What parent has not been asked at some point, “Mom, why do I have to go to school?” Really, who hasn’t asked this? And, the simple answer is, it’s the law. The inquisitive child may question that law, so the following gives the logic behind the law.
When the industrial revolution began in the late 1800s, people moved from the farmlands into the cities in search of a better, easier, life. The new prosperous jobs in the factories helped move people up the social ladder. Working in a factory meant that many times the employee had to read plans, follow instructions, and tally numbers. But, to milk a cow or shovel hay one is not required to read or calculate numbers. The U.S. had an uneducated work force. The government at the time was not intrusive (unlike today where it wants to regulate even the type of light bulbs we buy), so it did not do anything until World War I (1918).
When the U.S. finally entered WWI it found that over 40% of the recruitments were illiterate. This would not do at all, so Congress stepped in and thus enacted mandatory education from k-12 (age 5-18) for all children. A parent who would not send their child to school could lose custody and serve time in jail under child neglect and cruelty statutes.
There are other reasons to go to school. Many studies have shown that in general, the higher the education, the higher one’s salary. Job security increases. If only a few people know how to do certain tasks, then their employment is more secure than those tasks where the person can be replaced by anyone off the street. When the U.S. Supreme Court was asked a similar question in the case Brown v. Board of Education (1954) they wrote,
Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today, it is the principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right that must be made available to all on equal terms.
Education can open doors to hidden potentials that will only be discovered as the child moves forward. People discover their own learning modality, the way one learns best, whether visual, auditory, tactile, kinetic, or all the above that can be used to further learning on the job. School teaches students how to learn. Even if one does not need to know Algebra, one is learning how to learn. Education trains the brain how to think logically and how to tackle problems at work.
The last main benefit of going to school, even mentioned by the Supreme Court, is the social aspects. Most of our life long friendships come from high school or before. During those tough, awkward years, we learned proper and acceptable behaviors that became second nature. Even universally accepted social norms such as saying please and thank you are learned during these formative years. So, children, yes you do have to go to school. Make the best of it.