An unstoppable schooling revolution is happening in America. A revolution brought about by parents who are homeschooling their children.
In his book The School Revolution, former US congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul says “The educrats deeply resent homeschooling, but it is too late for them to roll it back. They tried this in the mid-1980s and failed. Politicians do not take on well-organised voters blocs that can inflict damage on them. Only if there is a stronger voting bloc pushing for a piece of legislation will politicians challenge a well-organised voting bloc”. He is determined to bring down the cost of homeschooling and is developing what he calls the Ron Paul curriculum, which will be taught with the aid of technology. The curriculum “is organised in terms of the following assumptions:
1. A curriculum must be integrated and coherent.
2. There must be a common theme: the freedom philosophy.
3. The best methodology is self-instruction.
4. Courses should reinforce each other.
5. Students must learn to write and to speak in public.”
There is, naturally, a great deal more to the curriculum than can be captured in a few words. Ron Paul invites anyone who is interested in learning about his programme to send an email to email@example.com.
According to surveys conducted by the US Department of Education, the number of homeschooled children has grown from 850,000 in 1999, to 1.1 million (2003), 1.5 million (2007), and 1.77 million in 2013 (3.4% of the school-age population). Information obtained in the latest survey revealed that:When asked why they chose to homeschool, 91 per cent of parents said it was because of a concern about the environment of other schools; 77 per cent of parents said it was because of a desire to provide moral instruction; 74 per cent of parents said they homeschool because of their dissatisfaction with academic instruction in other schools. When asked to select the single most important reason for homeschooling, 25 per cent of parents said it was because of their concern about the environment of other schools.
In South Africa, a 2012 estimate published on a homeschooling blog suggested that about 50,000 children were being homeschooled. As in many areas of life in this country, homeschoolers appear to be wary of possible bureaucratic intrusion. Their rights are guarded by the Pestalozzi Trust Legal Defence Fund for Home Education. Apparently also ready to provide assistance to international homeschooling organisations is the US-based Home School Legal Defense Association, a non-profit advocacy organisation “established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms”.
It is an indictment of government agencies in supposedly free societies that homeschooling parents are obliged to hire lawyers to defend their rights to educate their own children. But as Ron Paul says, parents are winning the battle for freedom in America; their victory will set free the children in other countries.
Until now, governments around the world have reserved the field of education, and especially schooling, for themselves. In doing so they have posted regulatory “Keep Out” signs telling entrepreneurs that they are not welcome. Given that education is meaningful and useful only if it is based on the way a child actually is, and on what the child actually wants, education systems worldwide are self-defeating in that they treat children as if they are all the same. They are taught what government officials decide they must be taught; children’s aptitudes and parents’ wishes are disregarded.
In economic terms, government schooling is supply-driven and not demand-driven. In the same top-down fashion, Soviet Union economies were supply-driven until they collapsed. All government central planners suffer from a deficiency that they just cannot overcome. This includes planners of schooling who will never succeed in their attempt to replace the myriad decisions that, in the absence of their interference, would be made by parents, students, alternative educators, potential employers, and entrepreneurs in the vast market for the education of children that would exist but for the force that is used to prevent it from developing.
Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy www.khanacademy.org, stumbled on the demand for maths education while tutoring his cousin online. Following a suggestion that he post videos of his maths lessons on YouTube, he was astonished when they became a huge hit. He resigned from his position with a hedge fund to work full time on producing his videos, received financial support for his work, and now has supporters such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. According to the website, “Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. We're a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere”.
The Khan Academy has grown considerably and offers a range of courses but maths remains the most important. An organisation called Numeric www.numeric.org, based at the University of Cape Town is bringing Kahn Academy maths instruction to South Africa. To make the material more accessible and relevant to students following the South African curriculum, Numeric has “mapped” content from the more than 4,000 available videos onto a flashdrive.
The advantage of the Khan videos is that they can be replayed over and over, if necessary, until the student has fully grasped the content. As Salman Khan points out, an individual student cannot rewind a class teacher.
All the skills and knowledge that people develop in their daily lives have a potential market value that young people could acquire if the current owners could only pass it on to them. The waste of knowledge that continually occurs is enormous. Also being wasted is the time and enthusiasm of young people forced to learn things in which they have no interest.
Salman Khan has an ability to explain mathematics in a way that makes the subject easily understandable. Bill gates revealed that he used Khan Academy material to help his own children learn maths. But there are carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, plumbers, artists, dancers, musicians, golfers, cricketers, gardeners, bakers, lawyers and thousands upon thousands of other skilled and knowledgeable people, who could enrich the lives of young people by teaching them what they know.
Many alternatives to conventional teaching are developing but there is a long way to go before a proper market for education will be in place. There are at least one million different skills that young people could develop, and at least that many experts who could be transferring their knowledge and experience to them, if only the barriers to education freedom could be removed. All it will take is for parents to stop obeying the orders of the “educrats”.
Author Eustace Davie is a director of the Free Market Foundation and the author of Unchain the Child: Abolish Compulsory Schooling Laws. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author. The views expressed in the article are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation.