Seems to me the problem is a problem mainly because of a common
assumption, which apparently democratic schools have inherited from public
schools, that schooling is for children, that it is a preliminary to adult
life, that it ends at the juncture between adolescence and legal
As long as school is so limited in duration, it does seem imperative to
impose standards and encourage compliance. If you assume that people are
out of your sphere of influence and "on their own" once they leave your
space, then you want them to get as much as they can and as much as they
need from the experience.
But that very structure defies the theory (borne out in experience) that
people learn things, and learn them best, when they are interested and
self-motivated to learn. It puts an arbitrary and artificial boundary on
the source of their learning.
Maybe if democratic schools were re-conceived as perpetually available
resources for all learners of any age, so people could stop by when they
needed them, it might not seem so necessary to persuade people to learn
things out of synch with their own interests and needs. If, when they need
to read, they had access to the educational resources they need, then no
one would have to be forced to read at some arbitrary particular time.
Just an idea...