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Professor Kader Asmal, MP
Minister of Education

Prof Linda Chisholm, Chair of Ministerial Project Committee to Streamline and Strengthen Curriculum 2005

4 October 2001

A campaign is being mounted against the Revised National Curriculum Statement. In letters to the press, interventions in radio talk shows and discussions on the Internet, the National Curriculum Statement is presented as an attack on the constitution and a totalitarian imposition of a Marxist-inspired form of indoctrination. This bizarre campaign requires some comment. It emanates from the Pestalozzi Trust: Legal Defence Fund for Home Schooling and requires knowing who the Pestalozzi Trust is and what its main aims and goals are.

The Pretoria-based Pestalozzi Trust Home Schooling movement was founded in 1998. It is supported by the Home School Legal Defence Association in the USA and has links with a range of international fundamentalist Christian groupings (http://www.pestalozzi.org).

The main criticisms of the Revised National Curriculum Statement center on the involvement of the state in education and interfaith religious education. The Social Sciences and Life Orientation Learning Area Statements come under particularly sharp attack. The Life Orientation Learning Area Statement requires learners to learn about and compare different religions and worldviews in order to promote understanding of society and its different communities. This the Home Schoolers find objectionable. Why? What do they want instead?

The South African Home Schoolers promote religious rather than secular education. They want schooling to take place at home rather than in state-provided schools. They also promote the use of 'the Theocentric Christian Education System'. In this system, 'the primary purpose of education is to get to know God and His creation, so that we can better serve him. This is in sharp contrast to the humanistic view of education, which is to use education as a tool for social engineering.' (http://www.grobler.co.za) In this view, learning about and understanding differences and similarities between religions is the worst abomination.

The Home School curriculum is guided by the goals of the US-based Home School Legal Defense Association. Home schooling is the vehicle through which families will be able 'to teach what really matters: knowing Jesus as their Saviour and obeying Him as Lord?. Home schooling on the foundation of the Word of God will bring blessings to the nations around the world.' (http://www.kansashomeschool.org)

The Constitution of South Africa stands for the separation of Church and State. It also stands for the right to education to be guaranteed by the state. Home Schoolers argue against both. They want a theocratic education system based in Christian education regardless of the separation of Church and State and regardless of the reality of religious and cultural diversity in the country and the rights of all religious communities in it. They cannot abide learning about the religious beliefs and practices of those who do not share their own. As such, their aims and goals are unconstitutional.

Little wonder that their views are those of a minority. They are not shared by the major religious organisations and leaders in the country who have been part and parcel of formulating the approach taken to the education of religion in our schools.

The substance of their critique is as perverse as naming themselves the Pestalozzi Trust. Pestalozzi promoted child-centred popular education. He was a forerunner of basic general education for the poor before, during and after the French Revolution. For Pestalozzi, education was a natural right rather than a religious necessity. It was aimed at serving the ends of social reform, rather than narrow minority interests. His name fits badly on an organisation that stands for the opposite of what he promoted.

The perversity of the critique is found in a strange inversion of the truth. The curriculum is accused of being 'an assault on the Constitution' when in fact the aims and goals that are promoted by Home Schoolers are unconstitutional.

The curriculum is accused of promising freedom but eradicating alternative choices, of promoting critical thinking but imposing a 'philosophical straitjacket on thought,' of indoctrination through the specification of outcomes for education. When we consider what the Home Schoolers want we might well question who wishes to eradicate choice, who wishes to impose a straightjacket and who wishes to eliminate critical thinking. We would say the Home Schoolers.

The curriculum is criticized for being value-based, for promoting human rights and cultural diversity: these broad, humane values all amount to 'imposition' of 'Asmal's values' on the Home Schoolers.

It is unconstitutional and not possible for the state to relinquish responsibility for education. The state has a constitutional obligation to ensure the right of all to education, to promote liberty, equality, dignity and respect for all through its schools and, as such, to promote the broadest understanding and knowledge of all religions in our society and the world. Home Schoolers should not attempt to impose their loony, paranoid and perverse ideas on the nation.

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