I have long thought that the online home educating community has many similarities to those groups who believe that there are alien spaceships at Area 51 or that a secret cabal rules the world. For these people, there are no coincidences. If a document disappears briefly from the Department for Education website; it can only be because a sinister cover-up is in progress. They often like to see themselves as fighting against dark forces which would otherwise destroy them and their families; nobly resisting statist efforts to force their conformity. Home education for these people is not just about educating their children at home, it is part of a whole ideology and world-view. Because they like to play at being secret agents or resistance fighters in this way, many of them hide their true identities and adopt a nom de guerre. Apart from anything else, calling yourself ‘Firebird’ is far more romantic than being just plain Ruth O’Hare!
Now there is no particular harm in this as long as one is just using this anonymity to comment on lists and forums. One can be ruder than one would if using a real name; we see this all the time on this blog. It is when people begin to be engaged in activities which might have a grave effect upon others that this secrecy or anonymity becomes a little bit of a problem. On the blog to which I gave a link the other day, the one about the new EHE guidelines, the author suggested something quite extraordinary. This was that Alison Sauer did not wish to be identified as the author of these guidelines so as to protect her child and friends. Of all the possible excuses for anonymity, this seems to me to be the feeblest. I know something about this, because with the possible exception of Graham Badman, I doubt whether anybody in the British home educating scene has been as insulted and abused as I! (Just try googling my name along with ‘home education’ and you will see what I mean).
Now I might have occasionally pointed out some of the more fruity things which people said about me during the Badman business to my daughter. We would have a laugh about them. My wife did not find it funny and so I would not show her any of it. As for my friends, most of them did not even know about the abuse that was being heaped upon me. How would they, unless I told them? I am really intrigued about this idea that one could put together a document which might have very serious effects for tens of thousands of families and then feel able to conceal one’s name on the grounds that one was protecting children, family and friends. Protecting them from what, for heaven’s sake? I have written newspaper articles, kept a blog and written an entire book on the subject of home education; all without causing any harm to my family and friends. Everything I have written on the subject has my name attached to it. Perhaps somebody could tell me what harm they are actually afraid will befall them if their real name becomes associated with their views on home education?
In Alison Sauer’s case, the idea that she is a private person who shrinks from attracting the attention of others is particularly grotesque. Somebody speculated in a comment that the blog to which I referred earlier is actually Alison Sauer’s work. They are probably right. She and her husband are history buffs and Alison belongs to a 17th century re-enactment society. She regularly dresses up in historical costumes and there are images of her like this all over the Internet. If this has not caused her daughter to die of embarrassment, then I doubt that any harm would be caused by putting her name to the EHE guidelines!