Our MP Neil Carmichael appeared on tv today talking about home education. In his constituency there are three times as many families home-educating their children as there are in the nearby city of Bristol. It was suggested by Mr Carmichael that parents in rural areas are more likely to want to educate their children themselves than those in urban areas. He repeated his view that choice is the most important aspect of education policy.
I don’t know that it is the case that more people in rural areas want to home educate, or why that should be, but what Mr Carmichael also pointed out is that his constituency, Stroud, has a large population of “alternative” families. Is he referring to the Steiner community? I think so, in large part.
Today I was talking to a teacher who has recently moved to Stroud and was surprised at the number of families in the area who are or had been home educating – far more than she had encountered before. I know of two families who have begun home educating after becoming disillusioned with Steiner – so even though they have seen the faults with a school based on anthroposophy they still cannot bring themselves to send their child to a normal school, despite the fact that we are fortunate enough to have excellent schools in our area.
I have a theory about the reason for some of the home educating families in the Stroud area; the large number of Steiner kindergartens means that many families will have absorbed the popular Steiner myth that mainstream education is pure evil. Literally. It is considered “Ahrimanic” in Steinerland. All of us who have sent our children to normal, non-Steiner schools are “hapless” (in the words of Richard House) mistaken unfortunates in their opinion. We do not realise the evil influences to which we have subjected our children; team sports, music (except recorder and violin) computers, tv, non -biodynamic apples – all of it is detrimental to our children’s’ development, they say.
So what do these parents do when it is time for their little one to go to school? Although Independent Steiner school fees are low compared to other private schools, they are still prohibitive for many parents (unless they happen to work for Camphill, in which case it’s free). So they decide to home educate in order to keep their child away from the Ahrimanic influences.
The teacher I spoke to today mentioned that in the States the reason parents home educate is religion; they do not want their child infected with the views of those from different faiths. They wish to indoctrinate their child with their own faith. That is not usually the case here in the UK.
The Steiner method of spreading the myth that any education that is not Steiner must be inferior is a religious reason in a way; in order for parents to believe this fallacy they must have undergone a form of conversion to the creed of anthroposophy. It is not a rational idea, as the many successful and “rounded”school leavers in Stroud can testify.
The tv interview today highlighted the fact that there is currently no way of reliably assessing the quality of home-education children are receiving, and that the problem of helping those who are being deprived of their right to a satisfactory education needs to be addressed.
Mr Carmichael is often to be found emphasising the importance of science and technology in education, and he should take the trouble to find out whether the education children in his area are receiving is of a satisfactory standard, whether that happens to be in a Steiner school or at home.