Children’s rights, double standards and dodgy labelling

Children’s rights are frequently and increasingly being ‘wronged’ by those who seek to impose obligations in the guise of ‘protecting’ such rights – and never more so than when it comes to children and young people exercising their ‘right to education’. Note that the right pertains to education, not schooling – there is a vast difference, and don’t we know it!

The next time that some local authority officer, nosy parker neighbour or other well meaning idiot suggests that home educated children should be routinely interrogated to ensure they actually want to be home educated (all the while failing to afford the same ‘right’ to express an opinion about de facto compulsory school attendance to each and every pupil conscript), this statement by Katarina Tomasevski (Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education Commission on Human Rights, Geneva, 22 March – 30 April 1999) might be worth bringing to their attention.

The objective of getting all school-aged children to school and keeping them there till they attain the minimum defined in compulsory education is routinely used in the sector of education, but this objective does not necessarily conform to human rights requirements. In a country where all school-aged children are in school, free of charge, for the full duration of compulsory education, the right to education may be denied or violated. The core human rights standards for education include respect of freedom. The respect of parents’ freedom to educate their children according to their vision of what education should be has been part of international human rights standards since their very emergence.

Home educators have long been asking local authorities and governments to justify their double standards and practise what they preach when it comes to schooled children’s rights, only to be met with embarrassed silence, or, occasionally, a pretendy argument about tokenistic ‘pupil councils’ and ‘class representatives’. As we well know, however, schooled children are denied any meaningful opportunity to express dissatisfaction with compulsory school attendance. No cosy one-to-one interviews with teacher (and without parents) to ask whether or not they’d really prefer to be home educated, just a choice between “put up and/or shut up” or “like it and/or lump it”!

The fact that so many school children vote with their feet as a result of bullying, disaffection, unmet special needs and a myriad of other school-related issues suggests that compulsory child warehousing is well past its sell-by date and, having been poisoned with dodgy DNA courtesy of government ‘initiatives’, may now also have serious ‘labelling’ issues. As long as Rights and Obligations are deliberately and wrongly conflated by the vested interests, their hope is that the emperor might not seem so embarrassingly under-dressed to a largely unquestioning captive audience, most of whom have been mis-sold ‘schooling’ as ‘education’ in much the same way as they have swallowed horsemeat masquerading as beef. What they don’t know…

Surely it isn’t acceptable in a modern civilised society to trample over schooled children’s rights with the  ”attend school or we’ll fine and jail your parents” when, in the UK:

  • Each week: 450,000 children are bullied in school
  • Each year: more than 360,000 children injured in schools
  • Each year: at least 16 children commit suicide as a result of school bullying
  • Each year: an estimated 1 million children truant
  • Each year: more than 1 in 6 children leave school unable to read, write or add up

Getting It Right For Every Child? Every Child Matters?  Or maybe just flogging the same old dead horse?


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