Monday, 9 March 2009

More on education and indoctrination

I'm not sure what to call this one.

I thought about "The joys of having your children in a state school."

I thought about "We own your children."

But I settled for a more mundane title.

The BBC (the story has also been covered by the Telegraph, the Times, and the Daily Mail) reports that

An east London council has said it is treating the absence of children from lessons on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history as "unauthorised".

Waltham Forest Council, which runs George Tomlinson Primary School in Leytonstone, said the classes were part of its policy of "promoting tolerance". It said "action" had been taken but did not clarify the nature of the penalty.

Pervez Latif, a parent who withdrew his children, said the council had not told him what action was being taken.

A number of issues here.

1) A primary school is teaching children about LGBT issues? This in itself, I find difficult to believe.

2) Parents could be prosecuted by the council for not sending their children to school. That is the way it is in modern Britain - and in several other countries. But why? It is up to parents how they bring up their children. If parents don't want their children to be educated, what business is it of the state? If parents want to withdraw their children from school, what business is it of the state? The state does not own our children. It is up to parents to decide how they want to bring them up. A lot of parents are completely irresponsible of course, and even those who are not sometimes make a mess of it, but children are the responsibility of their parents, not of the state, and unless the parents commit a crime against their children - and failing to educate children is not a crime - then it is none of the state's business.

3) It's the old question of "where does education end and indoctrination begin?"

One answer is to use the approach of the Vincentian Canon. To teach what is believed everywhere, always, and by all undoubtedly constitutes education. To teach what you and your close associates believe is indoctrination. Hence to teach children that "2+2=4" is education, because this is what is agreed and taught in schools in Waltham Forest, Seoul, Jakarta, and Quito. It is what was believed and taught in Britain 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 500 years ago. And it is probably safe to say that it is not disputed by anyone in Waltham Forest today. Everywhere, always, and by all.

What is believed about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, however, is not subject to the same unanimity. Were such a subject to be on the curriculum in Seoul, Jakarta, and Quito, it seems probable that what would be taught would be different to what was recently taught at the George Tomlinson Primary School. And it is also probable that if such a subject were on the curricula of the primary schools in Leytonstone 50, 100, or 500 years ago, what would be taught would be quite different to what is being taught today. And, perhaps most importantly, one suspects that quite a few sane, balanced, and educated adults in Waltham Forest might disagree with what was actually being taught in local primary schools.

The "everywhere, always, and by all" approach has its shortcomings - particularly the "always" bit. After all, the sum of knowledge has increased, and in subjects such as science, it will increase. Language changes too, and so do the names of countries and cities. But the "everywhere" and "by all" bits are important.

I do not know what exactly the children were being told in the George Tomlinson Primary School. But I strongly suspect that the boundary line between education and indoctrination was well and truly crossed.

1 comment:

patently said...

Hence to teach children that "2+2=4" is education

I thought any fule knoe that 2+2=5?

Except since the credit crunch, of course. Since then, 2+2=1 but for the stimulus package offering an extra 4, making 5 in total.


Spot on, yes. Although I suspect that many of the products of our current education system would dangerously misunderstand your recommendation to use the Vincentian Can(n)on.