I suggested yesterday that the great majority of those prominent in the world of British home education have either learning difficulties or mental illnesses. Two questions spring immediately to mind. First, is this true? Secondly, if it is true; does it matter? I want this morning to talk about the first of these questions.
I have been involved in home education in one way or another for decades. One of the things which I have noticed in recent years is that those whose names crop up over and over again often hold very strange views and tend to be very aggressive in defending these against anybody who shows any doubt that they are right. Of course, many people hold unconventional views and opinions, but those of the more well known home educators seem a little more off the wall than most and they will go to the most extraordinary lengths to attack those who believe differently from them. It is this which sets home education apart from most other fringe interests; its leaders behave as though they are protecting the interests of a cult or religion, rather than simply debating an unusual mode of education.
Obviously, when I have been the subject of attacks and smear campaigns by such people, my curiosity has been aroused and I try to find out what can possibly motivate such hatred and venom. It is not every day that I am the victim of a conspiracy to have me arrested because I am a believer in orthodox educational theories! Obviously I want to know what is going on. This has led me to examine the backgrounds of some of these people in a little detail.
Here are a few random examples of the sort of people I am talking about. All these people will be familiar to anybody who belongs to the HE-UK or EO lists. No fewer than three mother-daughter combinations, where the mother suffers from an unknown neurological disorder which defies medical science to diagnose. Alarmingly, their daughters too begin to display similar symptoms at puberty; necessitating crank diets and quacks remedies which both mother and daughter undertake together. Many cases of self-diagnosed autistic spectrum disorder in parents who often claim that their own children are autistic too. In many cases, there has been no actual diagnosis of either parent or child. A similar picture for dyslexia and also ADHD. A well known mother, now sixty, who went to great lengths a couple of years ago to have herself medically diagnosed, at the age of fifty eight, with attention deficit disorder. Having found an obliging psychologist, she then declared that all her children must have suffered from the same syndrome.
Often, when I watch what is going on the British home education scene, I mentally tick off the disorders of those involved. There is a certain amount of head-butting currently taking place between the (dyslectic) founder of a major home education list and a (bipolar) former leader of Education Otherwise. I see this all the time; situations where every single person involved either has or claims to have a mental illness or learning difficulty.
Another feature of those home educators who draw frequent attention to themselves is very weird beliefs about other things, such as conspiracy theories. There is a good deal of overlap between this and those who also have mental illnesses and learning difficulties. The dyslectic founder of the home education list mentioned above subscribes to some really odd conspiracy theories. One of those regarded as a founding father of home education in this country is not only bipolar, but is also a fanatical believer in the idea of the New World Order.
I could go on further, giving more and more examples, but I think that readers are getting the idea. The majority of those in the public eye because of home education have either learning difficulties or mental illnesses. In many cases, these disorders are self-diagnosed; often, it is claimed that their children have the same thing. This frequently goes hand in hand with beliefs that most people would dismiss as being a bit loopy. There is a lot of overlap between the groups, so that a good number of these people have learning difficulties combined with an unconventional belief system.
In the next few days I shall be looking at whether any of this matters. In other words, should we care if those leading home educators in this country and setting the agenda for other parents have a high prevalence of problems of this sort?