The Right to Educational Choice

The Right to Educational Choice

“1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:

(a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all”

– United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Can a right be compulsory?

Doesn’t it undermine the whole idea of a right if you don’t actually get a choice in it?

The Right to Educational Choice

“Education: free and compulsory – what a way to learn logic!”

– Frank van Dun

“All children have a right to an education!” we nobly exclaim. It sounds good at first. I believed it. Yes! All children should get an education! Right? And then you tag on the word compulsory… now the meaning kind of changes…

All children have the right to an education, which they cannot refuse.

All children have the right to 10-13 years of their time spent in ways other people deem important, which they cannot refuse.

All children have the right to learn a curriculum that is not based on their individual interests, which they cannot refuse.

All children have the right to be tested and evaluated and compared to their peers, which they cannot refuse.

All children have the right to be graded and labeled, which they cannot refuse.

All children have the right to have their freedom and autonomy restricted, which they cannot refuse.

All children have the right to be coerced into doing and thinking what teachers say they should do and think, which they cannot refuse.

All children have the right to socialise only with people of their age, which they cannot refuse.

The Right to Educational Choice

And then they have the nerve to talk as if school is some kind of fabulous opportunity? Something that no one in their right mind would turn down. Something that you should be grateful for! What a perfect example of childism.

What makes something an opportunity is that you can choose whether to accept it or not, otherwise it’s just another expectation.

School is not an opportunity, or a right, it’s a mandatory sentence. If we really respected children, we would not enforce their ‘right’ to an education, but the right to educational choice.

“The mere fact that most school attendance is compulsory reflects an attitude of mistrust of children and their desire to make sense of the world. In fact, if governments were really serious about their professed goal of developing, nurturing, and enhancing the intellectual and moral autonomy of the young, would they not have to abolish compulsory, externally imposed education?”

– Wendy Priesnitz

The Right to Educational Choice


November 21, 2016 at 5:41 pm

Totally with you on this:)

November 21, 2016 at 11:55 pm

I agree with everything you’ve said here. I have a difficult time figuring out how to apply this to all situations though. While we unschool, and love it, I keep coming back to what would happen to kids whose parents truly don’t care if they’re educated. Looking back at my family’s history, my great grandfather saved up for his own books, and attended school on his own, (sadly and ironically only to be told by his dad, the local school teacher, that he couldn’t attend because he was needed on the farm). So, I guess even un-encouraged might seek out an education. What do you think should be done about/with those who don’t though?

November 22, 2016 at 12:06 am

I’m not sure whether I agree. I’m 100% in favour of home educating, unschooling and giving children choice – but I think it’s important that it is compulsory for the opportunity to access education to be provided. Not that it’s compulsory for children to attend state-run schools, but that it’s compulsory for parents to provide their children with an education.

In the UK, the legislation says, “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
(a)to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b)to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.” The onus is on the parents to “cause [a child] to receive” education “at school or otherwise”. I don’t think that wording is perfect – “cause to receive” sounds too much like “force”, I would prefer “enable to receive” or possibly “ensure the provision of” – but the recognition that education may be at school or otherwise is important and a reminder that school =/= education.

Maybe it’s a semantic issue. Who is being compelled? It should be the adults, not the children. But some adults need compelling or they would simply not care.

November 22, 2016 at 4:19 am

I also don’t 100% agree that going to school shouldn’t, on some level, be mandated.
I am a HUGE advocate for unschooling in particular, I think it is the best way for children to truly learn anything of value BUT I also live in a large, diverse city with internet access and while i don’t have children yet I don’t plan on having children until I have begun my career which would allow me plenty of time to facilitate for them. Not everyone is that lucky, not globally or even where i live in the US. Unschooling only works if resources are available and the parent is willing/able to facilitate. If a parent can’t take the child to the library and has no internet and maybe can’t even read themselves then the child isn’t going to have access to broader knowledge.
Where i live many adults work several jobs OR are opioid users and if they were not forced to send their kids to school they wouldn’t and these children wouldn’t be out in the world learning, and experiencing new things, they would be at home, alone most of the time. In the US parents can go to jail for their children not going to school and that threat is the only reason some kids go.
I guess the point I’m making is I think the best learning environment for a child is the one where he can be exposed to a variety of things and have the resources needed to learn (books, internet, other people, etc.) and sometimes that place IS a school and not forcing parents to send their kids there would only hurt the ones who need it most. It is one of those things I view as not ideal but in some cases it is what is best for the children involved.

    November 22, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Your comment brings to mind an entire other topic: the right of children to be free-range. The news would have most of us here in the ‘States believe that if our children are found unsupervised in public, we’re likely to be arrested. There are so many things to fix!

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