Saturday, December 31, 2005

Dulled Minds

Sensible stuff from Justine Nicholas, Lecturer in English at City University New York, who notes the dire effects of schooling upon creative thinking.

Why Should Atheists be Good?

Cathy Seipp has a piece mainly about the counter-productive effects of teen professions of intent to remain chaste. Nothing to argue with there. Unlike most of her commentators, I got irked by the following:

"Anyway, Amy, who's a devout atheist, presented her case quite well. Although at one point, when she argued that freedom and other inalienable rights weren't granted by a Creator, and people have reason to expect these rights and are obliged to behave ethically even in a universe without God, one of the professors, sounding slightly exasperated, asked, "Why?" To her credit, Amy responded, "Uh...that's a really good question. I don't have an answer yet."

I am not so convinced that this was really to Amy's credit. If she hasn't given a little thought to the question of why she bothers to function in a Godless universe, she hasn't given much thought to her atheistic values at all. Admittedly the prof's question is somewhat vague, but we can probably guess that he was asking why atheists should be motivated and/or inspired to behave well.

Amy could have answered these questions with just a little thought. First off, atheists are motivated to behave well because they may take the well-being of the human race seriously. Incidentally, the "how" they do this is not difficult. They address the facts of the matter and seek explanations as to how humans would best be served by these facts. They then ascribe values to the various behaviours that would seem to produce the various outcomes. They do not, in other words, need divine instruction in order to devise a moral code.

The question of inspiration may seemingly be the more difficult one, however. Why bother when you know that you are about to end up as dust? Well there is a point to be made first off, that whilst it is highly likely that we ourselves will end up as dust, that there is no way of predicting for certain that humans in the future will do so, and seeing as we are not sure that we will, it is worth working towards an improvement in the human condition. Frank Tipler's discussion of how humans may have evolved to cope with the Big Crunch is just but one thought experiment in a big open question.

But is this sufficient to the task of being inspired to act well: is the knowledge that good behaviour is rational and that by doing so, we may create living conditions for humans that are way superior to those we experience today, is this knowledge sufficient to the task of everyday inspiration? A Christian, for example, will derive strength, comfort, inspiration and motivation from the thought of the presence of God, but atheists will lack for this exterior source of comfort and motivation.

And this is where an atheist needs to tap into a little known reserve, something that is rarely discussed outside of the context of the religious experience of God. There is such a thing as a sense of extraordinary rightness and awe, a sense that the whole world is somehow in the right place and the right time. It is a moment outside time, a proper appreciation of the wonder of the world, which has no need a God. This may happen infrequently, but it is worth seeking these moments for this can inform the sense of value required to behave well.

There's no need to pity fully functioning atheists. They are inspired without placebo and they think freely, for themselves, without any deferral of responsibility.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Secular Wonder

Goodness only knows, as home educators we get used to being sniped at for no good reason whatsoever. It's very easy to conclude that all this flak is a specific side-effect of being a home educator, and yes perhaps we do get more than our fair share by the nature of being odd-balls, but it is actually the case that whenever you subscribe to some idea, however mainstream and apparently inoffensive, someone out there is sure to be lining up to try to trash it.

The sad thing is that so much criticism is so woefully bad. Opponents of ideas frequently make the mistake of either missing the mark entirely or attacking a very poor version of their target. John Gray made both these mistakes with his attempt to critique rationalism, science and secularism in "Straw Dogs". The critical aim was so wayward it was possible to write the book of entirely. Harder to take is the attempt on the same subjects by a usual comfort read - Mark Steyn here in the Spectator or if this refuses to link here at the Free Republic.

The thrust of Steyn's argument is that secularism has flaws which are fatal to it. For example, he claims that rational secularist Europe will breed itself into non-existence because secularism, by not adhering to beliefs about the transcendental significance of life and the afterlife, does not provide for a basis for taking life seriously enough in order to inspire people to have kids.

