Thursday, 28 June 2012

Home education in Sweden

When I criticised the film on Youtube advertising the so-called Walk to Freedom, I was accused of nit-picking for objecting to the use of Hitler’s image to promote this dubious cause. The difficulties with this campaign though run a good deal deeper than just trying to confuse the issue by showing film of a German dictator!


We are told in the film several times that ‘many’ families have fled Sweden because of the new law. Jonas Himmelstrand, President of ROHUS, tells me that the number is actually ‘more than a dozen’. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, ‘many’. There is a question mark over how many of these families have ’fled’ and how many have simply decided to move to the largely Swedish speaking  Aland islands in the Gulf of Bothnia. A community of Swedish home educators has grown up there and it is within easy reach by ferry of Stockholm. This is not exactly ’fleeing the country’!

The film also falls into that fatal error of championing the rights of parents, as opposed to those of children. The European Convention of Human Rights is cited in support of this notion. This really is deceitful, suggesting that that the rights of these parents are being trampled over in defiance of the convention. This matter was comprehensively dealt with at the Court of Human Rights in 2006. In September that year, the European Court held that:

Schools represent society, and it is in the children’s interest to become part of that society. The parents’ right to education does not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience.

The court went on to state that schools were part of society and that parents’ rights did not allow them to remove them from society by taking them out of school. I do not wish to debate whether the European Court was right to hold this view, merely that they have done so and that no Swedish home educator has any chance of getting anywhere with this line of argument, based upon the Convention of Human Rights.

I do not wish to say any more about this film, other than that it is a misleading piece of propaganda. The Swedish law is intended to ensure that any child taught at home is educated to at least as high a standard as he would be, were he to be attending school. This is a tricky proposition for many parents and explains why some have been unable to gain the necessary permission. Those who have not been given permission are often the type of parent who does not believe in teaching or formal education and it is these who are likely to fall foul of the new regulations. People like Jenny Lantz, who wants her children to learn by themselves and is opposed to imposing a plan of education on her three children. This clashes with the Swedish law, that requires the education provided to be as adequate as that in schools and also that it be supervised.

In short, Sweden is tightening up on particular types of home education because they feel that some home educators are not properly equipping their children for a place in society. They feel that some of these children are being shortchanged educationally. Some families have been given permission to home educate, but these are ones who are working hard to ensure that their children are learning at least as much as they would do in school.

56 comments:

  1. I can see that you would agree with their stance, given your views on autonomous education. Their actions appear to be motivated by a fear or dislike of difference - all children will be educated in the same way to produce 'correct' adults. How depressing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. 'I can see that you would agree with their stance, given your views on autonomous education.'

    I said nothing about agreeing or disagreeing with the stance. I am describing the situation as far as I have been able to make it out from communicating with some of the people directly involved, such as Jonas Himmelstrand. The main point which I am making is that what is happening in Sweden is being misrepresented in this country. As usual, I am not asking anybody to take my word for this, but to make their own enquiries and not be swayed by some clip of film on Youtube!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I said nothing about agreeing or disagreeing with the stance."

      Apologies for misreading the tone of your article.

      Delete
  3. "This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, ‘many’."

    Doesn't this depend partly on how many home educators there are? If a group contains 100 people, wouldn't 60 or even 40 of them count as 'many', for instance?

    ReplyDelete
  4. "A community of Swedish home educators has grown up there and it is within easy reach by ferry of Stockholm. This is not exactly ’fleeing the country’!"

    Doesn't this depend on where the family flee from? If I had to move 300+ miles away from my extended family in order to continue home educating my family according to my conscience (and as an autonomous home educator it sounds as though this would be the case in Sweden), I would count that as 'fleeing' since I would rarely be able to see my family. If I lived on the coast near the ferry port it would obviously feel less like 'fleeing'.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "When I criticised the film on Youtube advertising the so-called Walk to Freedom,"

    So-called?

    ReplyDelete
  6. '"When I criticised the film on Youtube advertising the so-called Walk to Freedom,"

    So-called?'

    Of course 'so-called'! This is essentially a walking tour of Sweden at a particularly agreeable time of year. Churches often undertake similar expeditions.They ask for volunteers to go out to Gambia or India to engage in something in the missionary or charitable line. One thing I have noticed is that such trips never seem to involve slums in the winter; always somewhere with pleasant scenery and good weather, so that after the Godly work one might go on a little sightseeing. This is the same kind of activity. There is an entire industry geared around good works for gap year students in exotic locations like Vietnam and this is another manifestation of the same phenomenon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ?!? What the.... Weird.

      Delete
  7. "Some families have been given permission to home educate, but these are ones who are working hard to ensure that their children are learning at least as much as they would do in school."

    How many and how have successful applicants been defined/described? Has the state defined how a parent should HE in order to gain permission, or is it purely on the whim of individual state employees?

