Break the Chain

Abstract: This article discusses how hard it is to break the mental chain that ties so many people, even homeschoolers, to the Government. The article focuses on compulsory registration, monitoring and other practices used by the Government to maintain its grip over homeschooling. This article argues that dictatorial values are embedded in school subjects and in the way school operates. It argues that compulsory registration as "homeschooler" contains the same dictatorial values as compulsory school - registering as homeschooler implies parental acceptance of the Government as teacher and assessor. It concludes that to break free from the Government's educational straitjacket, one must also break the chain that has been put inside people's heads.

A. Different backgrounds

There are many families who do not send their children to school. Such families are often called homeschoolers, but while some of these families proudly call themselves homeschoolers, other families prefer not to be referred to in this way. Arguments about the term homeschooling reflect the wide differences in philosophy between such families (see Appendix).

Some families are proud to call themselves homeschoolers. They may object against what they see as a lack of discipline at school; too much sex, drugs, violence and swearing, and too much time spent on social conflicts, rather than on academic subjects, on subjects they often refer to as 'training in literacy and numeracy skills'. But they rarely object against the content of such subjects.

My objection against school is different; I don't agree with the things children are being taught at school; I don't believe in a disciplinary approach; I object against school as a compulsory institution, as a system that takes possession of children's bodies and minds in order to indoctrinate children with it's oppressive values.

Some people agree with me that the compulsory nature of school imposes dictatorial values upon children. Some people even agree with me that an institution such as school tends to create a disciplinary atmosphere that does not benefit the creative development of children's talents. But my argument goes much further. I argue that dictatorial values are enforced upon children not only through the way school operates, but also through the very subject matter that is being taught at school. Dictatorship is embedded in the content that is put into children's heads.

B. The Chain in one's Head

Many people believe that there are laws of nature that cannot be broken. They also believe that in society there should be laws that nobody is to break. I disagree with both types of rules. I argue that most people have only been taught such rules at school. I argue that they believe in rules, because they were dependent to start with as a child, were disciplined into submission both at home and at school and were subsequently rewarded by society for keeping up this attitude.

Many people feel for a person who is enslaved, hands tied together with chains. Many like this person, in a sudden desire for freedom and independence, to get strong and break the chains. Now picture the same person, but not with hands tied together with physical chains, but this time breaking a mental chain.

Breaking the chain in one's head is the mental equivalent of becoming free from physical oppression. Breaking this chain is the symbol of reaching independence and maturity in thinking. Breaking the chain means rejecting the "logic" that locks people into oppressive ideologies and belief systems. Breaking the chain means putting trust in our own talents and abilities, instead of in the authority that imprisons us with the claim to know what is best for us.

C. The Role of Parents

For children, who learn to such a large extent by imitation, the atmosphere in which they grow up is extremely important. School has in many ways detrimental effects upon child development, but the situation at home can also inflict lasting damage. If children are to become confident in their own potential, they need both encouragement as well as examples around them of people who are confident in what they are doing. Parents who send their children to school do not express such confidence; they seem to have more confidence in the teacher at school. Some parents may argue that they send their children to school because they have to work or have other things to do than 'looking after the kids'. But the thought that children are in the way of the activities that their parents engage in, cannot give children much self confidence either.

That does not mean that I say all parents should stop sending their children to school. A teacher may well set a better example than an abusive father, sometimes school can act as a haven for the children, but the children still have to cope with the father when they get back home. School does not solve such problems, it can only relieve such problems, at best school is a surrogate solution.

D. School is an Instrument

In our society, school presents itself not as an alternative that might replace parental care in exceptional cases, but as the norm that everyone has to abide by. School is not unique in this, the education system is merely one of the instruments used by the Government to enforce itself upon children when they are at an age that they are receptive for such indoctrination. The Government is out to control society and to present itself as the exclusive ruler, organiser, authority, judge, etc, of us all.

E. Is Registration useful?

Some families are happy to register as homeschoolers. They believe such registration is merely a minor procedure that cannot do much, if any, harm. They do not even object, when as a result of such registration, some official figure will insist on visiting their home to assess whether children are offered the right educational environment, whether children get sufficient socialisation, etc, etc.

Some argue that such official checks are necessary for the sake of prevention of child abuse and neglect and that they can be helpful as the officer may give parents some useful advice. Some even hope that being officially recognised as homeschooler will lead to financial assistance from the Government and more respect for their efforts in the community.

