Friday, June 30, 2006

Why I Like England (or Not as the Case May Be).

The following was written in response to the above question as posed by Dave Hill of Temperama.

I've been wondering - could it be that loving one's country, like loving one's kids, is the kind of thing that it's pretty easy to accomplish alarmingly badly? After all, it's seriously tempting to go about both enterprises in a thoroughly narcissistic fashion, it being so much fun broadcasting one's gargantuan pride in one's love object and basking in the supposed reflected glory. But then to this end, a narcissist must distort his representation of the victim, aggrandizing the poor flunky into a near-total fiction. And the sad thing is that there can be nasty consequences. A child who suffers this sort of treatment will most likely develop either a crippling sense of failure, his own narcissistic defenses or quite probably a bit of both. In the case of love of country, such behavior is probably a significant factor in starting wars.

Of course, it is perfectly possible to love both children and country without scrabbling around to fulfill the need for personal aggrandizement. This grown-up kind of love involves an inclination to see things as accurately as possible, and like as not, also working to make good.

Problem is, I do love England narcissistically. Don't seem to be able to help it. In equally dubious taste, I frequently love manifestations of narcissism in England. My life is ridiculously improved by neo-classical edifices rearing up out of deer-strewn parklands. I hanker after crumbling castles and cloisters of Gothic cathedrals. It's bad really seeing as it is all extremely dodgy ethically. Basically it seems I love to introject and crow about these patron-promoting bits of puff which also happen to be products of feudal/aristocratic societies.

I do, however, actually manage a more meaningful relationship with England and this time, I acknowledge more accurately what I'm getting into. I'm talking here about the issue of freedom for English families and the related matter of parental responsibility, particularly in the light of child welfare/education law. This is a proper relationship: I appreciate the good and fret about the bad though I don't hate England for these faults.

It is the case that the English have, until recently, had reasonable grounds to think that they may have some sort of private life, and that parents have a right to educate their children as they themselves see fit. This grew from a long history of respect for freedom and scepticism about the power of the state, as exemplified in the works of John Locke, Tom Paine, John Stuart Mill, E.G. West and Karl Popper. It is manifested today in the choices that parents can exercise with regard to the education of their children. I treasure the fact that families in England can educate children themselves, outside the school system. Home educating families and the related support and self-help groups that spring up as a result of this choice to take full responsibility for the life of one's family are, for me, inspiring lessons in the proper use of freedom.

But it is clear that the freedom we have enjoyed in these areas is threatened by recent changes in English law, such as the Children Act, 2004, as a result of which we may well lose all reasonable hope of a private life, and effectively hand over responsibility for the welfare and education of our children to the state. We are teetering on the very edge of this abyss and the situation is not helped by the fact that most families are not even vaguely aware of the threat.

It is the case that the Act and other bits of specifically English child protection policy are driving a wedge between children and their parents, since the state now not not only asserts its duty to ensure that our children be not abused, but that they must also provide services to ensure that our kids are happy, make positive contributions, eat their five portions etc. Local authorities will be judged upon whether they manage to achieve these outcomes.

The question that springs to mind here - at what point do parents lose responsibility for their children? If someone takes it upon themselves to ensure that children achieve a certain set of objectives that are not necessarily those of the parents, it is not unreasonable to think that parents have lost the duty of primary responsibility. I find this so saddening as well as terrifying. It eats into the aspect of Englishness that I love most of all.

The freedoms we have enjoyed in this country are worth cherishing and should not be relinquished so easily. The more people can be alerted to the threat that faces us, the better, since we should be prepared to fight for the things we love properly - for the warts and all.

There's a bundle of excellent information on the threat to the precious freedom for English families at Arch Rights Blog and their related Database Masterclass Blog.

