Saturday, 21 December 2013

On censorship and abuse

I am beginning to wonder if I shall be able to leave this blog alone for a couple of months, without people coming on and here and accusing me of censorship, abuse and various other things! The last time that I stopped blogging for a while and got out of the habit of checking here regularly, there was spamming  on an industrial scale. At least a hundred spams were making it past the filter and clogging everything up.  Because I did not wish to have to come here every day and delete them: I switched on the moderation. I blogged about this at the beginning of October. That way, I could just skim through the comments every week or two and then publish the genuine ones.  I did the same thing last week, when I decided to leave this blog alone until the spring. Inevitably, somebody found this sinister and chose to accuse me not only of censorship, but also, almost unbelievably, of abusing Lisa Amphlett and her friends. Here is the comment:

This comment won't be published because Simon is currently employing censorship, but the only reason recent discussions have been so fierce is that Amphlett et al fought back, unusually. Most people just take the abuse in silence and they did not.

The idea that it was I who was being abusive, is more than a little staggering! I have been perfectly courteous to Lisa Amphlett and her cronies who have come on here to comment. In return, I have been called a cunt, by two different people, a rat, told that I have paranoid delusions and read various other vulgar language, spanning the whole gamut of crudity from fuck to shit, piss to crap. All the abuse was directed against me and none was directed by me against Lisa Amphlett or anybody else. 

I will now hope to switch on the moderation and forget about this blog for a while. I must ask those who comment to exercise a little patience. If it takes a week to publish your comment, that is not censorship, but rather an indication that I am busy with other matters and am likely to be so for at least two months. A delay in having a comment posted is not censorship; at least not in the normal meaning of the word.

Monday, 16 December 2013

A final word about posting comments on a blog

This really will be the final post here; at least for the next couple of months. I have been trying to get to the bottom of the accusations being made by Lisa Amphlett and Raquel Toney, which involve my having mentioned the names of children and consequently upset their parents. I have now commented twice on Lisa Amphlett's blog, attempting to get her to tell me why she is spreading these stories about me. She says, in answer to my latest comment:

 Whether or not you understand it YOU ARE HARASSING ME despite me having asked you to stop. I will ask you once again. Please leave me alone.

This must rank as the strangest reaction from anybody to a comment on their blog!  She posts about me, using my name and accusing me of something pretty unpleasant and when I ask what grounds she has for saying these things; she tells me that I am harassing her. It's a good job that I didn't feel that way, when her friend Raquel came on here today and called me a cunt! I suppose that this means that I could post anything I like about a named person and then, if the person commented here, trying to set the record straight; I could claim that I was being harassed by them.  

Nailing an old lie...

Alas, the time is drawing near when I will have to give up this blog for a few months. I know what a grief this will be to my loyal readers, but I have many writing commitments and am also working a in a school some way from my home. I simply don't have time for this at the moment. Before leaving though, I thought that I would take the opportunity to deal with one of the oldest rumours circulating about me. This is that I have named children on this blog. Raquel, who has been commenting here today in her inimitable, if somewhat scatological, way, evidently wants to keep this story alive. She says of me;

it is really fucking creepy when a blogger finds out the names of a person's children and uses them in his blog or emails to the parents.

Please note that this is a specific allegation; that I use children's names on this blog. As if this was not a public enough accusation, Lisa Amphlett says on her own blog that;

. Other parents have, in the past, been understandably upset to have had their children unnecessarily mentioned by Simon Webb — it’s not something that most of us would consider doing out of human decency. I have a lot of sympathy for them.

I asked Lisa Amphlett  for details of this, but all she would say is that it is, 'absolutely true'. 

Now I know that some people who visit this blog have difficulty following one, coherent train of thought to its conclusion, but I would really like them to make an effort on this occasion. I have seen this rumour appear in so many places and yet whenever I ask for details of whose children I am supposed to have named here; nobody seems to know. Everybody has heard it said so often that it must be true. Goebbels used the same technique of repeating a lie so often that in the end, people believed it!

