Allie from Brighton raises an interesting point. She accuses me of disrespecting other people's beliefs. This was, needless to say, apropos of my article in the TES. The question is, should we accord respect to every point of view, even if we regard it as incorrect or or a bit screwy? I happen to regard, for instance, homeopathy as little better than raving lunacy. Should I just let others get on with this belief system, saying in effect, "It's none of my business"? Similarly, if I regard autonomous education as questionable and perhaps ineffective in many cases, is it really any affair of mine?
I suppose that if an adult wishes to follow some crank system like homeopathy, it is a matter of personal choice. If they wish to hazard their children's health by following this absurd practice, then I feel that any concerned person has a right to offer an opinion. It seems to me to be the same with autonomous education. If one feels that here is a strange idea which might deprive a large number of children of a good education, then I cannot for the life of me see why I should remain silent.
I have to say that as a home educator, many people have expressed the view that I must be a bit bonkers and that I am harming my child by pursuing this course of action. Why on earth should I object to this? I think that I am right, they think that I am muddle headed and wrong. I just cannot see why I should feel that they are being disrespectful, as Allie puts it, by holding their view that I am wrong. After all, for all I know to the contrary I may indeed be wrong.
It is, I think, because the welfare of children is involved in the matter of home education that I feel that I am entitled to speak my mind. I may of course be quite wrong in my views; it would not be the first time! But to feel, as Allie does, that it is wrong to say these things because they may cause offence is in my opinion too feeble for words. If I see somebody striking a child I will certainly speak out against it. Should I stay quiet for fear of disrespecting their belief in the virtues of physical abuse? I don't think so. Or if somebody is following a crank diet and not allowing their children to eat properly, is that my business? I am thinking here about some macrobiotic freaks in the States whose children developed beri beri. In those circumstances, faced with a choice of "disrespecting" their beliefs and rescuing a child from a potentially fatal illness, I know which I think is the greater evil.
I am not of course suggesting for a moment that autonomous education is in any way comparable to the cases I outline above, but the principle is the same.