Many home educating parents, particularly those who do not wish for visits, maintain that the way in which they educate their children and generally raise them is solely the parents' business. They simply cannot understand why the government or local authority should believe that it is also something to do with them and that these agencies might wish to come and make sure that the job is being done properly. Let us see the extent to which the home educators' argument is valid.
If we imagine a couple of people raising their children on a desert island and having no contact with any other human being or being part of any society, then the parents would indeed be solely responsible for their children. The decisions which they made about education would affect nobody else and if they muffed up the whole thing, then they alone would have to live with the consequences. The case is quite different for those living in a developed society, particularly one with a welfare state like that of the United Kingdom. Here, how I raise my child is likely to have many effects on others, some of them catastrophic. Below is an example of what can happen if parents adopt an extreme, 'it's nobody's business but mine' way of child rearing:
This is of course an isolated case. I am not for a moment suggesting that many parents who do not send their kids to school do so because they would keep them locked in a cupboard instead! However, the principle is the same. Let's try and imagine a more likely scenario. Suppose that as a parent I keep my child with me instead of sending her to school. What if I am wholly reliant upon state benefits and teach my child that this is an acceptable lifestyle? Suppose then that she sees no need to work and simply lives off the state for her whole life? This would have a massive impact upon other people, because those working and paying taxes would then have to support my child. Of course it may be argued that this case, like that of Genie which I cited earlier, is unlikely. We are establishing a principle here though.
Now for another hypothetical case. Suppose that I allow my child to grow up to be barely literate. Perhaps I don't arrange for him to take any public examinations and he has little interest in working or taking care of himself. Does this affect other people? Of course it will. He may go on to claim social security payments and then, as before, others who work will be supporting him. What if I don't teach him the value of fresh air and exercise? Suppose he does not learn about vitamins, proteins, fats and carbohydrates? Without regular exercise and a good diet, he will become unhealthy. Who will deal with his health problems? Why the National Health Service of course! Paid for by? Yes, that's right, by taxpayers.
The way that we raise our children and the things which we teach them, or fail to teach them, will have a direct impact upon many other people. To pretend, as some home educating parents do, that it is entirely their own business whether or not they choose to teach their children about human biology, including the importance of diet and exercise in maintaining health, is not a position which can be maintained. I have given a few examples of the way in which how we raise and educate our children will affect many other people; there are many others. What I teach my child about religion and ethics will affect society, as will the attitudes which I teach about race, gender and nationality. If the education I provide results in an ignorant bully or a lazy psychopath, then these too are matters which will affect society. The doctors and hospitals which will treat my child in the future, the social security benefits she claims, the prison in which she may spend time, her attitude as a citizen; all these are heavily affected by the home education whcih she received and in turn have many effects upon others. That being the case, it is quite reasonable for society to take a look at what is going on in this respect, because it is society which will be expected to foot the bill if we as parents screw up on the job. To say that, 'It's nobody else's business!' , is so absurd as hardly to be worth responding to. Of course it is other people's business.