Education and The Ongoing War on Homeschoolers
Modern mass public education is a relatively new phenomenon. It has been a mixed bag, depending on what people expect from it. If the idea is to simply provide everyone with a general education, that might be a good thing. But if it is simply a means to get access to children, undo parental values and concerns, and push the values and principles of the state, then it can be a very bad thing indeed.
Certainly all dictators and statists have known how powerful and effective mass state education can be for purposes of propaganda and indoctrination. Letting the state, and not parents, fill a child’s mind with values and beliefs is always a good way to consolidate power and control, and remove any threats of resistance.
Even in the free West, we increasingly find mass education being used as much to further radical social agendas as anything else. Indeed, plenty of kids in the West come out of our school system dumbed down – they are often even illiterate and innumerate. But they have had plenty of propaganda foisted upon them over the years.
It is especially for these two reasons that so many parents have resorted to homeschooling. They not only want to ensure their children are actually learning properly and being taught the basics, but they also do not want them being exposed to all the radical agendas of the militant minority groups.
And they have always had an uneasy relationship with the state. Indeed, in some Western nations homeschooling is illegal, as in Germany. Other places have plenty of restrictions and controls in place, making it ever more difficult for a parent to freely homeschool.
We see this once again in the state of Victoria. I have written plenty of articles already about Premier Dan Andrews’ relentless anti-Christian agenda. It just keeps getting worse. Consider the recent moves to further clamp down on homeschooling. As one recent news item states:
Home-schooling is about to be subjected to regulation in Victoria, as thousands of families turn their backs on -traditional education. An estimated 4500 children are home-schooled in Victoria, up from just 2279 in 2009. The State Government is now proposing to give the Victorian Regulation and Qualifications Authority new powers to investigate whether a home-school family is providing an adequate education.
This, and the rest of the article, seem innocuous enough. But there is more to it than what this piece is letting on. As one Victorian homeschool mum, Sarah Nicholson wrote in a recent article:
In Victoria, Daniel Andrews’ Labor government is trying to erode this parental right to choose our children’s education by introducing new regulations governing homeschooling. Minister for Education, James Merlino, sells the draft regulations with constant inaccuracies, and his benign rhetoric is being regurgitated by all government ministers.
Victorian home-schoolers are overseen by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority and, while the official government view sounds like reasonable accountability for homeschooling, away from the public eye the VRQA works quietly to limit homeschooling. Parents attempting to register are initially told, “Homeschooling is a legal choice,” but are encouraged to think about the “ramifications” of such a choice – according to the VRQA children will end up “unemployable and unqualified.” They are then heavily pushed towards school or distance education.
If parents persist in registering, they are told that state curriculum materials are unavailable for sale and that available curriculums are not approved. Parents report feeling bullied after such an experience, and say registration requires assertiveness. It is unknown how many potential homeschoolers the VRQA has managed to bully back into the school system.
Under the proposed regulations, children must remain in school unless they have a reason confirmed by an acceptable authority such as the school or a psychologist. In the meantime, parents must submit a detailed plan for VRQA assessment and wait 28 days for a response. Given the VRQA attitude, homeschoolers are doubtful many registrations will be approved. In addition, existing homeschoolers will be randomly reviewed by the VRQA who will also set the review criteria, which are not detailed in the regulations and could be changed at any time.
On an extreme level, there is concern that if plans do not include certain curriculum content such as Safe Schools or Respectful Relationships, parents will be forced to include them to get registration. The regulations give no criteria for parents to form plans upon, setting parents up for failure to even register, let alone failure to home-school. Meanwhile, children are at unacceptable risk in school.
Homeschooling parents of every political bent in Victoria see these regulations as an attack by the government on parental and indeed human rights.
I recently asked several Victorians who are heavily into homeschooling what their thoughts are on these new regulations. John Angelico is a father of seven children who were home educated from 1989. He and his wife have just concluded with their youngest child. He writes:
As a former home educating family, and operator of a curriculum supplier to home educators around Australia, I view the new draft regulations for Victorian home educators with serious misgivings. Let me begin with a bit of background and history to this:
Before the Cain-Kirner Labor government tried to rewrite the rules in 1991, the Education Act required parents to be responsible for the education of their children by either enrolling them in school, or by providing “regular and efficient instruction in some other way” and observing the same hours as were required of school attendance (essentially 180 days per year). Failure to do so could be prosecuted as truancy, but parents could successfully defend themselves by demonstrating to a Magistrate evidence of attendance, the content of their curriculum plans, and evidence of their children’s achievements and test results.
