Monday, 8 March 2010
It made me reflect that the veneer of freedom is quite thin. As in Bill Hicks' ride, people get taken in by the lights, the sounds, but if you try to step off the designated tracks, then Houston, we have a problem. However, the veneer of power can also be thin; they don't have as much authority over Charlie, Danny and the rest of us as they think they do, or think they should, at least not this time.
The deeper you delve, it gets hard to work out who ultimately holds the power. Ultimately, we are all free sovereign beings, born with the wonderful capacity for the infiniteness of human being. I'm only now finding out about all of the Freeman movement, but however you twist it there are people who seek to obscure the facts of our freedom from us. A minority of people do very well from the majority of us doing things that are often not in our interest.
No telly in our house (well there is a telly, but it has sat there not working for almost a year...), so tonight I am back on the Parliament transmissions on t'internet to watch the 2nd reading of the CSF Bill in the House of Lords. We are reminded that it is they in parliament who make the rules for us (doffs cap). We are reminded that the issue of home education will return as LAs (paid for from our taxes, to support us) will not be happy. If they can't contain themselves within their role, they should be disbanded and people employed who understand the remit of providing support where requested, and intervention only when needed. Their ultra vires behaviour shouldn't be enshrined into law! We are told off by Lord Soley for being rather passionate about the relentless attacks against us, which spills out of the corridors of westminster and into the pages of the BBC, and other media. Passionate? Yes, yes we are passionate. This isn't small-fry for us; essentially our whole way of living, of negotiating as a family, of relating as equals, is laid open for people to poke and decide if we can determine our own way of living. We've seen a couple of these people, in positions of 'power' over us, blog about us and what to do about us, without understanding who we are. Now, I tune in to the broadcast from the House of Lords, and find about a dozen of them have actually turned up. Of those who see something is amiss, most of them nonetheless don't quite understand what we do, or why we might make these decisions. Yet we are to accept our fate being in their hands, and hope they either look kindly on us, or just run out of time...
As I type, Lord Soley is saying bullied children should be kept in the school where they are being bullied, that anyone with depression cannot home educate properly, that all HE children could only benefit from more state involvement in their lives, that regulation is needed and will happen at some point, that Badman seems a reasonable fellow, a throwing-into-the-ring of the National Curriculum, the old chestnut that there is a divide between the rights of the child and the rights of the parents (we don't have rights, we have duties, haven't we been over this?!). Wonderful. With friends like these...
[Lord Lucas, doesn't disappoint. But for Deech, it seems this doesn't go far enough, bless her.]
Wednesday, 3 March 2010
We had four good speakers covering various issues: why the claims of higher rates of CPPs and NEETs are flawed; the specific risks for SEN children of being treated in this proposed way; the remarkable way that children can thrive when freed from coercion and boundaries; the inherent difficulties for families further from an LA's model of 'suitable home education', so those who learn in autonomous and/or unstructured ways, those without the money for private tutors or laptops etc. Jane Lowe described the current witch-hunt as "educational McCarthyism", fittingly.
The reception? Well, about ten lords/ladies were there. Lord Soley persists in addressing us as a group, which is frustrating because we're not a group, we're just lots of parents who've made a similar choice, we don't have a spokesman, there's no pool of taxpayers money for us to travel about, just lots of committed parents.
Another Lord raised the possibility of families who were not native English speakers, and how if home educated their children would be part of society. Imran Shah eloquently noted that in his house he speaks Urdu to his children, but they speak mostly speak English, and indeed his own English is now better than his Urdu. Imran pointed out that in case law, a suitable education is defined as being one the prepares you for the society in which you live, without foreclosing other options, which the environment Imran's family provides clearly does. Many seem not to grasp, the move towards home education isn't one to isolate you from the society around you, it's to more fully be a part of it. Any HE family can tell you what wonderful opportunities to live and learn are opened up if you free up the hours of nine to three.
