Monday, 11 November 2013
A self-fulfilling prophecy
We saw yesterday that many of the more well-known individuals and organisations connected with home education in this country are known to each other and share a common ideology. There is no harm in this, as long as everybody knows it and takes it into account when listening to what is being said. The danger comes when new home educating parents who know nothing of this, begin to research the subject online. Because not only do these people share an ideology, they also have an alarming propensity to lie their heads off when once they are mounted on their hobby horse. This can have catastrophic consequences for the unwary parent. Let me give an example.
Here are three quotations by two people, both of them prominent in the world of British home education;
There is an increasing tendency for welfare officers and social workers to become involved with home-educating families from the outset
I have heard examples of parents discussing the wisdom of taking a child to an emergency ward when they know that a visit will be noted and passed on to the social services
Experience suggests that parents known to authorities do come under undue pressure to return children to school and this pressure sometimes extends to maliciously contacting social services to put further pressure on the parents to ‘cooperate’.
The first of these statements is by Paula Rothermel and the other two by Mike Fortune-Wood. Rothermel’s appeared in an academic journal and Fortune-Wood’s are to be found on his website; Home Education UK. There are two things to observe here. The first is that these statements are wholly false. There is no local authority in the United Kingdom which involves social workers with home educating families from the start, Casualty Departments do not routinely contact social services when a child is treated and local authorities do not maliciously contact social services, simply to force a child to return to school. This is the first point. The second is that any new home educator scouring the internet for information about home education would be very likely to stumble across pernicious nonsense of this sort and not realise that the man in Wales running the largest home education website in the country is on first name terms with the psychologist in Switzerland who wrote in the academic journal. They certainly would not know that she was reading any comments which the parent posted on the private internet list connected with the Home Education UK site. In other words, they might think that all this mischievous stuff about social workers originated from two entirely separate sources and was therefore more likely to be true.
Now an anecdote to illustrate the harm that what one might describe as the mainstream home education scene in this country can wreak on the lives of home educating families. A home educating parent who spent a lot of her time on the internet and believed implicitly the old wives' tales being peddled by the likes of Paula Rothermel and Mike Fortune-Wood, had occasion to take her six year old daughter to hospital. It was technically an emergency, although one involving a fairly trifling injury. Because she had made the most strenuous efforts to avoid being known to her local authority and had been led to believe that social workers were limbs of Satan and would force her to send her child to school if they heard about her, she drove to a hospital in another part of the city. Not only that, she gave a false name and address. Possibly, she had read what Mike Fortune-Wood had written about this; although I don’t know that for certain. What I do know is that she was fanatically keen to remain, ‘under the radar’ as home educators call it. Her story unraveled and she then openly admitted her real identity and the child was treated. She thought no more about it, until two social workers turned up on her doorstep the next day. Yes, she not only become known to her local authority, but also became embroiled with social services. This was nothing to do with home education. Had she just gone to her local hospital and given her proper name, nobody would have cared. Her misfortune was a direct result of reading the kind of malicious rubbish which I quoted above.