Wednesday, 27 June 2012

British home educators and their susceptibility to propaganda

I had occasion last month to remark how awful it is to see home educators using pastor Niemoller's meditation, the one that begins ‘First they came for the communists’, to support their supposed right to educate their own children. I find it stupendously offensive to see people comparing the persecution of Jews and political opponents by the Nazis with local authority officers in this country checking that children are receiving a suitable education. Yesterday, I drew attention to two other examples of this sort of thing. One was splicing footage of Hitler into a film about home education and the other was the making of an image of Graham Badman reading Mein Kampf, which appeared on the spoof blog, the Dark Lord.

The use of such motifs is of course a form of propaganda. It tells us nothing useful, but associates certain things with negative images. In favour of regulation for home education? Gosh, you must be like the Nazis! Of course, home educators are not the only ones to use propaganda of this sort in their campaigns. One sees it in many emotional and irrational appeals; debates about euthanasia, for example. The argument basically is, ’Hitler approved of this; if you also approve of it, then that makes you like Hitler.’ There is even a term for this nonsense; Godwin’s Law.

In addition to the stick of being compared to Hitler and the Nazis, many home educators also use the carrot of being on the side of the clever and famous. I have lost track of how many lists I have seen of supposedly home educated people who achieved a lot in life. Here the irrational appeal is the opposite of the one involving Hitler. You obviously don’t want to be like Hitler, but surely you would like your children to be as clever as Einstein? Well there you go; Einstein was home educated, therefore if you home educate your kid, he might end up as clever as Einstein. (The fact that Einstein was not home educated is not really relevant here, he certainly appears in many lists of famous home educated people.)

That so many home educators and their self-appointed leaders rely so heavily upon these stereotypes is slightly alarming! There are many good reasons for educating your own child; I can think of a dozen or so offhand, without racking my brains unduly. I am curious to know though  why the Nazis crop up so regularly in British home education. Is it some residual xenophobia from the Second World War; just look at what those Krauts got up to, do you want to be like them? Or might it be that many home educators have not thought overmuch about their motives and seize cheerfully upon the first flimsy excuse that is offered. I suppose that not being like Hitler and the possibility of having a kid as brainy as Einstein are both fairly good motives, if you cannot think of anything better!


  1. Several points, but I will limit myself to two.

    Yes, Some HEers do seem susceptible to propaganda/nonsense. However, I do think this is a function of when people are connected primarily through internet groups. Those who don't 'do' internet groups much but are connected in real life groups seem, in my experience, to be far less susceptible to belieeving everything they read/hear. This is true of any sub-group though, not just HEers.

    Secondly, it could be that those who are really annoyed by the Germany situation are not so much reacting to WW2, but are in touch with people trying to HE there. I know I am or rather was. One family I am friendly with was forced, after years of meetings, threats, court appointments etc, to finally leave Germany. They had fought the good fight, but the next step was prison and they just weren't prepared for that. Actually, Mum was. Dad not so much :-)

    There's plenty to be annoyed at Germany about without having to reach backwards in the past too far.

    Old Mum

    1. Annoyed at Germany....
      Perhaps you should enrol in some relaxation classes.

  2. From the Wikipeadia entry about Godwin's Law.

    "The law and its corollaries would not apply to discussions covering known mainstays of Nazi Germany such as genocide, eugenics or racial superiority, nor, more debatably, to a discussion of other totalitarian regimes or ideologies, since a Nazi comparison in those circumstances may be appropriate, in effect committing the fallacist's fallacy. Whether it applies to humorous use or references to oneself is open to interpretation, since this would not be a fallacious attack against a debate opponent."

    "While falling afoul of Godwin's law tends to cause the individual making the comparison to lose their argument or credibility, Godwin's law itself can be abused as a distraction, diversion or even as censorship, fallaciously miscasting an opponent's argument as hyperbole when the comparisons made by the argument are actually appropriate. Similar criticisms of the "law" (or "at least the distorted version which purports to prohibit all comparisons to German crimes") have been made by Glenn Greenwald. Some have suggested a counter axiom where a fallacious invoking of Godwin's Law results in the person automatically losing the debate.

    I suppose the removal of the freedom to HE that results in families leaving their homeland is borderline when considering, 'totalitarian regimes or ideologies', but it's not that much of a stretch. It certainly seems an over-regulation of private life, and it's not the only area of personal life affected in Sweden. Didn't one of their councils require men to urinate sitting down in the council toilets? The spoof blog was certainly intended to be humorous.

  3. Old crazy Badman and Ed Balls who sold off our gold at to low a rate would not have used propaganda Webb?

    his idea has been thrown in the dustbin where there belong!

    old crazy Badman unrated many home educators and lost result was Badman/Balls?Webb/simmone a big fat 0 home edicators 1

  4. when i see a picture of old crazy Badman i knew we would win he looked such a pratt!

    1. Badman was just doing his job, uneducated people like you are the ones that give cause for concern in HE.
      BTW...the word 'prat' is derived from a French word for 'meadow' or the obsolete old English word 'praett' which was a derivative of somthing to do with a trick or a prank.
      The word 'pratt' is inappropriate, it doesn't have any meaning, it's nonsense. Oh, very much like the dribble that you contribute here on a regular basis and the stuff that has accumulated in your head.

    2. I think that Peter and Anti-Peter might both need a holiday.

  5. you say-Badman was just doing his job,

    the nazis said that there where only doing there job.also Badman lost against so called uneducated home educators!
    are you saying that Ed balls did not sell of the state gold at to low a rate as most experts say he did?

    Badman is a pratt you only got look at his picture to see that and his report has been sling into the bin where it belongs with all the other crap one puts in a bin!

    1. Here come the Nazis and uneducated HEers again....
      You said it.

  6. Badman is a nazis who wanted to stop home education but he lost!

  7. Just checked up on the surname 'Badman'.
    That name is listed as Jewish by genealogists.
    If it should turn out that Graham Badman is of Jewish ancestry, that would make you and others that have jumped on this Nazi bandwagon very, very offensive indeed.

  8. As a result of this blog and Peter Williams comments I looked into home educators comments on different sites.
    I came across this comment on the Lord Lucas blog.

    'we feel we are about to be lined up like the Jews to get a star sewn on our arms.'

    An insensitive and offensive comment without a shadow of doubt.

  9. you dont mean lord lucan do you?

  10. old crazy badman would use propaganda and has done to try and get his way but he lost to home educators such a shame to lol

    we won that all that mattered Badman lost cos he underrated home educators! you have to look at his picture to see he not very bright he a tick box man following orders just liek the nazis did!