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Living Within A Lockdown

21.01.Living-Within-A-Lockdown Children are struggling with isolation, and parents are worried.

Parents have not only been processing the demands of the lockdown personally but assessing how it has been affecting their family – and more specifically, their children. The costs have been real in a multitude of ways throughout our society. And there is a very specific concern about the effects of the drawn-out lockdown on children that we need to address.

"According to pediatric disease specialist Dr. Ari Joffe, children living through the COVID-19 lockdowns are often facing family financial stress, family violence, loneliness, hunger, inactivity, and disrupted educational opportunities. This will result in "permanent profound impacts on their future quality of life, educational achievement, earning potential, lifespan, and health care utilization.""[i]

No one is living a 'normal' life – including home educators. Although we all are generally used to being together more than most families, and have likely coped better because of it, my son quipped that all the worry about home educated students not getting socialized has now become a government enforced mandate. A lack of socialization is hardly something that any home educating parent ever intends to be true, and in fact, it has been proven to be false for decades, even though the question is often still something we get asked. Studies have shown that the civic participation of adults that were home educated are higher than the comparable population.[ii] These activities do not suddenly start after they graduate, but are instilled in our children as they are brought up, covering participation areas that include political, sports, cultural, religious and community, service and more.

The lockdown mandates have been very stressful for some home educating families from the beginning due to various circumstances, but concern has been growing as the health orders have been extended from the initial two-week request. A parent's patience and desire to be a good citizen has been challenged by the isolation effects they are seeing in their children. AHEA parents are used to being able to make wise decisions about the welfare of their children. Having their ability to help them thrive curtailed, and in a way that lacked the civic process we are proud to regularly participate in, has been chaffing. Always an active population, this has now resulted in calls to their MLA's and various government offices in increasing numbers.

AHEA has been in communication with the Education Department and the Education Minister's office to highlight the concerns we have for our home education community's children. Our efforts have focused on a realistic, specific and healthy solution to this problem of isolation. Home education is a different model than the public-school model, and we require clear direction that applies to us. Interestingly, we are joined in this grey zone by another group that is being forced to experience this – public school distance learners. Therefore, we feel that there should be language that allows for different supportive learning situations. This includes more than 'a co-op,' as the current exceptions for those going to the school buildings or in school co-ops are not unquestioningly applicable to other scenarios.

AHEA has also stated that we would be unwilling to have home education families required to agree to further regulations or oversight for their children to have the freedom to interact with other children. Some families have been concerned that this is the cost that may be required to regain their ability to interact. AHEA believes in the individual, God-given responsibility of parents to do what is in the best interests of our children, and appreciate our Section 2 Charter Rights to our freedoms of peaceful assembly and association. Home education children are used to going to extra-curricular activities, music lessons, sports, clubs, and things as simple as the playground. Children of all ages need to interact, not only those in some models on a school playground.

Home education has received no covid related supports yet that AHEA is aware of. While we have been patiently waiting are response on our outstanding request for support due to the unprecedented growth, we feel that this reasonable request to address our children's social interactions is critical to see movement on shortly. We have further asked that the government speak in terms of a number of families, not a specific number of people, to accommodate different family sizes. Each family is unique and we support a range from those with a single child to those with larger families. We note that the government's guidelines in the school re-entry documents define a cohort as, "A COVID-19 cohort, also referred to as a bubble, circle, or safe squad, is a small group whose members are always the same people, and who do not always keep two meters apart. Cohorts in schools will generally be the size of one class."[iii] We need similar flexibility for our children so we can fulfill education plans made in the fall.

AHEA has been informed that the Minister and her staff at the Alberta Education department are currently working out the details to address this. They have said that they have received polite and respectful, yet firm and persistent, calls from parents. You are making a difference by reaching out to them, as well as calling your MLA's to lay the groundwork of support that is needed to ensure this is actionable.

AHEA is determined and expectant, and will be informed of a decision in short order. We are all working together to address the issue, and where there is a will there is a way. Stay tuned for the next turn in what has become our 'corporate life story,' and please continue to push for changes that will let us get back to our individual ones. It was ever so much more interesting when there was not a common narrator!


HELP US HELP YOU – SUPPORT AHEA TODAY!


[i] https://tnc.news/2021/01/17/just-the-facts-the-harms-of-the-lockdown/?fbclid=IwAR2lXGlj3BXapPxLFQKn6Eq8lHjhErtkKByXXfS8GMFufNG1jiEQPrYy9DQ

[ii] https://cche.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/2009StudyPrint-1.pdf, pg. 4

[iii] https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/41e1a5ec-7069-45cc-a3a5-6ff0b26a98a6/resource/ecf3c2c9-b3f5-4c8a-b076-0237cf95d720/download/edc-resource-guide-covid-19-cases-school-settings-2021-01.pdf pg. 5.

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Observing and Remembering Are Different

Lest-We-Forget

The lens through which we look at the world informs our decisions/actions. This year's Remembrance Day was especially poignant for that reason. As our last surviving war veterans leave us, what they risked their lives for may be leaving us too. It is said that every generation has to defend the freedoms they have inherited or fight for the freedom they want. Failure means loss. And who in our land knows what they would risk their lives for today? Our country? Our beliefs?