Given Mark's usual bugbear anxiety about the demographics of the Western world versus the Islamic one, you can't help thinking that his tirade against secularism is more about putting a stop to terrorism than about seriously thinking about which are the best and most credible ideas. But putting aside all speculations about his motivation, it seems worth saying, (if only for my sanity), that secularism needn't necessarily be written off so easily. The good news for Steyn is that the secularism he attacks is a very poor variety that could indeed well end up in nihilistic misery, if not total self-annihilation but that there is, in fact, a much better variety out there that would make his criticisms redundant.

Steyn must accept that he is unlikely to succeed in calling people to a faith simply on the basis that life becomes very difficult if they don't. People will apply other criticisms other than the test of efficacy. They will need to know that the idea to which they are about to subscribe is credible, has some possible good explanations, seems to match the data. In these regards, secularism remains the most credible choice for many and the other good news is that secularism could be up to the efficacy task as well since secularism can easily provide sufficient motivation for taking human life very, very seriously...way more seriously than we take the life of gibbons or pumpkins, for example.

Humans are quite capable of appreciating the truly extraordinary nature of being alive (and just in case you have forgotten this, try a genuinely near-death experience for prompting you into remembering.) Our perception of the immanent wonder of life is quite sufficient to the task of making us want to propagate.

So rather than calling us to a faith that cannot work for us, it could be much more constructive to call to secularists to appreciate the truly extraordinary fact of human life - the fascinating insight that 1.5% difference from chimps means that we send space craft to places outside our solar system, can think through the limits of our perception and on into the multiverse, can speak with enormous complexity and subtlety to our extraordinary children.

It's a wonderful world. Have a wonderful day.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Spunky's Home School Blog Awards

Am catching up here...have realised there's not much time left to vote for the various categories in Spunky's Home School Blog Awards. The nominations look as if they may contain some new gems, so will check these out, given the chance.

I Meant What I Said.

OK, so there's no ducking this issue. After yesterday's post below about the damaging and redundant qualities of the children's database, the news today, here from ITV, revisits the story of Sarah Whittaker and David Askew, jailed last year for appalling neglect of their four children. Despite the fact that the family had been seen over forty times by midwives and health visitors, the severe problems (children close to death, excrement-smeared bedrooms, maggots in nappies) were not spotted.

Investigator Prof. Cantrill reported "...the fact is that some agencies involved with the family did not provide the effective services that were required to support this vulnerable family. They failed to detect and intervene early to prevent poor parenting, which resulted in the deprived quality of life that the children experienced. The factors that should have caused concern were known singly, sometimes collectively, to most of the services that knew the family, but their total impact on the welfare of the children was not thoroughly assessed or communicated between agencies, and therefore not acted on. It was the failure to recognise the accumulation of information about this family that underpins the inability to assess their needs."

And crucially also the professor says it was "unacceptable" that professionals working in deprived areas should have a higher "threshold" before action is taken, due to the general background of problems in the community.

All of which seems to point to a crying need for a universal database of joined up information that can be readily shared between the various agencies. Surely if there had been a chance to accumulate a number of milder concerns, if the midwives, HVs and school teachers had been able to lower their threshold of reporting, and had been able to note centrally that they had concerns, surely these could all have been collated, and someone would have acted?

Yep, surely. You know, in the face of such sickening atrocities, we can put aside any poncy anxieties about such things as the abolition of privacy in family life. The database must, if it is to protect all children and be sensitive to concerns of lesser severity, be universal. All families must be subject to such intimate scrutiny for this is the only possible way in which such cases can come to light.

But hold on a second here. How many midwives, HVs and school teachers are there per child? How many milder anxieties about children do they experience in any one single day? How many back-covering reports are there going to be? How will someone manage to sift through such a mountain of prospectively accumulating data in order to see who is genuinely at risk?

Some poor sod still has to make that horribly difficult judgment about when to intervene. This is actually THE crucially difficult question and a universal database does not solve this problem because a mountain of mild concerns will be as difficult to sift through as a presentation of the odd much higher threshold anxiety. Errors of judgment will still occur, even with a database. In addition, the database means that resources will be spread even more thinly, not only because of the diversion of cash into its construction and maintainence, but also because it will throw up loads of distracting false positives.

