For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Professor Stephen Heppell

As posted on Gill's blog in the comment thread about "Mr Badman, Professor Heppel, bullying, Notschool and Becta" in response to Professor Heppell virtually kissing Gill:

Something has been bugging me for a few days now and I cannot let it go. If only because I want a clean conscience. And because I want to walk the talk.
One of the things I've said in my letter to Baroness Morgan is that I would do anything within my power to stand up against abuse.
Now, I have a growing feeling that I am witnessing at least the onset of abuse and although I feel very uncomfortable watching, I am still limiting my response to trying to override my instincts and instead reason and rationalise. But hurt and damage is being caused. Trauma's are being formed. There is definitely an unequal situation, wherein one party - at least potentially - has power over another. The less powerful party is not entirely defenceless, but knows that in the end the other party has access to ultimate power.
If the situation I'm describing would be between an adult and a child, the authorities would (want to) be involved, the child would be in a protective programme and the adult would be up in court.
But in this case I'm not sure who to turn to for justice, because the more powerful party is representing the authorities and the less powerful party is represented by adults. In the end, though, children will be the victim of this abuse in the making.

Professor Heppell, I am a very visual thinker, and the image of you offering kisses to Gill - after first saying "Would you rather I'd left it to the Ofsted members" - was a final straw for me. It turns my stomach, to be honest.
I am all for engaging in dialogue, for exchanging view points, for open and non-violent communication. But the only fair way to conduct that is if both parties set out to respect each other and take each other one hundred percent seriously.
Please take a step back, Professor Heppell, and look at this situation. Look at it as if it concerned a situation with on one side a teacher who knows his grading is going to determine the future of his student, and on the other side the student, who is being asked to hand in his free spirit in exchange for a good mark.
Look at it as if it concerned a situation with on one side an employer who know his employee is depending on him for the income that supports his family, and on the other side the employee who is being asked to smother his free speech in exchange for an income.
Look at it as if it concerned a situation with on one side a (grand)parent who knows the child can't live and can't go anywhere without them, and on the other side the child who knows that if he doesn't do what the adult wants him to do, there will be no food, no home, no love.

I'm sure you don't want to be part of any of these situations, Professor Heppell. So please take a step back and consider what your position as member of the reviewing panel is in relation to our position as the party being reviewed for something we are falsely accused of.
Gill doesn't need your kisses - Gill deserves your support, your understanding and not in the last place: your apology.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My draft A4 to Mr Badman

I've written and re-written my A4 to Mr Badman.
It's strange, in one way I feel there's already many people writing extremely good pieces, so maybe I shouldn't take the focus away from them. On the other hand I really feel it's about me, and about my family, and about the future of my children and their children, so I need to add my bit to it.
Obviously everyone's dilemma is what to write in such a limited space. How to phrase all that's so utterly important to us in so few words? I wonder if Mr Badman realises that each and everyone of us conscious and elective home educators could talk for hours and hours about the why and how of uninterfered-with home education. How can you make someone understand the essence of autonomous education if they are walking an entirely different path in life?
Anyway, I've decided that this - here below - is what I want to send. Any comments or corrections to English are most welcome.

Dear Mr Badman,

Thank you for inviting home educators to write to you regarding the ongoing review of Elective Home Education and thank you for your promise to read it all.
It was hard to decide what to write about, as I could easily fill a book with relevant facts, figures and feelings. As I expect you will be inundated with facts and figures by other home educators, I chose to write to you on a more personal level.

After all that's gone on and been said since the start of this review - and the previous consultations - it's hard to withstand the tendency to feel suspicious or hostile. Everything I believe in, live for and love dearly, seems to be under threat of being changed to such an extent that it would change the very core of my existence. And that's scary.

However, one thing I've learned since we chose to home educate our children autonomously, is that the only way to deal with fear is to stand up to it and face it. I will not let fear get the better of me, I will not let it rule my life. I will have faith and trust that my well considered choice to take full responsibility for the education of my own children gets the respect and recognition it deserves and is entitled to.
From that faith and trust I am now asking you to not let the overwhelming sense of fear that seems to rule our society nowadays, stand between you and sound judgment. To please look beyond and recognize that one very good way to conquer fear is for people to take responsibility for their own lives and, as a possible consequence, for the education of their own children. In whatever way they see fit.
And that by doing so the well-being of young people is improved and the chances of them being abused or neglected are reduced, not only within their own families and communities, but - eventually - in society as a whole.

As the absolute expert on my own children and after twelve years of autonomous home education I dare to say they wouldn't be the well balanced, confident, competent, independent and happy young people they are today if there had been a compulsive need for monitoring. Or if any outside and non-committed party had in any other way interfered with or tried to take control over their self directed way of learning and living. Being able to home educate in our own autonomous way has been very beneficial for our children and for us as a family.

Nothing and nobody can ever totally eradicate evil from this world. I am absolutely sure that existing legislation and guidance in this country is more than sufficient to tackle possible child abuse and threats to children's welfare as good as possible. There is enough evidence to suggest that LA's and other agencies involved in education and child welfare are not sufficiently informed and therefore not efficient when it comes to relating the existing legislation and guidance to elective home education. Improving that would surely result in a better outcome for all involved, and would certainly prevent a lot of unnecessary aggravation and harmful experiences to home educating families.

Please, Mr. Badman, let us get on with what we do so passionately and with more love, dedication and commitment than any system could ever offer: Providing our children with an education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude and to any special needs they may have.