Home > General Politics > Scattered thoughts on home schooling

Scattered thoughts on home schooling

Reading an article on Liberal Conspiracy about home schooling, my first reaction was negative. What follows are some of my thoughts – both pro and con – as regards the article and the issue.

First, a bit of background. The government’s Rose review and the simultaneous but independent Cambridge review have now each been published, examining in a far reaching way primary education. In particular, the Cambridge review is critical of current levels of access, which are narrowed by extensive testing (CR topsheets, .pdf).

To this extent, then, I agree with the instinct of those parents who choose to withdraw their child from the education system. The Cambridge review damns the system for inadequate training of teachers beyond the core subjects, for not seeing standards and breadth of teaching as compatible and, ultimately, for its lack of purpose, due to consistent micro-management by the government.

When I have kids, it’ll be an open question as to whether or not I home school them, on this basis. However, I am not an advocate of home schooling generally and there are many reasons why. The article at LibCon amply demonstrates a multitude of them.

Firstly, as a teacher, I’m not willing to be told what I can and can’t empirically examine by a political lobby. Those who provide education in schools are in a position to examine the education provided by home educators. It may be that the home school lobby don’t want to listen to some of the things which have to be said – but that’s a different issue.

My concerns are as follows: a) what does the child want; b) is the child getting the same breadth of education as in a classroom; c) is the child simply being taught to regurgitate the world-view of the parents; d) does the child have access to sufficient resources to support learning to a level equal to that which his or her peers will reach by the same age.

All of these things can be measured. I have always been particularly concerned about c) since I know that in the United States, home schooling is increasingly prevalent among extreme Christians and I have seen it suggested that this trend is the same in the UK. If home schooling can be a vehicle to prevent scientific learning, then we have a duty to those children to regulate it.

The consequences for science of d) are equally important. If a child is to be kept out of primary school, this question is of less importance, but post-11 large swathes of science teaching are practice-led. Titrations, dissections, circuit-building, oscillations and so forth are just some of the practicals for which the equipment is unlikely to be just lying around one’s house.

I am not so narrow minded, of course, to suggest that the lack of this equipment means that home schooling should be dispensed with. It may simply mean that the LEA should have a remit extending to the provision of such equipment to community centres, where home schooling families can access it. Whether or not it gets used could also be monitored, in order to paint a picture of the opportunities which home schoolers allow their children.

Obviously, in respect of things like cooking or the arts and humanities, an interested parent with the ability to give a child one-to-one time is a huge advantage. As teachers, we can see this even in school – and we know, when meeting parents or talking to pupils about their homework routines, which parents are especially good at this sort of thing.

I’ve never believed in measuring skirt lengths, tucking in shirts and so forth – and one-to-one teaching obviously gets rid of this sort of requirement. Additional time, with a suitably able parent, also offers the chance for a much broader range of activities – from mechanics to ornithology to wood work. However its a big step from saying, “This is possible” to ensuring that every home schooled child has these opportunities.

Ensuring these opportunities needs to be the responsibility of a body with no intellectual bias towards one form of education or the other – but since primary legislation is the responsibility of the State, it is to the State such a body must answer.

Collectively, as a society, we have a responsibility to our children – who are not the property of their parents and shouldn’t be treated as such. Without taking away the right of a child to learn what interests them, there are also certain necessary things every child should know, whether John Holt and his fellow pro-home schoolers want to admit it or not.

We don’t find that a controversial thing to say when we mean the basic life skills – such as toilet hygiene. I am not referring to basic life skills of course, I’m referring to things like the scientific method, skepticism and all forms of rational argument and the examination of evidence required to support or disprove such an argument.

After all, this is a democracy. However distorted our public sphere is by a bias towards Capital, the opinions of the individual still have social consequences. So, as a fellow citizen in a democracy, I want everyone to know about things like evolution and to be able to judge the merits of an argument on the basis of rational thought, not on the basis of prescribed doctrine.

My only problem is that, even in schools, teaching to this standard is far from secure!

In conclusion, I haven’t met a teacher yet who will deny the important role that family can play in a child’s learning. Also I don’t doubt, looking at the Swedish model as example, that there are better ways to organise education than what we currently have. Home schooling certainly has the potential to be one of these better ways – but how we talk about it is key.

Currently the State may be biased against home schooling – but there is no excuse for the near-hysterical reaction of home schoolers to a desire to regulate what they do. We need to find ways to open opportunities for child learning – at home or in school – and we need to do so knowing that this may be against the express wishes of the parents.

This is at the core of my problem with home schooling; parents have replaced the absolute authority of the State with the absolute authority of themselves – and both need to be a lot more open to democratic regulation. This is reflected, to some extent, in the US figures below; of particular interest should be the 38% who are home schooled on religious grounds, and the 12% who object to what the school teaches.

It highlights the hypocrisy at the heart of the home school movement and begs the question, since when are parents more qualified than teachers to choose what their children can and can’t learn? This is the same type of hysterical reaction which objects to the State keeping an eye on home schooled children, as though someone other than the child’s parent can’t evaluate quality of education.

Whether boards of governors, LEAs or some body that will collectively represent home schoolers, this sort of regulation is the right of a democratic society – however we collectively decide to arrange it.

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Categories: General Politics
  1. February 23, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    This kind of seems like a contradiction that can be only be solved by social change. In an atomised capitalist society, there is this dilemma between “the absolute authority of the State” and “the absolute authority of [parents]”. As you identify, the ideal solution would be somewhere in between, with both the personal and student-led aspects of home schooling and the public and collective aspects of school-schooling – but this would mean a blurring of the public and private spheres, an opening up of nuclear families to broader networks of people, the expansion of public motives into sections of society much broader than, and less coercive than, the state, etc. etc.

  2. February 23, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Actually, this is probably one of the few areas that I don’t see social change as a prerequisite to good governance. It simply involves a little adaptation on the part of bodies which we traditionally see as bureaucratic and monolithic, namely the Local Education Associations and the DCSF. Of course, the cost of it might make it prohibitively expensive – and I’d be interested to see if home schooling involves a class bias.

    Frankly, I’d work part time in order to home school my kids though – part time they’d be in school, part time out of school, with me. I think that in that way, they might get the best of both worlds. Though naturally I’d examine the whole subject a lot more rigorously before making a decision. I think the point that really irked me was the notion that trained teachers have nothing to contribute to philosophies of home education.

    If you look at the site by Bishop Hill, you’ll wonder how I can be both a “state-worshipping fascist” and also open minded enough to consider every avenue.

  3. elizabeth
    February 24, 2009 at 8:14 am

    “I think the point that really irked me was the notion that trained teachers have nothing to contribute to philosophies of home education.”

    There is no intention to offend teachers in my post. Simply to say that HE families do not need monitoring any more than any other family.

    There is no need for teachers to evaluate us, you guys teach in schools. I have alot of respect for most teachers actually. What you do is tough, most are well intentioned many are surprisingly sucessful.