And then the issue of privacy of innocent families does seem to become relevant all over again. We suspect that if the database does work and isn't an enormous waste of our money, (as have most previous government databases), many of thousands of hard working, dutiful families, including home educators, will be pointlessly and often damagingly pestered by the authorities.

Take the money and effort out of the universal database. Get back to the 'at risk' register and employ a sufficient number of experienced professionals to get the job done properly.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Children's Database - a BAD idea.

Not so long ago, I seem to remember writing a completely misguided post concerning some possible justifications for the Children's Database, also here. Can't think what possessed me. Perhaps I was trying to come to terms with the inevitable, but this particular ruse just didn't do the trick. I've now recovered my sanity (in this area at least) and am firmly of the opinion that there are no possible justifications for the database whatsoever. Phew, that feels better!

The creation of a database is a waste of time, money and effort. It will generate masses of data to no particular effect. It will make it more difficult to distinguish between children genuinely at risk. All previous government database initiatives have proven woefully expensive and exceedingly inefficient. The data that does manage to get accurately stored may put families at risk: a violent, estranged parent or paedophile may hack into it. Meanwhile children who are genuinely at risk are almost always already known to the authorities. The problem of dealing with such cases comes not from difficulties with information sharing but from the problem of deciding what to do with the information, short staffing and inexperienced practioners.

Generally speaking, the creation of a database does not fulfill the criteria for that which should constitute the Rule of Law. This is what Friedrich Hayek has to say about this sort of thing in his essential read "The Road to Serfdom", Chapter 6:

"Nothing distinguishes more clearly conditions in a free country from those in a country under arbitrary government than the observance in the former of the great principles known as the Rule of Law. Stripped of all technicalities this means that government in all it actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand - rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances , and to plan one's individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge. ... The essential point, that the discretion left to the executive organs wielding coercive power should be reduced as much as possible, is clear enough. While every law restricts individual freedom to some extent by altering the means which people may use in the pursuit of their aims, under the Rule of Law the government is prevented from stultifying individual efforts by ad hoc action. Within the known rules of the game, the individual is free to pursue his personal ends and desires, certain that the powers of government will not be used deliberately to frustrate his efforts".

Home Educators are used to living outside of the legitimate realm of the Rule of Law. They know that they live with the uncertainty that the ptb may use their powers unpredictably in judging whether home educators are offering an education that meets the needs of the child according to "age, ability and aptitude". Two of these criterion are so highly subjective that home educators experience all sorts of anxieties that their chosen way of life may be suddenly, unjustly and cruelly terminated.

But the database, if it works, will make life for home educators exponentially worse. (Even if it doesn't work properly, the anxiety that it may do so is enough to make this whole situation nasty and rightfully illegitimate.) The chances that the professionals will want to cover their backs by noting that they have information to share will probably lower the threshold for the notification of anxiety. We doubt that most home educators will escape notification in the bracket:

"The index will also include a facility to allow practitioners to indicate to others that they have information to share, are taking action, or have undertaken an assessment, in relation to a child".

We also feel that in total the database sends the wrong message to parents. Instead of thinking of parenthood as a personal responsibility that should be undertaken by freely acting, morally responsible individuals, yet more and more, the sense of parental duty will be eroded as it appears to parents that the state will instead take responsibility for parenting.

Yup, the database is definitively a BAD idea.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bullying on the Curriculum

Back to the Politics Show's, section on Home Education (via the last fifth of the video link), it does seem that Tim Harrison of the NUT directly infers that schools could only be considered to be providing a appropriate education by ensuring that they offer a bullying environment. We say this because he starts off by claiming that socialisation is not possible in the home environment and that this process is therefore only possible in schools. He then subsequently asserted: " One of the ways children learn to cope with bullying is through the socialisation process."

So it's official then. Bullying must be a regular feature of school life, or otherwise they fail our children.

All of which could be slightly confusing from the outside, given that there are all these apparent initiatives to put a stop to bullying in schools.

