Thursday, 4 February 2010

Elective Home Education in the UK- A brief history?

Originally Published 26/11/09

Formal Schooling: Fashion or Fascism?

Historically, formal 'schooling' or the use of 'tutors' was an option available only to the elite, thus most people were educated at home or by learning a trade. However 'State sponsored' & 'compulsory' education have been a feature of many societies as far back as 1AD.

It is to be noted that the main reasons for many of these legislative 'compulsions' to institutionalized schooling were in order to promote a strong 'work ethic' amongst the poor & thus strengthen the state economy, the streamlining of philosophical & religious ideaologies to prevent rebellion against those in power & to coerce the population into a State prescribed 'mold'.

Under the Elementary Education Act 1880, education in the UK became
compulsory for children aged 5-10 years & was made compulsory up to
age 15 in 1947.

The requirement for ever more labourers & the appalling social conditions of the under-class during the Industrial Revolution, meant that both parents had to work & were unable to look after their own children at home. Child labour was becoming increasingly frowned upon & it became more required of the masses to be literate & numerate so that they could keep records of production. Manufacturers & politicians therefore sought to provide a childcare/apprenticeship solution.

In 1938 Hitler banned Home Education in Germany. The law was imposed to enable the 'Hitler Youth' to be indoctrinated & to prevent freedom of thought, religion or philosophical conviction within wider society. That law stands to this day, with parents who defy it being fined or imprisoned. It often results in their children being forcefully removed from their care.

The European Court of Human Rights upholds the German ban on home-schooling, stating that "Schools represent society, and it is in the children's interest to become part of that society. The parents' right to educate does not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience."; and (that it is in...) "the general interest of society to avoid the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions and the importance of integrating minorities into society."

On January 19th 2009 the UK government began it's most recent attack on Home Education. The 'Badman Review into Elective Home Education in England', was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls. Former Director of Children's Services at Kent County Council, Mr. Graham Badman was given the remit to investigate whether home education could be used as a cover for some forms of child abuse.
Published on June 11 2009 the review's recommendations that related to safeguarding were accepted in full by Ed Balls & in the 'Queen's Speech' on November 18th 2009, the introduction of a Children, Schools and Families Bill intended to amend the Education Act 1996 was proposed, even though the review stated that no evidence was found to support suggestions that home education was linked to forced marriage, servitude or child trafficking.

This will make compulsory the registration & licensing of home educating families and the implementation of State constructed guidelines as to what constitutes a 'suitable & efficient' education. Those who get permission to educate at home will have an annual review & any license issued may be subject to revocation. Local council representatives will have the power to enter family homes and question children alone, a power even the police do not have! They will also have the power to order under-16s to school if they do not approve of the style of education being provided, this power is, at present, reserved for the courts!!!

Schooling & Socialism: Killing the competition

Modern schooling is upheld by its proponents as socially & economically enriching & stabilizing. Governments seek to create, through education, Utopian societies blessed with equality of thought & deed. "Education, Education, Education" is no longer just one political party's tag-line, it is the buzz-term of the new millennium, echoing across continents. Mankind's natural instinct to explore & learn has now been given its own slogan.
But not everyone believes that education needs, or should be subject to, such vigorous & uncompromisingly direct promotion. John Holt claims that the compulsory schooling system violates some of the most basic fundamental right of humans, in particular the right to decide what enters our own minds.
What is more, he asserts that an approach where the child directs the learning, based upon their own interests & facilitated by the adult, is the most effective for both the happiness & future prospects of the individual.

There are as many different types of Home Education as there are Home Educators. Some parents choose to mimic formal schooling, with adherence to curricula & timetables & 'classical' subjects. At the other
end of the spectrum we see 'Unschooling' or 'Child-centred/led learning' which emphasizes the need to follow the natural pace of learning & interests of the child, rather than imposing preconceived ideas upon them. What is certainly felt by most home educating parents, irrespective of philosophical ideology, is that a School environment is NOT the right place for THEIR child to receive the kind of education they deem most appropriate.

There have been many instances of research into Home Education & it's outcomes for children, most noteable are Paula Rothermel's PhD thesis and other works. A published paper by Dr. Roland Meighan (University of Nottingham School of Education) 'Home-based Education: Not Does It Work but Why Does It Work So Well' and several other works including a book published by Dr Alan Thomas, who is an ex-school teacher, & a Visiting Fellow University of London Institute of Education & Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Nearly all of these experts in the field come to the conclusion that home education provides outcomes for children which not only match those expected from school education, but in the greater number of cases, exceed them.

One may be forgiven for asking, 'why would a government want to jeopardize & maybe even eradicate an educational choice which is proven throughout history to be so successful, economically sound & in keeping with the idea of true parental responsibility?' Why indeed...

"Government schooling is the most radical adventure in
history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of
childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents."
(from John Taylor Gatto's resignation letter, featured in The Wall Street Journal)
Most modern, state financed schools can easily (& ashamedly) be seen to fit into Erving Goffman's model of the 'total institution'. This model has much more to do with 'schooling', as a form of social control, rather than 'education' which should be a process of expanding mind & consciousness.
In examining the battle of the right to home educate across the globe, there seems to be a recurring theme; that idea that children need to be protected from the fundamentally held beliefs of their parents & exposed instead to the 'pluralistic' experiences & belief systems deemed suitable by those in governance.(see Tolstoy's Parable of the Herd)

The systematic erosion of liberty is never more of a threat than when it literally comes knocking on your door! 

Not only does home education encourage free & critical thinking but it's very existence as a choice arms the parents & children who use schools with the knowledge that they are the consumer of a product. As consumers they are entitled to a certain standard of service & have the freedom to opt out when that system fails. What is more, home education is growing in popularity as more parents & children discover that it is a realistic option for them thus reducing the uptake of state provision...

Home education, in it's success, holds up a mirror to the ugly face of
modern, formalized schooling and shows up all its flaws. What better reason could a failing state system have for wanting to kill the competition?

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