Here then is what I am asking. We have seen two well-known home educators recently making a specific allegation against me; that I have named children, other than my own, on this blog. What is this all about? Where did this idea come from? I will stay here long enough to deal with this matter, but after that I shall be dropping this blog for a month or two.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Why I started this blog

Now that some of the less well-balanced types seem to have wandered off elsewhere, I thought that I might explain how and why I came to start this blog. Since it was largely to counter the activities of people like Lisa Amphlett that I began blogging back in 2009, readers might find this interesting. It will also not have escaped notice that I have recently been called a ‘creepy stalker’ and ‘bully’; these complaints too are worth examining.

      In the summer of 2009, before this blog existed, I found myself the target of a good deal of venom by Lisa Amphlett and others. Complete strangers were inventing all sorts of mad stories about me and spreading them all over the internet. I had no way of countering these falsehoods and since they were being related publicly, I thought that I should take steps to deal with them.  Before I started this blog, Lisa Amphlett was already telling people that I was dangerous:

This was at a time that I had never even heard of her! I am tempted to ask in what way Lisa Amphlett thought that I was dangerous. Did she think that I was physically abusive? Was I a rapist or murderer? No, it was simply that I had a different view about home education than she herself had. Since I had at that time been home educating for eleven years, while she herself was not even  a home educator, you might find it a bit rich that she should choose to say such a thing.

What sort of stories were being fabricated and spread at that time? Well, that I was a former colleague of Graham Badman, for one. The general view among Lisa Amphlett and her cronies like Maire Stafford these days seems to be that googling people’s names is ‘cyber stalking’. They have certainly changed their view about this.  Maire Stafford, who by the way was also making offensive tweets about me at the same time as Lisa Amphlett; that is to say before I started this blog, was all in favour of this sort of thing. Before we look at that, let’s look at a tweet of Maire’s on July 30th 2009:

On the same day, some fool posted this on the HE-UK list:

There is a Simon Webb mentioned here as an Area Education Officer.... under
Badman! Listed is the 
CFHE Directorate Structure Chart which is readily available on the
internet.... .

http://docs. gview?a=v
<="" docs.="" em="""" gview?a="v&" q="cache:W9Udfm7e" whatdotheyknow.=""
m/request/7844/ response/ 21038/attach/ 2/cfe-structure- chart1106. pdf+Simon+ Web
b+badman&hl= en>
&q=cache:W9Udfm7eA8 AJ:www.whatdothe request/7844/ response/ 21038/att
ach/2/cfe-structure -chart1106. pdf+Simon+ Webb+badman& hl=en

Like many others, this person  had been researching my life and googling my name to see if he could find anything interesting about me and my family. You might have thought that people like Lisa Amphlett and Maire Stafford would denounce this as ‘creepy stalking’ or ‘cyber stalking’, but you would be wrong. That same day, Maire Stafford said of this on the HE-UK list:

Brilliant research 

Oddly enough, nobody thought that there was anything creepy about the remarks being made about my daughter and the attempts to connect me with Graham Badman. Perhaps Lisa Amphlett did not know about this smear campaign? Of course she did, otherwise she would hardly have tweeted on August 7th 2009 that; ‘Simon Webb says that he is not badman's colleague.’ Lisa Amphlett was right in the thick of  the attacks on me at that time;

This is why I started this blog; to provide a platform to tackle the rumours that these people were doing their best to spread. Those who have been talking  about stalking and bullying  might stop and ask themselves why they did not have so much to say about this when researching my life on the internet was such a flourishing cottage  industry! Of course, there was not a word of truth in the idea that I was or had been a colleague of Graham Badman's. Here's an idea, the next time that anybody feels like saying that I have been cyber stalking or bullying; don't bother. I cannot tell readers how revolting it is to see people like Lisa Amphlett now claiming to be upset. If she and others like here had not been so keen to dig into my life and tell lies about me in the past, this blog would not even exist.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The normality of home education in this country until the mid 1970s

There is,  among home educators in this country, a mythic narrative which supposedly explains the origin of their chosen way of life. It goes something like this. Before the 1970s, hardly anybody in Britain educated their children at home.  Around the middle of that decade half a dozen or so parents, who were determined at all costs not to send their children to school,  got together and formed Education Otherwise; a group which would fight to establish home education as an accepted right for parents. There was stern opposition from some reactionary forces in local authorities. This led to the persecution of some of these parents; Iris Harrison, for instance. Never the less, these brave pioneers persevered and now home education is an option available for all parents. We owe those people a great debt for their struggle. This roughly is the story of home education’s beginning in Britain; as  put about by home educating organisations and widely accepted by many parents. 