HT: Mike FW

Monday, December 12, 2005

Sheila 10, Gina 0.

Good one Sheila. Ms Kitzinger lays into Gina Ford, for which we can only say a hearty thank goodness.

What's more, we now learn that Gina is not a mother. This may seem rather ad hominem, but over and over again we see what happens. The first example that springs to mind: Alice Thompson, journalist of Daily Telegraph fame, at 8 months pregnant, highly contemptuous of the fact that parents of toddlers get special parking rights in supermarket car parks. She changed her tone markedly after a year or two of parenting, and now argues for greater parental freedoms and assistance.

We can't help wondering what would happen if Gina were to have to listen to her very own precious babe screaming it out?


National Curriculum for Home Educators?

Forgot to mention the other rather serious issue that arose in The Politics Show on home education: Sean Gabb, libertarian writer and editor of the Free Life Commentary, is of the opinion that legislators will soon insist that home educators follow the National Curriculum. You can see his point. As the numbers of families opting for home education continue to grow, the opposition to it from those of statist inclination and from the teachers unions will probably also grow.

Given that the decision to home educate is often made at least partly on the basis of an opposition to closed, structured, pre-prescribed learning, the threat of the destruction of the freedom in learning makes a consideration of proportionate response seem rather a good idea.

The phrase "over my dead body" does spring to mind, and perhaps the authorities do need to be aware that if they do attempt such an imposition, and are not responsive to good epistemological arguments against the National Curriculum, it is not inconceivable that strong protest will be coming their way.

Incidentally, Sean Gabb's excellent history and summary of the current state of Home Education in the UK can be found here, via his search option, and under the heading: "Home Schooling: A British Perspective. "

Real Problems, Real Learning.

From the BMJ of October 29th, a study of Canadian medical students that describes its objective as being:

"To assess whether the transition from a traditional curriculum to a community oriented problem based learning curriculum at Sherbrooke University is associated with the expected improvements in preventive care and continuity of care without a decline in diagnosis and management of disease".


"Transition to a community oriented problem based learning curriculum was associated with significant improvements in preventive care and continuity of care and an improvement in indicators of diagnostic performance".

All of which would make a good deal of sense to many home educators, since they are often aware of grounds for believing that traditional schooling divorces learners from real life problems, replacing such problems with a load of artificial hurdles over which the learner must uselessly jump.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Home Education in the Politics Prog

Errrgh, the pain of being falsely accused just doesn't seem to let up. Why can't I just be bored by it!

If you happen to be into this kind of sensation, check out the Politics Show on the Beeb Website by clicking on the > Video Latest Programme link, near top right and scroll through towards the last fifth of the programme for the pain of Tim Harrison of the NUT flailing about looking for ways to protect the jobs of his membership, with ne'er a concern as to whether the accusations have any foundation in truth.

And your heart goes out to the EO rep/HE mum who tries to take his accusations seriously, but sadly, there isn't the time for even such basic standards of debate.

Activity of Thought

A superb essay on the Utility (or otherwise) of Mathematics, via Armed and Dangerous had me thinking yet again as to whether the Law of the Excluded Middle was an issue with regard to the standard issue definition of coercion, ie: "coercion is defined as the state of being forced to enact a theory that is not active in the mind".

Is it the case that in attempting to phrase the definition so as to avoid accusations of pseudo-scientific status, the appeal to logical assertion oversimplifies the nature of the workings of the mind?

It's clear that coercion, as defined above, can indisputably describe a particular state, in the situation that the mind is in not engaged in any way with the activity that it is required to perform, and that in this situation no learning is taking place, but it could also be the case that some learning could result in a situation where there is some element of enacting a theory that is not fully active in the mind. The mind, afterall, remains a place of mystery, where the nature of active theory is poorly understood. Is it possible to be consciously coerced by a theory and yet be actively absorbing it beneath awareness?

