Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Educational Fascism, Part XXIV

Homeschooling has been effectively outlawed in the province of Quebec. Those who choose not to hand their children over to bureaucratic babysitters for indoctrination are well on their way to being officially labelled enemies of the state.

Here's a brief rundown of the situation. More details are readily available online if you want to find out more. There's a family in Quebec who have four children, ages ranging from 3 to 9 ears. For whatever reason, they decided to homeschool their kids. It really doesn't matter to anyone else exactly why they made that choice. As the parents of those children, there's absolutely no reason why anyone else should have any say about it.

The "authorities" decided otherwise. Last year, representatives of the state decided that the two oldest, who were already of school age but not attending the state-run daily indoctrination camp, had to start going to public school. For whatever reason, the parents complied. Those two children are not thriving, to put it gently.

Now the "authorities" have decided that the younger two children, who are too young for school, cannot spend their weekday afternoons at home under the watchful and loving eyes of their family either. They have been ordered into state-run daycare.

This responsibility for this latest outrage falls entirely upon a judge, an unelected and unaccountable bureaucrat with delusions of grandeur named Nicole Bernier. The "honourable" Ms. Bernier decided that she wasn't convinced that these kids would be properly "socialized" if not subjected to the Lord-of-the-Flies-esque meatgrinder that is the public school system.

It's important to stop here and note that there is not so much as a whiff of an allegation of abuse, neglect, impropriety, or even academic weakness on the part of these parents. Perhaps under the mistaken impression that fascists might be reasonable, they reportedly co-operated with all inquiries and requests for the "authorities" to check out how the kids were doing. Other than one of the older ones having a hearing problem that presented some challenges (and could certainly be handled better at home than in a large group setting like a classroom), everything was fine by all reports.

Not having any actual grounds to seize these kids didn't dissuade Ms. Bernier. She fantasized that the "socialization" of children was somehow the purview of the state, and used her delusion to invent a legal justification.

The funniest/saddest (those often blur together for me) part of this is that even if we accept the premise that the state is responsible for the nebulous category of "socialization" - and we shouldn't - there is still a glaring logical error with this judicial fiat. Homeschooled children, contrary to bigoted leftist fantasies, generally do not have social problems when compared to those raised by (not "in", deliberately) public schools. The biggest difference later on tends to be that the homeschooled students tend to be more confident (in a positive way, not in the modern empty "self-esteem" sense) and comfortable when interacting with people of different ages, social cohorts, etc. The public school veterans have twelve years or so of having been confined almost exclusively with people their own age and from similar social backgrounds. They are very comfortable with other people just like themselves, but not as comfortable (as the homeschooled students) with those who are different.

Oh, and homeschooled kids wind up much better educated than their assembly-line-product peers as well, but that almost goes without saying.

This is a travesty. The family is fighting it, and they must win. The principles of parental authority and freedom of conscience are at stake. The family, not the state, is the foundational structure of society. The suggestion that these family, or anyone else, needs the permission of the state (translation: of some clipboard-toting civil servant) to homeschool their children infuriates me. It's actually quite the opposite. The educational bureaucracy needs the permission of the parents to have access to those children.

My son is in public school, for reasons I'm not going into just now. It's complicated. However, I make it crystal clear on a regular basis to every school district employee I encounter that they need to remember who is the final authority in our relationship. Many parents take the attitude that the school is responsible to educate the children, and the parents can help. That's exactly the opposite of true. It's the responsibility of parents to educate their children, and the school can help (if the parents choose to let it). I hope you see the difference there. It's a matter of who bears the primary responsibility, and who therefore is the corresponding primary authority. Parents need to explicitly assert this principle, and keep reminding representatives of "the system" of who is really in charge, until it sinks in.

This family in Quebec has chosen to fight this outrage in court. Good for them. they're being far more patient and accommodating than I would have been in the same situation. I would have ignored the initial inquiries (that lead to the two older children being drafted last year), and had the situation escalated to where theirs did, I would almost certainly have wound up spending at least a few evenings in jail for "contempt of court" (as though this court deserves anything else) for informing the judge that they didn't have a say in how I choose to educate my children, and I really couldn't care less what they have to say about it.

But back to my opening sentence. Homeschooling has already been criminalized in some countries, like Germany. Funny, you'd think Germany, of all nations, might understand that compelling children into state-run indoctrination programs doesn't always end well.

With this ruling, if it is allowed to stand, Canada is on a very slippery slope. This sets a precedent that the legal system may decree, for no good reason, that children can be forced into public school against the will of their parents. The step from that coercion being an option to being mandatory is frighteningly small. And don't think for a second that this fascism will confine itself to Quebec.

This is a camel whose nose must be pushed back out of the tent. A few years ago, the bureaucrats in my home province decreed that requiring children to enter grade one, at age six, wasn't good enough, and kindergarten for five-year-olds became mandatory. I tried to raise the alarm that it was the thin edge of a wedge, but few would hear. Now state-approved daycare is required in some places for even younger children.

The State wants control of as many children as possible, from as young an age as possible. This should alarm anyone with any knowledge of history or sense of personal autonomy. "Give me a child until the age of seven and I will give you the man" is generally attributed to the Jesuits, but it took the Communists to harness its full potential.

Daycare, kindergarten, public school - none of these are inherently good or evil, right or wrong. If you are a parent, you are free to evaluate your options and decide what makes the most sense for your family. But it must be your choice, not Nicole Bernier's.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of flowers I bought for my wife an anniversary or two ago. I was necessarily vague about my expectations, giving the florist a budget to work with but no particular specifications beyond "flowers, maybe in a vase or something." Thus, due to my cluelessness and the florist's lack of scruples, this bouquet cost in the ballpark of sixty bucks. Oh, and the card reads, "In appreciation for your years of loyal service." Really. But that part was my idea.