There are several things about the above legend which make one a little uneasy; not the  least of which is  that it is a pack of nonsense from beginning to end. That is not the only problem, although it is certainly a serious one! I hope to explore the difficulties that this myth has created, but it will take several posts. Today, I want to look briefly at home education as it features in children’s literature of 20th century Britain. This might give us some idea of how unremarkable home education has been in this country, as far back as one looks. Far from being a radical movement, challenging the established order; home education could almost be regarded as being a part of the established order, from time out of mind.

Before looking at  how  home education crops up in 20th century books, it is worth looking back a little further and noting that home education is mentioned frequently in 19th century novels and that the practice at that time was viewed as entirely normal and respectable. To give just two examples, all the Bennet sisters  in Pride and Prejudice were educated at home and home education makes an appearance in several of Dickens’ books.  The home education by their father of Louisa and Tom Gradgrind is integral to the plot of Hard Times.

Moving on now to the 20th century; by which time universal schooling had become the accepted norm, home education was still seen as being quite unremarkable; even by ordinary families.  In The Railway Children, written by E. Nesbit published in 1905, none of the children attend school. This is seen as hardly worth mentioning; it is certainly not a plot device. It is just that quite a few children at that time were taught at home and the author describes the life of just such a family. Moving on a few years to Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield, which was published in 1936, we see another example of home education. The three Fossil children live with their guardian , Sylvia and her old nanny. For a time, Sylvia stops sending the children to school and attempts to educate them  herself. This does not work very well and so she engages tutors. Just as in The Railway Children, there is no suggestion that this is in any way an unusual course of events; it is presented as simply another incident in the lives of the children. These are not wealthy or important families.

     A number of home educated children appear in the William stories by Richmal Crompton, but it is in Enid Blyton’s books that home education is referred to regularly as being something which happened throughout the 1940s, without anybody seeing anything odd or unusual about it. The protagonist of The Naughtiest Girl in the School, 1940, is first met at the age of twelve. When  we encounter her, she has always been educated at home. In First Term at Malory Towers, 1946,  Gwendoline Mary Lacey is another twelve year-old who has never been to school.

That home education appears in so many children’s books of this period, leads us to suppose that it was a pretty common practice not to send children to school; educating them at home for at least part of their childhood.  The idea that home education was somehow freakish and out of the ordinary, does not really stand up.  I have explained on here several times in recent months that home education was not at all frowned upon  by local authorities; right up to the early 1970s. I know this to be true, apart from anything else, by personal experience. And yet something happened during the 70s to bring about a state of confrontation between local authorities and some parents who did not send their children to school. This was nothing to do with home education as such, and I will look in my next post at just what went wrong with the situation and how home education became transformed form a normal, every day activity into something controversial which generated tension between parents and local authorities.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Driving a coach and horses through the law on education.

One of the things that readers might have noticed about local authorities who are dealing with home educators, is that they are very fond of quoting the law. Sometimes, they do this regretfully; as though they are left with no choice but to undertake this or that duty. Their letters often contain sentences beginning, ‘We have a legal duty to…’ or, 'We are required by law...'. This is all the most horrible hypocrisy, because every local authority in the entire country is regularly and flagrantly ignoring great chunks of the legislation which relates to education. Let me give a glaring example of this.