Of course, the appended definition: "coercion limits rationality and creativity" allows for the fact that activity of thought is, in all probability, a matter of a sliding scale. School education, although it's apologists would probably be loathe to admit it, largely relies upon information sneaking in through the back door of the unconscious mind. This is how these institutions get away with claims to be places of learning, but a question that could then arise:

Could it be that this kind of mostly coerced, structured and directed learning (that sneaks in past conscious resistance), could this be is more profitable to the learner than the apparently more haphazard acquisition of knowledge that occurs with the self-directed, active learner?

The answer, that seems to be supported by a reality check, is that the more active the thought, on whatever the level of consciousness, the hard-fought scratching over a work sheet, or the lazy day-dream in the bath-tub, the greater the richness of experience, and the greater the possibility of creativity and rationalism. We would be better off working towards this, and in addition, helping our children acquire all the other necessary knowledge that will enrich their lives, within the remit of active theory.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Nursery or Home-Based Academic Advantage

Following the recent controversy over the claim that nursery care contributes to anti-social behaviour and emotional damage, the pendulum predictably sways the other way with news from the Guardian that children in day care are likely to benefit from academic advantage.

It's all so confusing. How can this latest conclusion possibly tally with research which shows that home educated children also thrive and often excel in the academic department? From Paula Rothermel, University of Durham, "the results show that 64% of the home-educated Reception aged children scored over 75% on their PIPS Baseline Assessments as opposed to 5.1% of children nationally".

Putting aside any possible attempt to explain the above apparent contradiction, the best argument must remain: respect and facilitate the learning choices of the child, since by so-doing, we maximise the opportunity for active thought, - the essential ingredient for optimal learning.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Norm's Blog

Whoever it is who does eventually manage to invent and produce an effective vaccine for the common cold can count on my money for sure.

Not only did some kind of completely unremarkable rhinovirus cause us to miss a number of not-to-be-missed Home Educating seshes , I also managed to miss Norm's mail warning me about the posting of my profile on his blog.

Nonetheless, am very grateful to Norm.

Home Educating Boys

Perhaps this article in the Washington Post provides at least a partial explanation for the fact that there are more boys than girls in home education.

to quote:
"Beginning in very early grades, the sit-still, read-your-book, raise-your-hand-quietly, don't-learn-by-doing-but-by-taking-notes classroom is a worse fit for more boys than it is for most girls."

"a classroom of 30 kids, about five boys will begin to fail in the first few years of pre-school and elementary school. By fifth grade, they will be diagnosed as learning disabled, ADD/ADHD, behaviorally disordered or "unmotivated."

"Boys have a lot of Huck Finn in them -- they don't, on average, learn as well as girls by sitting still, concentrating, multitasking, listening to words. For 20 years, I have been taking brain research into homes and classrooms to show teachers, parents and others how differently boys and girls learn. Once a person sees a PET or SPECT scan of a boy's brain and a girl's brain, showing the different ways these brains learn, they understand. As one teacher put it to me, "Wow, no wonder we're having so many problems with boys."Yet every decade the industrial classroom becomes more and more protective of the female learning style and harsher on the male, yielding statistics such as these."

"I get hundreds of e-mails and letters every week, from parents, teachers and others who are beginning to realize that we must do for our sons what we did for our daughters in the industrialized schooling system -- realize that boys are struggling and need help. These teachers and parents are part of a social movement -- a boys' movement that started, I think, about 10 years ago. It's a movement that gets noticed for brief moments by the media (when Columbine happened, when Laura Bush talked about boys) and then goes underground again. It's a movement very much powered by individual women -- mainly mothers of sons -- who say things to me like the e-mailers who wrote, "I don't know anyone who doesn't have a son struggling in school," or, "I thought having a boy would be like having a girl, but when my son was born, I had to rethink things."

All of which can make you want to scream "There is an easy answer!" Home Education works for many boys. Often they decide to go back to school or college at a later stage but only when they feel ready, with the advantage that they have not already become disenchanted with the educational system and often when the system has started to play to their strengths, such as not asking them to concentrate on things that are of no interest to them, allowing them some self-determination in the learning process, and with the general sense that there is some point to what they are doing, that what they learn does answer the questions that they have.

