Douglas Gresham, stepson of the author of the Chronicles of Narnia books, speaks to Sarah Carabott on the benefits of home-schooling, as part of a campaign by parents to save their children from academic pressure.
“Most often, children in schools are not educated but rather trained to become a brain surgeon or an assembly-line factory worker.
“They would know how to complete a brain surgery or assemble the products perfectly, but they would find it hard to change a bulb or fix the kitchen tap,” Douglas Gresham told this newspaper.
Mr Gresham is a writer, broadcaster, actor, record producer and, most notably, film co-producer of his stepfather C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia books.
“As my stepfather would say: education and learning is for human beings, training is for slaves,” he said, adding that he knows of people, including a trained teacher, who emigrated from Malta as they were not allowed to home-school their children here.
A group of parents in Malta were “promised” in 2014 the inclusion of home education in a new education law.
However, two years on, it is still not legal to home-school children, and a ministry spokesman told this newspaper that provisions on home-schooling would be included in the public consultation document on the new law. Parents who want to home-school their children are asking for an amnesty until then.
Mr Gresham, who lives in Malta, was not home-schooled, but he believes he was educated at home by the people he lived with, including his mother and stepfather. His interest in home education started brewing some 30 years ago, when he was cruising along the coast of Australia with his wife.
Education and learning is for human beings, training is for slaves
While out at sea, they met fellow cruising couples whose kids were “astonishingly bright, socialised and well-conversed with adults and their peers”.
When he enquired about their education, he was told they were home-schooled by their parents on board their yachts.
Mr Gresham, whose grandchildren are home-schooled, believes that placing a young child in a classroom with 30 more children of their age kicks off an antagonistic relationship between the student and their teacher that could be detrimental to their education.
Mr Gresham notes that one thing they definitely learnt at school was to copy their peers. “One child puts his hat sideways, the other child puts it sideways. And that becomes the right thing. Whoever doesn’t put his hat sideways is misbehaving.” Asked about competition, which boosts some students’ development, Mr Gresham said: “All competition is evil: there is one winner and several hurt losers.”
He believes that cooperation, rather than competition, should be encouraged.
For him, the ideal Olympic sport would be one in which all runners have to arrive at the same finish line, at exactly the same time, in the shortest possible time. The fast ones would have to help the slower ones.
Sadly, society is crumbling under the weight of maximising profit through competition, he says. Mr Gresham admits that home-schooling is not for all parents, and there should be some form of monitoring the children’s achievements.
There are exceptions, he says, but the average parent would be better at teaching his child than the average teacher, noting that while a teacher was trained to teach, a parent did it out of love for the child.
What is Mr Gresham getting out of his advocacy in favour of home-schooling?
“I’m supporting something important. I’m deeply distressed about the standards of education worldwide.
“Malta has one of the better ones, but it could do better. I don’t think schools are the best way to teach children. Schools should be for fish, not human beings.”