Monday, October 17, 2016

What? I actually chose my own school once?

See, during my youth, I did get to make a few decisions about my life without my reasonable choices being vetoed out of hand. Maybe once or twice. Not often.

Yesterday, I discussed how the United States disrespects the medical autonomy of young people who are mature enough to make decisions. It does the same with educational autonomy - and on an increasing basis.

I don't understand why a 16-year-old - or someone a bit younger - doesn't have a legal right to choose to attend a public school in their district instead of a private school their parents force them to attend. It's not like it would cost their parents any more money, since the public school is already paid for by taxes. In some states, you can still quit school at 16 - so why can't you choose what school to attend at 16? Wouldn't attending a school of your choice be better than quitting altogether?

Texas is the worst state in this regard. Recently, Texas passed a law saying you can't quit school until you turn 19. I don't endorse quitting school just because you reach a certain age, but this law is unsound because of the common law principle that the age of majority can be set no higher than 18. Who wants to be stuck at Bishop Brossart when they're 19?

The one time in my youth when I was allowed to choose my own school, I was only 9. I repeat, 9. In 4th grade, I attended Guardian Angel School in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky - and I wanted out. I did relatively well there in previous years, but 4th grade was a disaster - an endless string of physical abuse by teachers, disciplinary run-ins, and meal denials. While the school year was still in progress, I told my parents I wanted to find a different school. They agreed. So for 5th grade, I went to a public school by default.

It didn't take a lot of prodding back then. I was being reasonable for being only 9. I didn't ask my folks to pull me out of school altogether and let me live out my days in paradise. Getting pulled from Guardian Angel wasn't too much to ask. And I won that battle. In later years, I wasn't so lucky. Even though I was older then, I wasn't allowed to attend schools I wanted. The oldsters' word was law. What high school was I to attend? I didn't get a choice. Ever. They picked Bishop Brossart, and that was the end of the discussion. They never said why even when I dared to ask. I was 14 - not 9 - but no input was allowed. They didn't ask, "Do you want to go to Brossart?" Brossart sucked almost from the giddy-up, and just when the oldsters acted like they were finally coming around - almost 3 years later - I was expelled. I'm sure my days at Brossart were numbered by then anyway - I can't possibly imagine going there another year - but it was way too late.

By the time I was kicked out of Brossart, I'd long since made my decision: I wanted out pronto. I knew I was more than ready. I stand by this stance even at age 43. I guess a lot of people didn't understand the words, "I want out." My life, my decision. Three years was plenty of time to think. I wanted out after 3 days, and it took 3 years to get out. It was never a hard decision, but it went completely unheeded.

I remember some kids at Brossart saying they chose to go to school there. I was floored. Someone was actually allowed to pick their own high school? The laws protecting me were so weak that I was stuck with the decisions of those who thought they were so much wiser.

What I'm really shocked at is that other bad choices about my schooling continued at 18. I don't know how the system pulled that off without me telling everyone to go pound sand. So many bad decisions had been made for me by then that I think I just resigned myself to my fate.

I can be appreciative of this: I complained about the school I attended in 4th grade, and people listened. Like the very few other times when I was allowed to make my own decisions, I don't regret it.

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