I am constantly amazed at the ferocious anger which seems to bubble away under the surface of some autonomous home educators. It is of a type and degree that one seldom sees in the more structured educators and one has the impression that these are people who are probably simmering away all the time; ready to erupt in a second at some fancied slight or criticism. Of course, one also encounters such people among those who send their children to school, but there they are definitely a tiny minority. Among autonomous home educators, this kind of parent appears to be alarmingly common!
Now I am aware that I can be an irritating person, but the responses to what I say here go beyond all reason. Any normal person stumbling across a blog whose author seems to be an annoying fool, will simply move on and find another, more congenial place, to hang out in cyberspace. Not so the autonomous educators! They pop up here regularly and are always furious. I have remarked before on how curious this is. I am not after all attacking them personally. Indeed, because they are too cowardly in general to sign their names to the rude messages which they leave here, I could hardly do so, even if I wanted. No, they are angry because I express scepticism and ask questions about an educational theory which they favour. This is truly extraordinary.
As a home educator, I took it for granted that many people, especially those who had sent their children to school, would disapprove of my choice. So it proved, with a lot of parents making ill-informed comments about the matter. This never made me angry; why on earth would it? This was my choice and there are bound to be people who have made different choices about education to that which I made. With quite a few autonomous types though, even asking questions is enough to drive them to fury!
On the thread ‘No wonder local authorities are alarmed about home education!’, I was having a little light-hearted discussion yesterday about Albert Einstein and the extent to which his schooling contributed towards his success as a physicist. You would have thought that this was a completely neutral topic about nobody would be likely to grow cross. You would have thought this, until I tell you that a number of autonomous educators were involved in the debate! I asked a few questions, always a mistake with those people, and even made one or two humorous observations. I recommend readers to have a look at the increasingly heated comments which this provoked. It ended with two people commenting, using the expressions;
'shows himself up to be the arrogant ignoramus that he is.'
' truly repressed, narrow minded & pompously ignorant twonk '
Now all this is very unfortunate. There are serious points to be made here; about the extent to which somebody who attends school from the age of five can be said to be an autonomous learner, how much formal schooling contributed to Einstein’s education and various other points. It is also worth talking about the way in which Einstein is sometimes invoked as an authority on topics other than physics and his name used to support fringe beliefs. Readers with long memories might recall this being done both with Immanuel Velikovsky’s theories and also the idea of biorhythms. Any attempt to talk reasonably about the topic though, ends in vitriolic rudeness.
I wonder if this says anything useful about the sort of person who chooses autonomous education? Are they more commonly angry individuals than ordinary people? Is it because they are more likely to be opposed to schools and teachers? Or do they perhaps feel sensitive and unsure about their chosen educational technique and believe that when somebody asks questions, then the best defence is attack? If the incident yesterday were a one-off, it would be one thing, but it is not. Nor is the level of anger which we regularly see here, restricted to me. It is directed against all who question this ideology. I have an idea that this is more a psychological or sociological problem than one relating to education per se and I will be turning the matter over in my mind when I have a chance and letting readers know what I conclude.