Thursday, 21 March 2013
How to irritate over 99% of parents
One of the things which I notice time and again is the way that many of the more vociferous home educating parents do not give a brilliant impression to the rest of the world. A small number of such people patrol the internet, supposedly defending the practice of home education, but in reality putting up the backs of thousands of people who have before this been quite indifferent to home education. This can be a problem for the more normal type of home educator, those with no axe to grind and who just wish to get on with educating their children. The militant characters who start rows on the internet are usually those who have had bad experiences with schools and so could be said to have chips on their shoulders about the school system. The latest example of this sort of thing has happened on the Cbeebies face book page:
There is a new ten minute slot on cbeebies, called ‘What’s the Big Idea’ and they were foolish enough to talk about school. You can see the programme here:
Obviously, this programme is aimed at under fives, over 99% of whom will be going to school in a matter of months, so it made sense for them to talk about school as a place where the children would learn. This was a big mistake! Dawn Todd said:
‘The adverts for the new show "what's the big idea" say the programme will cover the question "what does it mean to learn something?" Please tell me that will be covered in a future episode, as today's offering, about school, displayed a very narrow understanding of "learning". (Not to mention the factual inaccuracies around why children "have to" go to school’
Here is Danyele Hidderley:
‘ I thought it was awful. It didn't really explain what learning was. It lied that you 'have' to go to school to learn because 'that's where the teachers are'! What about the best teachers (IMO) the parents? You cant learn unless you go to school? And if you go to school you will get a good job. What if you learn elsewhere? I thought it totally excluded home educated children who may have been watching.’
Here is Dawn Todd again,
‘very few people "have to go to school". Is this programme intended only for people who have been issued school attendance orders? ‘
Rachel Yarworth is concerned that in ten minute programme aimed at three and four year-olds, the BBC did not explore the legal situation in more depth. She said:
‘ with more and more people choosing to home educate every day, isn't it about time CBeebies recognised that as a legal and valid choice? ‘
I could go on, but I urge readers to check this out for themselves. The producers responded to the complaints of home educating parents by explaining, quite reasonably, that they had simplified things a little because of the under fives age group at which the programme was aimed, but this only provoked more anger. Morag Davidson said;
‘Simplifying to the point of lying isn't doing well by anyone's standards…it doesn't meet home educators standards. Might be good enough for schools though I suppose. ‘
It should of course be mentioned that when a child says, 'I have to clean my teeth' or 'I have to go to school', he is not really talking about a legal duty; merely that he is being compelled to do something. Clearly, this escaped those whose comments I quote above. Nobody watching this programme would really think that the child featured was under a legal obligation to attend school; it was more that he was being made to go by his parents.
The overall impression left here was of stuck-up and bad tempered people who do not know how children use language. This was certainly how the other, non-home educating parents, saw them. There were ratty remarks about the home educators and I don't blame them. Most people come on that face book page to chat about the programmes and talk about the bits their children enjoyed. Here were a group of aggressive and opinionated people clogging the place up with sarcastic remarks about the lifestyle chosen by the vast majority of parents. Most parents send their children to school and remarks such as:
‘I'm amused that school educated children need to be encouraged/taught to develop critical thinking and discussion skills. HE families do this instinctively all the time’
just sound snotty and superior.
This is only one example of this happening. We see the same type of home educators commenting on the online editions of newspapers, on blogs and elsewhere on the internet. It is easy to spot them, because they are usually angry and almost invariably have the air of people who think that they care more for their children than other parents do. No wonder that some people have a poor idea about home educators and get irritated at the mention of home education!