All in all, it is worth respecting the educational choices that children make, since better learning is possible when we do.

HT: Danny, Homeschooling Dad

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Was scrolling through my favorites column, checking it out and trying to delete most of it as it has become unruly and unmanageable, when I came across a snippet from David Deutsch's blog. It seems he has won a not-to-be- sniffed- at "Edge of Computation Science Award" for work in the field of quantum computation.

He also reports that universal quantum computation is now only years away (as opposed to decades).

Deutsch is the author of "The Fabric of Reality", which must rate at the very top of my all time best books list, so am pleased to see that things go well for him.


Oh no! Yesterday: another day when I felt that I did so badly that at least one of the children would be better off going to school. This doesn't happen frequently, but when it does, it is very unnerving and painful.

It feels as if there is a sort of inevitable pattern to this. What happens is that child suddenly seems unaccountably unhappy and starts moaning persistently, without any easy apparent resolution. We struggle through the day, getting more and more desperate and more and more bad tempered with one another. The next day, child succumbs to infection, lies in bed with Calpol and a good book, and sweet nature and reason return.

Sadly, two days later, we are back to the persistent sense of being uncomfortable in your skin, but not ill enough to lie in bed all day, that renders everyone almost incomprehensibly evil: child persistently unhappy, me desperate and furious. Given that by this stage, it is quite likely that one is feeling grotty oneself, the whole combination can be very difficult to handle.

The day after that, everything gets back to normal, but am NOT prepared to have these glitches ANY more. Any constructive suggestions would be gratefully received.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Back to Bullying

Cathy Seipp approvingly notes a trend towards authoritarian parenting. Sad eh, that after all this time, many parents can't find it in themselves to think of any solutions other than either neglect (which includes providing poor information), or outright bullying of their children.

From a related story in her blog, she writes:

"Personally, I've always taken a hard line where this kind of thing is concerned. I first realized this made me rather an oddball when Maia was in first grade, and when I went to pick her up one day, Ronald the after-school playground director told me she'd gotten in trouble that afternoon for some minor infraction -- running when she should have been walking, I think it was. As he was telling me this, Maia began (in a rather sassy voice) to pipe up with her side of the story, and I snapped at her, "Do NOT interrupt when adults are talking!" Ronald looked at me in amazement. "Thank you," he said. What amazed me was that he was so amazed, but since Maia was only six, I was still something of an innocent then about modern parenting habits".

Perhaps Cathy remains an innocent, if for a different reason, for what she seems to have failed to consider is that her behaviour apparently logically legitimizes her child abruptly telling a younger child to shut up whenever she happens to open her mouth - something which is fairly frequently construed as being an example of bullying behaviour.

Of course, neglect in its various guises often results in equally difficult behaviour, but there is another course which can and does work with children who have been raised in the understanding that they will be listened to. The tentative offer of what seems good theories to our children can and does do the trick. So here, perhaps, "Maia, could I possibly get his side of the story first, and then I can listen to yours, without getting muddled?" If the relationship is trusting, if the child knows that the parent will not side with the teacher if the truth seemingly does not support such a stance, then this is most likely to work.

Monday, December 05, 2005

No Sick Leave

The question uppermost in my mind today: is it better to be in school or home educating when at least some members of the family are too ill to do much more than roll over in bed, groaning?

Conclusion? I honestly and truthfully think home ed wins out yet again! The reason: You can stay in bed, groaning at will, without worrying that you are missing out on those key facts that will cause the rest of the subject to become forever incomprehensible. You don't have to sweat over that phone call to the secretary. You don't have to sit miserably in a crowded waiting room, infecting all the other patients for a certificate that only proves that you have a flu virus that will resolve spontaneously in a few days time.

