Open Minds, Closed Minds

What’s been said?

On 5th August Ross Mountney, parent, former home educator and author, published a spirited piece entitled “Home Education: Registration, Monitoring and Ignorance” on her blog.

Urging readers to acknowledge that “although school works for many, it doesn’t work for all,” Mountney pleads for a less defensive, discriminatory approach towards those who opt for an alternative form of education.

Mountney asserts that HE families frequently encounter minds that are closed to alternative approaches to learning, particularly amongst politicians – and this despite evident failings within more standard models of education.

Home education is already working well without monitoring, she claims. Learning does happen without schooling, and HE young people do “go on to achieve the same outcomes as their school peers” with regard to “qualifications, employment, businesses, intellectual and social competence and mak[ing] a valid contribution to society”. Her point is that “diverse, unmeasured, untested, often autonomous… approaches to learning” may not be fully understood, yet they can still succeed.

Moving on to probe why registration and monitoring could be considered necessary, Mountney again links this with closed minds which, she says, “are generally a sign of fear” – in this instance, politicians’ fears about “this minority community who are making a success of their children’s education without their intervention”.

She suggests that one alternative to asking home educators to register might be to investigate “what’s happening in the system that drives so many to abandon it”, hinting that government motivation to invest in a procedure as costly as monitoring could have a lot to do either with control, or with redirecting attention away from shortcomings within the system. She highlights the lack of real evidence of safeguarding problems or radicalisation within the home educating community and suggests that the money “would be better spent providing help and support to the children falling through the net in schools.”

After pointing out the impossibility of measuring diversity by the same criteria used to assess the attainments of schooled young people, Mountney concludes with a heartfelt plea for those who don’t understand home education to “seek to educate themselves further”, to “overcome their ongoing ignorance, seek to meet and learn about the home schooling life” and generally open their minds to new horizons.

Why does it matter?

Ross Mountney is keen for her recent piece to be shared as widely as possible “to help educate those who are yet ignorant”.

A slightly more conciliatory blog post from 6th July entitled Still hungering to open minds! is on a similar theme. There she catalogues various accusations which may be hurled at home educators, following up with helpful rejoinders about why the exact opposites are frequently true.

Whether or not your own approach to HE is as autonomous as the one Mountney is advocating, her point about the need to challenge unjustified preconceptions in the minds of both politicians and the general public with regard to EHE is very valid.

Opinion-formers have been hard at work, and know well the value of propaganda to influence the public perception of any issue.

What can I do?

Having first made sure that our own minds are open and our own thinking clear on key current issues, we can all find a part to play in this re-education campaign, whether through contact with MPs, local councillors or on a one-to-one basis in and around our local communities.

Let’s aim to reduce ignorance about home education, and tackle prejudice in as pleasant and patient a manner as possible, working alongside others in the HE community where appropriate.

Examples speak as loudly as words; some of us may have personal experience of folk initially disparaging about our decision to opt for HE turning into enthusiastic supporters, given time. Established viewpoints don’t reshape in minutes, but making a well thought out point or sowing the seed of a pertinent question can be a very effective catalyst.