Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Home education in the soap operas
Once again, a soap opera is planning to feature a plotline involving home education. Eastenders ran a story a few months ago in which Ian Beale was preparing to teach his daughter at home, but the idea soon ran out of steam. Now Bianca is going to home educate her son Liam.
While it is good to see home education entering the public consciousness in this way and becoming a feature of popular television programmes, I could wish that it was handled in a slightly different way. Some readers will remember when Waterloo Road ran a story which involved a mad home educating father a while back. Coronation Street too did this, when one of the characters who worked in a factory tried to teach her brother out of school. The message in the narrative is always the same; what are these people thinking of that they feel capable of tackling a child's education single handed? The latest plotline in Eastenders is an absolute classic of this mentality. Bianca is a feckless single mother with a bunch of kids from different fathers. She is loud mouthed and not particularly bright. The audience will be able to laugh at her presumption in undertaking the role of teacher for her son. We know that the enterprise will fail and that she will eventually realise that she is not up to the job. Leave it to the professionals dear!
I don't think that this is cunning pro-teacher propaganda, but it is never the less very irritating. Obviously, none of these television programmes is going to feature a successful, long term example of home education by a dedicated and resourceful parent who manages to make a go of the thing. It is all being done as a novelty turn, so that we the audience can gasp in amazement at the idea of an ordinary mother or father trying to undertake the role of the school. It is significant also that none of these stories feature ideological home educators who choose to teach their own children. It is always presented as a mad, impractical scheme which is the last resort when faced with bullying or the failure to gain the desired secondary school.
There is no doubt at all that the man in the street is now more aware of home education than was the case a couple of years ago. The soap operas are simply reflecting this new awareness. It is a pity that they cannot consult a few genuine home educators before they embark upon these projects. I am sure that many viewers will have a few laughs at Bianca's hopeless attempts to furnish her son with a decent education, but the end result will simply be to reinforce the idea that this is not a job for anybody other than trained professionals and that for a parent to undertake the role of educator is a recipe for disaster.