Who Says… We Have Choice In Education?

Part of the series Who says…
Written by Léo Gaumont, published on 2015-02-09.

Although home education is usually the best choice for training and teaching children, it is not always the best choice.

Building on a foundation that God is, that He created the universe and that He ultimately is responsible for our children’s being, should provide ample substance upon which to build our faith. This lengthy series will identify the secular thinking that has eroded that faith.

Bible Reference: 1 Cor. 10:23

By now, if you have been following this series of the Blog, you have a fairly good picture of where my heart beats with respect to education, after nearly forty years of experience. However, every once in a while, a correction is required to keep us from becoming overtly sectarian in our beliefs. This is one of those times.

I have often been asked if home education is for everyone. My first inclination is always to respond with “yes”, but that answer would be misleading. Let me explain. We are all aware of the fact that only parents give birth to children, and on that premise we can insist that home education is not only a right, but a responsibility. The right is a given. The responsibility is not. We all know that we are part of a dysfunctional world with plenty of examples of dysfunctional families within it. In a perfect world, where everybody cares for everybody else, the 80% of the people who could home educate, would help with the education of the children of the 20% who could not and everybody would be educated at home. Indeed, a study of Christian history demonstrates that this was how schools started in the first place. However, since the notion of helping one another has changed and the responsibility for doing so has been assigned to government, alternatives to home education are needed if, for no other reason, than that the world has become increasingly self-serving.

In the early 1970’s, Premier Peter Lougheed saw that if Alberta was to have a competitive advantage in a diversifying world, it would be because its education system was diversified. At the time, both public and separate systems were in place, but since then we have seen the inclusion of various creations of private schools, charter schools, Francophone schools, online schools, and since the 80’s, home school, to the list of educational choices. Today, the Alberta Education web site continues to state that “choice is one of the important principles Alberta’s education system is built on”.

All this may look good at first glance, but not all things are what they appear to be. There is a theme that now runs along the supposed choices we have in education, which truly questions what is meant by educational choice. Upon closer examination, we find that the choice has become decreasingly a matter of alternatives in education, and increasingly a matter of where this education will take place. Since the government has decreed that all students must register with the government for whatever educational alternative is chosen, the government has taken upon itself a kind of paternal or familial responsibility in education. Add to this compulsory registration, the fact that school programs are largely determined by government directives, and we are left with a choice of where (or what language) we would prefer in following the government sanctioned, public program. Our “choice” has become more a matter of location than one of content.

If you were my guest and I offered you cake, pie, pudding or ice cream for dessert, I have given you a choice, but offering a variety of flavors of ice cream, does not. Similarly, if the government provides us with a choice of venue where we will be exposed to what the government has determined we should learn, we have not been given a real choice. This is more akin to a school yard bully offering you a beating but providing you with the “choice” of where you are willing to receive it! While the educational bureaucracy increasingly manipulates and strangles our “educational options”, the funding schedule clearly shows that the government is prepared to pay to have its agenda advanced, no matter where the “education” is taking place. The government funding of educational “choice” does not necessarily mean it is supportive of real alternatives. Money talks, they say, and it helps the government to retain control, while advancing “free choice”. However, choice without control is not freedom.

In a world that is even more diversified, and more individualized, than it was in Peter Lougheed’s day, one would have to question why today’s government is increasingly demanding adherence to its one-size-fits-all programming, regardless of our “choice” of venue. Also, increasing numbers of parents, institutions and places of employment continue to demand that we all be educated in the same way, as well. The only place that remains more or less free of government programming is within a home education. It is, therefore, not surprising that more people are choosing this alternative as the last resort for freedom. Educational choice? Not really! I am sure Mr. Lougheed would be disappointed.

Who says we have choice in education? Only those who have lost sight of what the words individual and diversified mean. When government puts itself at the helm of education, it becomes the only parent of a family of multiple thousands of children. This is not the diversity that Lougheed sought, but a real push towards conformity with what the government now sees as expedient.

Home education may not be the best choice for everyone, but it becoming the only option left for those wanting true freedom within the learning environment of their children.

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