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Home Schoolers on Bill 2: Extremists don’t speak for us

Source: The Edmonton Commons
By: 
Paula Simons
March 23, 2012
 
Alberta’s new Education Act, known as Bill 2, seems destined now to die on the order paper – in the wake of vehement protests against the act by some members of Alberta’s home schooling community, and the Wildrose Party.

On Thursday, I wrote a column about the vicious on-line campaign launched against the act by social conservatives, including some from the United States, who’ve been bombarding Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk’s office with death threats and homophobic hate mail – all because they’re worried about the milque-toast language in the new act which requires schools to respect and honour the spirit of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act.
Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk's Bill 2, the new Education Act, appears to be DOA.

Predictably, I suppose, the column inspired people to write me some pretty nasty letters of their own – complaining, on the one hand, that I had blackened the name of the home-school protesters, and then, on the other hand, proving my point by uttering racist, homophobic slurs of their own – attacking Islam as wicked, comparing the Redford government to Hitler’s Nazis.

But I also got a lot of letters I hadn’t predicted – from home-schoolers who are appalled and distressed by the tactics and rhetoric of the protesters.

Today, I want to share some of their voices.

“My wife and I have 2 daughters and have been home-schooling for 7+ years and we fully support the act. Furthermore, we know of many home-schooling families in the Edmonton area who feel the same way. Your article was clear, concise and to the point but it will carry no weight with the crazies because they simply do not want to hear your message,” wrote one local home-schooler, whom I’ll call John.

“We know some of the people who are making outlandish statements on this issue and we are shocked and dismayed at their behaviour. In my opinion, this whole movement is being driven by groups like the Homeschool Legal Defence Association who never miss an opportunity to promote their anti-abortion and anti-gay agenda. Most of the protesters have been whipped into a frenzy because of the fear-mongering and lies being spread by groups like this one.”

“I tried to make the point on some forums that the hysterical over-reaction by the protesters is giving a terrible impression of home-schoolers to the public and may ultimately result in demands for the government to play a greater role in monitoring and controlling what home-schoolers teach their children – the very opposite result to what they claim they are trying to accomplish! I’ve had no joy with that line of argument either.”

Here’s an excerpt from another letter, from a woman who described herself as both a home schooling mother, and a home-schooling facilitator, who supports other families who opt to educate at home:

“I just wanted you to know that not all home-schoolers are against Bill 2, or have any issue whatsoever with respecting Human Rights in our teaching. (Though I do have some largely theoretical concerns now that I have learned more about the HRC and how exactly it works). There are in fact many of us–home-schoolers are a far more diverse group than is often realized–who do not feel we currently have a voice as the only groups representing homes-choolers in the public space have a pro-Christian, pro-conservative / right-wing agenda.”

“I teach my children about diversity, tolerance and respect. I teach about human rights, and how proud I am to live in a country that recognizes same sex marriage, and I also talk about how other people in our country feel differently. I am frankly disgusted by the “poison pen” letters home schoolers have written, as well as disgusted by the way the Home School Legal Defence Association and similar groups have whipped up fury over this bill by misinformation.”

And this, from another home-schooling parent who’s not happy at being painted as something she’s not:

“My son home-schooled for a whole lot of reasons, none of which included religion. After a few years of home-schooling–he is no longer the “social cast-out” he was when he attended public school where he was routinely bullied both by staff, and by students–while staff looked the other way, saying, “We’re not sure he didn’t have it coming.”

Yes, he marches to a different drummer; no, he’s not your run-of-the-mill, middle-of-the-bell-curve student.

Ignorance and assumption on the part of those who embrace a cookie-cutter mentality made him a “social castout”, not the isolation of homeschooling… It’s very sad that people use the same broad strokes to paint all homeschooling parents as far-out fanatics.”

I agree. And I want to apologize to any home schoolers who felt that my original column did just that. I know there are all kinds of parents who home-school for all kinds of reasons. I completely defend their right to do so. I don’t believe the state has the right to indoctrinate school children according to the intellectual fashion to the time. I don’t agree with the teachings of some home-schoolers. But I support their civil rights, because I don’t want to live in a world where a state with a different ideological agenda could judge and penalize the way I raise and educate my child.

But extremist rhetoric on the part of a few ruins the reputation of everyone. I think my first correspondent, the home-schooling dad, makes a most excellent point. There’s a great danger that a few angry voices could ruin Alberta’s home-schooling culture for everyone else, and erode public support for the entire home-schooling model. In the meantime, every student in the province will be affected by government’s failure to pass Bill 2. We’ll now have to wait until the election comes and goes – and another school year will pass, without needed legislative change.




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