Instead, you can snuggle up with a hot water bottle and a hot choccie, and if your head will let you, you can watch the Kids Discovery Channel, Cartoon Network, UK Docs about supervolcanoes and string theory, whatever, and if this book's hypothesis is anything to go by, you're still quids up in the learning department.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Straw Dogs - a Straw Man

I have finally got round to reading John Gray's Straw Dogs. Well, when I say "read", I mean I scrabbled through the first few chapters in a packed cafe over a pannini and crisps, whilst I should have been doing the Christmas shopping, but that, sadly, is generally what I mean by the verb "to read" nowadays.

I was extremely relieved to get back home to find that Norm had coincidentally, reassuringly and devastatingly blogged here on some other pronouncements by the same author, since I was beginning to wonder if it was me or the author who had taken leave of our senses. Prof. Gray is after all some sort of a bigwig at the LSE and, well you know, I didn't get past a BA.

Generally I am getting the feeling that it isn't me who is losing it after all. The book really is packed with non-sequiturs, false analogies, straightforward denials of what appear to be more truth-like theories, together with a consistent, cheap and dialectically redundant propensity to attack his pet-hate theories in their poorest forms. Given that he apparently now directs his fiercest scorn "to the disciples of rationalism and of science", I suppose these kinds of irrational criticism shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, but it does rather beg the question of why he bothered to write and publish a book if he hadn't assumed that others out there might involve themselves in a rational and truth seeking exercise called reading?"

Will come back to this, am sure.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Any Time Now.

It's not long now, folks. That moment that we "unknowns" have been dreading, that hollow knock on the door from someone we've never met before asking to come in immediately, that chilling phone call from a complete stranger which doesn't pan out into something pleasant like "Your books are ready to collect", that letter with the fateful words, "we understand your child does not have a school placement", well it should happen any minute now.

Indefatigable EO volunteer and level-head, Phil Hicks reports that the DfES has instituted a non statutory December deadline for LEAs to "have systematic arrangements in place (by December 2005) for identifying children missing from education so that provision can be made for them, drawing on the non-statutory guidance ".

So we should just get over it, and OK we will do our best to do this. But for those of us whose children are heavily invested in home education and who would just hate to go to school, it can put you on edge. Instead of the holding in mind the nice, honest question "how can I genuinely improve the learning environment for my child", lurking all the while at the back of one's mind is also the question "how can I make the learning environment 'seem' efficient to someone who doesn't necessarily understand home education, let alone autonomous home education, and yet who has the power of judgement over my intimate family life and the power to infringe our choices?" Not a good question, because it distracts from the first one, which is a good question and it may mean that you end up doing the wrong thing, such as sitting down with a much hated and therefore useless workbook.

I shall do my best to prevent this from happening and I will also do my best to give the ptb short shrift, but the knowledge of their potential for misunderstanding and bullying and interference in what should be private family life, errgh, frankly on a personal level, our family would do much better without it.

On a general level, I suspect all this information gathering is a disproportionate measure. It will generate masses of data at huge cost for very, very little gain. The problem for Victoria Climbie was not that she was not known about, nor that there was a shortage of information on her case. Her problem was a lack of experienced social workers.

And very seriously for the future of autonomous Home Education, we worry for new home educators who may find that the usual progression from structure and teacher-led learning to increasingly following the lead of the learner will be less spontaneous, given that they know that they will inevitably be checked over by schoolie types educrats.

No Freedom of Movement for Children

There is news from the Beeb that "Police in Quedgeley, Gloucestershire, have joined forces with a local school to try to reduce truancy. Officers and members of Beaufort School have launched an initiative where local shops will not serve school-aged children during lesson time. A police spokesman said the initiative was aimed at reducing the number of truant pupils and tackling the nuisance behaviour that goes with truancy. Posters have been placed in shop windows warning of the initiative."

Depressing news in several ways, personal and political. Quedgeley touches on the outer edge of the radius to which we travel for our HE meetings. We do go to Quedgeley fairly frequently. What to do? Leave the kids in the car when we pop into the shops? Spend some time explaining basic human freedoms to shopkeepers? Spend even more time writing to the papers, the Chamber of Commerce, or get embroiled bringing a human rights action and attempt to bring down this fascistically-inclined government? Well the latter sounds good!