Free speech about home education

When I wrote a couple of articles on home education last year for national newspapers, I was swiftly chucked off the HE-UK and EO Internet lists. The ostensible reasons for this were that I had used information from the lists to write the articles and that other parents would feel uneasy at my continued presence. I have said several times since that both arguments struck me as weak, which led some of those commenting on this blog to suggest that I must be autistic!

I am observing the same reluctance to tolerate dissent or heterodox opinions now operating on various other home education lists and blogs. I am not the only person whose views are being suppressed; Tania Berlow has also been barred from several places, the Home Ed Forums for example.

There is something deliciously ironic and satisfying about watching stout libertarians imposing censorship in this way. It is not called censorship of course. I have always been perfectly courteous on the Badman Review Action Group list, but that did not stop somebody making an extremely personal attack on me, speculating about my childhood, possible relationship with my parents and resultant hatred of women! When I attempted to respond to this, I was put on moderation. This was done on the grounds that my posts were not helpful, informative or interesting and from then on posts which I have made have been deleted. I have of course stopped posting there, which was the intention of those using moderation in this way. The grounds for censoring Tania Berlow from the Home Ed Forums was that she had been defaming people. Quite untrue of course, but it provided a neat excuse to get rid of her. Kelly Green in Canada, the great defender of civil rights and freedom of speech, simply deletes any posts of mine at once from her blog. This is because she disagrees with what I say and does not wish to have anything on Kelly Green and Gold which suggests less than 100% agreement with her own views.

Sometimes, the censorship is done in a very unpleasant way. On HE-UK, a small group of playground bullies have in the past driven off parents who have asked too many questions or failed to be firm enough in their resolve to refuse visits from their local authority. Several women have contacted me after such episodes, one or two of them very distressed at the treatment which they have received. On other lists, the strategy is a little subtler. Certain people are put on moderation without being told and their posts simply deleted. This means that when somebody posts a message which denounces them, it appears that they are unable to formulate a response! I am not the only person against whom this particular tactic has been successfully used.

Readers of this blog will know that there is no moderation at all. Anybody can say anything they please and their comments will appear at once. I had to use moderation briefly on two occasions, but that was more for disruption that one person was causing, not because I wished to stop his views appearing. I do not agree with Tania on a number of points, as can be seen from things which I have said here, but I consider it absolutely scandalous that her views are being censored by people who claim to be hard-line libertarians. If these people were to be honest, they would admit that they were taking such a step not because Tania is defaming anybody, but rather due to the fact that she is disagreeing with others. This is a terrible reason for introducing censorship. There have been rumblings of discontent on the BRAG list, which Tania has chosen as her vehicle to put across her motives and plans for the project with Graham Stuart and Alison Sauer. I have a suspicion that if she is not careful, she is going to find herself in difficulty there as well. It is rumoured that Action on Home Education have also thrown her off.

This sort of activity by supposedly liberal and right-on home educators is hard to justify. If these people actually approve of censorship and believe that those holding other opinions should be denied a voice, then they have a perfect right to believe that. What sticks in my craw is the way that people like Kelly Green in Canada and others in this country make such a song and dance about freedom and civil rights and then at the drop of a hat impose censorship upon anybody whose views do not coincide with their own.