Domenic and the New Paradigm

Domenic and the New Paradigm

By Helen E. Lees

Domenic and his father in happier times.

The case of the parents of Domenic looks as though it is an unfolding brutal tragedy of misunderstandings. This is backed up and informed by doctoral research that I have been conducting at the University of Birmingham in the UK between 2007-2010. This research highlights empirical data on the discovery of home education and other educational alternatives, suggesting that in order to understand such a lifestyle and way of seeing education and the upbringing of children, one needs to have undergone some kind of ‘conversion’ experience. As a result, those in favor of home education who have, it seems from my research, experienced this kind of conversion, are living in ‘a different world’ from people who believe in mainstream schooling.

The philosophical understanding that underpins this idea comes from Thomas S. Kuhn, who wrote ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ in 1969. Kuhn says that when people discover a new way of doing things, they change paradigm and what results is an incommensurability of understanding and communication between those in the old world/paradigm and those in the new. My research shows home education is a ‘new’ paradigm and also that consequently- involved in education as a field with diverse options – is the problem of incommensurability: although people are talking about essentially the same thing (education), different ways of doing things means that when people have an understanding coming from a particular paradigm or ‘worldview’, they cannot easily understand other people in an alternative paradigm and with another ‘worldview’. It requires effort for people in the ‘old’ paradigm to see – literally – from the point of view of those in the ‘new’.

It seems that social services have a lack of understanding and an inability to understand home education practice and choices. They are, it seems, only seeing the situation from their own point of view. My research suggests why they might be so intractable in their views with regard to Domenic being in the care of his ‘alternative’ parents. Kuhn also talks about the strong resistance from those in the ‘old’ paradigm towards those in the ‘new’ paradigm. If we apply this to Domenic’s case, it makes some sense of the strong and continuing resistance that social services seem to have displayed against Domenic’s parents: if social services give in and return Domenic, it threatens their belief that their worldview and opinions are the ‘correct’ ones. This is a strong and world-shattering threat that must be guarded against at all costs at the level of their personal self; although it is likely to be dressed in professional language and rationale.

In the UK, there are many examples of social services having a very weak grasp of the basic concepts of home education and seeing it, as a result, as poor education. The problem of incommensurability is a global one. Of course, home educating has been highlighted through various academic research to constitute another (personally and socially positive) way of life, so it is not just about education. It is also about lifestyle. If a mother wants to follow natural medicine practices for example (a very Indian and Vedic attitude), this is a life view. It is also a life view that is valid on its own terms. If it is seen from a medical/scientistic perspective it loses validity. From following the case of Domenic Johansson being taken and kept from his parents it strikes me forcibly that what is happening is not fact based on sound judgment, but facts based on a determination to maintain validation of a particular worldview that is not and – in a democracy – cannot be allowed to be seen as the only valid worldview.

Gotland social services do not have all the answers and are not in possession of the truth. Their worldview is not the only valid one. Their facts can be seen differently. A child has the right to be brought up in the worldview of its parents and parents have the right to bring up their child in their own worldview. Using this argument, the only clause that would substantiate violation of respect for a particular worldview or paradigm of living would be substantial and substantiated profound harm to the child. I do not see any evidence of such harm having been perpetrated against Domenic by his parents. They seem, from what I have read, heard, seen, felt and personally judged, to have a solidly loving attitude and a valid worldview.

My research backs up the Johansson’s claims that the situation they are experiencing is unfair. Why is their son away from and out of their care? It doesn’t make sense from any worldview, actually. Whilst this non-sense is unfolding, Domenic, of course, is changing his worldview… Domenic’s parents are having to agree to change theirs. A dominance in perspective creates totalitarianism at the level of personal choice. A democracy is founded on personal choice. Adherence to a worldview – for anyone – is not secured by taking children from their parents.

Helen E. Lees

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Meet a little boy removed from his family
simply because they chose to exercise
their legal right to home school.
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