In response to another point, Chloe Watson reminded the assembled that there is already adequate legislation in place to step in when there is a problem, it just needs to be applied properly and consistently. To look at all the innocent people and make them prove they're innocent, well, you can no more *prove* there's no cause for concern, than you can *prove* you're not a shoplifter. We should operate from a position of freedom, that is only constrained to the extent required to preclude injury to others, or to put it another way we have all freedoms except those that are taken, whereas this Bill reverses that to an underlying principle of us having no freedoms except those which are granted to us. I'd recommend Bastiat's essay, The Law, 160 years old and French, but incredibly relevant here and now. Bastiat observes:
Which are the happiest, the most moral, and the most peaceable nations? Those where the law interferes the least with private activity; where the Government is the least felt; where individuality has the most scope, and public opinion the most influence
Baroness Deech is a curious fish. She blogs about HE, she comes to the APPG on HE, but she seems wary of actually engaging with HE or the people who do it. She expounds the Labour love for children's rights, disingenuous as it seems essentially to be the right of the state to determine what is best for the child. What if your child wanted to go to school, she asks. Well then they could go, but they'd go fully informed and of their own volition. In this light, some children do choose the more coercive environment of school for their own ends, knowing they can leave once their ends are met. HE always seems to have to prove itself to these people - do the children really want to not be at school, is the family safe, is the education like and slightly ahead of school? Always the higher standard to be accepted. Besides, we don't ask all school-going kids if they're happy to go to school, do we? "I should think not!" was her parting shot as she left, to incredulity and unanswered questions. Kelly Green actually addressed this ahead of the meeting:
Or, as another parent put it, “I haven’t, to the best of my knowledge, actually met any home educated children who don’t have a say in the choice of whether to go to school or be educated outside of school. However, I’ve met plenty of school children who are less than happy with their families chosen educational arrangements.”
That is the crucial, and obvious question. You can’t eliminate time-honored civil liberties, like the privacy of the family home, for one particular segment of the population. You can’t select one group to “protect” more than others.
Why are the human rights of home educated children so very special, when the rights of children at school are not considered at all? Why is it that parents who send their children to school are deemed to be protecting their children’s rights, regardless of the child’s opinions, regardless of if the child is bullied, regardless of whether or not the child’s needs are actually being met, but parents who choose to take full responsibility for their own children’s education are not?
Oh right, I forgot. The state runs the schools, and schools create lots of economic activity. They also create a nice little platform for indoctrination – by the state. So, no problem with human rights violations then.
Chloe Watson ducked out after Deech to ask if they could meet. "We've already met, thanks" was as far as she could get. We're a friendly bunch, lords and ladies, I think we'll be staying in touch!
Sunday, 28 February 2010
It is sad, if not surprising given their track record, how institutions like the BBC allow themselves to be conduits for PR for the Government, and to whip up hostility towards a section of society. It is sad how people allow themselves to be swept along by misinformation. Sad that Birmingham are spending public money on an £800-a-day PR man to spin the blame away from those to blame. Sad that some people are happy to pass into law a bill that is poorly researched, will harm many but only hypothetically help anyone, spend hundreds of millions on a monitoring scheme that offers no actual support, breaking something that doesn't need fixing.
The TES is opposed to HE - and proper journalistic investigation appears to go out of the window when there's a chance to protect their professional interests by denigrating those who choose otherwise than school. My response to the article:
"Oh come on, I know the TES is not very HE-friendly but this is silly! You do realise you are parroting the DCSF press release here right? Did you not think to research these figures - the methodology, who is collecting the figures and what their professional interests are, how the figures are analysed, that an apparent cluster of 'unsuitable education' may be down to the hostility of that LA more than anything else. I have nothing against schools or teachers, nor by home educating do I plan to follow a 'school at home only better' approach, but to say that only 2 percent of school education is inadequate seems inconsistent with the fact that far more than 2 percent stuggle with literacy and numeracy, and far far fewer than 98 percent gain the oft-touted 5 good GCSEs.
Also, and excuse any inaccuracies here, but my understanding is that it is the legal responsibility of parents (or carers) to provide their child's education, and they may do so by ensuring regular attendance at school, or otherwise. By this token it makes sense for OFSTED to inspect schools to ensure that the duty delegated to them by parents is being met properly. OFSTED have no business in home education - who is answering to who here? OFSTED should inspect parent to ensure that the parents are satisfied that they themselves are providing a good education?! Many home educating families do not follow school-type approaches. They don't legally have to. Nor are such approaches logistically necessary: a family will only have a few children, not groups of thirty; learning isn't constrained to lessons between nine and three, and can encompass any situation where the child is discovering new skills or knowledge; the parents know the child and their needs and there isn't the same need for a child to produce written work to satisfy an external agency they have learnt something, instead the child owns their learning and can continue until they feel satisfied; in not having to meet the differing skills, abilities, interests and background of a large group of children, the learning can be as broad or as narrow as is needed at that moment. Children, of course, thrive on this one-on-one, individualised, self-owned learning, and I believe Paula Rothermel's research put the average home educated child on the 85th centile on various measurements.
