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In 2016 Routledge published an article by Phillippe Bongrand who argued that there was a large enough connection between the lack of knowledge parents have regarding their lawful option to home educate, and the language and framing that occurred in the French Parliament during educational debates. He called this gap between what parents know and how policy makers have carefully avoided or “eclipsed” the notion of home education, ‘Social Production of Ignorance’.
Daniel Kleinman describes the social production of ignorance as the ignoring of “what we do not know” by those in a position to regulate, legislate and develop policy for change. Garrett M . Broad discusses the social production of ignorance and urges “scholars of communication and the environment …[to] be interested in in how mediated depictions shape what we do and do not know…” Kleinman introduces the ideas and terminology of Robert Proctor who used the term agnotology to describe the cultural production of ignorance; one of the forces driving the development and acknowledgement of non-knowledge can be the “strategic ploys that actively and often mischievously, construct ignorance” – such as careful language choice during political debates surrounding sensitive topics such as home education.
Going back to Bongrand’s work, it seems obvious that if parents (in France and the UK) remain unaware that schooling (sending children to a school building to be taught by a trained teacher) is in fact not a legal requirement; parents do not have to use schools to educate their children. In France parents are simply asked to provide instruction and in the UK:
‘The parent of every child of compulsory school age has a legal duty to ensure that he (or she) receives efficient full-time education suitable to his (or her) age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs he may have either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.’
In Scotland, parents must “provide efficient education for him suitable to his age, ability and aptitude either by causing him to attend a public school regularly or by other means.”
Parents have a legal right to choose an alternative to public or private schooling by home educating their children, however, that right can only be more than Bongrand’s “ghost right” if parents are aware that schooling is not a legal requirement and that they have a choice or option available to them. It is likely, based on the social media responses of parents during the 2020 lockdown, that most parents were unaware of the alternate educational option open to them.
Although home education has been discussed and debated far more often by politicians and policy makers in the past 10 years, the language they choose to use arguably assists in the “eclipse” of home education in favour of school improvements and increased teacher training numbers. It is difficult to find any MP who has debated home education in a positive light or as a real alternative to schooling.
Bongrand, P., 2016. “Compulsory Schooling” Despite the Law: How Education Policy Underpins the Widespread Ignorance of the Right to Home Educate in France. Journal of School Choice, 10(3), pp.320-329.
Broad, G.M., 2016. Animal production, Ag-gag laws, and the social production of ignorance: Exploring the role of storytelling. Environmental Communication, 10(1), pp.43-61.
Gross, M. and McGoey, L. eds., 2015. Routledge international handbook of ignorance studies. Routledge.
Kleinman, D.L. and Suryanarayanan, S., 2013. Dying bees and the social production of ignorance. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 38(4), pp.492-517.