The French Lesson
France has started to restrict home education. This from a country that most would have called 'free.' You might wonder what threat home education poses to France. The New York Times reported that the new law, "… aims to combat extremist ideas at every level of French society. Among a range of steps, it toughens conditions for home-schooling, tightens rules for associations seeking state subsidies, and gives the authorities new powers to close places of worship seen as condoning hateful or violent ideas." The legislation that was being debated contained 51 articles, of which the home education ban was tucked into the 21st spot. "In the article that prompted the most virulent debate, and over 400 proposed amendments, it places severe limits on home-schooling without banning it, as originally proposed. Educating children at home is viewed by the government as a source of the "separatism" that undermines French values…"
Understanding the threat means we have to understand the language. "Separatism is the advocacy of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group… Groups simply seeking greater autonomy are not separatist as such. " This makes tolerance come to mind, which traditionally was understood to mean being able to co-exist with people who had different cultures, beliefs, thoughts or practices, perhaps agreeing to disagree, and not forcing your position on others. Restated, it is respecting the freedom of people to make choices for themselves. In the western world, this has had the largest latitude possible because infringement on these freedoms was antithetical to its foundational principles, derived from a Judeo/Christian worldview.
Is there an inherent predisposition in a government's perspective on religion that dictates its position and views of education in general and of home education specifically? Well, in France today this connection is indisputable. It is critical to learn that when the language of law is left too broad, it may be argued in one context and applied in other ways when passed. We must be cognizant of this danger and discerning when reading, acting and voting.
Macron's commitment is to a secular society, which he says has the freedom to believe or not to believe, and the neutrality of the State. Yet nature abhors a vacuum and North America has witnessed within our lifetimes the removal of Christian perspectives from the school house with the promise of neutrality. Yet we do not see neutrality and some freely confess their goals, which is to promote a different religion.
"I am convinced that the battle for humankind's future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: A religion of humanity — utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to carry humanist values into wherever they teach, regardless of the educational level… The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new — the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism."  - John J. Dunphy
Some of the first schools in Canada were replicas of the schools in France – religious schools, paraphrasing some of Wikipedia's History of education in Canada. By the 1900's, the colonies started to set up a public system that was publicly funded. "Since the Second World War, (education) has been characterized by the appointment of Ministers of Education in each provincial government and a far greater involvement of government in all aspects of education." (Italics mine.)
Alberta's educational requirements, like those France espoused until now, is that where attendance at a school building has not been mandated, education itself was. Alberta Education has proudly endorsed Choice in Education and AHEA applauds the scope of choices currently available. This has included a fundamental respect for the differing perspectives of parents with regards to their cultural and religious beliefs, which you may recall was under attack just a couple of years ago.
A pre-existing constitutional mandate requires that Alberta maintain its Catholic separate school system. Alberta also has numerous private schools (properly understood as independent in other provinces), many of which have a religious perspective, and these private schools are the only group whose support is limited to 70% of the per pupil funding, and none of the other funding that government schools receive. When all of the funding streams are included, private schools get much less than 70% of what other schools receive. Religious charter schools are not allowed under our current Education Act, which reinforces a certain commitment to secularism, as this would have allowed the possibility of full funding. Home education funding is determined by the parent's choice of supervised ($850 is the parental portion of the grant) or unsupervised (zero grant dollars), and has no religious choices inferred, as parents from all cultures and beliefs are welcome to take on the responsibilities that go with this choice.
France's new home education laws are focused on eliminating this choice for most of their families. An online website to help French families called Parent Concept explains how this will start affecting them this year, as well as what the criteria to home educate will be in the future. "On 23 July 2021, a new law was passed which significantly restricts the choice to homeschool in France from the 2024 - 2025 school year. It states that: Homeschooling (IEF) will only be authorized for reasons of health, disability, artistic or sports practice, family homelessness, remoteness of an establishment, and also in the event of a "situation specific to the child motivating the educational project." … A transition period is planned until the 2024-2025 school year."
Similar to the language that we read weekly now in Canada, "Some lawmakers have already warned that they will file a motion with France's Constitutional Council to verify that the new measures comply with the French Constitution, meaning that some could be struck down.". Laws are being changed and our Canadian Charter rights ignored at an alarming rate, with not enough regard for current damage and future consequences. Canada, and the rest of the world, seems to be engulfed in a time of great flux and we would be wise to realize that we should assume nothing is unchangeable or safe in this climate.
Remember that old saying about trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer? Students of history can think of many times where the proposed solution created more problems than it solved. Sometimes this is unintentional. However, there are many examples where a slight of hand has one issue being waved before the eyes while another goal is really what is being pursued.
Let's learn a lesson from France, pay attention to what President Macron has said, and resist being forced into a melting pot of sameness. Home education in and of itself is not a threat to France's freedom or as a country. North American freedoms have produced great things. This, in no small part, due to the commitment to a morality and ethical belief in personal freedoms that is tied to a Judeo/Christian worldview. We would do well to remember that freedom is a promise, with great blessings, when it is foundational. AHEA is committed to these principles and to defending your freedom to home educate – that's a promise too. Let's support each other in the times ahead. History is a good teacher if we listen.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.2 Corinthians 3:17
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.Galatians 5:1
 John J. Dunphy, The Humanist (Jan/Feb 1983) A Religion For A New Age