    But HE really is entirely different and many teachers seem to forget that one can learn without being taught. My children and I love to be taught some things from some people, but there are other ways to learn too.

    HE in our family is about provision of opportunity for learning and developing a natural love of learning.

    I know many teachers and many HE parents. When I have asked teacher friends for advice on what to read as a HE mum they generally point me in the direction of the National Curriculum, seriously, I thought it was a mate taking the mick first time but this advice has been provided by several teachers along with reccommendations of reading schemes. No one has said “Read Howard Gardner, he’s great” or “Herbert Spencer has some ideas on education you might find interesting” If I ask a HE mum this is the kind of advice I get, or books or websites my kids might enjoy and learn from.

  4. Imogen
    February 24, 2009 at 9:12 am

    “Collectively, as a society, we have a responsibility to our children – who are not the property of their parents and shouldn’t be treated as such.”

    This statement suggests the point at which you may be missing the point. Children are not the property of their parents, nor are they the property of the state. Only the child should have the right to choose where, what and when to learn. Certainly in my own experience home-educators give their children the choice to return to school if they so choose; some children do. I would question how many school-educated children are granted this choice.

    “I’m not willing to be told what I can and can’t empirically examine by a political lobby. Those who provide education in schools are in a position to examine the education provided by home educators.”

    On what grounds do you give yourself the right to examine other people? A dentist may conduct research into how people brush their teeth using a consenting sample, but how would you feel about the dentist insisting s/he has the right to pop round and watch you brush your teeth, evaluate and monitor your tooth-brushing, and if your brushing skills are found wanting, to insist that you visit the local tooth brushing centre daily so that an expert can keep a closer eye on you? I think you will find the home-education community would welcome more academic research into home-education; it’s the thought of the state poking its nose into our homes on an individual and compulsory basis that is repulsive.

  5. Imogen
    February 24, 2009 at 9:16 am

    My concerns are as follows: a) what does the school-child want; b) is the school-child getting the same breadth of education as in the wider community; c) is the school-child simply being taught to regurgitate the world-view of whoever wrote the national curriculum; d) does the school-child have access to sufficient resources to support learning to a level equal to that which his or her home-educated peers will reach by the same age.

  6. February 24, 2009 at 10:28 am

    You say,

    “Collectively, as a society, we have a responsibility to our children – who are not the property of their parents and shouldn’t be treated as such. Without taking away the right of a child to learn what interests them, there are also certain necessary things every child should know, whether John Holt and his fellow pro-home schoolers want to admit it or not.”

    I agree with your view of children. They are not the property of their parents. But no more should we see them as the property of the state. If you decide that there are “certain necessary things every child should know” then I wonder how you determine what these are? Who decides? The state?

    The trouble with your list of things that everyone should know (even if you accept the validity of such a list, which I don’t) is that no-one has ever found of way of making sure that everyone knows those things. The state schools teach the National Curriculum. Does this mean that every young person ‘knows’ the content of that curriculum?

    I happen to have o levels, a levels and a couple of degrees. I studied a lot of things. I ‘know’ very little about any of those things. By enabling my children to direct their learning I am attempting to liberate them from the chore of learning in a surface manner to perform in exams. This gives them much more time to follow the things that interest them more deeply. In doing so they learn to learn and this, I suggest, is what is really necessary in an information rich environment like the one we live in today.

  7. February 24, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Elizabeth, I’ve said to you all I intend to say. The fact that, in your last response to me on LibCon you simply picked out about a quarter of my comment, without mentioning or engaging with the rest, tells me that you are neither open minded nor particularly interested in discussion.

    Imogen…I’ll take your second comment first. Those are valid concerns. The difference between HE and School, in this instance, is that school environments are open to examination on all of these points, HE environments are only open to some and outrightly hostile to others, judging by my discussion so far with Elizabeth.

    We can see what resources are there, we can test whether or not school children are regurgitating the world-view of the NC, we can ask children what they want, and as for breadth of education, we can directly influence the breadth of learning opportunities that exist in schools. The same is not true for HE, where ‘we’ – the democratic society – becomes ‘they’ – the parents.

    Moving to your first post…

    I’m not disputing that children should have the right to choose what to learn. I have consistently made two additional points, however. First, in a HE environment, how do we know they have that right? Secondly, whether in school or a HE environment, there is a necessity on the part of a democratic society to transmit to children a certain body of knowledge and understanding. It is this second point which I’ve largely dwelt on.

    Returning to the first point, however, in a school environment, children are taught to the National Curriculum (for those subjects for which there is a NC) or to the exam syllabus. This constrains the area within which child-directed learning may occur, of course, but in school at least children are guaranteed to come into contact with contradictory world-views, with other shades of opinion (except at faith schools – which is another story).

    Now, both you and Elizabeth may adamantly maintain that the examples you’re familiar with offer total freedom of learning – but does that mean all HE parents will? Does this include parents who’ve withdrawn their kids for religious reasons? Or because they don’t like some of the things taught, e.g. PSHE? How would one know without actually finding out?

    Which brings me to the right to regulate HE. The social nature of education means that education is not about merely the parents, or merely the children (or, for that matter, merely teachers). It concerns everyone – since all of these individuals will have formative experiences during their education that will help them decide who they are. “Who they are” will then go to vote at elections, may or may not become involved with government and so forth.

    My concern is simply that these formative experiences are not determined by the parents, by a lack of resources and so on. Academic research can tell us whether or not my concerns are valid – but should they be sustained, as I believe they would be, it is to the State we must turn to enact regulations.

    Finally, I don’t think it has to be as invasive as you suggest. Health visitors make checks on children when they are young, to ensure their physical health; what would your objection be to having a professional educator – of years’ experience and great and wide ranging personal knowledge – meet each child in their area for a chat about what they’ve been learning that year? Obviously the form regulation would take is malleable.

  8. February 24, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Allie, I’m not disputing the importance of learning to learn, nor am I challenging a conception of the inadequacy of our schools as they stand. It is frankly acknowledged in education circles that our children are “over-tested” – and even in Primary Education, the Cambridge Review (linked to above) confirms this. We can do better.

    Personally I would prefer to see a move towards a more open, more social form of education which utilized many locations and not just schools as centres of learning, which children could access at their leisure. But when teachers do their job well, children learn things. We don’t evaluate this merely by tests, we can evaluate it in conversation with our pupils.

    There are courses which are not exam based – such as Citizenship. I’m not going to go into the deficiencies of the Citizenship syllabus, but I broadly agree with the sentiment behind it. This is the type of information every child should know – and as for who should decide it, well, we should. There’s no reason why school boards shouldn’t be elected.

    Finally, you and several others now have retorted to my comment that children aren’t the property of their parents with “nor are they the property of the state”…at what point have I suggested they are the property of the state?

  9. February 24, 2009 at 10:50 am

    An interesting debate, all of you. I’ll throw my ill-informed but (I hope) responisble parenting tuppence in, if you don’t mind.

