The conversations which I have had with other people about my daughter's education, although often lively and spirited, have in the main been good natured. Amicable relations have continued, even with those who bitterly oppose my lifestyle and educational methods. The same is true of all my email exchanges and telephone conversations about education. This is as it should be. I am always happy to debate robustly my beliefs about education and indeed almost any aspect of my life. The only group of people who seem consistently unable to behave like rational human beings when it comes to discussing education are certain autonomous educators. I have never known an advocate of synthetic phonics grow angry or abusive because I prefer to use Look and Say. Certainly, none of them have made offensive remarks about my family or relationship with my daughter or launched internet campaigns to smear me! I cannot help but wonder why this should be. Let me give an example of the sort of thing I mean.
In June, I said something which Maire Stafford, who else, objected to on the EO list. She posted as follows;
"You sound like a /%&*^"
Well, it's not the wittiest thing I've ever heard, but I responded good humouredly;
"Sorry Maire, I'm not sure what an /%&*^ is. Could you be a little more specific?"
Imagine my surprise when I received the following message as a personal email;
"I think she meant to say "authoritarian motherfucker son of a bitch asshole." Just a guess, though."
Now I can assure readers that I have never had an email like that from an enthusiast for synthetic phonics or Real Books! Only an autonomous educator could have sent such a message. This is not, by the way, an isolated example.
I am not suggesting of course that all autonomous educators are as vulgar and abusive as that. What I am saying is that any sort of abuse, personal attack, lies and innuendo always comes from autonomous educators and nobody else. I find this a little strange. Why should it be that not a single person who disapproves of home education should be violently rude to me about my decision to home educate and yet many autonomous home educators become furious when I disagree with their methods? Why is it that I can have a good natured exchange of emails with somebody who believes strongly that synthetic phonics are the only effective way of teaching reading and that I am a complete idiot for championing Look and Say, but when I express doubts about the autonomous acquisition of literacy, the abuse is sure to start?
I am honestly puzzled about this. I am quite used to disagreeing with many different people about education. These include teachers, local authority officers, psychologists, academics, even Graham Badman. All these disagreements have been very pleasantly expressed and at the end of the discussion I have invariably parted on good terms with the person concerned. With autonomous educators, this never happens. Almost invariably, they become rude and personal. I don't think it can just be me, because otherwise I would be on bad terms with all those other people with whom I disagree about education. I am also far from being the only person to experience this sort of thing when dealing with autonomous educators. Perhaps this is destined to remain a mystery!