I am often amused to hear that I am practically the only home educator in the country who approves of new legislation. It is perfectly true that an appearance of wonderful unanimity has been achieved on various Internet lists and other places and this does have the overall effect of presenting home educating parents as united in the hatred of and opposition to the Children, Schools and Families Bill 2009. How is this illusion maintained?
Until I was chucked off the various lists last Summer, I used to take an active part in many of the debates on both the HE-UK and EO lists. I would regularly get emails off-list from people who told me that they actually agreed with what I was saying but did not like to come out on my side openly. One mother told me that she was frightened of 'putting her head above the parapet'! I found this pretty disturbing. The reason these women did not like to say the things that I was saying was simply because they knew that it would make them unpopular with some of the more aggressive and regular posters. I watched this happen a few times. Some poor person would join and then express an opinion about visits from the local authority or registration and would then be hounded into keeping quiet. A number of mothers were actually driven off the HE-UK list in this way. One woman with whom I was in contact was sent very unpleasant emails off-list. She had suggested that Graham Badman might have a point!
A mother posted recently on one of the lists saying that she had had a very pleasant and positive experience of a visit by her local authority. You might imagine that this was a good thing, but it did not take long before other people began trying to poison this woman against her local authority. She was told that accepting visits could be bad for other parents, that she was letting down the side, she should not trust the local authority officer, that if she declined a visit in the future, the local authority might think she was abusing her children! I don't think that this particular person will be posting again in a hurry about having a nice visit. This is one of the ways that the united front is enforced; by ensuring that mothers who don't toe the line are made to feel uncomfortable and as though they are in some way letting down other parents by having an enjoyable monitoring visit. Since isolated mothers often depend on these lists, they do not wish to become unpopular for expressing heterodox views. This sort of thing is of course a type of bullying.
Another way of manipulating the appearance of home education in this country is done more subtly. A yahoo group called Homeedoutcomes has recently been started. The person running it has been appealing for true accounts of successful home education outcomes. I applied to join the list weeks ago, but despite following up this with another email, it is pretty clear that I shall not be allowed to do so. The eventual collection of accounts will be limited to those who chose an unstructured education for their children. This is a deliberate strategy in order to present a distorted picture of home education in this country. Just to check, I got another home educating parent known to me to send in a brief account of her structured home education outcomes. The same thing; she will not be allowed to contribute her story either!
These are just a couple of the ways in which a particular strand of home education attempts to portray itself as the one true faith.