January 16, 2003
What does home education have to do with libertarianism?

A further posting from Julius Blumfeld:

I've been wondering why Brian asked me to contribute towards this Blog. It's true that I am a libertarian. It's also true that I am a parent of home educated children. But they are not home educated because I am a libertarian and I didn't become a libertarian because they are home educated. Nor are most home educators in the U.K. particularly libertarian. If anything, they tend more towards the green end of the spectrum. Yet Brian presumably thinks that home education has some significance for libertarians. Does it?

At the moment, I think I would have to say "not really". But if you were to ask me again in ten years, I think my answer might be very different. Here's why.

Home education in England and Wales (and to a lesser extent, Scotland) is probably easier than almost anywhere else in the Western World. By "easier" I don't mean that British children are genetically predisposed to learning at home. I mean that the State puts very few obstacles in the way of British home educators. Here, if you want to home educate your children, you just do it. There are no forms to fill out. You don't need to get permission from anybody. You may get the occasional visit from the Local Education Authority, but that's rarely a problem. You don't need to have any certificates or qualifications. You don't need to follow any particular curriculum (or any curriculum at all). If your children have never been to school then you don't even have to tell the authorities you're doing it.

But I predict all that will change. At the moment, home education in the U.K. is off the Government's radar. It's just a quirky thing for a small minority. It's nothing to worry about and it's not worth bothering with.

Yet as more parents home educate their children, it will become increasingly visible. And as that happens, the pressure will grow for the State to "do something" about "the problem" of home education. The pressure will come from the teaching unions (whose monopoly it threatens). It will come from the Department of Education (always on the lookout for a new "initiative"). It will come from the Press (all it will take is one scare story about a home educated ten year old who hasn't yet learned to read). And it will come from Brussels (home education is illegal in many European countries so why should it be legal here?).

That's the point at which home education will become a major libertarian issue in the U.K. So Brian is right (as usual). He's just ahead of the curve.


Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:34 PM
Category: Home education