't give you the wrong idea. The proponents of voluntary schools do not believe that making education voluntary, vs. compulsory, is a panacea for all that ails our public schools. But given the nature and number of intentionally disruptive, and undisciplined students pervading public schools, they do believe that five of every ten disruptions will disappear when both students and parents get the message that intentional disruptions will no longer be tolerated within our schools. And this will help return order to our classrooms and free up scarce educational resources and services for those students truly in need of help.

Algird Sunskis, Lanesborough


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