Yesterday morning I noticed on one of the lists to which I belong that a journalist from the Sunday Express was trying to get in touch with women who had been home educated, with a particular view to seeing if they would consider home educating their own children. I immediately thought of C who comes on here pretty regularly and so simply posted the request here so that she could read it for herself. She, after all, was home educated and also chose as a mother herself to home educate.
I thought no more about this, it was an innocuous enough post, nothing surely to which even the most irritable and aggressive home educator could take exception. Imagine my surprise on looking at the comments that evening! 'Self-deluded prick', 'despicable little man'; all for reposting a request from somebody to get in touch with home educators.
This set me thinking about something which I have been mulling over quite a lot recently. Now by any standard, it is plain that the two people whom I quote above are singularly unpleasant individuals. This is notwithstanding the fact that they are home educators. It is of course only to be expected that any large group should contain some awful people of this sort. It would be the same if our reference group were to be composed of Liberal Democrats, electricians, Freemasons, footballers or aroma-therapists. Some members of these groups will be pleasant and engaging, while others will be nasty pieces of work. After all, I have met people who described themselves as Socialists who were nevertheless greedy and selfish and I have also met others who call themselves Conservatives who are open-hearted and generous. It is not what a person calls himself that matters, but what sort of a character he really has.
One frequently sees home educating parents posting on forums and lists, who are having trouble with their local authorities. What never ceases to amaze me is the unconditional and quite unreasoning belief expressed by others on the list that simply by virtue of being home educators, these people must be right and their local authority wrong in any dispute between them. Common sense would suggest that in many cases where a problem arises between somebody and their local authority, it is the fault of the individual rather than the council. This never seems to occur to home educators. Because these people claim to belong to the same reference group as everybody else, this is at once enough to make them right. In a worst case scenario, this can lead home educating parents to endorse mad and dangerous cult leaders. Have a look at the Free Sweden Net site run by Christopher Warren, widely supposed to have an unhealthy interest in underage girls, and you will find an endorsement from Karen Rodgers, a home educating mother in this country. Why does she recommend this madman? Simple; it is because he says he is a home educator!
Whenever I read about somebody having a row with their council, I assume that one party or the other and quite possibly both, are at fault. This radical idea does not occur to home educators, who seem naturally to jump to the conclusion that if somebody calling herself a home educator is having trouble with her local authority, then the LA is in the wrong and the parent is automatically in the right. In some cases, this is no doubt true, but in others it is manifestly not the case; at least judging by the information being given. This blind loyalty to individuals based only on their membership of the same group as us can be a very dangerous thing. We should bear in mind that not all home educators are really good natured, pleasant individuals who are fit to teach their own children. Neither are all local authority officers double-dyed villains whose only motive is to force reluctant children back into school. We should take the time to look at each situation on a case by case basis and not be too hasty to support this person or condemn that, purely on their membership of one group or another.