Coercion and choice

Babies and small children have an enormous desire to learn things and find out. Later on in life, this 'learning' will often become a separate thing from their everyday life, an attitude which school encourages. With home education, it is possible to prevent that and ensure that 'learning', 'play' and 'everyday life' do not become separate and distinct things. This longing to learn is rather like a mighty river. We do not create it, let alone make it happen through any external coercion! All that we do is guide it into various directions; harness it if you will. All parents do this, even those most devoted to the principle of autonomous education. Whether a child watches television and learns the names of the tellytubbies, or if she is given huge letters to play with and learns their names, the direction of her learning will be dictated by the environment in which she grows up. Giving her free choice is an illusion. Her choices are made within the context of the environment which we as parents have chosen to make for her. if there are plenty of attractive children's books on a low bookshelf within easy reach of a baby, then she might choose to take a book and look at it. if there are no books in the house, then that choice is denied her. Or perhaps there are books, but they are expensive books like encyclopaedias, which are kept out of reach and can only be looked at under supervision of the parents. If the television is left on all day, then she may gravitate towards it in preference to other activities. This too is an environment which has been created for her by the parents.

In other words, giving a child free choice in learning and the activities which she chooses can only be done within the environment which her parents have chosen for her. Since we create the environment; it is we who dictate her choices, or at least the range of her choices. This is rather analogous to the Marxist view that the political consciousness of the masses is dictated by their living conditions and the society in which they find themselves. They are not really free to make sensible choices. Even the most autonomously educated child is being moulded and guided by her parents into the directions which they hope she will take. This is done by ensuring that her very consciousness is shaped by the environment which they have engineered to this end.