Mission Creep in the Politics of Education

What’s been said?

Following her open letter to Lord Soley, Martine Cotter has started her own blog where she published a second post on 11 March, Home Education – The Last Stop? In it she identifies several events, mostly in the USA, which she considers to have shaped modern educational philosophy and from which she argues Lord Soley’s Bill has emerged.

In her concluding section Martine considers where, given past trends, she sees the moves to require registration of home educated children will eventually lead. She describes how Soley’s “soft-touch register” could in the future become a tool for state control, with “sanctions and penalties for non-compliance”. In so doing she sounds an alarm which everyone who cares about educational freedom should heed.

Why does it matter?

Even if you do not agree with all her reasoning, it is important for HE families to recognise that the present political focus on EHE has arisen not simply because of one or two tragedies, or because of some potential terrorists withdrawing their children from schools. There is plenty of evidence to indicate that ideology is driving some to lobby hard for the establishment of a EHE register. Is Martine correct to trace the start of this thread back to October 1957 and the launch of Sputnik, the first (Russian) satellite?

It takes a brave person to try and summarise the politics of education in three thousand words, when multiple large volumes have been penned on the topic. Such summaries are bound to raise differences of opinion. Some, for instance, may not view John Dewey as an educational hero, but as an early advocate of the mission creep which the author cautions against. Others may question whether the three American presidents named, Eisenhower, Johnson and Reagan, are the key figures in the development of today’s educational policies. Thirdly, it is all too easy to omit the obvious. In fast-forwarding from Reagan to Lord Soley, she makes no mention of Ed Balls and Graham Badman, whose joint attempt to bring HE under state control clearly inspired Soley to rally the educational ideologues with his Bill.

However such questions should not distract parents from the value of this piece, for it raises many valid and far-reaching concerns. Martine asks where such mission creep will inevitably lead. She emphasises that it starts on the wrong foot by breaching “a number of constitutional rights”. She identifies the increased “mud-slinging” at HE parents as an attempt to overcome such obstacles. Tracing a series of potentially significant steps, she reaches the place of warning the HE community that we are the last stop before the state assumes full control of the education of our nation’s children.

What can I do?

Recognise that the escalating attacks on home education have not arisen because one noble Peer has a bee in his bonnet. Appreciate that they are coming from a political elite which is seeking more influence over your children than you will be allowed. This is not limited to Western nations; the UN’s first educational priority is “Put Every Child in School” whilst UNESCO has objectives for global citizenship education which are echoed in David Cameron’s “British values“.

The battle over the education of future generations will out-live the present skirmishes. Home education is indeed the last line of resistance – the fear of not being politically correct now dominates the majority of educational institutions around the world. It is not only our children’s and their children’s educational freedom that is at stake; future educational policy throughout the Western world may well be shaped by our collective resistance.