At a recent  primary school assembly, the Head announced that he wanted to talk about a very great man. It’s coming up to Christmas and when he continued by saying that this person was probably the greatest man ever to live and that he changed the world; I thought that I could guess who he was talking about. ‘Nobody has ever taught us more about forgiveness’, continued the Head and by that time I was pretty sure to whom he was referring. What’s that? No you fool, he wasn’t talking about Jesus! He meant Nelson Mandela, obviously. In this primary school, as in practically every other maintained school in the country, assemblies are only held once a week and neither Jesus nor God ever get a mention. They are wholly secular occasions, where awards are given for industry or, as in the case of Nelson Mandela, some famous person might be mentioned. There is of course never any mention of  the Deity; let alone prayers and hymns. This is very odd, because Section 70 of  the School Standards and Framework Act  1998  specifically requires that;

each pupil in attendance at a community, foundation or voluntary school shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship

What’s more, the law states that this act of collective worship should be of a wholly or mainly Christian nature. I do not suppose that there is a single school in the whole country which abides by this law. It is universally ignored and every local authority knows this very well. You might get an act of collective worship  at some church schools, but even then it will in general be only once a week. At other schools, there is nothing even remotely approaching religious observance of the sort required by the law. It does not matter whether we think that such daily worship is a good thing or not; it is the law and local authorities take not the least notice of it.  I can think of a dozen other example of laws relating to education which are widely flouted, but this one is common to every school in the land. It is curious that these same local authorities are able to recollect chapter and verse of the law as it touches upon home education and show such devotion to enforcing it! Hypocrisy always irritates me and this is an especially good instance.  When it suits them, local authorities are perfectly willing and able to disregard the law about education and schools. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Why don‘t people want to be with their children?

Unlike many home educators, I have no ideological objection to schools; nor do I think them bad places in themselves. I have remarked before that they are, to me, a necessary evil; in an ideal world, they would not be needed. The question that I have been considering lately though is why nearly everybody sends their children to school as soon as they can. Of course, it goes without saying that part of the explanation is simply that this is what you do when your child turns five, but there must be a little more to it than that. After all, there is nothing magical about the age of five. Legally, you could delay starting school until the child was six, seven or even older. What actually happens is that almost everybody sends children before that all-important age of five. It is a rare child today who begins school at about his or her fifth birthday; most start when they are three or four, by which time an awful lot of them have already been in nurseries for a couple of years. 

When my daughter was two, I enjoyed her company enormously; she was an endless source of pleasure to me. Why on Earth would I have given her to strangers, so that they could have her instead of me?  In some families, where both parents are working, it is presumably a matter of convenience, but for most; it seems to be a relief for them to get shot of their kids. During the decades that I was working with families with small children, the request made most often was, ‘Can you help me get a nursery place?’ This was being asked by single mothers, when their babies were six months old. There was a great desire to see the children packed off to day-care, so that the mothers could get on with their lives. Once the children were at school, then there were breakfast clubs, after school clubs, holiday play schemes and a dozen other ways that parents could ensure that they saw as little of their children as possible. In recent years, this has become very common and many parents appear to have the idea that it is for the state to look after their offspring for most of the time and that the parents should only have to have them for an hour or two in the evenings. It is not at all uncommon to hear people bemoaning the approach of the summer holidays and complaining that they do not know how they will cope. Usually, it is clear that this is because the parents just don't like being with their children too much and dread being forced to spend time with them.

I am genuinely foxed by all this. I can truthfully say that I never became bored with my daughter, from the first day of her birth. I still don’t, even though she is now twenty. I cannot imagine why I would be wanting to shove her out of the way for as long as I could manage. It is against this background that we need to consider the political and philosophical objections that some home educators have to the notion of the state as parent. This is sometimes represented as being a sinister plot, whereby the state will take over the care and upbringing of our children for unknown reasons of its own. It is nothing of the kind! It is just that nearly all  the parents that one meets wish to see their children safely out of the way in nurseries and schools from as soon as they can walk and talk. The government is not pushing for parents to give them their children; the parents are clamouring for the state to adopt their babies and children and keep  them out  of their parents' way.

Home educating parents are different, in that they are happy to spend all day, every day with their kids. I wonder sometimes whether this love of their own children and unwillingness to fob them off on others, makes a lot of other parents faintly suspicious of home educators. It's such a weird way to feel about your kids these days, that perhaps this is at the root of some of the fears that we see about the practice of home education.