Observation is mostly passive. Watching a ceremony can become part of a routine that slowly, but surely, loses its meaning. The importance that something has can be underestimated when it is not on a individual level. Passivity, in either a personal or cultural sense, means a lack of resistance that may result in submissiveness, reliance and a retreat into inaction.

Remembering in itself is a personal action. It means that we have internalized something, whether we have participated directly or not. We develop a deep appreciation for the reasoning, action and the resulting cost. Our understanding means that we are willing to pay a price for something that we value.

God asked the Israelites to remember constantly. It was a multi-generational action that was to enable them to translate history into their current situation, imbibing them with the ability to react correctly on a personal level. The beauty of the Christian faith is that it inherently challenges us to think. Questions are welcomed because there are answers. And because there are answers, we can take heart.

Today we are at a serious point in history. And because we are living history, it is vital that we take the time to remember – very carefully remember – before we take action or respond in a way that is reflexive. Though each of us have our own personal history and memories to draw from, we also have our biblical and world-wide shared history to examine and recall. We should be able to read, watch, and consider information in order to come to a conclusion for ourselves and our families, and to influence what happens in our cities, province and country. We are also starting to sense, even more critically, that our action or inaction have the ability to affect things on a world-wide scale.

Censorship is a real threat today. The Government of Canada is actively seeking ways to control what you are able to see and read, in order to affect your response to politics. This censorship will deprive you of important information – information you are entitled to as a citizen in a free country. Only in a country that is in the process of losing its freedoms, or in one that is no longer free, does the government decide what you get to base your decisions on. The next step, of course, is that you will not have to consider your position at all, for it will be provided to you.

Home educators should be aware of this tendency towards censorship, as we have fought it on a provincial level in recent years. Do you recall the efforts to have the Human Rights Code instilled in the Education Act? This would have resulted in creating an expectation about what you could teach that may have conflicted with what you explained on a personal belief level to your children. Do you recall the efforts to dictate to the independent Christian schools that they could not use biblical language in their policies? Many home educating families, who notified with these schools that had to go to court to defend their right to hold and/or teach from a religious perspective, will remember this significant battle. Yes, the threat to freedom is real in our own province.

Anyone, including home educators, who thinks that they need not concern themselves with life outside their home is committing a grave error in judgement. "Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean that politics won't take an interest in you," said Pericles. Edward R. Murrow was blunter, "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves." We do ourselves, and our community, a disservice by disengaging. This is true in the normal day-to-day, and even more so in a time of unease, strain, change and crisis. Now is when we must do our best work to affect governmental responses and to see that our interests are preserved and protected.

AHEA has long stood as an independent voice for home educating families in the province of Alberta. Within the education community, we have a 35-year history of speaking up for families that are affected by government action. This has allowed us to advocate for positive change and to resist the negative. We must never forget that ongoing actions are constantly required in both circumstances. And we must constantly be preparing for next steps, because there are always other groups preparing theirs.

Your direct connection with AHEA is critical to our ability to protect and speak up for your interests. The home educating family that supports AHEA's work through donations enables us to provide a voice for their interests. You can observe the work being done, or you can remember what is being done by internalizing and seeing how you are directly affected by this work… And remembering will lead to action. We need your direct financial support today, so that we can continue to support the work you do each and every day in your home. Please see our website for information on work being done on your behalf and to make a donation to keep our voice loud and strong. We need you just as much as you need us!

God gave you the rights that we are all endowed with, and men died for the freedoms you have enjoyed. Let us ensure that we work hard to have an informed, nuanced, biblical and educated perspective in order to take appropriate actions today. We need to remember and take action, instead of just being observers. 

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“We’re All in This Together, Right?” - Respecting the Freedom to Choose -

We're All in This Together, Right?

It has been interesting to see more people being news-watchers lately, since people-watching has fallen out of fashion. We were already used to slogans being used by companies to try to make us believe something or other about their product and convince us that we cannot live without it. Critical thought being applied to sloganeering was in vogue in many circles, as it should have been in all. However, recent events have taken this type of communication to a whole new level.

Daily repetition of anything makes it hard to process. Reservations that you may initially have had are submerged below the constant restatement of information by the press or others ad nauseum, until it seems that you must be the only one questioning the message. And that is only looking at the bald face of it. What of the intent, purpose and result of the message which may not be obvious? Do you even have time to think it through between hearings?

There are two things I think we need to consider as we realize there is a challenge with the current day's messaging. Then, I'd like to address the costs that we are seeing and how they relate to home education. We need to be awake, aware, and well-informed citizens.

Propaganda Has Never Gone Out of Style

We are too often ignorant of the propaganda which constantly surrounds us and its varying levels of access and success. Currently we have reached an interesting point in the history of the free world, as we see the government using the 'free press' as a proxy to carry a government's message. We have seen the government issue bailout packages to press that are carrying the 'right message' and withhold funding from those who carry the counter-cultural message. Not that these groups would even accept funding from the government because it makes them vulnerable to influence and they wish to be free, and seen as free, from any obligation to toe a party line.

