Sharon, you have so much there to agree and disagree with:
Great, I appreciate the discussion.
I'm not convinced. HAve you data to back this up? Let me put it to you this way. Say we closed the schools in working class areas in Belfast and told the parents they would have to educate their children at home? How do you think they would get on? What would be the major problem? Knowledge? Skills? Motivation? Prejudice?
There's a link here
to some research on HE. There was a study a few years back, carried out for a PhD by Paula Rothermel in Durham. She collated data from over 400 questionnaires and used standardised tests on almost 200 home-educated children. They all performed well, especially those whose parents were manual or unskilled workers. I don't think this was published anywhere so it's not very convincing evidence.
Regarding your Belfast school scenario, if all the parents were forced
to home-educate, it would probably be disastrous. Parents and children have to want
to HE if it's to work out. Here, motivation would be the main problem. If individuals in working class areas of Belfast choose to HE for whatever reason, they have a good chance of doing well, especially if they can forge links with other home-educators.
Who should decide what anyone needs to know?
I want to help my children to be numerate and able to use the maths they need in their lives. If they choose to be physicists, they'll need to know more maths than if they became musicians. I want them to know enough science to be able to at least discern nonsense and quackery. Undoubtedly they will face the hoop jumping exercises of exams to be able to get on, so we'll examine the relevant syllabus and help them do their best to pass the tests.
Will you teach them enough statistics to be able to esimate risk in their own lives or to estimate the risk in public decisions (eg GM crops)? HAving said that, existing secondary school syllabii are not currently good enough to prepare people for life. But my point is that if the professional educators can't do it, why would amateur, if motivated, parents be able to do it.
I don't claim that I will provide my children with a perfect
education. I know more about statistics than most people, but even if I didn't, the aim, for us, is to teach the children how to learn and think for themselves. Then anything they need to know at any stage in their lives, they should be able to find out. The technology we have today should, I think, change the focus of education from acquiring knowledge and remembering
the accumulated wisdom of the ages, to being constantly able to learn.
I still think that parents need to be able to have the ultimate say over what a child is taught. This is enshrined in Irish, UK and European law. I retain the right to 'indoctrinate' my children to be free thinking, rational, liberal and secular.
And in this all the fundies agree with you (except for the last 4 items).
This argument is hard work. Would it be accurate for me to say that your position is something like: People should have the right to educate their children as they see fit, even if this runs the risk of them not being properly educated or that some people might deliberately educate their children in philosophies that could be anti-social.
Not exactly. I don't know who else but the parents should make the decisions about individual children. Society has a duty to intervene when it is apparent, or even suspected, that a child is suffering from neglect or abuse. The state has a duty to intervene id it appears that a child is not receiving an education 'suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise' (NI Education Order 1986). English case law has defined a ‘suitable education’ as one able;
'1. to prepare the children for life in modern civilised society, and
2. to enable them to achieve their full potential.'
Article 42 of the Irish Constitution says:
1 "The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children".
2 "Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State".
3.1 "The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or in any particular type of school designated by the State".
3.2 "The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social".
I think that the only way for me to be able to continue to teach my children to be free thinking, rational, liberal and secular, is to accept that others will teach their children that the animals really did go in 2 by 2, or that god spoke to mohammad in the desert or that the wafer turns into the body of some bloke who died 2 millenia ago. We can't dictate the specifics of what children are taught. I think people still have to be free to teach their children whatever flavour of religion they fancy. It's our duty then to try to make society more secular, especially schools paid for through our taxes.
I'm liable to change my mind about this; god knows (I still think in terms of such phrases
) that I've changed my mind on loads of things as I've grown older and had access to more data.
DO you think that the state should decide how and what home-educated children are taught? How do you think we can help the children of very religious parents?
My own parents were very devout, I went to convent schools and was the one my family least expected to drop out of religion. It may not have happened until I was thirty something, but it happened.