Insulting home educators

Over the last couple of days several people commenting here have told me that they have felt insulted. This was because I have in the past said unflattering things about autonomous home education and this means that as autonomous home educators themselves they have been personally maligned. I have to say that this strikes me as absolute nonsense. Three points need to be considered.

The first point is that many parents of autonomously educated children are abnormally sensitive to any criticism of their methods. They see even casual observations as savage attacks. Consider the following statement: many parents of children at secondary schools lie their heads off about their children's academic achievements and make strenuous efforts to deceive their local authority about what their children are actually capable of. I could make this comment anywhere; on a blog, in a newspaper article or speaking in the local pub and nobody would turn a hair or take any offence. The coursework swindle has become so widespread and blatant that even the government has noticed. This is why it is being replaced by controlled assessments in the classroom. I don't know a single parent who has not drawn pictures, sewn garments, composed music, written essays or carried out mathematical investigations for their children's GCSEs. In other words, they are setting out deliberately to deceive others about the true nature of their children's academic achievement. I have never heard of a parent who found it insulting when this is mentioned; parents just laugh. In fact everybody exaggerates or inflates what their children do; it is just how parents are. Everybody claims that their child is gifted/talented/ sensitive/clever/musical/advanced for her age and so on.

The funny thing is of course that while I can say anything at all about the coursework swindle without anybody getting annoyed, the suggestion that autonomously educating parents get up to the same tricks is apparently deeply insulting. This rather makes me think that it is a matter of sensitivity on the part of some parents and not a rational objection at all. If I were to say a similar thing on here or in a newspaper article about home educating parents, there would be cries of protest and general anguish. Let's try: many parents of autonomously educated children lie their heads off about their children's activities and do their best to deceive their local authority as to the true level of their children's academic achievements. Whoa, steady on there! This is deeply offensive to home educating parents. It is an insult!

The second point is that people often say horrible things about subjects which are dear to our hearts. Richard Dawkins for instance has said that a Catholic upbringing is worse than the sexual abuse of a child. As somebody who raised his daughter in the church, should I feel insulted by this? After all, he is saying that the way I raised my child is worse than sexual abuse! Of course I don't actually feel insulted at all. I disagree with his views, but he is perfectly entitled to hold them. I can hardly expect everybody in the world to tiptoe around things which I hold sacred and then accuse them of insulting me if they criticise something which is important to me. If that were the case then nobody would ever be able to say much about religion, education, politics or anything else without upsetting and insulting other people! Most of us take all this in our stride. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have these views and the best thing I can do is just not get too worked up about them. Mind you, they have both been told time and again that they are wrong and they still say gratuitously offensive things without a thought for my feelings. There must be something wrong with them!

A final point is this. If I read books by Richard Dawkins, or look at newspaper articles by him or go on his blog, then I shall encounter views about religion with which I disagree strongly. Whatever can I do? Ah, I know. If I don't want to read his opinions on religion, opinions with which I know in advance that I shall disagree, I could avoid going on his blog or reading what he says about religion in the newspapers. This is actually what I generally do. After all, there would be no point at all in my going on his blog and then fretting because he was saying horrible things about my religion. There would be still less point in claiming to be insulted and suggesting that he must be autistic because he won't listen to my views and does not mind upsetting me. Obviously, I would do better not to read what he says if it is going to wind me up. Some of the people who comment here remind me very much of the little old spinster who rang the police and complained that she was upset because she could see the neighbours getting undressed at night. When the police came round, she showed them up into her bedroom and pointed out of the window. The policeman peered out but could not see into the window of the house opposite. 'Sorry, love', he told her, 'I can't see into your neighbours' bedroom at all' She said, 'Oh you have to climb onto the dressing table and then crane your neck round to see properly...'

I am very happy for anybody to come on here and comment. That's why I don't moderate. But if what I am saying here is really offending anybody, it might be better for people not to read it. When all's said and done, this is a personal blog about my thoughts on home education. I'll be damned if I stop expressing my opinions simply because they are unpalatable to this person or that. There are blogs around which cater especially for autonomous educators, things like Dare to Know and Mairre Stafford's blog. I don't go on them much myself, because they irritate me, but I have an idea that some of the recent commentators here might find the views expressed in such places more in keeping with their own. As it is, they have apparently in the past been offended and insulted by the things which I have said on Internet lists. A year after I was chucked off those lists, they are now coming on here so that they can be insulted and offended all over again! This surely verges on the masochistic.