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News from the front

Johann Hari has dared to cross the monstrous regiment of home educators in his article in the Independent today. In a carefully ambiguous article, he manages to imply that there are lots of home educated children who are simply not learning anything at all, and insinuates that HE parents are little better than child abusers.

Having bad-mouthed the HE community, Hari manages to compound his error by a bit of blatant misrepresentation. He quotes research by someone called Rob Blackhurst, who apparently found that children in HE families, as old as twelve, couldn't read and write. Now if you look up Rob Blackhurst and home education on Google, you will find that Mr Blackhurst is a journalist rather than an academic, and that he wrote a very sympathetic piece about HomeEd in the FT some months back. In it, he does indeed talk of children who didn't learn to read until very late...

One of our children didn't read until he was nine or 10...

says the quoted home educator. Full marks to Mr Hari then? Not exactly. The rest of the quote is

and he's just completed an MA in creative writing.

Not exactly what Mr Hari would have you believe that Blackhurst found, I would say.

There has been a great swathe of media comment about HE in the last week or so, presumably timed to coincide with the return of the English schools. The unions and the left wing commentators have been attacking really quite hard, with vague insinuations of child abuse, and heart-rending tales of children shut up inside for months at a time, deprived of the alleged benefits of a state education and the national curriculum.Reading between the lines though, there are two factors driving them. Firstly they are frightened that the trickle of children out of the state system and into HE will become a flood. If this happens then the state education system will be put under enormous strain and enormous pressure to change. And of course, change is the last thing that the teaching unions want. But most of all, they want access to people's homes. If you read Hari's article, he wants all children to go to school, but most of all he wants education and welfare officers to be able to turn up to check that home educating parents are not abusing their children. He is really that much of a fascist. And rest assured that once education and welfare officers have access to HE homes to check up on children there, the same outraged voices that question why nobody can check up on HE children now, will be raised again to demand why HE homes can be inspected, but not the homes of other children.

HE families are the front line in the fight against the big brother society. They may not realise it, but their fight is the fight of all of us. They deserve our support.

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Reader Comments (13)

The lefties are starting to get scared about the future of state-run education. A home-schooling family can prepare a child for university for a fraction of the cost of private school, or a fraction of what the government spends to educate each child. The number of people who can afford to put two or three children through a top-notch school will always be limited, but home schooling just requires that the parents live simply and stay out of debt. Hence the need to demonize home schoolers and their supposedly "unsocialized" children.

There is little or no benefit to society from state supported pre-schools and kindergartens. The Scandinavians have the best-run school systems, and they don't start until age seven. England's new law requiring children to stay until age 17 will just exacerbate the schools' discipline and crime problems, pushing more middle-class parents out of the system. Once the middle classes start abandoning the state school system, it is VERY hard to lure them back. You end up with a vicious cycle of middle class exit, followed by increased dysfunction and failure at the school, followed by yet more middle class exit. It takes years to build a school's reputation, but one violent incident that makes it to the papers destroys it all.
Sep 12, 2008 at 6:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterFree Thinker
I don't think it's actually cheaper to home ed, Free Thinker. The second income forgone is likely to be rather higher than the cost of a fee paying school. Apart from that, I think you're right.
Sep 12, 2008 at 8:47 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
After reading Johann Hari's ludicrously hysterical "carbon bomb" article in the online Independent recently, I don't think he can be taken very seriously on any subject.
Sep 12, 2008 at 8:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull
HE is of course a manifestation of independence - of freedom - of *individual personal choice*. Choosing what to teach your children.

The left/unions are of course like anyone all in favour of freedom, it's just unfortunate that their policities by and large tend to directly attack individual freedom. You're left with the freedom to choose what the State offers you.