The 1991 Bill was withdrawn in the face of strong opposition from the home educating community, backed by evidence that there was no problem to be solved by draconian legislation. The government was soon to be defeated at the election which saw the Kennett Coalition government installed.
The re-elected Bracks’ Labor government tried again in 2006, and again faced considerable opposition from the homeschool community. The new Bill admitted that real educational outcomes were not the issue by changing the focus from truancy (to be argued in a Court with educational evidence) to compliance with a regulation to register – it would be much simpler for the Education Department to prosecute parents for failing to have a piece of paper expressing government permission. This also changed the focus of education from a parental responsibility to a government responsibility, and parents were to be granted “permission” to do something different.
However, because the government had a solid majority, the Education & Training Reform Act was passed unchanged in 2007, and is the current legislation in force.
His concerns are these:
The Minister operates from the assumption that school education is superior to home education (well, as a Labor Party Minister he would say that wouldn’t he?). However, during the entire time we operated our business, we saw that graduating home educated students achieved their first preferences consistently, 100% of the time. We saw home educated students walk into some of the toughest University courses available in Australia (law, specialist medicine, international finance, electronics and robotics), and some were offered places at prestigious international establishments such as MIT. Others chose alternate pathways into trades because they were more inclined that way, and many have established themselves in their own businesses now. One of my sons is a highly regarded computer programmer, a principal contributor to modern computer languages, and a well-paid online tutor in networking, web design and databases.
As the 2006 Act established, this is about control, not about education.
And one mother of four who has been home educating for seven years, but wishes to remain anonymous, told me this:
The reason many parents choose to home educate is because their children are not receiving a quality education in schools, whether it be due to bullying, or to special needs, giftedness or learning difficulties that the school system is not equipped to handle.
My husband and I believe that we have a God-given right to educate our children, a right which the Education Act upholds. We believe this extends not only to educating our children at home but also to choosing what, when and where they will be taught. The new regulations remove this right and requires parents to get permission from the government and to comply with whatever the VRQA decides makes an acceptable learning plan and learning outcomes.
We home educate primarily because we want to raise our children with a Biblical worldview and we want their education to reflect that. It also allows us to have a closer family life, and it allows us to go at the speed our children need. We can spend as much or as little time on a concept that each individual child needs. We want to focus on right thinking, logical fallacies, and seeing God’s hand in the world and in history. We want to be the ones teaching our children about sexuality, for example.
The new regulations are a concern, moving from a language of informing VRQA that we will home educate to asking permission to home educate. The regulations are vague and give full power over home educators to the VRQA. They have the power to change what is required in a learning plan or as proof that we are home educating our children at any time during the next ten years.
The government has no evidence that home education is not working. They cite lack of information as the reason for increasing regulations rather than data, which they have had 10 years to collect and could have asked the home education community for but didn’t.
They say we will be free to teach what we want but in at least one case I know of they are asking parents under review for learning plans aligned to the Australian Curriculum before giving them permission to continue home educating. Other home educators have been asked how they can be on the phone to VRQA during school house since they should be schooling.
So on one hand they are saying it’s a light touch approach which would “allow flexibility for a registered family to continue using any method they see fit to deliver instruction, as long as that method meets the registration requirements” while on the other they are showing that they consider education to be Australian Curriculum aligned, outcome based, during school hours, and during school terms, all of which they have the power to make registration requirements.
Reviewers are not required to have any knowledge or experience of home education. The VRQA has not consulted with the home education community about these changes. Ten years ago a Home School Advisory Committee was set up to work with VRQA. This was disbanded in 2009 and no consultation has taken place since. The education minister has not met with us despite being invited too.
There is a one-off learning plan that needs to be submitted with the registration application. Later in the documentation we find that random reviews will be done against the learning plan. That means every home educator, every year is expected to have a learning plan in case they are reviewed against it. Also changes to the first learning plan must be reported to VRQA within 14 days. All of this is a genuine worry.
In sum, we homeschool so that our children have a different education than that offered in schools and we want to keep it that way.
Those who are concerned about where all this is headed can go to this Victorian home education site. These three pages are worth looking at:
And there are several petitions you can sign on this as well: This is one, and it lists two others on the bottom of the form:
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