Who Says… The Media Is All Bad?

Part of the series Who says…
Written by Léo Gaumont, published on 2015-02-16.

After all the discussion regarding congregate schools, they end up being “schools”, made up of parents wanting to escape public programming.

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: Luke 16:13-15

Some of you may have seen the segment on CTV’s Alberta Primetime entitled “Regulating Home Education”, now available on our website. Some may even have recognized a few of the “stars” who are grateful for the opportunity to represent home education in this province. The program touched upon three issues, two of which I will briefly address and a third which occupied the majority of the program and therefore, the greater part of this blog.

The first issue was quickly addressed through a five minute video normalizing home education as a viable option in education, along with some insights as to why people may choose it. Following the video there was a panel discussion which briefly dealt with the funding of home education (to be discussed next week), but focused on the question of congregate schools. There were two parts to this segment, including what was said and more importantly, what was not said.

Before I address the discussion, let me explain what a congregate school is. The best description is that congregate schools are simply a group of home educating parents gathering to share resources and expertise; but this is not what is actually being questioned by the concerned agencies. Congregate schooled students are generally funded by the government as home educated students. At issue is that there are students attending these “collective home schools” in much the same way as any public school student, yet without using the public school curriculum and certified teachers required of public and private institutions. It should also be noted that the majority of these schools are being created by Low German speaking Mennonites that, while seeking independence from government control, welcome the government funding, which can be significant when considering the number of students involved, though certainly not what you would see in the public system. Even though these families are well within their rights, under existing legislation, to group their families into communities of home educators, they have come under the scrutiny of external agencies. Unfortunately, the possibility of schools and providers seeing these congregate sites as sources of easy money may have created the situation presently happening in southern Alberta, and the primary issue being addressed in this presentation.

The concern expressed by the “opposing” agencies can be summarized in this statement. “If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck and acts like a duck, it is a duck!”. Likewise, if it is called a school, students are bussed to that school and attend it all day, every day and are taught by “teachers” rather than parents, then it is a school and not a collection of like-minded home educators. They reason that if it is a school, it should therefore have to follow the rules as they are applied to a school, and not as home educators. This argument seems reasonable, until you begin to listen to them in the context of possible motivation.

I question whether or not these concerns would indeed be raised if it were not for two things. The first is the seemingly universal belief that only government can determine what each student should learn and when. As mentioned in the last blog, government desires everybody to follow their prescribed program and it has managed to advance this position in every “choice” in education, leaving home education as the last bastion of freedom in programming. This would be the main reason home educators choose this option and why congregate schools, seeking freedom from government programs, will continue to exist in one form or another.

When concern is raised about the possibility of students not getting a “quality education”, I immediately ask what is meant by “quality education” and can it be guaranteed that all students attending schools following public curriculum, taught by certified teachers are indeed receiving this “quality education”, supposedly meeting “standards” that, in reality, cannot be measured? Although it may sound good, this argument ends up deflecting away from the actual motive behind these “concerns”, which is the expansion of public programming or the age old focus on money.

Would any of these agencies be truly “concerned” regarding the “quality of education” of these students if there was no money involved? When considering that nearly every agency involved in this debate is either gaining or losing money, it leaves us with no choice but to see these concerns as a cover for using children as a source of income. In my nearly forty years in education, this has remained my greatest concern regarding all students. Children are precious gifts that should never, ever be traded by parents, government, schools, churches or any other agency for anything, especially not money. Masquerading hidden agendas or money motivations under a guise of caring for the students’ “well being” is simply despicable. Nobody addressed this issue on the program!

Who says the media is all bad? Media can indeed be advancing an agenda, but we tend to see media as bad when we disagree, and good when it connects with our own beliefs. The Alberta Primetime presentation of February 13, 2015, was remarkable in the fairness of the information provided and the balanced approach it portrayed. It is too bad the real push behind the “concerns” raised were not really brought to light. Perhaps it was for the viewers to discern motivations. Although media can, at times, be bad, this presentation most definitely was not. Thank you to all the people who were involved in making this an example of good media.