    Interesting, though obviously not conclusive given there’s only a few of us onto this post, that the two of us (Dave and me) lining up in supportive criticism of home schooling are male, while the two lining up in its intelligent defence (Imogen, Elizabeth) are female. Alderson sits somewhere in the middle I think, though his view on the need to collapse the public/private is useful and relevant to both.

    I’m not sure what this might indicate. At it’s most straightorward, it”s because I and E are the primary HE’ers in their family structure (I do apologise readily if I’m wrong here) in keeping with the male/female division of labour norm. Another explanation might be around the deeply embedded (but unembeddable) male/female normative stance on relationship to children – females are there to protect their young, males are there to take them out hunting – which leads to a genderized perceptions on what is best for a child.

    To lay my cards on the table, I’m male and/but also the main childcarer of two male children (now 9 and 6). Though I’m ‘broad minded’ enough to have considered home education as an option, and had by the time they were born the financial position (an important issue I’ll leave hanging here) to have done home education while earning on the side, I didn’t agonise too long before enrolling them at the local primary school (though not at nursery beforehand other than the odd ‘taster’).

    The reason I chose the ‘school route’ can be summed up easily enough; I wanted my kids to have a ‘normal’ education, and I thought, as best I could, that they wouldn’t want to look back in 15 years time and be sorry they didn’t get the ‘normal’ experiences of childhood.

    There’s loads of stuff in there of course, including a perhaps illegitimate pandering to desires about how my children will see me when I’m old(er). But the bottom line is that I thought that by not sending them to a normal school with its normal issues and its normal shite-in-places-that-they’ve-got-to-deal-with, I’d be depriving them of an experience which will help them cope with and hopefully contribute to the productive change of a ‘normal’ world in years to come.

    I only know one child being HE’d, and I think she’ll end up less able than my children to relate to other people – whatever social class they come from – than my children. In addition, I know a couple of people any age who went to posh boarding school when they wre kids – not the same of course but still ‘not normal’ and while they are great people they are simply unable to relate, in the same way that I can, to skint, poor people. That, I contend, is that I’ve known skint,poor people all my life, though my own family never was that skint or poor, and they haven’t. They are socially deprived, while my childhood enriched me appropriately.

    As befits this post, that’s some scattered thoughts. I think there’s some stuff about class (as in structure, not as in room) in there, which I’d like to tease out, but maybe another time when I’ve got more time.

    Good discussion though.

  10. Imogen
    February 24, 2009 at 11:41 am

    “what would your objection be to having a professional educator – of years’ experience and great and wide ranging personal knowledge – meet each child in their area for a chat about what they’ve been learning that year?”

    What would be your objection to having a home-educator of years’ experience and great and wide ranging personal knowledge pop into your class to assess your teaching and results according to criteria defined by us and based on a home-education model, and if you are found to be failing to meet the standards achieved by the home-educating community (research by Rothermel, for example, shows our children to be, on average, significantly ahead of their schooled peers*), a “home-education order” being served?

    The home-education community might be more open to your idea if the “professional educators” in question were actually educated in home-education, or even had some experience of doing it themselves. However, in practice this is amply demonstrated not to be the case. My family has experienced the Local Authority’s version of what you suggest, which consists in sending one of their “Advisor’s” round to look at what your child is doing. Some of these Advisors are, I have it on good authority from friends in other areas, wonderful, broad-minded, supportive people. Unfortunately others among them (including the one my family met) are schooled in only one form of schooling: the authoritarian, target-based, national-curriculum type, and lack training or experience in the variety of educational philosophies on offer to those outside the state school system. They thus frequently display an intolerable level of ignorant opposition to the practice of educational philosophies outside their own narrow zone of comfort and familiarity. This naturally makes their visits rather unwelcome.
    Since this first visit, my children and I have, by consensus, declined further visits and opted to send educational reports to the LA instead. This brings me to my second point: my children don’t want, in their own words, “a stranger” “breathing down our necks”.

    Putting aside, for a moment, the question of whether you have a right to check up on me as a parent, what right do you have to check on my children against their will?

    * http://www.dur.ac.uk/p.j.rothermel/Research/Researchpaper/BERAworkingpaper.htm

  11. February 24, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Paul, that’s interesting. One of the things that struck me when our daughter went to school, at age four, was the speed at which she was grouped with similar ‘ability’ children. This meant she was immediately in a friendship group that consisted entirely of little middle class girls. Not always the case, I’m sure, but it happened to me thirty years earlier too… One of the things that interests me is that our children’s social circle now we home educate (have done so for the past four years) contains a range of children of both sexes and a diversity of backgrounds. It does, of course, also cross age boundaries more easily than is usually possible in school.

    Paul, when you say,
    “I thought that by not sending them to a normal school with its normal issues and its normal shite-in-places-that-they’ve-got-to-deal-with, I’d be depriving them of an experience which will help them cope with and hopefully contribute to the productive change of a ‘normal’ world in years to come.” I understand what you mean, because I thought that before we home educated and it was a concern for me. But I have come to realise that you don’t have to be inside something to learn from it. I also think that none of us know how much life we have ahead and I’d rather maximise my children’s freedom in the here and now than prioritise what I think might be the best in the ‘long run’. One of the things I really dislike about our societal conception of childhood is that it is a preparation for ‘real life’ rather than real life itself.

    David, I was suggesting that you might believe that children were the property of the state because I thought you were suggesting that the state should determine the content of what they learn. But you say,
    “I’m not going to go into the deficiencies of the Citizenship syllabus, but I broadly agree with the sentiment behind it. This is the type of information every child should know – and as for who should decide it, well, we should. There’s no reason why school boards shouldn’t be elected.”
    I think this is interesting. But it does, of course, contain all the problems inherent in elections in a society with imbalances of power and influence. I can imagine that the elected boards could be as representative as our elected MPs… and I, as you will have gathered’ still believe that the best thins for children to learn are what they decide they want to know.

    I’m not unconcerned about the idea of people educating their children to re-produce prejudice. I know that there are other home educators who do home educate to avoid what they perceive as the ‘rampant political correctness’ in schools. But, equally, I hear the streams of homophobia from kids in school uniform. Either system can breed intolerance and narrow mindedness – no matter what’s on the curriculum. But, luckily, people are amazing creatures that tend to think for themselves. We cannot seek to control what other people tell their children (as a lesbian mother I am very well aware of this) but we can, by example, show the value of raising children to think for themselves.

  12. February 24, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Richard Dawkins recently asked some school science teachers something along the lines of whether they would point out to their charges that religious and scientific world views are incompatible. The teachers shuffled their feet and eventually admitted that no, they wouldn’t explain this explicitly.

    At least one of the many reasons I and many of my friends home educate is that we won’t have any truck with confusing our children about the fundamental precepts of epistemology in the way that school teachers seem to feel compelled to do.

    Our children also want to HE, and we help them do it. If you knew anything of HE, you would know this, (and also know that in the UK it is called home education rather than home schooling.)

