Tuesday, 5 November 2013
The private and public faces of British home education
It is always entertaining to compare the real beliefs of somebody with those that the person professes publicly to hold. There is a good deal of this sort of enjoyment to be had when observing some of the better known figures in home education as it is practiced in this country. On the face of it and when speaking publicly, most of these people pay lip service to the rights of children. They talk of granting children autonomy and letting them make their own choices. Of course they claim to value education; it would look odd if people committed to educating their own children did not do so! Every so often though, the mask slips and we are afforded a glimpse of the real ambitions of these characters.
There are few more widely known and better respected home educators or former home educators than Leslie Barson. Organiser of He Fes, former big wheel in Education Otherwise, champion of the rights of children and any number of other things in the world of home education. Hard to believe that such a woman would like to see children being treated as they were in Dickens’ day; working in factories at the age of ten, or being apprenticed at a tender age to chimney sweeps or blacksmiths. You laugh? You think that I am making it up? Why no, here is what Ms Barson says on the subject:
I would remove the law that says education is compulsory …I believe children should be able to work in paid employment as soon as they would like to, and would feel more valued if allowed to do this.
Any rational person would see at once the consequences of such a move; parents who don’t value education themselves, insisting that their children should go to work at the age of eight, rather than wasting their time in school. One only has to look at the situation as it was in Victorian England to realise what would happen. The farms and factories of this country would once more be filled with children whose families depended upon them for economic reasons. It is a vision of hell. It is mad ideology of this sort, derived ultimately from people like John Holt, which really drives many of those who set themselves up as leaders of home educators in this country. It is seldom that such things as this slip out when the person is talking to a newspaper reporter from the Times Educational Supplement, who very rightly drew attention to it, but we should be glad that it does happen from time to time. If you want to see little children working as street sweepers again or perhaps cavorting as mudlarks on the Thames foreshore, then simply follow Leslie Barson’s ideology to its logical conclusion. No wonder so many education professionals view the very concept of home education askance, when you have people like this spouting such nonsense and urging a true return to ‘Victorian Values’!