I have remarked before that the behaviour of certain autonomously educating parents is like nothing I have ever encountered anywhere else in the world. The venom and spite evinced is positively uncanny. Most of it seems to be directed not against the ideas and arguments of opponents but against individuals and their families. Attempts have in the past been made to attack Graham Badman through his daughter, for instance, and this seems to be happening again. Some of the comments about my own daughter have been pretty close to the knuckle as well, but fortunately she finds the whole thing funny and as long as she is not upset, then neither am I. I still find it baffling though that people would try to get at those with a different educational philosophy in this way.
It cannot be just that people's lifestyles are felt to be under threat. I am a Zionist and have discussed Middle Eastern politics with Palestinian refugees in Gaza with less animosity than is currently being shown in the world of HE! There is a ruthlessness and cold determination about the whole business that even I find a little unnerving. These people will lie, cheat, attack somebody's family, try and damage their livelihood; any tactic is seen as acceptable in the cause. This is scary stuff and I am not at all surprised that many people simply stop posting on HE-UK and other lists for fear of the response. Others withdraw entirely from the home education "community" and just focus on their own children. Not to worry though friends, I am made of sterner stuff and I shall be here for a long time to come yet!
Somebody on the CYP message board asked why structured home educators and those in favour of the Badman recommendations are not seen more often on the internet. She seemed to see this as evidence that parents like me are rare. Ha, the fool! Does she really not realise how such people are driven off many message boards by the aggressive attitudes of some of the autonomous educators there? A group of autonomous educators roam round cyberspace looking for anything to do with home education. As soon as they find somewhere, they move in and start trashing everybody else's views. I will not name the person concerned, but one of the regular contributors on the HE-UK list lives in Godalming, the Surrey Stockbroker Belt. Incredibly, her name appears frequently in the comments sections of local newspapers as far afield as Lancashire and Portsmouth. She is not the only one.
The overall effect is that as soon as a debate starts about home education anywhere on the internet, the autonomous educators swarm in and try and overwhelm it, frequently resorting to personal abuse if nothing else will work. As soon as I was chucked off HE-UK and EO I set this place up to muse out loud on the subject of home education. I wanted to make it a chatty sort of a place where I could talk about my family openly and discuss things to do with home education . Even so, I have had to remove a couple of pieces which I wrote recently which mentioned my children, because people were gathering information from them in order to try and persuade the select committee that I should not be a witness. Others have been exchanging messages wondering if they can use information from here to damage me with my employers! I briefly began moderating the messages when one person called me a dog and others suggested that I was mentally ill or autistic.. That's the sort of people I am talking about; humourless fanatics who will take any steps to promote their own view of education. No wonder that we don't see many people "putting their heads above the parapet", as one mother who was driven off the HE lists called it. The current behaviour on the HE-UK list reminds me of nothing so much as Soviet Russia during the Stalin years. The hunt for spies and traitors, the suppression of heterodox views, the sudden disappearance of well known figures; it is a perfect microcosm of a particularly unsavoury kind of political system.
Combine what I have said above with the fact that many home educating parents are simply too busy educating their children to spend hours on the internet attacking those whose views differ slightly from their own and you might see why few but the autonomously educating will be seen much on the internet. Maybe the autonomous educators simply have more time on their hands. While other parents are teaching their children to read, the autonomous types are all too often crouched over a keyboard denouncing anybody who disagrees with them.
I have in the past seen many debates take place about the best educational methods. There used to be pretty fierce articles about comprehensive schools versus selective education, to give one example, although this debate is more or less over now. I can't remember such viciousness as in the present business though. I don't remember anybody trying to attack people through their children, simply because they had written newspaper articles in favour of comprehensive schools. Something is happening here, where anybody who criticises autonomous education is being regarded as fair game for any unpleasantness. I am the first to concede that I may be an ill informed fool who was talking through his hat in those articles I wrote. I don't believe I was, but I must of course be open to the possibility. That still does not explain the fierce anger displayed by these people. I shall write further, after the select committee hearing, about what I feel that it is about some autonomous educators which causes them to conduct themselves in this way.