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 -

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The ET Syndrome and Neil TM

I wonder if other home educators on occasion also get the feeling that we are some kind of interesting phenomenon, observed and discussed by all and sundry and Lords and Ladies and politicians, who'd preferably keep us in zoo-like places, to be monitored, researched and - of course - controlled.

When I read this announcement from the University of Birmingham I suddenly understood how poor ET must have felt.
Only, home educators are NOT aliens and we are NOT some rare species on the brink of extinction, however disappointing that may be to Ed Fabian Balls and brethren. We are proper human beings, alive and thriving - in spite of all the efforts the abovementioned liberty and free-thought hating elements are making to try and get rid of us. And they are pulling out all the whips and plugs, throwing overboard every last bit of common decency and scruples, in order to achieve their evil goals.
Rather than wait what the University of Birmingham would conclude from their research into the "suitability" and "efficiency" of our lives, Neil Taylor-Moore wrote to them, offering them his opinion and a chance to actually include the knowledge of real life and still relatively free home educators into their review.
Here's his letter:


I don't know you, and you don't know me, but you have decided to make me and what I do your subject for discussion. I am a home educator.
I and my children are sovereign beings, and not someone else's "human resources" to be managed, or for that matter discussed, unless we present some problem to the rest of society, which we do not. We have no interest whatsoever in your opinions of that which in all probability you have no experience, and even less in your debating the meaning of suitable and efficient, with which there has been little problem in this context for the past 61 years.
Case law has established the meaning of those terms that originated in the 1944 Education Act, and there is no problem with that requiring any debate by academics or anybody else. In fact it is hard to see that this exercise is anything other than a Badman, so called "review" inspired determination to interfere with the established common law meanings of those terms, generalisations which, precisely by avoiding being rigidly specified by inevitably bogus criteria, preserve essential liberty, as indeed does the 1996 Education Act, s437, which alone enshrines the LEA duty towards those electing to educate their children otherwise than in school.
Frederic Bastiat, in "The Law", recognised that the business of the law is to prevent injustice, not to ensure justice. Law, he said, should therefore be negative. That is what s437 of the 1996 Education Act is.
It tasks the LEA, not with "ensuring" "suitable" education, it gives it a duty towards the home educated, *only* "if it appears that a child..... is *not* receiving... suitable" education. This distinction is crucial because upon it hinges the preservation or destruction of essential liberty. In this negative context of only acting if there is an appearance of neglect or failure of s7 duty, discussions about the meaning to be applied to suitable and efficient, are necessarily irrelevant. It only makes sense to define them further than their common usage meaning if the LEA duty is an ensuring one, through some regime of inspection. But it is not, and there is no statutory provision for such.
That it is not, is part of the content of the meaning of a "free country" that my parents' generation were sacrificing their lives to defend in the penultimate year of WW2, when these words were first drafted into statute.
It is as it should be, preserving the presumption of innocence, and empowering the authorities to interfere in private family life only if "it appears" that something is wrong, and there maybe default of a parent's s7 duty. It does not prescribe.
It really is that simple, and that right, if you are prepared to forgive the 1870 transgression and insult to human nature of making education compulsory, and compounding the insult by pretending school, not just education is compulsory ever since, in order to hide the law. Why was school not made legally compulsory? - force of public opposition to such a measure prevented the government from getting its way, so it lied about it ever since, coining the phrase "compulsory school age", instead of "compulsory education age", which would have been the truth. This was the same opposition which can neither tolerate education "otherwise" from being defined, controlled, inspected, licensed and denied by a state hostile to our precious liberty, no less now than then.
Not until this past year have I ever in my life felt so colonised, nor the lives of my prospective grandchildren so threatened as I do now by a seemingly endless stream of rent seekers recognising a fresh feast when they see one. It's a horrible feeling. It is the experience of tyranny, where once there was freedom. This year has been open season on home educators, and everyone has an opinion as to what should be done with us.
Teachers unions, academics, government, children's charities and social engineers of all descriptions, and all with one thing in common, a complete lack of experience and total ignorance of what we do, but bristling with their own prejudices which have been invariably grossly misinformed by the education establishment, which has a natural tendency to feel entitled to own anything and everything that comes under the umbrella of "education".
I realise that this communication might seem offensive to some, but I would ask you to have the humility and decency to recognise the scale of the threat currently facing the family and everyone's historic liberty to raise our children as we see fit, within the existing constraints whereby the state may be called upon as parent of last resort only, in cases of irremediable parental default, or worse.
There is no "problem of home education". No problem has been demonstrated, but much slander and invention by a hostile state education establishment with clear totalitarian ambitions has been heaped on us.
Why discuss the meaning of suitable and efficient, as opposed to discussing, say, "Freedom in education"? But really, why discuss that which has nothing to do with you whatsoever, at all? You are talking about us behind our backs, and that's not nice. Is your discussion without reference to us intended to inform policy making, which is also made relentlessly without reference to us, except in so far as it is to make a pretence of consultation, and then adopt the prior plan A in its entirety anyway?
This is what we have already been subjected to, but despotism has always needed intellectual mercenaries to dress up its tyranny in order to make it appear respectable. I am sorry, but that really is the only word to accurately describe what is going on here, whether you are aware of it or not.
Please don't fall for this abuse of your talents by power. Think instead how you might help us defend pluralism and liberty for everyone, and roll back this slide into totalitarianism that we are already embarked upon. Leave suitable and efficient, and those who are lawfully entitled to reject the state's model of education, alone.