    ReplyDelete
  8. '?!? What the.... Weird'

    I find myself wondering, not for the first time, whether some of the people who comment here are living on the same planet as me. Here is an example fo the sort of thing to which I am referring:

    http://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/fundraising-events/treks/trek-china?gclid=CJKSxN_48LACFWNItAodi3gkZA

    People often do expeditions like this for some worthy cause. It would of course be churlish to suggest that if they did instead a sponsored walk from Birmingham to Manchester say, then there would be many more thousands of pounds available for the charity.

    You are also apparently unaware, possibly because you do not have friends whose children have got places at university, that this sort of thing is very popular with young people. They will get their parents to shell out £3000 so that they can work with tigers in Vietnam, Elephants in Africa and so on; typically during a gap year. As I say, this has become something of an industry making good money for various travel companies. Nobody ever seems to want to cycle along the M25; it is always South America or China! The Walk to Freedom is from the same stable and the fact that you are unable to see this tells me a great deal about your general awareness of the world around you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Here is an example fo the sort of thing to which I am referring"

      Of course I know of things like this, but I expressed my surprise since the Walk to Freedom seems nothing like this at all! The walk is symbolic of the journey many home educating families have felt compelled to make to the destination of the walk. The examples you mention have no such connection and seem random. And, as far as I can see, it doesn't involve a registration fee as is usual for the activities you mention.

      "You are also apparently unaware, possibly because you do not have friends whose children have got places at university, that this sort of thing is very popular with young people."

      My, my, someone has a bee in their bonnet, calm down, dear! For what it's worth I have two children in university, have friends who have children in university and know many of my children's friends from university, but I fail to see what this has to do with the subject in hand.

      Delete
    2. "It would of course be churlish to suggest that if they did instead a sponsored walk from Birmingham to Manchester say, then there would be many more thousands of pounds available for the charity."

      Since the film producer and probably the organisers live in Sweden, a sponsored walk from Birmingham to Manchester would probably seem a little random. Not sure how it would result in more money for the charity either.

      Delete
    3. "I find myself wondering, not for the first time, whether some of the people who comment here are living on the same planet as me."

      The feeling mutual.

      Delete
    4. Or even, the feeling's mutual!

      Delete
  9. 'How many and how have successful applicants been defined/described? Has the state defined how a parent should HE in order to gain permission, or is it purely on the whim of individual state employees?'

    I have no idea, but there is nothing to stop you finding out if you want to know. Even if I did go to the trouble of tracking down this information, some fool would be sure to say, 'Why should we believe you?' Much better to investigate this for yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "have no idea, but there is nothing to stop you finding out if you want to know."

    I would if I had the time, but you seem to have plenty.

    "Even if I did go to the trouble of tracking down this information, some fool would be sure to say, 'Why should we believe you?' Much better to investigate this for yourself."

    If you were genuinely interested in learning about the situation you would not care if other people believe you or not and would probably have already asked these questions. But you seem more interested in finding out only specific snapshots of information that support you point scoring blog articles. Cherry picking is I think the appropriate phrase.

    ReplyDelete
  11. 'And, as far as I can see, it doesn't involve a registration fee as is usual for the activities you mention.'

    Always so literal and unable to extrapolate from one situation to another. I am talking of the desire to combine a worthy cause and political protest with a pleasant walking holiday. I was not suggesting that money is changing hands, although I do observe that these people are touting for donations.

    ReplyDelete
  12. 'But you seem more interested in finding out only specific snapshots of information that support you point scoring blog articles. Cherry picking is I think the appropriate phrase.'

    Unfortunately, I have only a limited amount of time to pursue this. I contacted some of the main people and established to my own satisfaction that the business was not as advertised. I heartily recommend that you look into this yourself if you are interested.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If anything other than a copy of the type of education provided by schools as you describe is banned I see little point in looking further and intend to support their cause. I've seen and experienced, school, adult-led and autonomous education and know that autonomous education can suit some children far better than the alternatives which left them uninterested in learning. I've seen both adult-led and autonomous methods work for different children and believe that enforcing one method over the other will inevitably leave some children with an inferior education than they otherwise might have had.

      Delete
  13. 'Since the film producer and probably the organisers live in Sweden, a sponsored walk from Birmingham to Manchester would probably seem a little random. Not sure how it would result in more money for the charity either.'

    Whether this is wilful obtuseness, I have no idea. The reference to Birmingham and Manchester was of course connected with the Breast Cancer charity walking the Great Wall of China. I might perhaps have mentioned before that dealing with some people here is like wading through treacle!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So, if a local walk for a cancer charity would be acceptable to your mind, why isn't a local walk that ends at the location many families are fleeing to appropriate in this case? At least this walk has a direct connection with the cause it's trying to raise awareness about!

