TRIGGER WARNING - this article contains triggers around school bullying, suicides and violent pornography accessed at school.
1) Painting homeschoolers as 'the other'
Discrimination, division and classification have been used at every point in history to divide cultures and communities, and to justify acts that would never otherwise be tolerated in a cohesive society. Discrimination allows us to justify providing less resources to those that are undeserving, to hand out punishments or 'disciplinary actions' to those that do not fit in, and to reach a consensus that those people, whoever they may be, do not need the same things that others need. Simply because they are the other.
In recent months the voices of dissatisfaction with the current schooling model, have reached epic heights worldwide. It is being reported with increasing frequency that schools are not the best places for our children. And yet families looking to remove their children from a failing system, and to take control of their children's education are most often classified as 'the other'. People who are rebellious or anarchists. People who do not want to do their 'duty' as citizens, and have their children educated in the mainstream like 'normal' people. Media reporting of homeschooling most often includes snippets of the lives of the most radical unschoolers, who are presented as being unacceptably alternative in some way or other, and homeschoolers are painted to be unreasonable, unsocial, anti-community misfits living on the edge of reason and thus undeserving of the benefits afforded to the 'normal' members of society. This classification of the 'other' is the beginning of the justification of discrimination at every other level.
2) Providing no funding to homeschoolers
Think about this for a minute. The Prime Minister is running for leadership and announces to the country 'this year and for all years to come, we have decided that we will provide absolutely no funding for education. The lap-top scheme for high school students will be discontinued. There will be no funding for books, or computer programs, classes or anything.' Zero funding. Imagine the backlash. A first-world country that provides no funding for education. To put this into perspective, a recent news story detailed the losses that children would suffer with annual cuts to school funding of $100 per year. $100 out of over $11,000 that is provided to schools per year, per student. $11,000 that is presumably important in helping teachers to provide students with their education. Home educators who are not schooling, are still paying taxes that fund their children to access the right to this funding. Home educators are not using the funds in the schools, and yet home educators have no way to access this funding, if they choose to school at home. By classifying homeschoolers as 'the other' - the people who choose not to engage in the schooling system, this lack of funding is normalised through the justification that homeschoolers are choosing not to educate in schools, and are therefore different, and not deserving of the same resources as other children.
3)Not ensuring safety at school
As a society, at present we absolutely cannot guarantee the safety of our children at school. Therefore we have the obligation and duty to support parents and families as they ensure the safety of their children, through home educating. For many children, school is not a safe place, and at this point the government and the education system are struggling to provide safe alternatives to mainstream schooling. Children with disabilities do not have access to funding to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing at school, other children can not be guaranteed protection from bullying to the point of mental health issues or suicide, sexual harassment and assault at school, or exposure to violent pornography accessed on mobile phones at school.
Safety, defined as 'the condition of being protected from harm or other non-desirable outcomes..or the control of recognised hazards in order to achieve an acceptable level of risk' cannot be guaranteed at present, at school. In just looking at one of the multiple issues that lead to physical and mental health problems for children who in the school system, it has recently been established that violent pornography is one of the main issues damaging the health and wellbeing of Australian children, with children accessing violent pornography from the age of 11, at school. It has been established that schools do not have the resources to prevent this access at school, which is leading to epic levels of physical and mental health problems which start in childhood through to adulthood.
Dr Joe Tucci, head of the Australian Childhood Foundation, recently stated that a public health crisis was emerging, with online pornography, and that it was "impossible for children to not see it". Dr Tucci states that "I think the community would be shocked at the kinds of consequences we are seeing in a small group of children being exposed to this type of pornography", stating that health authorities were seeing increases in the number of children engaging in 'problem sexual behaviour' with other children. Anti-pornography activist, Gail Dines states that pornography is now more violent than it has ever been, and that the average age that children are first accessing pornography is 11 years old "We are now bringing up a generation of boys on cruel, violent porn...this is going to have a profound influence on their sexuality, behaviour and attitudes towards women".
Educator Maree Crabbe, when interviewed by the Herald Sun in an article published on the 23rd of July 2016, on children's exposure to violent online pornography at schools, stated that "young people find ways to get around school filters, and they don't need school Wi-Fi in order to access things, they might have access through 3G or 4G on their devices". In addition, a submission from hundreds of parents and teachers to the senate states that there was a "dramatic increase" in opportunities for children to watch porn at school. In addition, The Herald Sun stated that 75% of schools surveyed by the Association of Heads of Independent Schools Australia had intervened in cases of sexting among students in the last 3 years. The Herald Sun also stated that 'female students were under immense pressure to do more sexually because of boy's access to pornography".
In addition, it has also been estimated that up to 85% of divorces can be in some part attributed to complications arising from online pornography usage. Therefore, the failure of the school system to be able to deal with the rapidly changing environment of the internet and children's exposure to these materials has long-reaching repercussions for our children now, the safety of girls as they reach puberty, the mental health of boys as they are exposed to graphic and violent imagery, and the future relationships of our children.
In addition, looking at bullying at schools, Kids Helpline states that "a survey of schools in approximately 40 countries found that Australian primary schools were amongst those with the highest reported incidence of bullying in the world". Kids Helpline states that bullying is the sixth most common reason why children and young people seek help from children's health services, and Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, speaking at the National Centre Against Bulling conference stated that "we are finding that a lot of schools are really struggling to get this bullying thing right".
In a case where we are seeing epic, life-threatening incidences of physical and mental health problems with children in the school system, and inadequate resources to address the issues in the immediate future, it is our duty as a society to support families who are doing their best to keep their children safe.