    Lessons in autonomy, responsibility, citizenship, self-determination: a pretty broad curriculum already, I’d say, and not something that the 80% of teens in school who think their education boring and irrelevant

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/secondaryeducation/4297452/School-is-boring-and-irrelevant-say-teenagers.html

    are able to enact. Question for you David, is a boring and irrelevant education really one that is suited to the age, ability and aptitude of the learner?

    And what else do we hear today? That some 25,000 14 year olds are disappearing from the school system every year.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7906278.stm

    I’d say your system is nearing melt-down David, whilst very, very few HE children ever talk of being bored and often go into schools and colleges with dollops of enthusiasm just as your disaffected lot are walking out of it.

  13. February 24, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Imogen, you seem to be having this argument with someone else. There’s what I’ve suggested, and there’s what you evidently want to read into what I’ve suggested. I have no opposition to home visitors being highly trained in all philosophies of education – the various models for home or school education.

    To move on to your rather weighted question, having seen your comments on other blogs, my ‘right’ to query Home Education is the same as the right of anyone who doesn’t have kids to query school education. What the children learn is of social interest because it has social consequences. You may be their parent, but just as education in school comes under close scrutiny, so should education at home.

    Incidentally, on the subject of children who are Home taught being ‘significantly ahead’ – so what? Figures suggest that kids who go to faith schools do better than kids who go to state schools – but this fact doesn’t remove the sting in the tail which is religious indoctrination. I have no trouble believing that children who have a 100% accessible parent who will give them one-to-one time their whole education long will do better than children who don’t have that luxury.

    But it doesn’t address my concerns.

  14. February 24, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Imogen

    I accept what you’re saying about measurement/checking up, and I like the canny way you flip it round. You have a point

    But that’s the measurement/checking up. What about the actual education, and here I think I want to connect, in your flip-it-round manner, your research that ‘on average, significantly ahead of their schooled peers’ and your own children’s views on the “stranger” “breathing down our necks”.

    My children, who go to school, will (I contend) be significantly ahead of their HE peer on their capacity to handle the concept of strangers breathing down their necks; it may not be right that they should have to, but they have to and will continue to have to throughout life, unless Alderson’s vision of a beneficial collapse of the private/public sphere comes to fruition (and of course, Dave and I, as dodgy Marxists, hope that will happen – not perhaps as a collapse, but as a reconfigured democratic whole). Till then, though, I’d contend that I offer my children a decent ‘life chance’ by their going to school at my parental instruction (actually, they really like it).

    I’m not suggesting for a second that you offer less of a life chance; you offer a different one, but one which is (at base) founded on a conservative model of keeping your children safe from what might otherwise happen, because you have the financial resources (let’s not do class here!) to do so, while others do not, and because they do not are not able to join with you in the educational revoluition you (understandably)want to see.

    Got a bit carried away at the end there – but hope you got my drift.

  15. February 24, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Allie, not ignoring you – our reponses to the debate crossed. Got to go out now, but will consider later.

  16. February 24, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Allie, of course elections to a school board come with all the problems of unequal class and power relations within society as a whole. No doubt on one hand we’ll have religious organisations, backed by corporations, as in the US, advocating the election of extreme Creationists, whereas on the other hand there’ll be moderates who live in their local area, who are interested, curious people – of the sort who lucky schools get on their Boards of Governors. Which are still open to members of the public.

    Nevertheless, I’m in favour of democracy – even when it means that some bloody crazy Libertarians will attempt to construct themselves as a much persecuted minority, victims of the big bad State and prophets of a collapsing education system. I’m not in favour of bureaucratism and there are many things we can do better now by opening the debate to interested groups – including Home Educators, but not excluding teachers.

  17. Imogen
    February 24, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    David, you haven’t answered my question.

  18. Unschooler
    February 24, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    David,

    Without corporal punishment teachers must resort to more underhand methods of manipulation and punishment to create the semblance of learning. This is making them depressed and angry. I would be upset too if I were systematically ignoring the human rights of those in my care. Like freedom of thought, freedom of association… and all the while pretending to myself that I’m doing the right thing.

    School education is unwanted. It doesn’t work. It never did. It cannot be fixed. Neither can any other form of coercion in learning.

    Home educating families are creating the future. So hands off! Leave them alone! OK?

  19. February 24, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Yes I did.

    Put bluntly, the right we collectively have to override the wish of the individual is the same in this case as in every other case: when the consequences of not doing so will impact the rest of society.

    If the essence of libertarianism is the promotion of individual liberties, it follows that certain rules (dare I say regulations?) must exist to safeguard the maximum number of liberties for the maximum number of people.

    This is one of the regulations I consider to be important.

  20. Imogen
    February 24, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Paul, I do agree that to some extent children who go to school may learn to handle people “breathing down their necks”. But I would question the assumption that this is beneficial for them, or that to build a society based on the notion that people naturally accept this, is a good thing. I don’t like people breathing down my neck either, and for this reason I run my own business. Would you assume that it would be better for me, or for society, for me to get a job at my local multi-national corporation? Because this is the logical extension of following your line of thought. I am not saying that no-one should work in a multi-national, if that’s what they fancy; I’m saying that I think kids should have the same right to choose that adults do.

    Regarding keeping my children safe; of course I want to do this; what parent doesn’t? In fact what we are arguing over is which risks they should be exposed to and who should monitor it.

    This is the precise grounds for the government’s current review of home-education, and indeed, at a deeper level, for yours and David’s concerns; you want to ensure that children are educationally safe; the government has mentioned welfare grounds.

    In fact my eldest son went to school for a time (aged 5) and was severely physically bullied by a group of older boys on a daily basis. He was covered in bruises, terrified of going to school, and his whole personality changed (for example, he started to hit his younger brother when we collected him from school). Of course it doesn’t go like this for every child (it sounds like yours are happy, and I myself liked school), but I think it is entirely reasonable for parents to want to protect their kids from that kind of physical battering. Now I know, from that experience, that the state doesn’t really care at all about my child. So why on earth would I accept the notion of the state stepping in to check up whether my children are happy and well now?

  21. Imogen
    February 24, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    David, so what you are saying is that you think my children’s wishes should be overriden, for the good of society? But you originally wrote “my concern is: what does the child want”.

    If we are going to follow through on the line of thought of overriding individual wishes for the good of society, it follows we will also need to ensure, for example, that no-one eats chips, as they lead to heart-attacks, and all sorts of other things.

    There is a name for this type of government: I believe it is “totalitarian”.

  22. February 24, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    I’m growing very bored with this: you are yet again intentionally misreading what I’ve said and the context in which it has been said.

    When I said I was concerned about what the children want, I meant in the context of whether they preferred home ed or school ed. And I stand by that. A child who is bullied at school shouldn’t be forced to go back.

    When I say that it is a collective duty to regulate education, over and above the wishes of the child or the parent, I mean we need to ensure that we don’t have the British equivalent of madrassahs springing up, where only certain parts of learning are permitted.

