Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Home schooling.

It's interesting to see the extent of interest in home schooling in the U.S. and the debate happening in California: Who has a right to home school? I've read that a court decision stated, that parents have no constitutional right to home-school their children. I sincerely hope that the right to home-schooling is upheld, because despite having worked as a teacher for twenty five years I can see good reasons why some families chose to educate their children outside the school system.
There are some things to be kept in mind when this issue is discussed. Historically, making school compulsory was a child welfare measure. It was intended to stop child labour. If children had to be at school until they were nine years old, which was once the school leaving age, then they could not be sent down mines or put to work in factories. The reformers who campaigned for compulsory school attendance wanted to prevent child slavery, to protect children against being sent to work virtually as soon as they could speak and walk.
There is a comment on record by a Prussian Army general, in the nineteenth century, complaining that he could not find enough fit young men for the army because so many working class men were disabled. They were sent to work for long hours and under hard conditions at an early age and it injured many of them. They were left with physical disabilities, like back problems. They were so wrecked from child labour that they were not medically fit for army service, and the kingdom could not be defended. For that reason, the general argued, school should be compulsory for the young. It is horrifyingly cynical to see compulsory school attendance in that light, but that was one of the reasons for it.
To be fair, some of the Christian and other humanitarian reformers saw the need for all children to be taught to read and write, and other things that made it easier for them to lead their lives. School could do that where parents might not be able to.
The intention may have been good, but it laid down the tradition that all children should go to a school outside their home. That was once a new idea; and it may have overlooked the right of parents to decide what sort of upbringing they believed was right. And sometimes, politicians have come to see school as the means of disseminating whatever views they want children to have. Instead of pure education, schools have sometimes been used for social and political indoctrination.
Ironically, it causes huge problems for schools and teachers if they are regarded as youth containment centres day-care facilities. If kids have to be at school, no-one except the teachers have to worry about them. Parents are free to do other things, and pass the responsibility on to someone else. And schools become unpleasant places full of angry rebellious kids who do not want to be there.I've seen violent kids in a school who ruined the place for everybody else, but the school could do nothing about it because the kids had to be at school just to keep them off the streets. It makes a mockery of the school as a safe learning place. But it happens because of the view that all kids should go to school, as long as possible. Compulsory education can ruin schools! Ironic!
Some parents want their children sent to faith based schools because they see their faith as an essential part of life, and it should be part of their education.
We are all entitled to our beliefs. By the same token some parents believe in schools as a way of integrating children with the rest of society. That is their choice. And some parents may see good reason to avoid formal schools altogether. For one thing, some individual children are non-assertive, gentle types and can be vulnerable to bullying if the school staff are not vigilant.
And it is important to remember that the state does not own children. That idea exists in corporate totalitarian states, like the former Soviet Union, Communist China or Nazi Germany. But in a free society the state, the government, has no such claim over the individual, including children.
Since freedom of belief is a vital part of a free society, the school has no right to impose on a student any ideology of the government's choosing. But this can happen when, in the name of teaching 'tolerance', students are told they have no right rejecting such things as homosexual 'marriage'. Freedom of belief means that you have to respect other peoples' beliefs but NOT that you have to agree with them. You have to accept a person's right to choose to be homosexual, or atheist, or any thing else, but you still have the right to personally disagree with their beliefs and live by your own. Sometimes a person who rejects the idea of gay marriage in a personal way can be accused of homophobic persecution because they will not endorse gay marriage. That is attacking their freedom of belief. This is where the school can compromise the rights of a family to pass their own culture on to their children.
It is obviously important to make sure that children are educated adequately. There needs to be some regulation of home schooling. That does not necessarily mean a parent or family member has to be a qualified teacher. Teacher training does not guarantee that a person is a competent teacher. Not having it does not mean a person cannot teach competently.
I hate to admit it, but some teachers I've known and worked with believed they had a right to teach their own personal politics and beliefs to children, in violation of the parents' views if need be. This can be dangerous. Teachers do not have the right to decide what children should believe and be taught.
I suggest that parents should have the right to homeschool because they have the greatest responsibility to children, and the greatest authority to decide what their children should be taught.


MiStoGirly said...

Thanks for your comments. I will check out your writing. I have been a high school English teacher for the last seven years. I am teaching college right now while I work on the PHD.

Farrah said...

Absolutely exquisite post! :-)