Opinion Column

The Duel

Christian fundamentalist home schooling is a dead end

By Garth Mullins, The Duel

(Jupiterimages/GettyImages)

(Jupiterimages/GettyImages)

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This week's question: Should home schooling be encouraged in British Columbia?

Most kids are back to school, but a few are home schooling. Some parents disapprove of sex education, evolution, vaccinations, LGBTQ teachers or lack of prayer in schools. The fundamentalist Christian right dominates home schooling with a cornucopia of campaigners, conferences and curricula.

Former home-school student Ryan Lee Stollar said fundamentalist home schooling is “…a massive, well-oiled machine of ideology that is churning out soldiers for the culture war.”

B.C. is a home schooling wild west. No teacher evaluations or report cards required. No mandatory textbooks or learning outcomes. And no graduation diploma – a dead end.

Read Brent Stafford's column here.

After years of austerity, public education is troubled. Conservatives (like the B.C. Liberals) cut budgets, watch public services wither, then point and say: “see, government can’t do anything right. Better leave it to business or the family.” Conservatives call this favoured tactic, “starving the beast.”

Some kids face serious bullying, violent racism or a system too rigid to accommodate disabilities. Their parents sometimes use the public school curriculum and standards at home. Such flexibility is important but, just because you’re at home, doesn’t make it home schooling. This is called distributed learning and it’s vastly different.

The idea that kids – rich or poor – deserve a good education, paid for by the community, has been won over centuries. But it’s still attacked by the free-market politicians and think-tanks, such as the Fraser Institute. They prefer budget cuts and private schools.

As a legally blind student, I struggled in public school, just barely graduating. But school taught me how to deal with conflict and work around arbitrary authority.

I understand the impulse to keep kids from the Thunderdome of high school. But since that’s where society seems to be heading, it’s good practice. School is where students can organize themselves into student movements and demand better.

Communities, unions, free schools, First Nations and social movements have struggled to democratize education. In May of 1968, students around the world insisted on having more of a say over what they learn and how they’re taught.

With less funding than non-Indigenous schools, many First Nation schools teach local language and culture, alongside math, reading, writing, etc.

Teachers fought 16 years of cutbacks, taking the B.C. government to court to control ballooning class sizes. They won and 3,000 new teachers are being hired to patch the damage wreaked by former premier Christy Clark.

Schools don’t belong to conservative budget-cutters or private profiteers. They belong to the community. And we have to fight for them.

Garth Mullins is a broadcaster, activist, writer, musician and trade unionist. He’s at www.garthmullins.com or @garthmullins.