    What part of this don’t you understand?

  23. Imogen
    February 24, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I’m not misreading it; I’m calling you on your own inconsistency of thought.

    I don’t agree with your collective duty to regulate the lives of others. I guess here you have pinpointed the fundamental disagreement at the heart of it all. Frankly your collective regulation makes my skin crawl. Within small traditional communities where everybody knew, and, one might picture (with perhaps rose-tinted glasses), cared for one another on an individual level, I could accept it. But “society” now means a corrupt, gargantuan bureaucracy in which my supposed democratic voice has next to no meaning and my child is but a statistic amongst millions of statistics. I do not accept that this kind of society can or will take care of my children better than I who love them.

    This society we live in turns a blind eye to school bullying, as I mentioned before, wages illegal wars that kill millions, and has presided over the destruction of the environment which is threatening my kids’ very future existence. No, I don’t trust it to look after my kids.

    This last sentence of yours: “What part of this don’t you understand?” is very bad-mannered, so I’m going to withdraw from this discussion now.

  24. February 24, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Frankly that suits me fine. You’ve done nothing but repeat yourself the whole discussion through, without adding anything new. I know you don’t trust ‘society’ but you come unarmed to the discussion – you have no theoretical apparatus to grasp the conflicting interests which make up society and thus you’re forced back on this tired paradigm of the big bad State versus the liberty of the people.

    Except in the most superficial way, you haven’t asked why your voice has next to no meaning, or why your child might be viewed a statistic or why we indulge in illegal wars or why our system might ignore bullying. Instead you’ve offered the emotional harpings of a mother who refuses to accept that the love of a parent cannot excuse the manner of sins which we’ve been discussing as possible, under the label Home Education.

    As a teacher, I’ve been open and candid about the failings of the state-led education system…but at the root of my admissions is a desire to change it. You’re too caught up in your own narrative of being a persecuted minority, with the faceless bureaucrats out to take your children, to even consider a different perspective on Home Ed.

    Which isn’t perfect. That needs to be said. Now, fuck off back to Bishop Hill and you can console yourselves that I’m just another “state-worshipping fascist”. Christ, is it any wonder I called this sort of thing hysterical.

  25. Frank Smith
    February 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    ‘Now, fuck off back to Bishop Hill and you can console yourselves that I’m just another “state-worshipping fascist”. Christ, is it any wonder I called this sort of thing hysterical.’

    I thought you were just a saddo, but now I see you are an ‘unpleasant saddo’. I pity the poor children exposed to you in the classroom.

  26. Imogen
    February 24, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    I’m glad you’re not teaching or “regulating” my kids if that’s how you speak to people who disagree with you.

  27. February 24, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I love the double standards; it doesn’t matter when people are unpleasant in your defence, only when they are unpleasant on the other side. Well fair enough.

  28. February 24, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    I thought your ‘fuck off back….’ statement a bit needlessly intemperate, Mr Semple, but then I had a quick look across at Imgoen’s blog, where she portrays you as a ‘fascist’- presumably an entry you had read – amd I can understand your ire. I am tempted to offer suitable rejoinder over there, but will only be able to do so when my children are in bed, suitably schooled, played and bathed.

    I do not as it happens agree with all you said,which I think veered to much towards the regulatory rather than keeping the focus on the actuality of education wherever it may (and I thought Allie had interesting points in her courteous reply to my effort), so it is a shame process of interblog slangery has overtaken content, in a way which interblogging is ‘supposed’ not to do.

  29. Imogen
    February 24, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I don’t have a blog.

  30. February 24, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Not just one blog, Paul…I have read the articles and comments of several now, over which several of the commentators on this post have also ranged.

    Anyway, I don’t think I have veered too far towards the regulatory; I was simply laying bare the very basic logical foundations for any regulation, stripped of all niceties. People can home school their kids if they want, but they shouldn’t be able to indoctrinate them.

    I’ve seen HE’ers attempt to relativize this indoctrination by comparing it to teaching the NC, or to plainly dismiss it, so you’ll forgive me if I get a little ticked off. I’m in favour of learning, wherever it occurs – but if regulation will ensure that no child is forced to grow up in the British middle class equivalent of madrassahs then so be it.

    And that’s as much true for schools, in my view, which are increasingly coming to value conformity – not just in students but also in staff. And that should be combatted to – by the same sort of democratic scrutiny as HE should be subject to.

  31. February 24, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    He means Bishop Hill, which called me fascist, and at which you were happily wittering about how what BH posted needed to be said.

  32. February 24, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I’m sorroy, Imogen – I thought you had written a piece at ‘Bishop Hill’. Was that not you?

    Perhaps I got my wires crossed, but it did seem to me Dave was reacting to something that had taken place at ‘Bishop’s Hill, which is a blog of some kind, and that was his reason for his so polite entreaty to your self-removal there. As I say, apologies if I’m simply wrong on that one.

    Dave, fuck off and listen to some Monteverdi or whatever shite you’re into. I’ll abuse you later in a blog post of my own, I think.

  33. Imogen
    February 24, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    No problem, Paul; I read the Bishop Hill blog on this topic and commented on it, but it’s not mine.

  34. Louisa H
    February 24, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    “Those who provide education in schools are in a position to examine the education provided by home educators”
    David I would like to know why you think this. Section 7 of the Education Act states that every parent of a child of compulsory education age must ensure that s/he receives an education suitable to age, aptitude and ability and to any SENs the child has. The law is perfectly clear. Responsibility for the education of every child is a parental responsibility. Clearly many parents choose to fulfil that responsibility by sending their child to school but at no point does is responsibility delegated to teachers, local authorities or even to the DCSF. All of these people and bodies act only on behalf of parents and are accountable to them. It is for parents to examine the education being provided by teachers and school, not the other way around. To suggest as you have done is to fundamentally misunderstand the law and the nature of the relationship between state and individual. Sorry, but you work for us.

  35. Louisa H
    February 24, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    “This is at the core of my problem with home schooling; parents have replaced the absolute authority of the State with the absolute authority of themselves”

    I suppose this is the core of my argument with you then. I believe that the life and liberty of every sovereign human being on the planet belongs to them – absolutely. The state does not have absolute authority we are governed only insofar and for as long as we give our consent.

    If you believe in the absolute authority of the state then clearly you are going to be opposed to home ed, perhaps it would have been better to simply state at the outset that this is the reason for your opposition and save home educators the bother of trying to engage with you?

    The difficulty you have is that your position does not reflect the law and never can, the financial consequences of the state making itself legally responsible for ensuring the education of the children would bankrupt the country in no time.