Where the free press used to be the watchdog of government and act in the assumed interest of the people, it has slowly transformed into a producer of opinion-driven news articles which do not hide their biases. When I was a child in school, we were taught to eliminate the bias from our factual writing, and save our opinions for the proper assignment. This was the mandate of journalism, but even journalists have seen this as a professional debate. As journalist Jen Gerson observed in an article published in Nov. 2018 titled 'Canada's media bailout will weaken trust in journalism. We should reject it.' "How this system is expected to strengthen press freedom, I have no idea. From what I can see, it will only lead to a national professional standard or credential that will inevitably centralize control over the media in a country where the media is already profoundly consolidated." Sadly, the ones getting the money, and more likely to survive, are those who have compromised.

So how can you spot propaganda? There was a book written in 1965 by Jacques Ellul called Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes that was partially covered in a 2015 article called 8 Frightening Characteristics of Propaganda on Intellectual Takeout's website. I'd suggest that you take the time to read it to understand how each of the eight characteristics mentioned are used. However, here is the short list – see what is all too familiar.

Propaganda:

  1. Prevents dialogue – no time for details, excludes contradiction.
  2. Focuses on the mass – an isolated unit presents too much resistance to external action.
  3. Is total – utilize all technical means of media at their disposal.
  4. Takes over education – no contrast to propaganda. Utilize to condition to what comes later.
  5. Takes over literature and history – rewritten (past and present) according to need.
  6. Must be subtle at first – seeks to create a favorable preliminary attitude before direct prompting.
  7. Must be nonstop – eliminate outside points of reference, filling a citizen's whole, and all, days.
  8. Aims at irrational action – the aim of modern propaganda is to provoke action not modify ideas.

Please note that this list is not new, nor is the objective observation on the subject matter. The use, and the effectiveness, of propaganda is very, very real, and left unchecked, it is a world-changer. Spotting it, and calling it what it is, gives us the ability to think outside a rapidly shrinking box that prohibits free thought. This is critical to preserving what we hold as personally important, as all things become subject to government objectives instead of personal objectives.

Freedoms Are at Stake

There have been numerous articles that highlight the rapid changes coming provincially, federally and internationally. But we must realize that this didn't just start. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has a section on their home page titled "Freedom Under Attack – Canadians Tell Their Stories" where you can watch videos going back to 2013. There is also a section now dedicated to Covid-19 and Constitutional Concerns, which means that within the last two months there has been an extreme uptick in Constitutional concerns that warrant legal attention. And the team at the JCCF is not alone, as there other firms just as busy, and alarms being sounded from numerous sectors. As I write on May 3rd I count four hundred and fifty five (455) separate emergency measures that have been enacted and are being tracked on this site, or you could follow this Repository of Canadian Covid-19 Emergency Orders. One of the best articles I've read lately that lays out the need to stand for freedoms is by a law professor named Bruce Pardy titled Even During a Pandemic, the Needs of the Many Do Not Outweigh the Rights of the Few. He states that "Rights protect individuals from the whims of public opinion."

Home educators can relate to this, as our decision to educate our children at home has never been that of the majority. The right to home educate relies on the other rights we have under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 2 of the Charter outlines the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Given that every freedom challenged puts the others at risk, it is beholden on us to support them all, for our own sake. In this spirit I say that no matter our personal opinion on different topics, we need to see that freedom truly is being threatened and this issue deserves our most sincere support if we want to see our home education rights survive in the scrum freedoms are now involved in.

A Cautionary Tale

"It has been pointed out that very different events took place in France and England in the latter decades of the eighteenth century. The French Revolution was a revolution of power. The French citizens drove out the aristocratic rascals and put their own leaders in. But the Age of Reason gave birth to the Reign of Terror and finally led to the tyranny of the Napoleonic era. At about the same time, when England could have fallen into a parallel situation, the Wesleyan and Whitefield revivals took place. As the Word of God had its sway in the hearts of thousands and thousands of people, instead of violence and bloodshed, a moral transformation of the land eventually expressed itself in the laws and culture. But those changes did not happen in the world's way."[i]

A friend shared an observation on that quote and how it relates to our current situation. "These are two concepts of liberty. France was the god of reason. England was liberty of conscience as bestowed by the God of the Bible. France's path results in bloodshed and we are treading that path again."

I would advocate for the moral transformation that is possible when we have the personal liberty to teach our children our values. I would advocate for us being able to speak in the public square with all of the conviction that having a biblical basis for our conviction allows us, and that we speak not just for ourselves but for our fellow man. I implore us to not be passively apathetic or fatalistic, as action is surely the point of being the hands and feet. I pray that during this time, when we are living history instead of studying it, that we will set an example for our children in doing what we ought. What we can do, as we are each called, is to be the voice of faithful confidence in our circles, knowing that God holds our lives and days in His hands, and thus we need not be afraid of anything.

                                                   "Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90: 12)


[i] James Montgomery Boice, The Life of Moses: God's First Deliverer of Israel, p. 47. 

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Shawna Sundal
A follow-up article for those who are interested, where propaganda is referred to as another epidemic - the virus of the social ne... Read More
Monday, 25 May 2020 00:10
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