02 January 2012

No escape from state education

The basic moral principle is that one should avoid imposing on other people one’s own interpretation of the existential situation, and overriding their reaction to it. This principle is weakly, and occasionally, recognised in human societies, and best protected, more or less unintentionally, in capitalist societies in which you can only get other people to do anything for you if you are willing to pay for it. This does not mean that they will necessarily provide you with what you really want, but at least it avoids the socialist situation in which, in many important areas, such as health and education, you can only get what other people want to provide you with; in fact you may be forced to surrender your liberty entirely and submit to what they want to impose upon you.

At present it is possible, although very difficult, to opt out of the state educational system and let your child work at home, although you must still in many ways comply with state prescriptions about what will count as acceptable.

This, however, is coming to be regarded as unnecessarily permissive. Within recent years I have seen the view expressed that this loophole is no longer necessary, as the present state educational system is tolerant of all religious beliefs (this, apparently, is the only grounds on which objection to the state system could be considered acceptably valid). From this point of view, people can now have no justifiable reason for preferring any variant to the system provided by the state, and so it should be a legal obligation to ensure that one’s children are forced to attend the child-prisons, as required.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, debating this issue, argued that home schooling ‘could be a cover for child abuse.’ (Daily Mail, 20 January 2009)

This dubious logic may be generalised to any area in which the individual is free to do anything other than comply with the requirements prescribed by the state. He might take the opportunity to commit any crime or depravity that occurs to him. ‘Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do’, as the 18th century hymn-writer said.

If people are not fully occupied with the necessities of staying alive, they may (it is feared) use their freedom to do something unacceptable, including finding out important things in science, especially if they are rich enough to be able to afford to do this independently of having a university appointment. So, better that there should be no freedom at all.

Of course, one may mention that state-provided incarceration may also be a cover for child abuse, which obviously includes any sort of programme of psychological warfare and undermining devised by teachers.

While ‘home schooling’ is considered an option that provides unnecessary freedom for the individual, it should be noted that it scarcely exists at present in the UK. While it is possible to claim that your child reading books at home constitutes ‘education’, as soon as you consider him ready to take an exam, you must invoke the approval of the education ‘authority’.

Personally I did not think of taking an exam as separate from the process of preparing for it, so someone like me would have tripped over the landmine straight away (even if my parents had home-schooled me).

It is very dangerous to have anything to do with an education ‘authority’. In fact, if you are forced into the clutches of one as soon as you want to take an exam, you cannot really be said to be opting out of the education system at all. Being allowed to spend less time in a school doing purposeless things which are not directly aimed at exam-taking does you little good if the time saved from demoralising purposelessness at school must be spent in demoralising purposelessness at home. As soon as you want to do anything for real, you have to fight it out with the local authority. But that is precisely what you may wish primarily to avoid in ‘opting out’ of the state educational system.

I conclude that although at present there is a nominal possibility of ‘opting out’ of state education, this is only a euphemism, and there is no real possibility of keeping clear of the dangers of contact with education authorities.

There should be a real possibility, but that would involve quite different arrangements to be made. Far from considering how the deadly clutch of the education authorities on the lives of their victims could be loosened, there is a drive to eliminate even the ambiguous possibility which exists at present.