  36. Louisa H
    February 24, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    I’m intrigued to know why you think home educators practice indoctrination? Surely it is the job of parents to pass along their values and culture to their children? Arguably society is in the mess it is in precisely because nursery provision and wrap-around schools have effectively severed the connection between children and families leaving young people alienated and rootless. Granted there are home educators among the christian right wing who are big on parental authority but without exception all the home educators I am aware of (and that numbers several hundreds) reject models of parental domination in favour of varying degrees of consensual parenting and education. Without exception, all the home educators I know are highly conscientious about not indoctrinating their children with one world view but instead teach them about the diversity of viewpoints. What basis is there for state intervention in such families? However, even if you argue on the basis of the hard cases alone, there is still no basis in law for the state to interfere in parental responsibility. Case law has determined that faith-based education is still suitable education provided it does not foreclose the child’s options later in life. I think this is a good balance. What criteria would you use?

  37. February 24, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    On your first point…this discussion is not simply a measurement of how things are. By law, parents may have the ultimate legal responsibility for their children, but in certain circumstances parents can and should be overruled. One of those circumstances in my opinion – and this should be obvious by now – is that those circumstances include any and all forms of indoctrination by Home Educators.

    On your second…at what point have I advocated the absolute authority of the state? Maybe I’m using too many big words or an unfamiliar sentence structure but I’ve said now several times I’m not in favour of absolute state control. What I said in your quote chunk was this; home edders seem to think it’s alright to one form of total authority (a bad thing) with another form of total authority (also a bad thing).

    In case you’re curious as to what the two forms of total authority are – one is the State, the is the Parents. Both are bad. I’ve been questioning the one…maybe its time for Home Edders to begin thinking about the other?

  38. February 24, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    I will leave aside your patronising suggestion that we can’t follow your argument (being mere ‘hysterical mothers’, I suppose).

    You are correct that you have not advocated the absolute authority of the state, and I agree that Louisa has misread you here.

    But several home educators have stated in this thread that we do not advocate absolute authority of parents over their children, and you persist in claiming that we do.

    We advocate autonomy for our children, authority over themselves. We have thought about it a lot.

    The law, on the other hand, does clearly operate on the basis that parents do have authority over their children. Parents also have responsibility, in law, for their children’s education. Nobody else does.

    You may not agree with this, but it is not home educators who have made it so.

  39. February 24, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    You haven’t got a clue.

  40. Louisa H
    February 25, 2009 at 12:44 am

    I mentioned the case law because it provides a basis and a rationale for judging when “indoctrination” might be a reason to override parental responsibility. I absolutely refute your suggestion that all parents should be subject to state oversight. I have to bring you back to my first point which is that teachers, schools, local authorities and the DCSF perform their functions on behalf of parents to whom they are accountable. They are expending public funds on a public services and are therefore subject to public oversight. School and LAs answer to OFSTED who answer to DCSF who answer to the Minister who answers, ultimately, to the electorate. To suggest that parents become accountable to the state flips the relationship between state and citizen on it’s head.

  41. February 25, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Thank you, Dani, for that concession at least. But again, I’m not suggesting for a moment that ALL Home Edders are advocating total parental responsibility. I’m sure that, like me, many of you wish to give your children every possible opportunity to learn. I’ve stated this on several occasions.

    On the other hand, I have also qualified it by saying that this honest desire on the part of some of you, or even most of you, will not protect a minority – however small – who are not permitted the opportunities that all children should have because their parents have withdrawn them from school simply because they want to control the context or the content of the child’s learning.

    It is their protection I seek – not simply as a means to protect myself, to paraphrase Kant, but as an end in itself. I don’t believe that protection can be effectively delivered by simply sending all HE familes a form that includes the question: “Do you indoctrinate your children?”

    Ms Herbs, I’m not sure why you’re bringing up case law on faith schooling. I am of course concerned for any child’s later opportunities – but how faith schooling impacts on something like ‘opportunity’ is a secondary question. I don’t care if someone has the lowliest job in the universe so long as they have an avid, questioning mind – and I am of the cast iron conviction that genuine faith schooling (not the dilute High CoE type) does not gear children towards that.

    You did, however, ask a pertinent question about why families practising consensual parenting and discussion of multiple worldviews deserve monitoring. They deserve monitoring for the same reason Ofsted monitors regular teachers – whether they consistently score 1s or not. Because it’s the only way we can be sure.

    Am I of the opinion that all Home Edders abuse their kids, like Elizabeth accused the government of asserting? No, of course not. Do I believe you’re all out to indoctrinate your kids? No of course not. But do I believe in the right of every individual, regardless of how open- or close-minded their parents, to a well-rounded education?

    Absolutely. It is this which informs my desire not to have HE set off to one side, immune from examination – whether directly by DCSF, by the LEAs or by a body set up involving teaching unions, LEAs and home ed practitioners.

  42. Blind Steve
    February 25, 2009 at 5:25 am

    “People can home school their kids if they want, but they shouldn’t be able to indoctrinate them.”

    Why not ? Seriously, why the hell not ?

    You have signally failed to elucidate why people should not have the right to ‘indoctrinate’ their own children.

    You have made the argument, without merit, and more importantly, without any valid metric to back it up, that people are taking their children out of the state education system to indoctrinate them. You base this on a pretty graph that is based on data gathered in the USA, and upon which the most prevalent answer given to the survey was not, in fact, religion.

    That’s pretty ridiculous for someone who uses the word “empiricism” as though he knows what it means.

    Back to my question, if people wish to indoctrinate their children, that simply isn’t any of your business, nor mine. Let’s be quite clear that what you mean by ‘indoctrinate’ is ‘teach them things with which David Semple disagrees’.

    My parents indoctrinated me, twice, once religiously and once in a more socially useful way. As an adult I am not religious. So no harm done there. What’s the big deal ?

    You say :

    “Put bluntly, the right we collectively have to override the wish of the individual is the same in this case as in every other case: when the consequences of not doing so will impact the rest of society.”

    Which is bollocks. ‘Society’ is a collection of individuals, ‘we’ have the right to override the _action_ of the individual when it harms another (concrete) individual, or group thereof.

    Your conflation of wishing with acting, of ‘society’ with the state, your desire to be able to forcefully enact a David Semple approved definition of ‘education’ via that state under a nicey nicey label, and your creep[y use of ‘we’ (‘we need’, ‘we must’, etc) when you in fact mean ‘David Semple’ (or perhaps ‘David Semple’s approved model of what a state is’) do seem to indicate that you either really are a statist (I can’t believe you would deny something that you have made so obvious by your very position, let alone your description of it) and a totalitarian.

    Your predilection for religious intolerance locates you in the venn diagram as being something of a fascist to boot.

    Your seeming ignorance of these facts, plus your entirely dismissive attitude of peoples arguments, and the fact that despite claiming to be open minded, (‘open to all avenues’, I note that you are not open to the avenue of just leaving people the fuck alone to do as they see fit), mean that you can colour in the ‘lacking in intellectual rigour’, ‘lacks debating skills’ and ‘wanker’ intersections as well. Lucky you.

    But hell, I _AM_ open minded, so I will offer you the chance to prove me wrong.

