Is the State sometimes wiser than parents?

Here are some cracking quotes from Sonia Sodha's piece in today's Guardian entitled, "Is the State sometimes wiser than parents?" The article moves seamlessly from childhood obesity to home schooling to vaccinations with an arrogance which shows little understanding of the many, many reasons why children might be obese, home educated or unvaccinated - and without the time, space or word count to do any of these subjects justice.

1) "Some may be getting an adequate education – we just don’t know. But it is clear that some parents are subjecting their children to ideological nonsense that they term “non-schooling” or “delight-based learning”, in which there is no curriculum, structured learning or testing; instead, children are encouraged to “learn through living”. This is an outrageous state of affairs. We rightly argue that children worldwide have the right to attend school, so why not here? Home-schooling should be banned in all but the most exceptional of circumstances."

So, according to Sodha, I am "subjecting" my children to ideological nonsense. Of course, there is none of that in schools. In fact a disconnect from the natural world, the necessity to be inside so much and mostly sedentary, to eat cheap food in poorly funded school canteens might all actually contribute to the child obesity problem the article begins with. Whilst many children suffer bullying, anxiety, poor self-esteem and mental health issues, we do not question schooling, calling it "an outrageous state of affairs". Why not? No, I do not use a curriculum, but my children are exposed to many ideas and current affairs which may not find their way on to a school curriculum. Who is to determine which curriculum is best? And "We rightly argue that children worldwide have the right to attend school"? No, we argue children have the right to an education. Schooling is not necessarily the same thing, unfortunately. For an alternative view, I highly recommend Carol Black's "Schooling the World: The White Man's Last Burden."

2) "Of course, the idea of a state characterised by ideological, nosy do-gooders peering into every corner of family life is dreadful. But fear of that dystopia has made us too leery of overruling parents, where there is overwhelming scientific and educational evidence that they are acting against their child’s best interests."

The implication is that there is scientific and educational evidence that by home educating parents are acting against their child's best interests. I'm sorry - Where is this scientific and educational evidence which sounds so impressive? There is certainly more evidence from the States about the outcomes for home educated children than yet exist here, but the results are mixed, and it is certainly not correct to imply that there is overwhelming evidence than home educating parents are acting against their child's best interests. What about situations where the State education system has utterly failed to meet a child's needs, or where a child is so anxious they are unable to function at school? You could then argue a parent is absolutely acting in their child's best interests. What about if a child's primary means of learning is shut down by being in a crowded classroom? Who decides what the child's best interests might be? How do we know? Leaving your children in the chaotic system as it currently exists with its teacher retention crisis and obsession with measuring and testing has risks of its own, whether we want to consider them or not.

3) "Parents don’t have a moral right to ignore warnings that their child is obese, to keep their child home from school to play with Plasticine or deny their child a potentially lifesaving vaccine. As a society, we should back a more muscular state that tells them that."

To reduce home education to "playing with plasticine" shows such an ignorance and disrespect for the hard work home educators put into the many varied and interesting activities we provide for our children, as we lay the feast which stimulates their learning, often on limited incomes and at no cost to the State. It is this ignorance which is frightening and which prevents us from being able to think outside of the schooling box into which we have locked children's learning. It is interesting that Sodha includes in her article the same proverb I included towards the end of my forthcoming TEDx talk .... "The Igbo proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” contains a fundamental wisdom." However, her conclusion is that "Children are not mini-fiefdoms for individual parents to subject to their every whim, no matter how dearly they are loved" whereas mine is that the village, the community, exists outside of the school walls, so the involvement of the child in a network of wider inter-generational relationships outside of school is actually what we need to grow healthy human beings.

"We should back a more muscular State that tells them that?" Not if that State is ill-informed and spouting propaganda. I hope we will always back a State which respects diversity and freedom of thought. Or perhaps I have misunderstood the British values the State seems so keen to impart?

You can read the full article here:

Is the State Sometimes Wiser than Parents?