Letter to Tanya Byron, Times

ref to this

Dr Byron:
I was a little saddened by your advice to the school refusing teenager today: the standard response to a young person, obviously in deep distress at being forced to attend an institution against her will, is to treat her as having a mental disorder.
Is it not more likely that it is in fact an understandable, rational decision to do all in her power to avoid a toxic environment? Perhaps as the establishment of an adult, self actualized individuality, rather than irrational sulking?
Typifying parents who keep school refusing children at home as “anxious, depressed or lonely” is also deeply unhelpful: an parent worth their salt would be anxious to have a child in this situation, which may lead to depression. The characterisation of such parents as “lonely” is also stereotypical, and in no way reflects my experience of home educating parents, who are most often gregarious and happy with their decision to remove their children from an instituion which so oftern works against their best interests.
I admit, I have a dog in this fight, as I’m on the committee of a national home education organisation; my partner and I have home educated our children for four years now, and can see that they are growing into knowledgable, likeable, social people, free from the artificial anxieties of a system designed to pressurize, demean, categorize and oppress children into becoming malleable adults.
The system of densitisation, rewards and punishments suggested treats the child as no more than a disobedient servant, or possibly pet, that needs to be re-trained into “correct behaviour”, with little or no recognition that her concerns may be entirely rational.
The problem is not, as you collude with the parents, with the child, it is with the assumption that school is both compulsory and desirable.
I can recommend that anyone involved with school refusal reads “Can’t Go, Won’t Go” by Mike Fortune-Wood , and that before recommending dealing with school refusal by medicalisation, you take a look at the research into the difference in outcomes of forced schooling and home education.
Yours Sincerely,
Peter Darby


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