Finding things out

Readers with good memories will recollect that back in March and April last year there was a lot of speculation about the possibility that Graham Badman might recommend that home educators should adhere to the National Curriculum. Messages about this went whizzing back and forth on the Internet lists such as HE-UK and EO. I too was curious about this and so I got in touch with Elizabeth Greene at the DCSF and asked if I could meet with Graham Badman. On April 28th, I duly had a conversation with him. Almost the first question I asked was, 'Is it true that you are planning to recommend that the National Curriculum is imposed upon home educators? A lot of parents are worried about this'. He was very surprised to hear this and assured me that there was nothing of the sort planned. He then enquired in a puzzled way why if parents were so worried about this, none had asked him about it. He had by that time met many home educators, including a whole bunch down in Kent. Not one had said a word about this to him. I at once posted this information on the lists.

The reason for this brief historical excursion is that I am seeing a similar situation develop now with the Metropolitan Police Child/Comprehensive Risk Assessment Matrix or CRAM for short. People have been posting messages in Canada, harassing hapless magazine editors, firing off freedom of Information requests, posting frenziedly on Internet lists and I don't know what all else. Now this is not a new tool, it has been in general use since April 2009 and there is quite a complex set of instructions to accompany it. Anybody who wishes to know about this tool and how it works can simply telephone the police and ask. This is of course the one thing which nobody thought of doing; ringing the man who actually wrote the thing and asking him about it. I sometimes think that many home educators prefer to do things the hard way. Making Freedom of Information requests before you have exhausted all other avenues of enquiry is usually counter-productive. This is because as soon as one makes the request, you can be sure of two things. Firstly, the whole process will take a lot longer than if you simply ask about it on the telephone. Secondly, you can be absolutely sure that you will be provided with the very minimum amount of information necessary for the agency to comply with the letter of the law. If the person at the office can leave out some vital bit of information, he will do so. Now I have no objection to using this process if I can't get information any other way, but that seldom happens. In other words, I regard that sort of thing as the last resort, not the first response. In general, you will find out a lot more by asking in a straightforward and open way about what you wish to find out.

So many home educating parents seem to behave in this way, fighting needlessly and demanding answers hysterically, that it seems almost to be a specific syndrome. Have a look at this:

A classic case indeed! Why on earth should we begin by 'demanding' answers from the Metropolitan Police? Might it not be better policy to ring them up for a chat and just ask them? And what precisely is the purpose of being 'angry'? Wouldn't we be more likely to get somebody to take us seriously if we were calm and reasonable? Very odd.

It is as though they enjoy being a persecuted minority and that this somehow adds a thrill to their lives and perhaps gives them a cause with which they can identify. Far more exciting to struggle against a monolithic, faceless and uncaring bureaucracy by angrily demanding answers from them! Where would be the fun in just telephoning somebody like a normal citizen and having a friendly chat when you want to find something out? It would take all the pleasure out of the thing! I was reminded of this while looking again at Kelly Green's blog. As readers will know, I posted a couple of perfectly reasonable comments on there and her response was to bar me from the place entirely. It's her blog of course, but I found her explanation revealing. She said of me, ' He hadn’t targeted me until now, perhaps because I am a foreigner,'. What a truly wierd thing to say! Is this really how some home educators feel about comments from anybody who might disagree with them? After all, there have been not a few of those here! I have never thought that I am being targeted though. Bob Collier in Australia has commented here a few times. Imagine if I said after he had posted a comment, 'He hadn’t targeted me until now, perhaps because I am a foreigner,'. This is the language of paranoia.

Actually, rather than paranoia, this is more the language of the spy thriller. This is a clue as to the motivation of some home educators. They enjoy the battle for its own sake and are always on the lookout for some new drama in which they may become embroiled, something which will confirm them in their belief that they are standing alone against an implacable and all powerful foe! One gets the feeling that these are people who relish the feeling of belonging to a select few, a kind of secret society which is set apart from the rest of society. I suppose that is the way that Freemasons feel and other secret societies. I read with enormous pleasure last year accounts from home educators who were planning to 'go underground', flee the country or live on canal boats in order to escape from the socialist dictatorship. Gosh, it all sounded so exciting that I was almost tempted to play at being a refugee myself! Almost, but not quite. After all, I had my daughter's education to consider. This is the real problem when parent play silly beggars like this; it is their children's education which is likely to suffer. All the time that they spend being angry, making pointless Freedom of Information requests and fighting the authorities is time which could be better spent in providing an education for their children. There is no harm at all playing secret societies like this, many people like these games, including as I said the Freemasons. As long as it remains an entertaining hobby, then that is fine. When it begins to take over one's life, then perhaps it is time to stop and think about matters a little. One sees so much about these things on the HE Internet lists that one gets the impression that this is the main feature of life for some home educating parents. Perhaps once in a while it would do no harm for these people to remember that the real purpose of home education is not fighting the government, police and local authorities, but educating their children.