I was pleased to observe that Mike Fortune-Wood revamped the home page of his site, Home Education UK, yesterday, in response to some of my criticisms here. This is encouraging, but more needs to be done! I cannot help noticing that Lord Brougham is still featured prominently. The quotation by him on the home page suggests that Lord Brougham did not approve of compulsory education and was in some way a supporter of home education. This is preposterous. I drew attention to the fact that he actually attempted to introduce a public education act in 1837 which would have paved the way for universal schooling. It would, if passed, have been similar to the 1870, Forster Act. Lord Brougham said at the time:
‘ some legislative effort must at length be made to remove from this country the opprobrium of having done less for the education of the people than any of the more civilized nations on earth’
He later became an even more fierce advocate of the importance of schooling; particularly for the working classes. In 1858, he said;
‘There is an absolute necessity for changing, in important respects, the method of educating female children, not only in the humbler but the better part of the working classes. They must be taught things which are of use to them in after life. A good system of rewards, the judicious application of prizes, the due encouragement to successful teachers of common things, and a steady determination in the patrons of such schools to enforce the most useful teaching in the first instance’
Enforcing 'useful teaching' in schools? This does not exactly sound like a ringing endorsement of home education in general, let alone autonomous learning, and I hope that Mike Fortune-Wood will now seen the light and remove all reference to Lord Brougham from the site.
Next week, we shall examine a few of the people whom this site claims were home educated, starting with Frank Whittle; inventor of the jet engine; who began school at the age of five and left at the same statutory age as everybody else. Until then, readers might like to consider for themselves the extent to which the Wright brothers might properly be considered to have been home educated.