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Source : Tuisonderwys Mailing List

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Asmal attacks – and two professors fail their tests

Statement by the Pestalozzi Trust legal defence fund for home education 5 October 2001

On 30th July Professor Kader Asmal published in the government gazette a notice calling for comments on his proposed national curriculum. In a surprising about turn, he and his right hand, Professor Linda Chisholm, have now launched an attack on citizens commenting on the proposals.

In an anxious statement dated 4th October (see http://pestalozzi.org/ curriculum/ Asmalattack.htm ), the two professors complain that “Christian Home Schoolers” have launched a campaign against the curriculum. This, presumably, refers to the awareness campaign initiated by the Pestalozzi Trust at the end of August to draw the attention of the public to the fact that they only have until 12th October to study the 1400 pages of the document and to comment on them. This has, according to the two professors, resulted in “…letters to the press, interventions in radio talk shows and discussions on the Internet…” They fail to mention that it has certainly resulted in many comments, from the public, in letters to the Minister.
Now: there is documented evidence that Mr Asmal’s department has been singularly ineffective in informing teachers, schools, students and parents about his intentions. Out of about 100 state schools sampled in Gauteng in the last week of September, only three had even heard about the document while only two had ever seen it.

Under the circumstances, one would have thought that his ministry would welcome our efforts to promote awareness of his proposals. One would also have hoped that the two professors would attempt to address some of the concerns raised in the letters to the department and in the media. In stead, they devote their entire statement to an attack on the Pestalozzi Trust and on the home schooling community, sketching a caricature of religious loonies.

It is well documented that , once before, the Minister has had to apologize for letting his paranoia about “Christian Conspiracies” get out of hand. It seems, however, that he has now infected poor Professor Chisholm too. A simple enquiry would confirm De Waal’s conclusions in her doctoral research last year that the majority of home schoolers choose home education, not for religious reasons, but to provide their children with a high quality education. Only 26.5% of respondents in that study indicated religious reasons as the most important reason for choosing home education. And by no means all of these are Christians.

It would seem, then, that the two professors are thoroughly ignorant about the target of their ire. In their attempt to divert attention from the matter at issue – the curriculum proposals – they even begrudge us our name, claiming: “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.”

Pestalozzi himself had this to say: "The essential purpose of my method here and elsewhere, is to make home instruction possible again…for people neglected in this respect . . . to raise every mother, whose heart beats for her children, step by step, till at last she can follow my elementary exercises by herself, and be able to use them with her children. To do this, she need in every case be but a little step in advance of the children" (Pestalozzi 1915:126)*.

Pestalozzi’s purpose was nothing less than to phase out primary schools and to replace them with home education as the most effective means to uplift entire communities of the poor and disadvantaged (Pestalozzi 1915:39). He states (Pestalozzi 1915:60): I raised myself daily more to the conviction, that it might be possible to reach the end which I mentioned above . . . to educate mothers for that to which they are eminently designed by nature; and through it, even the lowest material of ordinary school-instruction might be founded upon the results of companionable motherly instruction. I saw a universal psychological method formed, by which every father and mother who found the motive in themselves, might be put in a position to instruct their own children, and thereby obviate the imaginary necessity of cultivating teachers by costly seminaries and educational libraries for a long period.

And continues in sharp language (Pestalozzi 1915:97): I would take school instruction out of the hands of the old order of decrepit, stammering, journeymen-teachers, as well as from the new weak ones, who are generally no better for popular instruction, and entrust it to the undivided powers of Nature itself, to the light that God kindles and ever keeps alive in the hearts of fathers and mothers, to the interest of parents who desire that their children should grow up in favour with God and man.

Pestalozzi, in eloquent comment on the arrogant predecessors of our two arrogant professors, reserves his sharpest comments for “experts” who distrust and demean parents (Pestalozzi 1915:128-129):
I will not believe in them, but in the mothers of the land, and in the heart that God has put in their breast. I will declare the wretched talk, in which they throw away the people of the land as if they were the produce of a lower order of creation, a slander against the people, against nature and truth . . . Throughout my whole life, I have seen and known all kinds of such wordy men, wrapped up in systems and theories, knowing nothing and caring nothing for the people; and the individuals, who to-day slander the people in this way about this matter of education are more in this state than any others that I know.

…I will not open my mouth against the verbosity of their social dogmas…and the loveless and foolish frame of mind that they must, by their very nature, produce; but, with the greatest man who ever declared the cause of truth, of the people and of love victorious against the errors of the scribes, I will only say, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do".

Clearly, our two professors are as abysmally ignorant of the history of their own discipline as they are of the nature of home education - the fastest growing division of the education sector. As they flounder in the numerous half truths, untruths, errors and outright distortions in their statement, one is tempted to shake one’s head. It is sad that this spectacular ignorance and these silly propaganda antics should be exhibited by the two most influential policy makers on education in the country.
That, however, would be a mistake. In their statement, the two professors demonstrate four reasons why we should be very sceptical about the claims they make for their curriculum proposals:

1. In their statement, the two professors fail to address the issues raised by concerned citizens. In Gauleiter style, they viciously attack what they, misdirectedly, perceive to be the cause of their discomfort. Their attack provides an object lesson in one of the stated aims of the proposed curriculum: To use language "to assert and challenge power, to position others". “Propaganda” is the word that Hitler used for these practices.

2. What the professors achieve, sadly, is to demonstrate also that all their “skills” and “values” come to naught in the absence of plain old fashioned facts.

3. They are, however, much more effective when they rewrite the history of Pestalozzi. This corresponds directly to the dishonest manner in which their curriculum also subverts history for political expediency.

4. Finally, what their statement demonstrates is a surprisingly heavy handed intolerance of democracy. The notion that citizens may exercise their democratic rights to debate and comment on government policy seems quite foreign to our two professors. When confronted with a real life example of these democratic practices, they resort to conspiracy theories to explain it! One has to ask oneself: What exactly do they mean when they piously propose to teach our children "democratic values"?

It remains to reiterate: The Constitutional Court has ruled that the state may not impose orthodoxies of belief systems on the nation. This curriculum aims to do precisely that. The minister himself admits that "values may not be legislated". With this curriculum, the minister proposes to abuse his executive powers to achieve what legislation may not do.

In as far as this curriculum requires children to adopt and confess values prescribed by the state, the curriculum is unlawful. The only value that the state may enforce is that of abidance by the law.

For further information, see http://pestalozzi.org/curriculum or call Leendert van Oostrum (012) 330 1337

*Pestalozzi JH 1915. How Gertrude teaches her children: an attempt to help mothers to teach their own children and an account of the method. (Translated by LE Holland and FC Turner). London: George Allen & Unwin.

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