Now that the dust has started to settle on the initial indignant ranting of the home educators it may be safe to pop above the parapet and float a few random thoughts….

The response to the Badman report should be on two discrete fronts, the civil liberties issues and the education issues, with each branch being argued separately.

One needs to acknowledge the limited world view of the professional educators. They went to school. They went to university. They went back to school. Any ideas that are outside this scenario can be difficult for them to grasp. Showing workings and adding labels to an illustrative diagram often helps.

The Badman report is a huge leap backwards to where we were decades ago so perhaps we should retrace our steps a few decades and find some other educational path to follow; one that does not lead to the odious home education model that is so common today.

Perhaps a starting point might be the description of various forms of education defined by Combs with Prosser and Ahmed in 1973 which included:

Informal education: the truly lifelong process whereby every individual acquires attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from daily experience and the educative influences and resources in his or her environment – from family and neighbours, from work and play, from the market place, the library and the mass media.

Which itself followed on from a 1972 [W:UNESCO] report called “Learning To Be” which raised the notion that…

education should enable each person to be able to solve his own problems, make his own decisions and shoulder his own responsibilities.

Learning To Be was adopted as one of The Four Pillars in Education for the 21st century (1996 – hence the ugly web site ;-). Etc. Etc. It would be far easier to defend from such extant heights than from the piddling [W:molehill] that is home education.

Someone should thank [W:Gordon Brown] for his vociferous support in a speech about education on the 5th May 2009 (my emphasis):

An alternative approach would be a significantly increased top-down role for government in the education system, local authorities running every school to meet centrally-set targets and regulations. I reject this approach. It would stifle innovation, deny teachers and school leaders the freedom they need to drive change. It would cut parents out of any role in improving education standards.

Bear in mind that the government’s response to the petition regarding the review said:

One of the key principles underpinning The Children’s Plan published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families is that the government does not bring up children – parents do.

Laughing out loud at those who suggest that a child’s safety and or well being are best monitored by professionals in a formal environment is really bad form.

On the other hand laughing at the home educators, and their posturing that has so successfully landed them in this pickle, is quite acceptable.

Apparently it is Open season on home education (whatever that is) which tells us something of the bizarre parallel universe in which home educators (whoever they are) seem to live – ever the hapless victims of oppression and discrimination. In their topsy turvy universe everything is painted in the darkest colours possible. Children do not just go to school they are “sacrificed… to daily incarceration” Home educators constantly decry the use of propaganda by the state whilst creating their own version of the [W:Black Legend] and the Big Lie; of course their version is not propaganda, their version is the truth for they have a secret gift that will lead them to a promised land.

Not satisfied with turning education into a quasi-religous cult the home educators are now conspiring with the state to turn the current freedom of parents to choose how they wish to educate their children (as enshrined in Section 7 of the Education Act) into a dichotomy between School or Home Education. This is their most sinister and pernicious act.

While presenting themselves as victims of the heavy handed state they seem to have missed the irony that they can cite the Human Rights Act to defend themselves and use the Freedom Of Information Act to gather information from officialdom. I wouldn’t be surprised if the evil/nazi/pinko/leftist/commie/fascist (delete as appropriate) government starts forcing them and their children to roam the countryside – freely.

How many people are put off educating their children otherwise than at school by all this home education nonsense? Someone should set up a database to monitor the situation.

Far be it from me to say “I told you so” but… The only surprising thing about the current review of home education is that it has taken so long to arrive. Home educators have been (mixed metaphors alert!) relentlessly painting themselves into a corner for some years now, with their heads in the sand, hiding behind the sofa when someone from the council comes round.

The home educators have been so effective they have even managed to establish a whole new form of education…

According to the review’s top man Graham Badman::

… Legislation affords every parent the right to choose to educate their child at home…

Really? What legislation is that?

In Mr. Badman’s defence he has only ever experienced life through the education system so may well not have much real world/life experience to draw upon.

The legislation requires all parents to ensure their children are educated, either by going to school or otherwise. There is no mention of educating children at home. Alas the home educators have managed to usurp the otherwise bit so that it is commonly seen to mean education at home rather then anything that anyone might imagine it to mean. Even the comedy group [W:Education Otherwise] has sunk to a mere “home education support charity”.

Of course it was never meant to be thus. The “otherwise” clause was included in the 1944 Education Act which followed on from The Hadow Reports: A good school…

“… is not a place of compulsory instruction, but a community of old and young, engaged in learning by cooperative experiment”

Alas bureaucracy and finance meant that the ideals of the 1944 act; that each child is afforded an education according to their individual age, aptitude and ability, never transpired and the bog standard became the norm for most children – despite the notable efforts of Clegg, Duane et. al.

Royston Lambert’s “Alternatives to school” speech (University of Exeter, 19th November 1971) denounced, what were then called, progressive models of education as mere dressing of education in different clothes. While explicitly (note the year) acknowledging the influence of “American un-schoolers” (such as [W:Ivan Illich] and [W:Everett Reimer]) he anticipated an open flexible form of education that gave children “…a base other than home from which to operate…”

And now… This has been sitting in the Draft box for the past week. Perhaps I am not that bothered. Perhaps I just don’t care that much anymore.

I could go on about how [W:Seymour Papert] and his [W:Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas] is today far more relevant than he could have imagined at the time. One branch of his thinking has grown into the Scratch community (although this can become a little too schooly at times) and things like BlueJ / Greenfoot open routes for education once unimaginable – there was a recent exchange on a discussion list where someone was having problems with a game they were creating. “Ah! This is where you need [W:Trigonometry]” came the gentle nudging reply.

Similarly with Illich’s learning webs:

The operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity.

Today there are probably such networks for just about every subject and yet little has changed in mainstream education. There are still the Browns,Jones and Robinsons some of the first two will be home educated while few of the Robinsons will be; even though it is they who would benefit most from an education otherwise than by schooling.

The ridiculous idea of mass schooling can be dismissed on, at the very least, educational, financial and environmental grounds but you rarely hear such arguments. I am sure the poor hapless home educators will be huffing and puffing and prattling on about “their rights” and writing letters and signing petitions and all that other stuff they do. I am pretty sure they will not be talking about education. Which is a shame because they can have interesting ideas but sadly these are rarely explored beyond their own little world. If they had talked about education more then perhaps they would not need reviewing.