I have been looking through the submissions made to the DCSF select committee recently and very interesting reading they make too. On a personal note, they do tend rather to confirm my suspicion as to why I alone of home educating parents was called to give evidence to the committee. Readers will no doubt recollect that the suggestion was widely made that this was some sort of fix, evidence of a sinister conspiracy at the heart of the consultation process. It was, as I said all along, nothing of the sort. I mean just look at some of this stuff. Tania Berlow, well known to habitues of the HE-UK list, sent in an astonishing ten thousand words, craftily split up into three separate documents. Did she really imagine that anybody would actually read all that? The average civil servant has the attention span of a grasshopper; his eyes begin to glaze over after reading a couple of hundred words at most! Which is precisely why I cunningly limited my own submission to a mere three hundred words. No wonder they invited me; I was probably the only person whose submission was read in its entirety!
There are a number of interesting points about the submissions. One, which I have touched upon above, is the sheer number of words churned out by many of those sending memoranda to the committee. The Staffords between them managed five and a half thousand, somebody called Sariter Goacher sent in a single handed effort of five thousand. Even Jeremy Yallop, who opposed me in the TES debate, could not slim his opinions down to fewer than three and a half thousand words; more than ten times as many as my own submission.
As I suspected, the number of anti-Badman submissions had been inflated by various means. The Staffords and Tania Berlow sent in five submissions; that's five from just two home educating families. I noticed other husband and wife teams who had sent in separate pieces under different names in order to suggest that opposition to the Badman Report was greater than is actually the case. There were also a few parents and children both sending in separate memoranda. When you add to that the submissions from people who were opposed to the recommendations of the Badman Report but were not actually home educators (some were parents who were planning to home educate, others were academics ), MPs and somebody called Kelly Green who does not even live in this country, then the actual number of home educating families opposing Badman's recommendations in this way to the select committee is slim indeed.
A couple of other points that I noticed. Firstly, no fewer than eight "doctors". Not doctors of the sort who carry a stethoscope and measure your blood pressure, you understand, but academic types. I deplore this tendency for people to describe themselves as Dr. Smith in this way! It has crept up on us over the years; forty years ago nobody but a medical man would have dreamt of using the title "doctor". Ah well, autre temps, autre mores . Another thing that catches the eye immediately is the fact that 99% of the people who wrote to the select committee appear to be educated and white. Only a couple of names which look as though they have their origin in the Indian subcontinent, a few Jews, a group of Muslims and that's pretty well it on the minority front. I mention this, because some people objected to my inclusion in the list of witnesses specifically on the grounds that I was white, male and probably middle class. Looks as though I was not alone in this.
I have been looking closely at Paula Rothermel's submission, mainly because of the Munchausen's thing that was attributed to my influence. I have to say that there is something a little fishy about this submission. Dr. Rothermel, (another "doctor"!), had two meetings with Badman. At the second one she claims that he was dismissive of her research. She says;
"I consider the review to be seriously flawed. It should be a matter of concern to the Select Committee that the person commissioned to carry out the review could so easily be influenced by a lay person hostile to my work. I question the rigour applied to the Review."
Now how on earth did she know that it was a lay person who had influenced Graham Badman in this way? And how did she know that he had been easily influenced? How did she know that he hadn't been asking about her research to other people in the field? This is odd and it becomes even odder when I look at an email sent to me by Dr. Rothermel in May, shortly after she had met Graham Badman. She said then that the people who had been "bitching" about her work to him were other academics who were always denigrating her work. Could it be that she has told the select committee that he was "easily influenced" by a "lay person" in order to try and put him in a bad light?
I am also curious about this Munchausen's business. In her memorandum she says that the first thing Graham Badman asked her about was the possibility that home educating mothers suffered from Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy. Since she was in regular communication with Mike Fortune-Wood all through the time of the review, I am rather surprised that this strange suggestion did not surface earlier. After all, every time there was any talk of any sort of abuse, home educators leapt at once to crush the idea. How is it possible that Graham Badman was saying weird stuff like this in the early Spring and nobody has talked about it before? Very odd. At the very least I should have expected Mike Fortune-Wood to spread it round the HE-UK list. After all, it is a pretty odd suggestion and could have shown Graham Badman in a poor light had it been publicised. It would certainly have indicated that her was not impartial. But no, had these submissions not been made public, I suspect that we would never have heard about this.
I am still trawling through the other submissions to see what comes up. I have to say that the DCSF one is interesting, although some of their claims need to be checked carefully. I cannot resist closing with a quotation from somebody called Ruth Grey. She opens her submission with the line;
"I reject the Badman report and its recommendations in their entirety."
I love this! It puts me irresistibly in mind of the words of the ceremony of baptism, where one says; "I reject the Devil and all his works"!