    “you have no theoretical apparatus to grasp the conflicting interests which make up society”

    Describe such theoretical apparatus, David. And please state in addition exactly why you feel that people who don’t agree with you lack it.

    Can you do that David, or are you just a patronising prick ?

  43. February 25, 2009 at 9:02 am

    People shouldn’t be allowed to indoctrinate their kids because their kids aren’t personal property. They are people – and as such, they have the right to think for themselves, a right which is degraded by indoctrination. You say it didn’t work on you…well bully for you. It didn’t work on me either – but it does work on some people.

    And by indoctrination, I don’t mean the discussion of any belief with which I disagree.

    If you look up the page, one commentator is complaining that she wanted her kids out of school because school was likely to fudge the question of epistemology as regards religion. Now, rather than teach every child a positivist approach to epistemology, which is what I think she’d advocate, I’d prefer to explain what epistemology was, offer the alternatives and then let children make up their own mind.

    That’s an extreme example because I don’t know many schools where children are liable to question the epistemological foundations for knowledge. But there’s no reason why religion shouldn’t be studied in a similar, comparative manner rather than one religion – or, rather, one strand of one religion, being imbibed in RE class, mass, school assembly and so on. Not to mention science, in some of the more dangerous faith schools.

    I don’t need a metric against which to measure ‘indoctrination’, for the basis of this argument to be valid. So are you suggesting that precisely zero home edders are liable to abuse the privilege of home schooling their children, or are you saying it doesn’t matter?

    And seriously, religious intolerance makes me ‘something of a fascist’? I’ll expect sparkling new jackboots in the post then.

    I’m not intolerant of religions; neither I nor the state can force belief on people. Jews and Christians went to the gas chambers to prove it. I wouldn’t presume to try. On the other hand, I am a secularist and I believe the best way to defend the rest of us against the irrationalities of religion is to simply get people to question everything. Every political ideology. Every religion. Everything.

    Anyway, this argument has raged on for several days and the best you can come up with is to call me a wanker and a fascist (again), so we’re done. Future comments like this are just going to be marked as spam.

  44. February 25, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Shame the discussion’s coming to an end – everyone was getting on so well and I felt full agreement was only a couple of comments away.

    As I said (rather clumsily) about a mile and a half up the comments page, it’s also a shame that the discussion veered towards a debate about the authority or not of the state and onwards to name calling, because actually in there (for example in Allie’s single comment) there was actually to my mind the more important and substantive point of whether or not Home Education/School education is actually ‘good’ for children (and I realise that assumptions about short term good, long term good and societal good would all have to be unpicked.

    I can’t help wondering what a child, whether HE or SE-toasted, would make of this. I imagine one question might be ‘But what about children?’

  45. Louisa H
    February 25, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    “I’d prefer to explain what epistemology was, offer the alternatives and then let children make up their own mind.”

    As it happens I agree, it’s just that I extend the same courtesy to adults too.

  46. cornelius agrippa
    February 25, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Parents should not be allowed to indoctrinate? How about schools?

    You mean schools SHOULD be allowed to indoctrinate children then? My daughter was made to attend religious assembly, had to take part in the carol service. This was despite countless letters withdrawing her from these activities. This was not even a church school.

    We are not a Christian family. I do not home educate for religious reasons!

    My daughter is home educated because of abuse at school, emotional abuse and psychological bullying by a “TEACHER”. This “teacher” called her a liar, a know it all, too clever, dirty pikey, gyppo. She was told to; stop answering the questions, stop asking questions.
    She was told that “Dirty Pikey devil children like you don’t deserve education”.
    She was SIX years old and this was in front of other parents and the head teacher.

    We had a meeting with the head after this and I asked for her to be removed from this teachers class which was refused. I was told it was impossible, that it could not be done. I was told she ought to grow a thick skin. I then asked that of she had been Asian would she be told the same if the teacher had called her a “curry basher” or “filthy paki”? The head stayed silent.

    At that moment I asked for pen and paper and wrote the deregistration letter there and then.

    Unfortunately the “teacher” still works there.

  47. February 25, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Cornelius Agrippa…I’d have done the same thing. I’m not in favour of acts of worship, as laid down by the Butler and Baker acts. I had to take part in them too – and was given essays and detention whenever I beaked off; same for the carol service. I attended a Catholic school and, when I turned sixteen, attempted to de-register myself as a Catholic, to escape it all – but of course the first person they turned to was a parent.

    I’m not in favour of indoctrination. Period. I don’t care if it’s at a faith school, at a comp, at home, at Sunday school or whatever.

    Louisa…I’m not sure I understand your comment.

  48. Louisa Herbs
    February 25, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    It’s quite simple David, you believe children should have access to all viewpoints and information and allowed to make up their own minds. Yet according to you parents must educate their children according to *your* philosophy on parenting and education and you want the State to act to compel parents to ensure that this is the case. So presumably your approach to teaching children doesn’t extend to giving them good information about a wide variety of parenting and educational philosophies and allowing them to make up their own mindshow they raise and educate their children? Or if it does, it’s just paying lip-service given that you advocate removing their choices by state compulsion if they make the “wrong” ones? Would be easier and morally indistinguishable if you just indoctrinated them in the “right” way from the outset surely.

  49. February 25, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Yes I believe children should have access to all viewpoints and information. So do you. That alone is a philosophy of education.

    Are you saying that it’s permissible to exempt people from that philosophy, to allow them to teach (or more accurately, to ‘let learn) only those things as they find appropriate?

  50. Louisa Herbs
    February 25, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    You have evaded my question with another question, and incidentally you didn’t address my point about relationship of state to citizen.
    Why is indoctrinating children bad if compelling adults to accept a certain view is OK?

  51. February 25, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    I didn’t evade your question. Let me answer it explicitly, for I did answer it, it just begged another question.

    We have laws in this country that make abortion legal. These laws compel adults to accept that abortion is legal, but they don’t determine whether an adult will have an abortion.

    Similarly, there should be laws which regulate indoctrination. They should compel adults to allow the space for any child to make up their own mind, but they shouldn’t prescribe what the child chooses to believe.

    All liberties are sustained and underpinned by compulsion, ultimately.

  52. Louisa H
    February 25, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    “These laws compel adults to accept that abortion is legal”

    The laws don’t do any such thing. For some people, abortion is illegal for them according to their internal values and the statute is therefore completely irrelevant. If a statute was passed tomorrow making it legal to stone adulterers would that compel me to accept that stoning adulterers was legal? No, it wouldn’t. It would still be illegal from my point of view. I don’t understand the point you are trying to make here. Perhaps I simply don’t look to the state and to statutes to tell me what to think and how to behave in the same way you do!

    “Similarly,” (in what way similar?) “there should be laws which regulate indoctrination.”

    Firstly, I think that it is the job of a functional, engaged parent to transmit his/her values, history, culture etc to his/her offspring. I think that schooling leaves too little time for such parenting and that is why we have such a disaffected, alienated youth.

