What If: Students were paid to go to school?

I just heard a story on NPR about how Los Angeles Public Schools decided to no longer suspend students for intentionally violating rules.
Also, TED recently did an event on education and has been publishing those presentations on their site.
So, it all came together for me:

Going to school for a kid is like going to work for an adult.

So, why shouldn’t they get paid?

For a long time, schools were seen as services available to families who could afford them. Then some governments decided that “an education” should be available to every child, and free of direct cost to the families. Eventually, many governments made going to school for children below a certain age compulsory. We can only assume that this was to help make the parents (both) available to work in the factories. Politically, it was sold to Americans in the 1920s as a way to “Americanize” recent waves of foreign immigrants. Today, the US compulsory education movement is seen as having anti-Catholic motivations.

Like adults have to work to make enough money to really live, if children have to go to school, that makes it like a job for a kid, doesn’t it? Most kids don’t think of it as a service. Some parents do. Who was really behind compulsory education? It’s hard to say. But due to its cost, I think it must have been someone pretty powerful.

Since the 1970s, I have personally questioned the implied equivalence of education with schooling. In fact, there are many ways to get an education, and only one of those ways is to go to schools, much less public schools. Children are seen as unwilling participants in the process, but that is not really true. They just don’t like being told they have to do something when they don’t see anything in it for them. Some would say that’s part of being a kid, part of getting “socialized.” But that’s a lie, too. It’s just how things are set up here on earth, in most “modern” countries.

Children are just people with small bodies who are encouraged to pretend that they are “stupid” so that they can be “educated.” The whole paradigm is actually quite ridiculous. It serves certain interests, so it has support in some important places. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If kids could demand to be paid to “work” at school, or choose not to go at all, social life on earth would be a different game. A game, I think, that would have more respect for kids and what they really know.


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