A Queensland Home-education Organisation?

Abstract: Organisations targeting special interest groups can be most useful. However, when there are calls for a single, geographically-oriented organisation, one should be suspicious.

A. Benefits of Organising

There often are calls for all involved in home-education in Queensland to get organised. Other State Governments, in particular in New South Wales and Victoria, have more fully regocnised home-education as a genuine alternative to school, whereas the Queensland Government still seems to regard home-education as something for families living in areas too remote to be serviced by schools.

The following benefits of having a State-wide Home-Education Organisation are frequently mentioned:

  • To provide better support for those involved in home-education, e.g. by making available information, by bulk buying of educational items, by offering legal aid, by assisting with setting up groups, meetings and networks and other ways for those involved in home-education to get in contact with each other;
  • To give home-education a broad platform from where home-education can be promoted with prospective members, in the media, with educational organisations, and with the government;
  • To act as a catalyst for legal recognition of home-education, lobbying with the Departments of Family Services, Education, Taxation and with anti-discrimination and other authorities.

B. The Government's Way

However, there are some big dangers in these calls for such an organisation. To better understand these dangers, one first needs to look at the way government operates. The Government is essentially dictatorial, it makes a single law and everyone has to obey this law or face punishment. Decisions taken by the Government follow the people's wishes in some respects - those in power may be elected in a multi-party democratic system - but many, sometimes even a majority, do not agree with the view of the party in charge in Parliament.

To protect the position of minorities, the Government observes civil rights and liberties to some extent. But in many cases, the Govenrment blatantly ignores such rights. Those who want to educate their own children are the living proof of this. They are the victims of a dictatorial system that is based on majority-rule and that is prone to adopt a single solution to fit all.

By largely controlling the curriculum, qualifications, staff-appointments and financial affairs of schools, the Government ensures that its voice gets heard in education. Although the right to choose the best form of education for children is widely accepted to be with the parents, and although even the United Nations have incorporated such rights in their protocols, the Australian Government still insists that children of a given age compulsorily enrol with and attend its preferred educational institutions. No matter which party is in power, the system stays essentially the same and, inevitably, there are victims of this system.

C. Let us not Collaborate!

The conclusion that those involved in home-education should draw, is that we should not imitate this system among ourselves. By setting up a single organisation aiming to cover and represent all those involved in home-education, we would do exactly the same thing that government does. Perhaps the spokespersons of such an organisation would be elected and instructed by majority vote, but the voice of those who are different and who do not fit in with a majority view, will not be heard, worse, will be misrepresented.

Especially when such an organisation is to be a 'Queensland' organisation, there is an even bigger danger of collaborating with the Government to the detriment of minority views. Why endorse the Government's artificially-drawn borders? These borders have little to do with education, have they?

A 'Queensland' organisation runs the risk of focusing on the State Government, even collaborating with the State Government, while, in fact, federal issues such as taxation may be more important to home-education than the compulsory nature of school as imposed by the State Government. If the Government organises society along feudal lines of local dictators, this is no reason for those involved in home-education to imitate such despicable policies. The more so if homeschoolers are the very victims of such policies.

Feudalism and dictatorship are charaterised by the fact that they accept only one ruler locally. The Government bribes many groups into collaboration by giving them money, by negotiating exclusively with them, by making sure that only one organisation is dominant in each area. The Government would love to see a single Queensland Home Education Organisation. This would give the Government the opportunity of dealing with only one group, negotiate an agreement on the preferred legislation and possibly provide some funding. Anyone who disagrees can then be told: "You have had your say, now you must stick to majority rule!"

There is a big danger that such an organisation will effectively become a trade union for those involved in home education. The Government may even offer funding and legal recognition to members of such an organisation (on an exclusive basis) in return for control and compulsory membership0 for all those who want to be involved in home-education.

D. Constitutional Prudence

This does not mean that no organisation at all should be active in the area of home-education. There should be a multitude of such organisations and, in fact, there are. Many families meet on a regular basis and thus form their own little organisation. What should be avoided is that one organisation claims to represent all those involved in home-education, and claims to have a mandate to "negotiate" with the government as to how funding should be allocated and who were entitled to educate their own children.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that any organisation active in the area of home-education build adequate safeguards in its constitution or articles to prevent this from happening. The following clauses could be used as examples:

  • The organisation does not claim or aim to cover a majority of those involved in home-education;
  • If there is suspicion that the organisation becomes the dominant organisation in home-eduction (in an area), the organisation will split up into two different, structurally separated organisations, each with half of the organisation's assets and with half the organisation's membership (randomly allocated);
  • Spokespersons for the organisation will not claim or aim to define what constitutes 'home-education' and who is or is not fit for this.
These are ideas only; each organisation should work out how to best deal with this issue.

Alternatively, the organisation could abstain from direct contact with the Government, while promoting home-education and exposing in the media the absurdities of the Government's position on education.

Some organisations may not get involved in discussions about legislation at all, but instead concentrate entirely on support activities. In that case, there is less need for constitutional safeguards. However, if such a non-political organisation were to grow to become a major organisation, it will inevitably have some political clout and should be cautious.

Few organisations have built such safeguards into their constitution, which just shows how little respect there is in society for optionality. Instead, most organisations seem eager to become the dominant force in their area, not realising that once the have 'beaten the competition', there are no incentives for innovation and improvement of efficiency, quality and service. A single organisation dominating an area is prone to collaborate with the Government, in order to hang on to power in the face of inevitable decline.

It is hard not to collaborate with the Government. In order to conduct business, for example, one has to register a business name, which has to be displayed in a conspicuous way on the outside of all premises where business is deemed to be conducted. Anyone setting up an organisation will be confronted with huge amounts of red tape. Rather than adding to this, we should simply aim for more optionality.

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