    Secondly, what parent, what teacher, what information source is objective? No matter how many comparative religions are studied in school the children will absorb the unconscious values of the teacher and the authors of the textbooks. If you teach children how to deconstruct what they see, hear or read that is a good start, but you also need to provide them with free access to a wide range of information sources. Neither of these things are happening in schools and since there are far more children sat behind desks passively absorbing, than there are home educated children it rather begs the question why you are looking for specks in our eyes whilst ignoring the dirty great logs in the eyes of state education.

    Thirdly, please tell me whether you would indoctrinate children not to indoctrinate or hope to convince them with reasoned argument? If the former then that is the height of hypocrisy, and if the latter, why not extend the same courtesy to adults instead of resorting to domination?

    “All liberties are sustained and underpinned by compulsion, ultimately.”

    No, our liberty is stolen from us by the state and then rented back to us underpinned by compulsion. That’s not the same as liberty.

  53. Techno
    February 25, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    “Similarly, there should be laws which regulate indoctrination. They should compel adults to allow the space for any child to make up their own mind, but they shouldn’t prescribe what the child chooses to believe.”

    I assume that you expect the child to reach a reasoned decision in what they believe. You don’t sound as though you believe the child should reach an unreasoned decision.

    Education is necessary to develop the critical thinking capacity to allow this to happen. The ability to handle abstract concepts is related to brain development; consequently the ability to reach well-reasoned decisions is also related to brain development.

    Since young children (pre-teens, generally) haven’t reached this level of development, the law you suggest cannot be applied to young children. Not to mention the tension it creates against existing legislation, such as Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR.

    You mentioned that you’re a teacher – how do you guard against indoctrinating your pupils with a secular belief system, by the way?

  54. elizabeth
    February 26, 2009 at 8:17 am

    “In case you’re curious as to what the two forms of total authority are – one is the State, the is the Parents. Both are bad. I’ve been questioning the one…maybe its time for Home Edders to begin thinking about the other?”

    David if I haven’t engaged fully it is purely time constraints, May I drop back in?

    I agree with you on the above, neither the State nor Parents should have total authority over children, indeed both can be bad.

    Have you any ideas on how we can facitiate children in using their own Authority?
    It is the issue that stumps many of us and it is a central component of the issue at hand.

    The reason I challenge monitoring of HE families and prescribed curricula etc is that I believe that my children’s father and I are best placed to support their autonomy, I see little evidence that children’s autonomy is supported by the wider society.

    And so I suggest until the day when we evolve to be able to do that that paretnal authority over children is the lesser of two evils.

    I am a parent, a citizen, I am not a politician or a philosopher.
    But I think we all need to be involved in this discussion no matter our roles and experiences.

    regards

    Elizabeth

  55. Blind Steve
    February 26, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    “I don’t need a metric against which to measure ‘indoctrination’, for the basis of this argument to be valid. ”

    I rather think you do need a metric, particularly as you are so free and easy with concepts like measurement and empiricism.

    Firstly, you need to define how this supposed indoctrination ‘harms’ ‘society’, what is the cost to society of one ‘indoctrinated’ child ?

    Then you need to calculate a similar cost metric giving a value of the cost to society of a massive intrusive and expensive regulatory framework for Home Educators.

    Then you will need to ascertain, by asking, how many children are being ‘indoctrinated’, for whatever warped definition of ‘indoctrinated’ you are using, presumably how many children are being home educated for ‘religious’ reasons.

    Then you need to show that the total cost to society of that many children being ‘indoctrinated’ outweighs, by some margin, the cost of the framework that would prevent it.

    That’s what empiricism means.

    At the moment, your whole argument rests on the fact that you think children are being indoctrinated by home education, for which you have exactly zero evidence of any kind. Nor do you have any way to show that such indoctrination would cause harm.

    And yet you are advocating that a massively intrusive state program be set up to audit the tiny minority of children in HE just in case a tiny minority of _them_ are being educated in ways with you disagree.

    Leaving aside the moral repugnancy for a moment, don’t you think that ‘society’ has better things to do with its resources than chasing a vanishingly small minority of people with whom you personally disagree ?

    “So are you suggesting that precisely zero home edders are liable to abuse the privilege of home schooling their children”

    I don’t think that home ed _is_ a privilege, David, I think it is a right for parents to educate their children as they see fit, whether I, or you, agree with how they do it or not. And I draw your attention to section of the Education Act 1996, which is very much in agreement with this point of view.

    Describing it as a privilege, conferred, presumably, by the state, rather indicates that you think children are the chattels of the state (despite your protestations otherwise and your spurious conflation of society and state to which I have already alluded), which is why people of calling you a statist, and worse.

    “or are you saying it doesn’t matter?”

    Hmm, ‘have you stopped beating your wife yet ?’.

    In a very real sense, I am saying it is of no consequence, yes, because while you believe that ‘indoctrinated’ children harm society, and should be persecuted, I think they ARE society.

    I do not see them as some kind of threat to be pruned pre-emptively in pursuit of a ‘one size fits all’ ideological utopia.

    And if I did, as you clearly do, I would not waste resources trying to find a tiny number of such children in what is possibly the least likely place for them to be, I would concentrate my ire upon the faith schools, where, one can be sure, 100% of the children in attendance are being being actively indoctrinated.

    Even if I agreed with you, I would suggest that you are barking up the wrong tree.

  56. February 26, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    I think this argument has now become multiple arguments. I have a busy next few days, but I am writing a new article to address some of the theoretical aspects of liberty for the 1st March Carnival of Socialism. The rest will just have to wait until I get the time either to come back to the by-now four or five people I’m trying to engage with or til I post a new article on the subject.

  57. February 26, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Well, it’s been an interesting match and will feauture in my next Interblogging Credibility League (All rights, Bickerstaffe Record) reports over the weekend. I look forward to covering future fixtures.

    Well done to all. Now go and get a shower and get back to your classroom before the bell goes. No, hold on, that analogy’s not right..

  58. louisa
    February 26, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    I am sorry but all the kids you guys know must be really dumb, because I can’t seem to indoctrinate mine no matter how hard I try. Come to think of it my parents tried and failed to make me who they wanted me to be, but then I have always have a mind of my own, that’s why I home educate!

  59. February 27, 2009 at 12:09 am

    People homeschool their kids for many reasons, one being they don’t want wankers like you telling them what to think.

    You’ve got enough problems in your precious schools, so sort them out and leave the homeschoolers alone.

    I went to a state school and they taught me next to nothing – the lesson I got was this: TEACH YOURSELF!

  60. elizabeth
    March 19, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/mar/19/education-ed-balls-books

    Have you seen this David?
    I would like to hear your views on it if you feel like sharing them

    regards

    Elizabeth Mills

  61. Hellywobs
    April 15, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Elizabeth, the article about the text books is scary. Are we living in Stasi Germany?

  62. Ronnie S
    June 26, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    My concerns are as follows: a) what does the child want;

    No they are not! You don’t let the children who want to leave, leave.

    Ronnie

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