Thursday, January 13, 2005

Guardian on home education

AL Kennedy in the Guardian pens a piece on the alternatives to the state education system and is scathing about homeschoolers.

[T]he only Blairite option has involved pestering and underfunding schools and universities, the perpetuation of policy doublethinks and the replacement of teaching with testing wherever possible.

It all depends on your definition of underfunded. According to this:

Across the UK, funding for education is to rise to £77bn by 2007-08, up from £37bn in 1997 and £59bn this year. In England, spending per pupil will rise from an average £4,500 to £5,500, twice the 1997 figure.

Now an increase of £59bn in 2004 sounds a lot to me. And £5500 would more than cover the cost of my local prep school's fees. Perhaps I can spell it out for Ms Kennedy. The government can pay for everyone to go to a private school, and in my case they could pay my kids' fees and give me some cash back. As it is, I can't afford the fees.

But it could be worse.

Golly. This is remarkable. What could possibly be worse than a British state education?

State education in the United States favours teaching 11-year-olds about capital letters and self-esteem - should funds be available.

OK, an American state education. I think I'll buy that, but I don't think there's much in it to tell the truth. There's more though

And beyond a horrifying national curriculum lies the strange land of home schooling and Christian Reconstructionist institutions like the Robertson School of Government and Patrick Henry College. (The same Patrick Henry College that supplies so many White House interns.)

Yup, that's the same Patrick Henry college that recently defeated Oxford University in a moot court competion. They're getting uppity those rednecks aren't they AL?

So what is so awful about homeschoolers?

Here, in the intellectual equivalent of Tupperware boxes, students are isolated from the media, the internet and any information which is not "biblical". Which is to say, most sciences, much of literature, medicine and history - and definitely no astronomy or archaeology. And even in this rarefied, if not medieval, atmosphere, it's reckoned risky to attempt anything beyond a masters degree for fear of undermining your "core values". But expose its adherents to an uncensored news broadcast, a CS Lewis novel, a snippet of Jerry Springer - The Opera, or a single Private Eye cover, and you can expect a replay of The Exorcist within moments.

Well, this seems a bit of a non-argument. American homeschoolers may (or more likely may not) be all of the things that AL Kennedy says, but the whole point about homeschooling is that parents get to teach what they think is worthwhile. If a parent wants to do a couple of days on Jerry Springer, rounded off with learned discussion on Private Eye editorials, that is their right and privilege. And if they want to study the Bible from dawn to dusk they can do that too. It's called liberty.

Kim du Toit homeschools his children and he gives an example of their typical week(keep scrolling). For example the reading for his 16 year old includes:
Roald Dahl – Taste
Saki (H.H. Munro) – Sredni Vashtar
James Joyce – A Painful Case
Mark Twain – The Danger of Lying in Bed
Guy de Maupassant – The Necklace
(Normally, we include essays in the mix, but it's the first week after the holidays, so we're a little more relaxed. Next week will include Engels, Santayana and Nock.)

And he learns 30 words of Spanish every day. Most state school children leave school not knowing thirty words of English, let alone learning thirty of Spanish every day.

How typical of the Guardian to turn down the opportunity for a meaningful look at the alternatives to state education in favour of some bigoted ranting.