The accusation is sometimes levelled at me that I have a distorted view of the British home education scene because I rely too much upon what is said on the Internet and do not spend enough time mixing with real home educators. This is a fair point and I would be the first to concede that much of what one sees on sites such as Home Ed Forums and HE-UK is not at all representative of ordinary home educating parents. Indeed, I made that very point during the fuss about Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill. The point is that these Internet groups have a very great and wholly disproportionate influence upon what is going on with home education in this country. Opposition to changes in the law are generally coordinated via these lists and forums. For this reason, it is worth keeping a close eye on them.
Something which I have noticed, and I am not alone in this, is the extent to which those who have a high profile on these places are often adherents of strange ideas such as the New World Order. This was shown very clearly the other day when the owner of one of the largest lists expounded his geopolitical world-view. While every other rational person in the world is aware that sub-Saharan Africa has for many years been teetering on the brink of starvation and gripped by regular famines which kill millions of people, this individual believes that Europe will be building a bridge across the Straits of Gibraltar and importing most of its food from Africa. This is all tied in somehow with the bombing of Libya and the invasion of Iraq. This is of course classic New World Order conspiracy theory. If it were an isolated example, it would hardly be worth mentioning, but it is not. I have exchanged emails and spoken on the telephone with a few of the well known figures on the Internet home education campaigning front and have been surprised to hear both the New World Order idea and even David Icke mentioned favourably.
If you read the lists and forums with this in mind, a lot becomes clear. Just as in some home educating circles in the USA, many of these people believe that attempts to monitor home education are part of a wider attack on liberal parents being coordinated by the United Nations/Illuminati/New World Order/sentient reptiles from outer space. It's all tied in with Big Pharma and the military-industrial complex, you see.
Before anybody asks, no I don't believe that the majority of British home educators are mad enough to believe in stuff like this. But when some of the most influential groups 'supporting' home educators are influenced by nonsense of this sort, it is bound to have an effect. Has anybody noticed that even on this blog, nothing ever happens by accident? When Blogger helpfully installed an anti-spam filter here without my asking for it, some comments vanished. At once, the assumption was that I was censoring people. When the Department for Children, Schools and Families website was being reorganised a while ago, the 2007 guidelines went missing for a while, along with a lot of other stuff. Coincidence? I don't think so! Many of the people on the home education Internet circuit thrive upon conspiracy and the idea that they are being persecuted by dark forces. They clearly enjoy believing that they are the targets of a wider international conspiracy to suppress freedom. This is one of the reasons that stories from Sweden and elsewhere are so popular; it confirms that they are fighting a battle across the world.
I am not going to direct attention at individuals, but if readers care to look at a few of the lists with what I have said in mind, they might spot some of what I have been talking about here.