Working as I do in Inner London, I am used to seeing very mixed and diverse groups, whether in hospitals and schools, shops and markets, local authority offices, tube stations and practically everywhere else. I was therefore mildly surprised to see that the home educators lobbying parliament were almost exclusively white. I say almost exclusively, but for all I know to the contrary there were no black or Asian people present at all, because I certainly saw no visible minorities in the photographs and news coverage of the event. I noticed precisely the same thing at the select committee hearings; everybody connected with home education, in whatever capacity, seems to be white.
I found this a little odd. As I say, in most London boroughs, this would be an unusual circumstance. There are always some black and Asian people around, a few Chinese maybe, the odd orthodox Jew, in any activity. I cannot avoid wondering why this should have been. After all, we are talking about a rally in central London. It is not as though it were held in some out of the way place in the west Country. I am particularly surprised, because many people emphasise the diverse nature of the "Home Educating Community". It is quite true that there are Muslim home educators, I know because I meet them fairly regularly. I also know one or two Hassidim in the same position. I don't know of any Africans or Caribbeans though, or for that matter any Chinese. I also cannot help but notice that most of those who came to the select committee seemed to be well spoken, articulate and mainly middle class. No representatives from the lumpenproletariat. Yet again, I know that such home educators exist, because I visit their homes.
I suppose that since 95% of the population are white, it should not be so surprising if a randomly chosen group of individuals did not contain any visible minorities. It is probably, as I say, because I am used to East London and so it struck me more. I wonder if anybody knows any African or Caribbean home educators? Or Chinese or Hindu? As I say, I know a few Jews and Muslims, but that is all.
The other thing about both the mass lobby and the select committee was that the overwhelming impression was of liberal, left leaning, middle class people. The photographs of the mass lobby are full of families that look like my friends; same clothes, same hairstyles, same facial expressions. Not that my friends are generally home educators, but they have the same look about them. I spoke to some delightful young people at the select committee hearing. They were from some organisation called, I think, HEYS. they were scrupulously polite and very confident, articulate and well spoken. Actually, they were just like my daughter! Clearly, home education does something for such young people; they were like no teenagers that you would meet anywhere else. One thing that puzzles me. Why do so many home educated teenage boys have long hair? Surely it is no longer a sign of rebellion and nonconformity? I mean I had hair down to my shoulders myself in the late sixties, but it is rare enough these days to make such youths stand out.
I suppose that all this tends to confirm my tentative hypothesis that home education is very much a white, middle class phenomenon. As I said above, I do know working class and Asian Muslim home educators, but they do not seem to be involved with organisations at all. Or could it be that there are thousands of such home educators who simply do not take part in online communities or join Education Otherwise and the other support groups? I have no objection on principle to belonging to an exclusively middle class and predominantly white movement, you understand. I am just trying to fathom out what it is about home education that should make it such an attractive prospect to this particular section of society.