Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Education vs. schooling

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:27 AM |  

Interesting opinion piece by David W. Kirkpatrick, Senior Education Fellow at the U.S. Freedom Foundation on the difference between education and schooling. He writes --
One result from recognizing the distinction between schooling and education will be to recognize that, contrary to common belief, no state in the nation has a compulsory education law. No state requires that its citizens be educated. What states mandate is compulsory schooling, or compulsory attendance, and even that is a misnomer. Most requirements are on schools, not students.

For example, a mandatory 180-day school year applies to schools. Students are not required to attend school for 180 days a year. In actuality, student absenteeism may average about 10% each day, much higher in many inner city schools. That means the average student attends school only 162 days a year. And that's average. For every student with perfect attendance there must be one who is absent 36 days per year, or several who miss something more than 18 days each.
After making the pitch that what “the state need not, and should not, do is concern itself with how that education is acquired,” Kirkpatrick makes some interesting observations about the state of public education (as in the education level of the public) today.
There are studies, and anecdotal evidence, that shows the general public had a higher degree of literacy before compulsory schooling was established than they have today.

Exhibit A: The Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay to support the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. They appeared as individual articles in the New York press, aimed at the common citizen. Today they are regarded as too difficult for most high school students. It's even possible to go through college without ever having to study, much less understand, them.

Exhibit B: Hundreds of thousands of copies of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, written during dark days of the American Revolution were distributed among a population that was less than today's metropolitan Philadelphia, and each copy was typically read by more than one person. Imagine any political tract even remotely as successful today.
Good school choice article -- a funny hat tip to Elizabeth Mische at the Partnership for Choice in Education.