      Delete
  14. "Those who have not been given permission are often the type of parent who does not believe in teaching or formal education and it is these who are likely to fall foul of the new regulations."

    Since you only asked if anyone had been given permission to HE you cannot logically reach this conclusion. To reach this conclusion you would need to have asked about and given details of reasons for all refused applications.

    ReplyDelete
  15. "Those who have not been given permission are often the type of parent who does not believe in teaching or formal education and it is these who are likely to fall foul of the new regulations."


    'Since you only asked if anyone had been given permission to HE you cannot logically reach this conclusion.'

    Well you see, many of those involved in this campaign are very free with information about their educational methods. I did not need to ask; the information is freely available as to why they were not granted permission. So far, those who have both been refused permission and who have spoken publicly about this seem to be either Christians or what we in this country would probably describe as autonomous educators.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So you are assuming that these are the only people that have been refused permission?

      Delete
  16. 'So, if a local walk for a cancer charity would be acceptable to your mind, why isn't a local walk that ends at the location many families are fleeing to appropriate in this case? At least this walk has a direct connection with the cause it's trying to raise awareness about!'

    I was referring the idea of people in this country hopping over to Sweden for such a walk. I did not say that they should not do so, but was pointing out that this is part of a particular phenomenon with which most people today are familiar. I am aware that those commenting do not know about this, but I think that others will know what I am talking about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I am aware that those commenting do not know about this, but I think that others will know what I am talking about."

      Dear me, you can't resist an opportunity to disparage people, can you? As I've said already, I'm fully aware of this phenomenon but think you are stretching the comparison too far. There's a difference between not knowing about something and disagreeing with a comparison.

      Delete
  17. 'So you are assuming that these are the only people that have been refused permission?'

    I said nothing of the sort. I said, 'Those who have not been given permission are often the type of parent who does not believe in teaching or formal education'. There is a world of difference between 'often' and 'only'!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So you haven't ruled out the possibility that people who wish to home educate for educational reasons in a form similar to that provided in schools have been refused permission? You have effectively only 'discovered' that some people are give permission to HE, something we knew already.

      Delete
  18. '"I am aware that those commenting do not know about this, but I think that others will know what I am talking about."

    Dear me, you can't resist an opportunity to disparage people, can you'

    The first response when I mentioned this idea was somebody saying,'?!? What the.... Weird.'
    Calling somebody weird is disparaging, I think. This amazed response also gave me reason to suppose that the person was not familiar with the tendency of volunteers from churchs, people raising money for charity and students on gap years to go off to nice places for a holiday, under the pretext of good works. She did not seem to recognise that a walking holiday in Scandinavia was essentially the same sort of enterprise.

    ReplyDelete
  19. "The first response when I mentioned this idea was somebody saying,'?!? What the.... Weird.'
    Calling somebody weird is disparaging, I think."

    That was me, the same person who wrote the comment about disparaging people. I apologise if you thought I was referring to you as weird, my intention was to suggest that the idea was weird.

    "She did not seem to recognise that a walking holiday in Scandinavia was essentially the same sort of enterprise."

    No, I just intended to dispute the accuracy of the comparison. Obviously I should have used more words, but was a bit short of time, so sorry about that! ;-) The walk organisers do not appear to be targeting the same audience as the events you mention and the organisation is very different with no charges for taking part, etc. There seem to be more differences than similarities.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also think the name, Walk to Freedom, is very appropriate since people plan to walk from a HE camping event site to the island where many home educators have gone so that they have freedom to HE as best suits their children, hence my original query about the phrase, 'so called'. The title seemed such a good fit I couldn't understand why you you said this.

      Delete
  20. 'You have effectively only 'discovered' that some people are give permission to HE, something we knew already'

    Unfortunately, not everybody knows that home education is still legal and still takes place in Sweden. Here is a typical distorted and misleading account of the situation from a popular British site on home education;

    http://www.home-education.biz/news/35/60/Sweden-tops-the-totalitarian-league-table/

    Note the old smear job, connecting Sweden with the Nazis! As long as many people in this country rely upon such sources for their knowledge of the state of affairs in Sweden, there is bound to be a bit of a muddle. I simply wished to balance this kind of portrayal of Sweden with something a little more accurate.

    ReplyDelete
  21. "Unfortunately, not everybody knows that home education is still legal and still takes place in Sweden."

    To be fair they say, "'homeschooling' was effectively outlawed by new legislation", they don't say that it has been outlawed, though it might as well have been for many home educators in Sweden. You haven't established how many people are actually allowed to HE in Sweden. Is it 3, 30, 300 or 3000? It makes a difference.

    ReplyDelete
  22. "Note the old smear job, connecting Sweden with the Nazis!"

    If permission is required to HE in Sweden and they give permission to very few the comparison between Swedish law and the 1938 German law stands.

    ReplyDelete
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