A few days ago I received an email from Tunya Audain, a Canadian libertarian and home education activist. I have no way to corroborate her anecdote, but if true it is remarkable. In my book I explain how Holt’s encounter with Ivan Illich’s CIDOC in 1970 in Mexico was transformative. Audain’s account, which I reproduce here exactly as she sent it to me, sheds further light on this transformation:
The Birth of the Home Education Movement – 1972 – Mexico
I remember people ardently ranting and raging against oppressive compulsory schooling. About poverty and the thwarted aspirations of the poor. About the escalation of schooling as destructive as the escalation of weapons. About school and medical systems showing declining results as more money was being poured in …
These were the heady discussions students and academics enjoyed at CIDOC (Center for Intercultural Documentation) in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in the Spring and Summer of 1972. Deinstitutionalization was the main theme.
I had just completed teacher training at Ottawa Teachers College and was there (two young daughters in tow) to listen to the lectures of Ivan Illich who had just published the book Deschooling Society.
His ideas had already spread via many articles in magazines and book reviews. His complete book is available, all short 116 pages, for reading online or downloading at
If you dare comprehend the book, you will be a different person.
“School is obligatory and becomes schooling for schooling’s sake: an enforced stay in the company of teachers.”
“Unquestionably, the educational process will gain from the deschooling of society even though this demand sounds to many schoolmen like treason to the enlightenment. But it is enlightenment itself that is now being snuffed out in the schools.”
“Two centuries ago the United States led the world in a movement to disestablish the monopoly of a single church. Now we need the constitutional disestablishment of the monopoly of the school.”
These words were spoken way before we had online education. If people pride themselves now on the advances of this technological magic, just read the chapter of 40 years ago, “Learning Webs”. “Everywhere the hidden curriculum of schooling initiates the citizen to the myth that bureaucracies guided by scientific knowledge are efficient and benevolent. … a huge professional apparatus of educators and buildings which in fact restricts the public’s chances for learning … It should use modern technology to make free speech, free assembly, and a free press truly universal and, therefore, fully educational.”
Illich was a priest, a philosopher, an inspired prophet. He laced his talks with Greek myths and poetry. When we heard his version of how Prometheus tricked the gods out of their monopoly of fire, we tried to project that concept to health, education, welfare and other fields monopolized by the state.
Neither Illich nor any of our discussions ever conceived of the notion of home education as a movement, though we frequently talked about home care of the sick. It was not till I had a discussion with John Holt, the author of such books as “How Children Learn” and “How Children Fail” that the movement toward home education started to percolate.
So, one morning, beneath a heavily-laden mango tree from which John partook, this was our conversation:
John: Now that you have completed teacher training, where are you going to teach?
Tunya: I didn’t get training to teach in a school. I took it to teach my own children.
J: Is it legal?
T: Yes, I’ve studied the legislations. It’s possible across North America and England. Parents are to cause their children to obtain an education at a school or elsewhere. It’s this “elsewhere” clause that allows home education.
J: Well, at least you’re now qualified to teach them.
T: I also found out that you don’t need a qualification to teach your own children.
J. What about socialization? They’ll be different.
T: Kids should be individuals. They’ll have plenty of friends from the groups we belong to. Besides, there is a lot of negative socialization in school …
J: What if they want to go to college?
T: They will probably be strong, independent learners and will have an advantage to transfer in…
J: SMART CITY!
5 years later John Holt, who already had a large mailing list of people interested in education reform, started the Home Education Movement with his newsletter, “Growing without Schooling” and the rest is history …
Meanwhile, Dr. Raymond Moore was spreading the word amongst his mainly Christian audience (The Learning Home) and paid frequent visits to Vancouver, Canada, especially when we held Home Learning Fairs in the 80’s.
Besides jump-starting the home education movement John Holt had the wisdom and foresight to caution against the threats and antagonisms that arise from people splitting off from conventional schooling. This quote is worth posting front and center on our bulletin boards, and deserves a lot of pondering in our present day (Feb 2010):
“Today freedom has different enemies. It must be fought for in different ways. It will take very different qualities of mind and heart to save it.”
The link to my article which helped validate the movement in Canada is here: Home Education – The Third Option (1987) http://education-advisory.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/homeeducation-third-option.pdf
See also: Parent Rights and Their Children’s Education (1977) http://genuine-education-reformtoday.org/2010/04/06/parent-rights-and-their-childrens-education/
by Tunya Audain
Education Advisory http://genuine-education-reform-today.org/