Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Approaching | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends March 1. Register today.
Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Compulsory Schooling: Was Edison Right?

October 30, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Compulsory schooling until a diploma is earned or a student reaches the age of 21 is now getting a big push from the National Education Association (“NEA: Earn a Diploma or Stay in School Until Age 21,” Oct. 11, 2006). It’s the union’s response to the dropout crisis. Coincidentally, compulsory schooling to age 21 would require more teachers, meaning expanded membership, revenues, and clout for the NEA.

But consider the fate of this youngster, had compulsory attendance—even to age 14—been Michigan law in the 1850s:

He started school at age 8, but returned home in tears after three months; his teacher called him “addled.” His mother took over his education by reading with him.

At the age of 12, he persuaded his mother to let him apply for the post of newsboy on the Port Huron-to-Detroit train, which left at 7 a.m. and returned at 9:30 p.m., giving him a six-hour layover in Detroit, where he spent time in the library. He sold fruit and produce from Port Huron to Detroit and evening papers on the return trip.

Total formal classroom instruction: three months. Thomas Alva Edison was essentially unschooled, giving him a heck of a head start on his 1,000-plus patents. Abraham Lincoln got a similar start. He recounted attending “some schools, so-called,” but for less than a year altogether.

Could it be that both boys’ parents and their indifferent state governments were on to something?

Tom Shuford

Lenoir, N.C.

A version of this article appeared in the November 01, 2006 edition of Education Week as Compulsory Schooling: Was Edison Right?

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: February 7, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 31, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education In Their Own Words The Stories That Stuck With Us, 2023 Edition
Our newsroom selected five stories as among the highlights of our work. Here's why.
4 min read
102523 IMSE Reading BS
Adria Malcolm for Education Week