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I wish I could opt out of writing this

• Mike Thomas



Opt-out:  An instance of choosing not to participate in something.

I would like to opt out of writing this blog, but alas I cannot.

Because my boss would opt out of paying me. And my wife might opt out of having a deadbeat hanging around the house.  There are some things that just must be done.


Teeth cleanings.

Watching romantic comedies with your wife.

If I had my greatest wish, it would be for a life of open-ended opting out without consequence. But alas, some things just must be done.

We not only make opt-out decisions for ourselves, but our kids as well. My youngest wants to opt out of wearing shoes (No, even though I never wore them at your age) and my oldest wants to opt out of physics (OK, but you have to take two chemistry courses).

As of late, some parents have decided to opt their children out of taking standardized tests in school. The reasons are myriad. The tests are too hard. The tests are unfair. And so on and so forth.

The same rationale could be provided for any number of life’s endeavors that we judge hard or unfair. And that’s why I’m an opt-in on testing. I want to know how well my kid is doing in algebra. I want to know how smart she is compared to all the other kids in the state. The same goes for reading, writing and science.

This information will let me know if she is on track for being first in line when the University of Florida opens its doors to incoming freshman. Or if we will have to settle for Harvard or Yale.

And so testing must be done as far as I’m concerned.

But whether you support or oppose testing, I wonder what message it sends kids that they can simply opt out of life’s unpleasantries.

Journalist Amanda Ripley, who wrote “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way,’’ took to Twitter to pursue this thought.

She tweeted: “Let’s all play! What would you like to opt your kid out of? It’s a brave new world! “

Here are some of my favorite responses:

  • We really have had people opt out of lice checks. Apparently we have right to lice.
  • We should not be labeling kids w/lice as failures. “I AM MORE THAN MY LICE CHECK RESULTS!!!!
  • I’d opt my kid out of going to school w/kids whose parents opted them out of vaccinations.
  • Lockdown drills. Acne. Writing bibliographies.
  • Braces. They make kids cry. Also: cavities.
  • Birthday parties for kids you kind of know.
  • I’d opt my non-existent children out of hashtags followed by Emojis & dependent clauses posing as sentences.

If only we could all spare our children a life of lice, acne, braces and bibliographies. Such are the challenges of life, which in our house includes taking tests in algebra, reading, writing and science. And so I will be opting my kids out of opt-out.

About the author

Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet

Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at