Michael Strong
Age of Awareness
Published in
5 min readOct 16, 2022

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Educational Choice as a Life or Death Matter

The greatest moral urgency in K12 education today is the public health catastrophe of adolescence. While here I will focus on the shocking negative outcomes of our current system, the real goal is to shift to an educational system that will reliably produce confident, capable, resilient young people who can succeed in the 21st century economy.

The solution to both the need to address the public health catastrophe as well as to accelerate social mobility and purpose-driven lives is to allow parents and students to seek more personalized and humane educational environments in which teens flourish. Arizona’s recent universal Educational Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) provide parents with the greatest range of such choices.

Most educational policy debates are ultimately premised on the notion that academic performance is the goal of education. Thus advocates of choice often argue that choice results in better academic outcomes, opponents that it results in worse outcomes.

What they are not yet debating is whether or not the entire impersonal, bureaucratic system is a net harm. In short, they are not yet debating whether or not compulsory public schooling has become a public health catastrophe.

To begin to understand why this may be the case, consider the following data (N=7,705):

Compared with those who did not feel close to persons at school, students who felt close to persons at school had a significantly lower prevalence of poor mental health during the pandemic (28.4% versus 45.2%) and during the past 30 days (23.5% versus 37.8%), persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness (35.4% versus 52.9%), having seriously considered attempting suicide (14.0% versus 25.6%), and having attempted suicide (5.8% versus 11.9%).

Is it somehow impossible to create schools at which students feel close to other people?

Simply allowing parents to choose schools at which staff cared about them would reduce the misery and death evident in schooling today.

Consider that teen suicides increase by about 20% during the school year, decreasing over summer and during breaks. The evidence that this is associated with schooling, rather than other variables, is that this particular seasonal pattern stops around age 18.

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Michael Strong
Age of Awareness

Founder, The Socratic Experience, socraticexperience.com, a virtual school 4 innovators and original thinkers,author The Habit of Thought and Be the Solution.