Thursday, 3 December 2009

Government to parents: thanks, but we come first

The UK government has published its response to the petition on its website which protested against the new right it is seeking to award itself - namely the right to interview your children, without you present, and decide whether on that basis whether you should be allowed to choose how to educate your child or not or whether that choice should be taken out of your hands.

The government's reply is basically, "sorry, but government's opinions about a child's best interests must ultimately trump the parents'." Oh, and other countries do it this way, therefore it must be right.

The petition raised the legitimate question of who is the "parent of first resort". It's a zero sum game - either government has got to trump parents, or parents trump government. You can't have a tie. Either parents have the right to decide that they need to protect their children from the bad education being offered by the state; or governments have the right to decide that they need to protect children from the non-state-approved education that parents are giving them at home. One or the other must win. (This has nothing to do with the question of child abuse which is already a criminal offence).

Until now the status quo has been that parents trump government. The government is now attempting a legislative reversal. The difference is that before the disagreeing party just had to deal with it (if the LEA officer doesn't really like home-schooling, they'll just have to put up with it); but when governments trump parents, if you disagree they confiscate your child or cart you off to the slammer. Not really a level playing field, is it?

As for other countries doing it this way.... this response totally ignores the history of the countries at question, presuming we're talking about Europe. Home-schooling became illegal in Germany under the Nazis because the Nazis didn't wish children to learn any ideology from their parents that contradicted Nazism. It was outlawed in the 1930s by the National Socialist party, and its that same ban which has remained on the books. Likewise, home-schooling is illegal in Spain, which has only emerged from fascism in living memory. Home-schooling is suppressed in other countries because of those countries totalitarian histories, and has been a right of parents without the threat of government take-over in the UK because of the UK's heritage of freedom, based on its Christian past.

I find the rest of the government's response nauseating in the extreme. The home-ed community is up in arms about these appalling proposals; but the response keeps banging on about how helpful they're being by providing these new "services". The home-ed community doesn't want them; people choose to home-ed because they've looked at what happens when the government takes over education, and they'd rather not, thank you. It's no coincedence that this "review" with its proposals was cooked up by someone whom the government hand-picked from outside the home-ed community, who was a state education system insider. And lo and behold, his proposals were to make home-edders conform more to the state system - exactly what they're trying to avoid. To have these new "blessings" enforced by law unasked-for is one thing and bad enough; to be lectured about how wonderful the government is to condescend to grant you them when you suck so much at the same time is beyond the point of extreme nausea that my constitution can stand.

I have no idea what the government's timetable is, or what happens to such reviews if there's a change of government. Will it run out of parliamentary time and come to nothing? Here's praying!

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