My older Blogging-for-Ireland daughter returned home from England yesterday and as we were driving the 25km home from the bus-stop (we live that rural, yes) she mentioned that one of her English pals had been sacked from his job for shop-lifting (from the place where he worked!). At dinner that night The Beloved asked
"What's Jack doing?"
"Time", I quipped before B4I could answer.
Friends of ours, from the other end of the county, are also up before the beak. Their crime? Failing to register to educate their children at home. It's reported today in the Irish Times (http://url.ie/h5ef).
In Ireland we have a written Constitution and article 42 (full text of article here http://url.ie/h5eg) which states
"Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in
private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State.
The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and
lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State,
or to any particular type of school designated by the State.
The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of
actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral,
intellectual and social."
Monica and Eddie have chosen to emphasize the first of the three paragraphs above and feel that, as a constitutional right, they don't need permission from the state to educate their children at home. The National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) was set up about ten years ago to vindicate the last paragraph above. This is accordingly a great legal issue: if it was all black Monica and Eddie would be banged up in chokey ek dum; if it was all white the NEWB wouldn't have a place to stand. As you can read in the Irish Times article and from a youtube video called Homegrown Knowledge it's clear to me that O'Neill/O'Connor clan are getting rather more and rather better than a certain minimum education.
It would be easier for everyone if Monica and Eddie would just fill in the form, have the visit from the fonctionaire from the NEWB, let him see the projects, the portfolios, and the art-work, listen to the music, eat a cookie put together and baked by the four-year old (and know that the maths would be okay there) . . . get registered and get on with letting the kids grow up as useful members of their community and happy in their own skins.
As the state continues to regulate our lives for our own or for the common good, it's easier if we all go along. But regulation compels us all to be more like each other. In this case regulation is forcing us, even if we don't chose to send our children to school, to accede to someone else's concept of what (a certain minimal) education is. As most of the officers of the NEWB are ex-teachers or ex-school inspectors and ALL of them were educated in school, they are going to have a defined and school-based view of the matter. So Monica and Eddie are implicitly asking us to rein in our gallop of assumptions and reflect on how we deal with difference in our society. We need to embrace and celebrate rather than tolerate diversity and get behind the mirror: there could be a wonderland of new ideas there.
Hats off, gentlemen!