Wednesday, 12 September 2012
More trouble than they’re worth…
I think that if I ran an attraction for children, then I would have a strict and inflexible policy whereby home educated children and their families were absolutely forbidden from entry under any circumstances. This would be to both my advantage and also that of the home educators themselves. For me, the benefits of such a policy would be clear and immense; it would save me from having to come into contact with a quarrelsome bunch of people who are frequently irritating and sometimes completely mad. The home educating parents would benefit from being able to kid themselves that they were members of a persecuted and despised minority like Gypsies or asylum seekers. You know how many of them love that; just look at how popular that piece by pastor Niemoller is with them, the one about ‘then they came for the Jews’.
I have been prompted to muse along these lines by a couple of recent things involving angry home educators. The first was School Film Week, about which I wrote here. Some home educating parents became so abusive and frankly aggressive that the head of a charity was obliged to talk of the need to protect his staff. The latest example is even more extraordinary and may be familiar to those readers belonging to a few home educating lists.
The usual entry price for an adult and child to Legoland is around £60. This puts it out of the reach for many families as a casual day out; the cost to the average family would be well over £100, just to get into the place. School parties can get in much more cheaply, for £5 or £6. This is to Legoland’s advantage, because of course once the school holiday’s end in September, there is a sharp falling off in the number of visitors. If they didn’t cut prices for large groups, they might be in financial difficulties. They allow the schools to justify such visits by putting on vaguely ‘educational’ workshops. Recently, they decided to extend the same deal to home educated children. Instead of £60, home educated children only need pay £5.50 and an accompanying adult gets in free. You would think that this would have been welcomed as a very generous and thoughtful offer to the home educating community. You would have been dead wrong. It resulted in a flurry of complaints and angry rows at the ticket office.
I was so interested in this that I took the time to ring Legoland and ask them what they made of it all. One person to whom I spoke said that people were wishing that they had not decided to make this offer to home educating families, as it was all taking up a lot of time to deal with. They were having to ring head office, forward emails and talk to furious home educators themselves, some of whom were inarticulate and barely civil. What went wrong, you ask?
To begin with, Legoland gave the impression that home educating families could only have these cut prices on Mondays. So what you ask, this is still a really good deal. You idiot! Don’t you realise that this is discrimination and prejudice against the home educating community? Why should schoolchildren be allowed to visit on any day of the week and home educating children restricted to Mondays. This is ghettoisation. No, I am honestly not making any of this up. In the event, it appeared that this was a misunderstanding and that home educators can actually go on any day, but by the time that was clarified, a number of formal complaints had been made, all of which will have to be dealt with. This extra work over what was intended to be a gesture of goodwill has not exactly endeared home educators to the staff at Legoland. A couple of families turned up to take advantage of the new prices and found that the staff at the ticket office had not yet been informed of the new deal. The parents immediately kicked off and started blazing rows about having to wait while the staff checked with the main office. One of these parents seemed quite proud of having done this and actually used the word ‘row’ to describe her behaviour on a home educating list.
The result of all this was that a simple offer by a commercial concern intended to give home educated children the same opportunities as those at school has generated a good deal of ill will towards home educators. Their reputation for being troublesome lunatics is once again confirmed among ordinary people. Hands up who thinks that this is a good thing? Please don't point out that these people represent only a small minority of home educators; I am well aware of this. They are however the public face of home education, the ones people see and come into contact with. The staff at Legoland won't even notice the quiet and normal home educating parents who just pay their money without any fuss. The ones who stick in their mind will be the angry people who phoned up and abused them for what was, after all, and attempt to give their children the same as everybody else.