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Las Vegas nonprofit seeks to innovate, improve how schools educate

For some, school can be a place of inspiration and encouragement, but for others, it seems a waste of time. It’s not uncommon to hear students refer to it as a prison.

In a way it is, claims northwest Las Vegas resident Robert B. Elliott, who founded Authentic Choices in Education & Schooling (ACES) Inc. The nonprofit is focused on improving education in schools.

Its primary objective is to implement and facilitate effective changes to allow schools to become more inviting, hospitable, beneficial, productive and educational.

“People are conditioned or programmed from the earliest age to believe that school is the way to salvation or to some version of happiness, success and excellence,” Elliott said. “The reason school is conflated with education almost universally is because it is drilled into the thoughts and beliefs of children in innumerable ways that they can only be a good and useful human if they attend school, and if they are obedient and become a passive recipient of wisdom and knowledge. … I see our primary task as re-educating or re-programming the public.”

Unlike some politicians and educators, his concern isn’t entirely focused on more funding for schools. His primary focus is to eliminate compulsory school attendance, which are laws crafted by each state to require school attendance for children of certain ages.

“It creates a situation where you have to have an authoritarian system,” Elliott said. “I’m not against having rules, but it’s the fact that there’s regimentation because of the structure we have. The rules don’t take into account individuality and the individual circumstances of the children.”

Elliott sent his children to a free school when he lived in New York. Free schools are set up by an organization or a group of individuals and funded by the government but are not controlled by the local authority.

“They treated my children like individuals,” he said. “It was a great experience, and that’s what I want to push for now.”

Now, in order to make his dreams a reality, Elliott is seeking volunteers to help him gather information about the nation’s education system and how it can be improved. He hopes to start meaningful discussions and disseminate information to create change.

Alvin Meinhold, director of the nonprofit and a former Clark County School District teacher, has seen the education system fail students.

“Here’s an example: One day after I’ve been out of teaching for a while, I saw one of my former students, and she asked if I remembered her, and I said no,” he said. “She said, ‘That’s OK. It’s probably because I was one of the bad ones.’ I said, ‘That’s not true because I didn’t have any bad students.’ Schools have a way of labeling people very early in life. Once students are declared a loser or a failure, it can stick with them for life.”

Both argue that compulsory attendance creates a hostile environment where teachers are seen as authoritative figures, and students feel like they have to be there — almost like a prison.

“Most kids are not ready for academic or intellectual exercises until their late teens,” Meinhold said. “If they’re 12 years old and you’re teaching them Shakespeare, then you can ruin the kid and Shakespeare, yet they jam it at them at school.

“Think about it. How many people in our country like Shakespeare?” he asked.

Ultimately, Elliott believes it is time for a revolution in education.

“When you force kids to go to school, a lot of them tend to rebel against it and ultimately lose interest in learning,” he said. “Schools get a lot of credit for teaching children, but children won’t learn unless they feel inspired.”

Call Elliott at 702-466-9856 or visit realchoicesineducation.com.

To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email slopez@viewnews.com or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.

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