Sunday, 2 September 2012
Bad publicity for home education…
Home educators who spend a lot of time prowling the internet and looking for references to their lifestyle tend on the whole to be a pretty angry and intemperate bunch; always on the lookout for fancied slights and supposed discrimination. They google “home education” with various other words such as “abuse”, “local authority” or “regulation”, until they come across some newspaper article or forum which is discussing home education. They then comment themselves and contact various other like-minded individuals, until the comments pages are flooded with virulently pro-home education sentiments. Anybody who is the least bit dubious about the benefits of home education or who feels that greater checks are needed, is shouted down, mocked and abused. There are only a couple of dozen people at this game, but you see them all over the internet. Let some well-meaning mother express concern about a home educating family on some parenting site, for instance, and before you know it the usual home educators are on the thread, denouncing her as a fool and bigot.
The sort of behaviour which I outline above is very well known to many in the field of education. The home educators engaging in this practice give a terrible impression of home educators in general. It is perfectly clear that they have massive chips on their shoulders for various reasons and regard anybody who is the slightest bit sceptical about home education as a bitter enemy. People in local authorities, the staff on the Time Educational Supplement and others actively involved with education, take all this in their stride. They know what some of these characters can be like and don’t take offence. Problems can arise though when these tactics spill over into the real world and people unfamiliar with the more aggressive type of home educator come up against campaigns of this sort.
When the National School Film Week introduced a minimum booking of ten seats for their event in October, it was seen by some as ‘pure discrimination’, ‘bias’ and ‘prejudice’. It was of course nothing of the sort; just a small charity trying to reduce staff costs and avoid wasting the time of cinemas by getting them to come in and show films to just two or three children. Following the kind of strategy which I have talked about, some home educators organised angry messages on the Facebook page of this charity and also saw to it that masses of emails were sent. Many of these were very aggressive in tone, so much so that that the head of the charity had this to say in public:
'In closing, I must also refute the accusations made by a small minority of home educators against Film Education and members of its staff, that we are deliberately discriminating against home educated children and young people. We are prepared, if necessary, to take appropriate action to protect our staff and our organisation from such unfounded accusations'
This is now on the public website. What sort of impression does this give to ordinary people of home educators? Action might need to be taken to protect the staff of a charity from home educators? I do wish that people would stop to think before they get up to these capers. An awful lot of people already think that home educating parents must be a bit weird. This sort of thing hardly helps. The average person reading what has been put up on the site will be shaking his head in disapproval at the thought of the abuse to which this charity’s workers have been subjected. This is just the kind of publicity which home education in this country can do without.