Sunday, July 20, 2008

Judgement in the Harrison Case

Judge (1977)

"It is, in my view, for me to construe the Act; not for us to accept evidence of others as to its meaning. I propose to construe the word EDUCATION as meaning "The development of mental powers and character and the acquisition of knowledge through the imparting of skills and learning by systematic instruction".

We are told that educationalists recognise two broad approaches to education:- (1) the "transmissive" (which should describe as didactic) and (2) the "autonomous" method or self-directed study, in which a child is permitted to pursue its own interests. Be that as it may, in our judgment, 'education' demands at least an element of supervision; merely to allow a child to follow its own devices in the hope that it will acquire knowledge by imitation, experiment, or experience in its own way and in its won good time is neither systematic nor instructive. We adopt the view of Mrs Bromley that such a course would be not education but, at best, child-minding.

The Appellants' children are, and have been, allowed to follow their own interests and to investigate subjects largely of their own choice without restriction. They have not, however, so we think, been simply left to their own devices. The overwhelming impression left by the evidence is that the children are always engaged in concentrated and creative activity or study, and that, idleness or ineffectiveness would simply not be tolerated. On the evidence, we conclude that despite the fact of formulation or structure, these children have received and are receiving education capable of [?] recognition as the autonomous method, and which can properly be described as systematic and which is certainly "full-time".

In this system of education "efficient"? A system in my judgment (and I so direct the Court) is "efficient" if it achieves what which it sets out to achieve. By that test, the evidence that the education of these children is "efficient" is all one way."

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