Neil Taylor,
home educator to three no longer so called school age children, and someone who has been privileged to see the difference that can make, and which explains why I said earlier that I have never felt so colonised in my life before. That is part of the hidden curriculum of compulsion schooling, to prevent you from noticing your own colonisation by its very ubiquity. Nobody is intended to escape it, and that is how any other possible perspective is prevented. Home educators disturb state compulsion schooling's absolutism, and the system needs absolutism in order to prevent the truth about who we really are - and what we are capable of, if unmolested - falling into too many hands, and giving the lie to so many underpinning wrong beliefs of the system.
And that is really what all this Children Schools and Families Bill and the bad man "review" is about, and why Birmingham University has been co-opted into this scam to dress it up in respectable academic garb.
Please have more respect for yourselves as well as us, than this.
I would be pleased for this short plea to be read out at the start of this conference, and if it is I would be pleased to hear from anyone involved.


Anonymous said...

Great post, Mieke. Great letter, Neil. Great analogy, both. I'll be borrowing that at some point. It's brilliant and true.


Allan Wallace said...

Well said, keep up the good fight.

Maire said...

Brilliant, clear and concise, I hope they listen!

me said...

absolutely, very well said, the more i read the more and more I despair. Let us know if Neil gets a reply :)

patrick said...

Totalitarianism is founded upon misguided theories of equality for all which would only work if humans were robotically all made the same. It is therefore driven by the politics of envy to deny whatever it perceives to be privilege. Paradoxically it is the appalling failure of mass, state-run education has elevated Home Education to being a privilege, by default and not necessarily by design. Facets of Home Education are rendered to the status of privilege purely because the state cannot provide the same benefits and even more sadly, they have vision or aspiration to even try.

Privileged Education.

Home education is the most privileged education possible. Unfortunately the state cannot provide an environment where:-
• creativity is nurtured, where the natural abilities and
the talents of each child are recognised, facilitated and encouraged
• children are taught how to learn for themselves
• each child has a real say in shaping what they want to learn
• there is a broader based curriculum that can evolve with greater flexibility to suit individual needs
• children enjoy learning and their learning environment
• children learn and play safely, free from prejudice
• each child is loved
• the teachers personal sacrifice is testament to their dedication
• no fear of failure exits caused by peer pressure
• moral virtues can be imbibed without fear of political prejudice
• there is no bullying
• children have increased self assurance from not being one of thirty five but being treated like and recognised as an individual
• there is no sexual harassment,
• no feelings of being sidelined in favour of teacher’s pets
• social contact is not limited to c. thirty-five children of the same age
• and children are more in touch with society at large
• where individual care is paid to children’s general well-being to offer the best possible start to life

. . . but most of all in an environment that educates and prepares them for life (not the meaningless tests that dominate the failing factory education system of the state).

Home education is Education for Living, Education for Life. It is the most privileged education.