I suspect teachers genuinely believe in teaching as opposed to home teaching - it's their job, what they do all day long, what they decided to do. You're not going to find many teachers saying "yes, I think we should abandon schools and have kids taught at home". Unfortunately, being human, because this issue directly affects their job security, they are going to be unable to consider the matter in a truly unbiased manner. It is only possible to be unbiased about a subject when you are unaffected by it.
Sep 12, 2008 at 9:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterBlank Xavier
I'm American, and live in the relatively affordable Midwest, so obviously giving up a second income in this area is not at all like giving up a second income in London. But if you get rid of the second car, get rid of the expense of a work wardrobe for the former second earner, and the expense of dressing the children to "keep up with the Joneses," etc., you DO save a great deal of money, especially if there are younger children in the family who would need childcare if the mother worked. You are also set free from trying to buy a suitable home in a good school district (or "catchment" area as you say over there.) If you won't be using the state schools, you just need a low-crime neighborhood, not one with supposedly top-notch schools.

I have only two children, both privately educated and now studying at the university level, but if the entire social security hammock implodes sometime in the next 10 or 20 years, the homeschoolers who raised huge families will certainly end up having the last laugh, as they will at least have a big, closely-knit family to care for them in their declining years, as the rest of us are paid a billion Zimbabwean dollars a month as our pensions.
Sep 12, 2008 at 9:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterFree Thinker
Blank Xavier

I don't think anyone is asking the teachers to support HE. But I don't think they should be attacking it as a social evil, in the same way I don't attack businesses which choose not to buy services from me.

Free Thinker

Interesting point about the safety net of a large family. You are making me feel better about having three kids! I've also taken the view that it increases my chances of one of them being rich enough to keep me in my old age.
Sep 13, 2008 at 9:21 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Mrs. Lola teaches at what has become known in the lola household as The State Indoctrination Centre No 1. Nuff sed.
Sep 13, 2008 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterLola

Too painfully close to the truth to be really funny!
Sep 13, 2008 at 4:01 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Hmmm, you'd be surprised how many home edders are teachers, ex-teachers or supported in their decision by the same... They know what the system does, and how it does it, and they don't want their own children (or their friends') treated that way.
Sep 16, 2008 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete Darby

The unions' job is to protect their members' interests, which they see as keeping them in a job - a position which is hard to argue with! Individual teachers will want to keep their job, but will want their own children well-educated. They may be able to do this by taking their own kids out of school while, if they continue to work, keeping up the union sub.

Interestingly, a friend who is a teacher was asking my opinion on HE the other day, and I did wonder if I was being "sounded out".
Sep 16, 2008 at 4:18 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
It is difficult to take someone seriously when they take someone that far out of context. Or maybe he didn't learn that at his school?

And about the second income given up...I don't know what it is like over there in Britain, but here in the US, homeschooling is a multi-billion dollar market. And a LOT of that is made up of families selling their unit plans and other products and services to other homeschoolers, not to mention other home-based business many are involved in. And what I love is the fact that new companies find it hard to break into the market...we're a "vapor market" as they've called us because standard marketing doesn't work where parents prefer to take the recommendations of their friends than the glossy ads in magazines.
Sep 19, 2008 at 2:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterDana
Peter Hitchens has written an interesting piece on his blog about Government attacks on Home Schoolers:

"The coming war against Home Schoolers

I knew this was coming. The inflamed, all-seeing red eye of political correctness, glaring this way and that from its dark tower, has finally discovered that home schooling is a threat to the Marxoid project, and has launched its first open attack on it.

Before long, those who wish to declare independence from the state system (and cannot afford monstrous private school fees) will face endless interference, monitoring and regulation.
How do we know this? On the 19th January, an obscure person called Delyth Morgan levelled what I regard as an astonishing smear against people who educate their children at home. She suggested that such parents might be abusers, saying (I have taken these words directly from the Education department's own website): 'Making sure children are safe, well and receive a good education is our most serious responsibility.
'Parents are able, quite rightly, to choose whether they want to educate children at home, and a very small number do. Iā€™m sure the vast majority do a good job. However, there are concerns that some children are not receiving the education they need.
'And in some extreme cases, home education could be used as a cover for abuse. We cannot allow this to happen and are committed to doing all we can to help ensure children are safe, wherever they are educated."
Jan 28, 2009 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Williams
Thanks Andy, I've posted a couple of articles in response to this.
Jan 29, 2009 at 6:17 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

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