For many home educating parents, online communities are a very valuable resource. They are a place where parents can exchange ideas, discuss home education in the company of other home educators, reassured by the knowledge that all those on the sites are actually home educators themselves. They are a kind of virtual school gate or playground, where parents can chat with each other and pass on information, ask for advice or moan about their LA. Unfortunately, like most playgrounds, there are bullies around. I have been watching with absolute incredulity in recent weeks as several mothers have joined the HE-UK list and almost immediately been pounced on and driven off by hostile and unpleasant comments from those with a slightly different point of view.
One woman, for example, started by mentioning that her local authority had a number of requests which they routinely made to home educators, none of which she objected to. Within hours, she was being attacked from all sides, culminating in the accusation that she was really me! Her real offence was a simple one; she did not wholly agree at once with some of the more aggressive and vociferous people on the list who as a result felt that they should punish her. The irony here is that some of the worst of these bullies are mothers who actually withdrew their own children from school because of bullying.
This situation, the enforcing of a particular ideology by attacking any who do not subscribe to it, has grown even worse since the publication of the Badman Report. The result is that only autonomous educators are welcome in many of these places and the illusion is thus created that there are very few structured home educators around! The venom and spite used against any dissenters is really amazing. Here is the response to a mother who has withdrawn her child from school but is happy to co-operate with her local authority and who sees good reasons for their desire to monitor home education;
"If you are genuine in what you say (rather than just here to stir up debate), I really, very strongly, recommend that you go and read some websites, books - whatever you like - about home-education, and get yourself better-informed. Because right now, it sounds like you're either here to cause trouble (not acceptable) or like you don't have a clue (which is acceptable, if it comes from being new to home-ed and is accompanied by a willingness to learn)."
How welcoming is that for a newcomer to the list? Strange, she seems to have given up posting lately...... Here is somebody else's response to a mother who asked too many questions;
"Yes, a certain troll is getting my blood pressure up too, I would like sometime to get on with my life again after doing my best to fight the reviewand consultation, but having ignorant trolls expounding on subjects forwhich they have no desire to EDUCATE themselves, really irritates me. A bitlike slugs, of no real use to a gardener, but they keep squeezing throughthe cracks and I keep squishing them."
That's the way to debate the subject you see, compare those who disagree with you to slugs! Notice the use of the word "troll" being used to label anybody who asks questions or does not readily admit her errors. The latest attempt to enforce conformity on this list, comes from somebody who suggests that anybody in favour of regulating home education should be viewed as a troll and "treated accordingly", whatever that means. In other words, ask questions and you are our enemy.