One of the things which has amused me over the years is the way in which individuals manage to portray themselves as the leaders of some community or other. It happens with Caribbeans, Muslims, Jews and various other minorities. All too often, these people are chancers who are really speaking only for themselves and a small group of like-minded friends. The same thing has happened with home education and the result is that the pushiest and most vociferous end up representing the majority of parents; at least in the eyes of the government, local authorities and so on. Why else would so many local authorities advise newly home educating parents to contact Education Otherwise?
In fact, a very small group of people make most of the noise about home education in this country. Talking to most ordinary parents, those who do not belong to so-called ‘support groups’, you will find, for example, that almost all of them regard monitoring by their local authority in much the way that I did myself; that is to say as a necessary nuisance. If you ask any of those whom we might call the ‘community leaders’ though, you will find a very different view being put forward. This is the case with a number of other aspects of home education; a tiny group manages to make their own odd agenda appear to be the consensus view.
Now although there is only a small core of very militant home educators or former home educators involved in this business, they are very well organised and work constantly to ensure that their extreme views are accepted as being the norm. I have explained before how this is done and I do not want to go into it again now. It is enough to say that perhaps fifty or a hundred people at most manage to create the illusion that they speak on behalf of the tens of thousands of home educating parents in Britain. This is a very small and self-selected group and what I have noticed is that almost all of those whom I have learned anything about, share certain characteristics. I do not think that they are typical of home educators in general. One of the things which I have observed is that almost without exception, the high profile home educators have certain difficulties. I shall go into this in detail either tomorrow or the next day, but for now I will say that nearly all the people one sees representing themselves as speaking on behalf of home educators either have, or claim to have, some kind of learning difficulty or mental illness. These range from dyslexia and attention deficit disorder to being bipolar and autistic. In many cases, these problems have been self-diagnosed, but that in itself is interesting.
I shall not be naming names, but talking in general terms. Mind, the way that some of these people boast of their problems through the medium of blogs and so on, there is no real need for secrecy! I want to explore the possibility that much of what is being done by the leaders, or apparent leaders, of home education in this country is actually counter productive and causes more trouble than it is worth for ordinary parents. I also want to look at the extent to which their activities might be influenced by, or even a direct consequence of, their own disorders.