A Kind of Treason … ? by Roland Meighan

June 22nd, 2009

You can get very tired of people voicing their ill-considered views about home-based education with no apparent knowledge of the research of the last 30 years in UK, USA, Canada, Australia and elsewhere on the subject. They are also forgetful of the dire effects of ‘compulsory mis-education’, as Goodman put it, in the day-prison system of learning called schools.

One response is to point out that their comments on home-based education might be construed as a kind of treason. After all, the Queen is a home-based education graduate, so accusations of ‘missing out on socialisation’, ‘no exposure to approved forms of knowledge’, etc., must apply to the monarch. The response to this line of argument is usually an uncomfortable silence.

Those who prefer Presidents democratically elected to unelected monarchs can look at the USA situation where of the 42 or so past presidents, 17 were home-based education graduates. Moreover, the various studies trying to rank them in order of success, consistently put the first five as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt. Yes, you have guessed it – they are all home-based education graduates.

There is a second kind of treason, to the evidence of other well-known people who were home-educated. Thus, Yehudi Menuhin went to school for only one half day.

“When I came back from the morning, my mother asked me what I had learnt. I said, ‘I really didn’t learn anything. I sat at the back of the class, and there was a little window high upon the wall, through which I could see branches. I hoped that a bird would alight. No bird alighted, but I kept hoping’, and that’s about all I could report. So my mother promptly said, “Well, we’ll educate you at home.”

He got on well enough without school to become a world-class violinist.

Patrick Moore, the astronomer and broadcaster, was educated at home and did not go to university. He tells us that he chose his curriculum at the age of seven as learning to type, which he thought would be useful, by copy typing some tomes in astronomy. This, he thought, would inform him about the subject that interested him, and would also serve as a course in improving his English. He would also spend some time on his xylophone and later the piano developing his musical skills. This ‘unbalanced curriculum’ served him well, he explains, since the central activities of his life have been astronomy, journalism and music. All other knowledge and skills that he needed were gained incidentally on a ‘need to know’ basis.

Then there was the Headteacher of Wolverhampton Grammar School who was a party to educating his two daughters at home until they were eleven because the local primary school was not able to facilitate a personalized learning system to take into account their own keen learning interests in gymnastics and music.

Bertrand Russell, distinguished philosopher and mathematician, was another home- based education graduate. He observed that:

“I was glad I did not go to school. I would have had no time for original thought, which has been my chief stay and support in troubles.”

The roll-call of well-known people can take up a whole book – see An “A” in Life: Famous Home Schoolers by Mac and Nancy Plent (1999) Unschoolers Network. It includes George Bernard Shaw, Charlie Chaplin, Claude Monet, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, The Wright brothers (the aeroplane inventors), Agatha Christie, Noel Coward, Margaret Mead, Pearl Buck, C.S.Lewis, John Stuart Mill, two Wimbledon tennis champions, and several contemporary film actors.

There is also a third kind of treason, to the respect for research evidence, which shows that the bad news about home-based education is very hard to find and confined to a few odd cases – reported in the press, for I have never come across any myself and I have encountered thousands of home-based educating families in the years I have been researching the subject. The Home Education Research Journal has been publishing systematic studies on home-based education for over 30 years in USA. The research shows that, in the vast majority of cases, home-based education is a good news story. Mike Fortune Wood’s two books, The Face of Home –based Education 1: Who, Why and How, and The Face of Home-based Education 2: Numbers, Support, Special Needs, are two recent surveys of the scene in UK showing the same outcome.

Members of the establishment, despite showing the signs of being damaged by their mis-education at school themselves, can be won over in time. Thus, a school inspector, quoted in D. Smith, Parent Generated Home Study in Canada, 1993, said: “I so wish I’d given my daughter the opportunity you’re giving your sons.”

Roland Meighan: D.Soc.Sc, Ph.D., B.Sc.(Soc)., L.C.P.., Cert. Ed., he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Writer, publisher, and consultant/research er on learning systems, past present and future. His work on “The Next Learning System” has been translated into more than twelve languages. Roland is also Director of Educational Heretics Press, Director/Trustee of the Centre for Personalised Education Trust Ltd. He is also a former Special Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham and was Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Birmingham.

He is an acknowledged Educational Heretic for his view that mass compulsory schooling is an obsolete and counter-productive learning system which should be phased out as soon as possible and schools should be recycled into something more personalised, flexible and humane. He began researching home-based education in 1977, appearing as an expert witness in key legal hearings.


A wise Home Educator chimes in on Roland MeighanL

Roland Meighan has long been seen as a “champion” of home education. He spoke at a conference in Glasgow a few years ago. I cheered him and enjoyed watching some establishment types squirm. We dined with him and his wife afterwards and enjoyed the company. I do not *want* to think badly of him.

The language of “alternative education” for want of a better phrase, or “personalised education” to use a Meighanism , has been nicked, perverted, re-branded and is being used to sell some very nasty outcome-based “education” eg: http://www.home-education.biz/forum/media/352-radical-learning-reform-unveiled.html (lazy link to some of our discussion of CfE in Scotland – obviously just one example).

Roland does not seem to mind this. Recently, in the light of this “not minding” and prompted by discussion on one of the lists, I had a look back at what he had actually said in the past.

Sadly, I found this rather telling quote – afraid the link is no longer live (have emailed the person who owns the site to see where it has gone).
Roland Meighan, 2003 –

“There’s an important sense in which the people who are home schooling are trail-blazing their way to the next learning system.

They are not the next learning system but they are trail-blazing their way towards it.”


This article is not quite so clear cut but is in a similar vein:


I accept that it is easy to be wise with hindsight but surely, at best, this shows an incredible political naivety?

And then he says this in his response to the Badman crap?

“Education Otherwise and similar organisations could form a monitoring body if given the finance and resources to perform this task well. OFSTED and LEAs are not competent to do this task having been trained only in the authoritarian crowd instruction and crowd control approach to learning – ‘you will do it our way, or we will find something nasty to do to you’.”

Have a look at the connections between PEN /BECTA/ARCH/ EO and Heppell (man loves himself so much one link would be meaningless).


I read his response to the Badman report, and those quotes jumped out. This matter is about the autonomy of parents as much as it is about Home Educating parents. EO have no business monitoring Home Educators (which will mean registering with them) or anyone else for that matter, unless people volunteer to be a member of their organization.

Having said all that, I found this piece to be worthy of posting. As usual, we do not have to agree with everything everyone says; at the same time, at a time when EO are maneuvering for the job of being the masters of all things Home Education, with funding and power handed to them by the state, it is a good idea to know precisely who is who. By posting this article and exposing the name of the author, it is possible (but unlikely) that this mans voice could be amplified by the BBC, and clearly, his ideas about EO are anathema to many Home Educators.

‘The Fog of War’….

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