The Government presses ahead - yes, that's one way of putting it. The statistics have been discredited by the determination of individuals pursuing FoI requests, the Select Committee was scathing of the haste, sloppiness, misquoting, and bullishness of the Badman report and subsequent legislating, and that's a Select Committee led by a Labour MP! Debate has been truncated, concerns ignored, figures stuck to long after they've been proved wrong, impact assessments underplay many of the costs and much of the likely damage, the voice of many thousands of home educating families with real experience here has been brushed aside...
You also show an appalling class bias in the quote from Brian Hogg, in suggesting that only well off families who can afford laptops and private tuition fare well in home education. This is not so, families of all backgrounds HE, with incredible success - in fact, those on lower incomes often outperform those on higher incomes.
What the article really should say is that 90% of home educated children are, as far as the LA is concerned, receiving a suitable education. The other 10% includes families they haven't seen, those who have legitimately felt they wouldn't gain from increased LA contact, those who don't follow a school-type curriculum (they don't have to), those who see education as permeating life and not constrained to 9-2, and those unfortunate enough to live in areas where just about all home educators are seen as problematic.
There's legislation in the pipeline that will undermine tens of thousands of children's successful educations, cost hundreds of millions we can ill afford diverting from the true problems, reverse the balance of power from individual to state, and offers no tangible support to anyone. Let's have journalism that rises above repetition of government PR, consoling as that PR may be to those with a vested interest in transmissive, school-based models of education."
So. We fight on. Some will have had their prejudices stoked up against us, but plenty are already alert to the terrible-ness of the CSF Bill generally, and won't be taken in by spin. Let's hope the Lords, and increasing numbers of commentators, journalists, bloggers and the public are in the latter camp and have their eyes open.
We will not be your scapegoats, Balls, and our freedoms are not yours for the taking. Shame on you.
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Anyhoo, commenters had used the terms "my children" or "our children", as you do, to then be admonished that they're not possessions, you know.
"There is another point I want to emphasise here. It is that we all refer to ‘our’ children or ‘my’ child. They are our children but they are not our possessions."
Did anyone say they were possessions? I think the point of the usage is that they, the parents, have the child's individual interest at heart in a way the state never will.
"Our child" because that defines our relationship to her, in the same way as we are 'her' parents
"Our child" because we conceived her, and my wife gave birth to her
"Our child" because we love her, care for her, nurture her, play with her, live and learn together and my wife feeds her
"Our child" because her welfare, her education, her health, her happiness and her transition from child to adult are our legal and ethical responsibility
The natural state of things is that our rights only come in being able to exercise our duties towards our child, with her rights and our duties in harmony. The UNCRC should only come into effect if the parent is not fulfilling their duties and the child's rights not respected, and the state needs to insert itself as parent of last resort.
She is not our possession, but nor should the state be laying claim to her. She is her own. [Yes, I am aware there are legal issues around birth certificates etc] Attempts are being made to loosen ties between parent and child - 'balancing' their rights, as they say. Our solidity and happiness as families will be a great strength to us, and we must not let this be undermined. The latest guidance on SEN makes it clear there will be situations when they will send a child back to a situation that was failing them, possibly abusing them, against the child's best interests and the parent's wishes. In other words the state will over-rule the parents' protective instincts towards their child. And they call this support - with friends like these, who needs enemies?!
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
These things seem to fall one of two ways: those who have studied and written about HE, maybe as HEers themselves but, even if not, having taken the time and the mental leap to 'get it' - Alan Thomas, Paula Rothermel, John Holt, Jan Fortune-Wood (and not to mention all the wonderfully eloquent bloggers with reams of first hand experience); on the other hand you have those who write about home education, sometimes with close links to the DCSF, some with things to sell - Graham Badman, the NSPCC, BECTA, and so on. I wonder who they'll give the contract to?
Also, I know 'pupil' can be used in a sense other than 'school pupil', but that's the common usage and shows the approach. Am I being petty? I just doubt any home educating parent refers to their child as a pupil.
The objective of all this is to "close the gap in educational achievement for children from disadvantaged backgrounds", so given that this gap is non-existent in HE and prevalent in schools, maybe they should start their investigations there?