F. Rejecting Registration

In my view, registration as homeschooler is part of the oppression exercised by the education system. Registration is not just a minor inconvenience. To give in to the threats of legal action and other pressure of the educational bureaucrats, is like forsaking one's philosophy, giving up the very reason why one chooses not to send one's children to school. By registering as homeschooler, one becomes part of the education system, one accepts that this huge bureaucracy represents a teacher that knows best what should happen with kids. Yes, the education system acts as one giant teacher that tells us how to run our lives, that tells us what the rules are, what our children should learn, most of all that the bureaucracy is in charge.

G. Rejecting Monitoring

Monitoring is part and parcel of the process. The monitoring is implied in the fact that one has to register. If some are approved as homeschoolers, the implication is that some others are denied this 'privilege'. The process of sorting out legal homeschoolers from "imposters" can take various shapes such as sending in a proposed curriculum, written testimony by people who know the children, submitting children to all kinds of tests, keeping receipts of what is spent on books, courses, etc. But invariably, some kind of monitoring is implemented to check things out.

This monitoring means that some bureaucrat comes to see the family at work at home. This can be a very traumatic event for the whole family, because here is someone who pretends to know better what is good for children than the children's own parents. This monitor not only pretends such authority, the parents are also expected to respect the monitor's authority and take whatever advice may be given. And all this is to take place in front of the children.

What message is this to send out to children? That the monitor not merely distrusts, but denies parental competence? That the monitor, in an arrogant display of humiliating parents, can show the parents who's boss? And what if the parents happen to disagree with the monitor? Is the registration as homeschooler then withdrawn? Does it mean children have to go to school after all? What if they won't? Are children then to be taken away from parents, to be made wardens of the State? If so, then this registration is not merely a minor inconvenience after all, isn't it?

Can monitoring perhaps prevent cases of abuse and neglect? Monitoring typically takes place once or twice a year; parents who want to cover up any abuse or neglect have much opportunity to do so; the monitoring is not likely to be much of a deterrent. Cases of bad parenting are likely to occur anyway, but parents who take the effort to care for their children, rather than to send them to school, are less likely to be involved in any such abuse or neglect. So, isn't accepting such monitoring accepting to be a potential child abuser, rather than a parent who cares for children?

H. Rejecting the Teacher

The final argument of those in favour of registration as homeschooler is that this may lead to community (read: government) assistance of homeschoolers. Such assistance may range from sending lists of recommended books, sending over teachers to help the family at home with specific subjects such as maths, to financial assistance, e.g. with the purchase of books, computers and trips to museums and art galleries.

But why should one e registered to obtain lists of recommended books or to employ a private tutor? If the Department of Education had lists of recommended books or lists of tutors, then should such lists not be made available to all who are interested and who are prepared to pay, say, a small fee for postage and handling? Is there any need for registration?

The financial argument does not make sense either. If the Education Department really did intend to give children better education, why hasn't it given such financial assistance long ago? Is the education system anything but a dictatorial system that aims to break the will of children at a young age, to shape them into willing servants for the rest of their lives?

As I have discussed before, the Government could issue vouchers to be spent on education as decided by the parents. But this still eulogizes a dictatorial system to collect tax. And who decides and checks how such vouchers are used? What is education? Do we want a teacher to instruct us how to live? Whatever way one looks at it, registering as homeschooler implies parental acceptance of the Government as teacher. Registration effectively means giving up the right to decide what is best for one's children, yes, in many ways, registration means giving up parenthood and handing over power and responsibilities to the Government.

I reject the teacher, both as the schoolteacher who claims to have more wisdom than I do, and as the bureaucracy that is out to rule over our lives. That is one of the very reasons why I don't want to send my children to school; compulsory registration effectively denies me the right to hold such views.

Many families don't send their children to school, yet, sadly, they favour registration and even accuse me of acting in a dictatorial way, arguing that I want to take away their right to choose for registration: But without compulsory registration, they would not lose a thing. They could still notify any 'authority' of their activities and invite monitors over to check them out. Yet, they expect me to give up my views and accept their views and thus accept the Government as teacher. So, do I force my views upon them? I couldn't; I believe in optionality.

Appendix Homeschoolers - why some families reject this term

Does it make sense to use the term homeschooling? The huge diversity in background among families so often grouped together as homeschoolers, implies it does not. Classifying families as homeschoolers is often the simple result of taking the perspective that school is compulsory for all, with the exception of those that are subsequently referred to as homeschoolers.

It is the Government that groups all those families together and gives them a label such as homeschoolers, to define the legal conditions under which such homeschoolers are to be exempt from compulsory school. Such classification and approval procedures are part of goverrunent-enforced compulsory education.

But some families reject not only school, but this entire education system that is so universally enforced by the Government; they reject the very authority of the Government to teach. By implication, they reject being classified as homeschoolers, registered, monitored, etc.

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