I mentioned yesterday that home educators in this country often tend to have a particular mindset, whereby they will enthusiastically embrace evidence of the good effects of home education and ignore anything at all negative. This can be very dangerous, because it is frequently combined with a dislike and mistrust of ‘professionals’; be they teachers, social workers, doctors or anybody else whose job entails their caring about the welfare of children. Anybody who is, or claims to be a home educator is almost by definition in the right and social workers and teachers are always presumed to be wrong, whatever they are saying about children being educated at home. The dangers this pose should be fairly plain and obvious to an objective observer.
Any parent posting messages on any of the home educating support lists and forums in this country about a problem they are experiencing, are sure of the uncritical support of those on the lists. Other members seldom ask just why the social workers are knocking on a family's door or how social services became involved in the first place. It is enough that this is a home educating parent and one of us! Of course she is being persecuted. This same unquestioning acceptance of anybody who claims to be a home educator is extended to complete maniacs, such as Christopher Warren, the English cult leader in Sweden. He has faced allegations of raping children and runs a bizarre religious commune, having a number of ’wives’, some of them barely of the age of consent, but because he is a home educator, he must be OK. When he posted on the Badman Review Action Group, I asked a few questions. This was enough to make people agitate for my removal from the list and I so left. How dare I question a home educator in this way? This odious man managed to persuade others on the list that he was an innocent victim of government persecution and so Karen Rodgers, well known on other lists as well, endorsed him and his site. Free Sweden Net now bears the following from Karen:
"Great website and really scary content. Sweden is so often held up here as an example of an enlightened modern country. What an irony!" (KR, United Kingdom, 1 March 2011)
On other occasions, right wing American groups who believe in beating their children regularly and allowing them to carry guns, have also been endorsed by British home educators. Anybody from abroad who posts on any British list because their children are not at school and social services are concerned, can be sure of finding support on either BRAG or HE-UK.
The danger is that this willingness, on the one hand to believe no ill of anybody who says he is a home educator and on the other to mistrust teachers and social workers, will produce a situation where children who are not at school will end up being abused and their abusers actually will be protected by other home educators. The belief is, though not explicitly stated, that if social services are chasing a home educating parent, then they are the villains and the parent is the victim. This is not at all how I see it. We have in the past seen cases in Education Otherwise of this sort of thing happening. I strongly suspect that sooner or later, this attitude will create the ideal circumstances for some unscrupulous person to set up as a home educator and abuse not only his own children but other peoples’ as well. The hatred and mistrust felt towards professionals, combined with the sympathy felt towards all home educating parents makes this inevitable. The only way that such a situation could be avoided would be if home educators started being a little less hostile towards teachers and social workers and somewhat more searching about the motives of other parents. I don’t expect this to happen and so sooner or later, some charismatic fellow like Christopher Warren will become prominent in home educating circles here with disastrous results.