Julius Blumfeld, a home educator himself, believes that it may be a while before the right to home educate in Britain is seriously eroded. (“Ask me again in ten years time.”) But I recommend also this rumination by Michael Peach about the future of home education in Britain, and on how to defend it. Says Peach:
Currently in England, although most Local Education Authorities would like you to think otherwise, we are pretty free to educate our children as we see fit. School is not compulsory, there is no legal obligation to inform the LEA of your decision to take your children out of school, you don’t have to let LEA representatives into your home, you do not have to let them see any of your child’s work, and you do not have to complete a pile of forms just to satisfy them that you are doing a good job (A statement of educational philosophy should suffice). From what I can tell we currently enjoy probably the most freedom in this regard anywhere in the western world.
So far so good, in other words. Which is also pretty much what Blumfeld had said:
At the moment, home education in the U.K. is off the Government’s radar. It’s just a quirky thing for a small minority. It’s nothing to worry about and it’s not worth bothering with.
But as Blumfeld had gone on to say:
… as more parents home educate their children, it will become increasingly visible. And as that happens, the pressure will grow for the State to “do something” about “the problem” of home education. The pressure will come from the teaching unions (whose monopoly it threatens). It will come from the Department of Education (always on the lookout for a new “initiative”). It will come from the Press (all it will take is one scare story about a home educated ten year old who hasn’t yet learned to read). And it will come from Brussels (home education is illegal in many European countries so why should it be legal here?).
As I say, Blumfeld preceded that by saying that in in ten years time things may have changed, and home-education might have become a “libertarian issue”, i.e. a political battleground.
Ten years? Peach thinks that things may be about to get nasty a lot more quickly than that.
However, these freedoms are coming under attack. A new directive from the DfES to LEAs has come to light. Apparently this directive has been widely discussed with home education groups, however the largest of them, Education Otherwise has never been consulted.
The directive contains several passages that are in direct contradiction of the existing law but this does not seem to have been taken into consideration when it was issued. Why is this?
Of course it could just be ineptitude on the part of the department but I do not believe this to be so. This is the start of a long and winding road that leads to new legislation and restriction of the rights of parents.
Peach believes that home-educators should adopt a totally hard-line and uncompromising attitude towards all this, but fears that many of them won’t.
Daryl Cobranchi agrees vehemently with Michael Peach, and disagrees very vehemently indeed with Julius Blumfeld. Alice Bachini will also be keeping an eye on things, both here (at her personal blog) and, I would assume, now here (at Rational Parenting).
For the wider libertarian movement, all this is both very depressing or a possible opportunity, depending on how you look at such things. Personally, I would infinitely prefer the home-educators to be left alone to do what they want with their children, within the limits only of the criminal law. But the kind of libertarians who think that recruiting new libertarians to the libertarian movement is the only sure way to save the world will welcome these developments, because lots of hitherto (see Blumfeld) mostly Green and/or Pink home educators are, it would seem, about to get a severe political education at the hands of the state. It may, in other words, be the gun hobbyist story all over again. The gun hobbyists, to simplify that story only somewhat, started out as gun hobbyists with guns, and ended up as libertarians without guns.
Until now, Britain’s home educators have mostly tended to rely on keeping their heads down and not criticising the State Monster so rudely that he stirs himself and decides to go on the attack. But if the Monster is now attacking anyway, silence no longer makes sense. A campaign may now be needed to explain to Britain and its rulers just how important is the right to educate one’s children as one sees fit, and just how damaging would be the ending of this right. Again, following on from the gun example, it might help a lot if the Americans got heavily involved with the debate over here, in the manner of Daryl Cobranchi, and I dare say, already, quite a few others.