Blogs Against the Children's Database

Read what other bloggers have to say about the UK Children's Database and the related issue of state intrusion into family life. On the evidence below, it is easy to suspect that US bloggers are seeing the situation more clearly than we do here in the UK, where some of us seem to be falling for the line that the database will prevent child abuse (when there is a huge shortfall of social workers) and that the governments targets for our children, ie: that our kids should

* to Be Healthy,* Stay Safe,* Enjoy and Achieve,* Make A Positive Contribution* Have Economic Well Being

will not result in a lowering of the level at which the state imagines that it has a right to intrude into family life.

Over the last few days alone, we have heard of families in the UK being referred to and, very sadly, being investigated by social services for not taking their children on enough field trips, or for not wanting to see a health visitor (this mum already had four kids and was a nurse herself), or for having their curtains closed during the day.

Of course, UK home educators have long suffered the consequences of misunderstandings by neighbours and tittle-tattle that gets reported to the authorities as fact. But it looks to be getting worse because it isn't now a question of leaving families be if they look to be getting by, the various agents of the state must now make sure that our children achieve, that they are enjoying life, that they are making a positive contribution.

And not only has the level of suspicion mandating investigation been lowered, but professionals are now no longer allowed to keep some quite possibly ill-founded suspicion to themselves. Gone are the days when you could imagine that you could confide in your doctor, get the treatment you needed and walk out without further consequences, such as that everyone in the rest of the professional bodies in your area will get to know your business.

My guess is that when people come to understand the consequences of the enforced requirement upon professionals to report concerns, the relationship between the two groups will break down. How many mums, for example, would report their post-natal depression when they realise what implications it is likely have? I say honestly here, if my GP fondly imagines that I will ever talk frankly to him again, he is sadly misguided and I also believe that all parents would be wise to take the precaution of watching what they say in this situation.

And for yet another reason for increasing interference by the state, we have, of course, the database which, if it works, will mean that all home educators will be known about. With such a low bar of suspicion, home education will doubtless work as a prima facie reason for investigation.

There really is no escape. I do mourn the passing of HE as we have known it. My children have thrived on it so far. I watched them last night in the garden as the skies darkened, (near 22.30 and a good enough reason for SS to knock on my door), as they belted round it, getting me to time them, and then around an obstacle course they constructed. They are as brown as nuts, as wiry and fit as cheetahs. Dd runs like the wind. Ds laughed and called her Dash from the Incredibles because her leg speed is just so hysterically fast. He all gangly, perhaps more of a mid-distance runner. They are looking more and more alike all the time as Dd's face unfolds from the terrible battering she got when she tried to get into this world face first. They laughed and mucked about until nearly midnight, and I wouldn't have swapped it for anything.

Ah well, bring on Big Brother. I have clearly just signed away my rights to a private life free from state intrusion, but I will fight them tooth and nail when they get here.


Angry Liberal

Arch Rights

Autonomous Source

Bag's Rants

The Black Kettle



Blogging Baby


Blood and Treasure

Boris Johnson MP

Bring It On


The Canadian Privacy Law Blog

Database Masterclass

Dave Hill

David Rowan

The Devil's Kitchen


Finest Kind Clinic and Fish Market

From the Right Side

Ideal Government

Intrusion Protection

IT Law in Ireland

The Last Boy Scout


The Moderate Voice

Mother Talkers

Mr Eugenides

Nanny Knows Best

Nobody's Business


Oh, Crikey!

Orion Hood

Phat Mommy


Political Correctness Watch

Politics in the Zero

Sister Toldjah

Spy Blog

Strange Stuff

Stumbling and Mumbling

Think Mojo

The Thomas Institute

Tim Worstall

Unlimited Jargon

Up Pompeii

A View From England

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Story's Out

It seems that courtesy of the efforts of the excellent people at ARCH, the press are finally catching up; eg from the Telegraph:

"Family life faces State 'Invasion'

Government surveillance of all children, including information on whether they eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, will be condemned tomorrow as a Big Brother system.
Experts say it is the biggest state intrusion in history into the role of parents."

Quite right too but further down, the ptb reportedly try to fob us off with their claims that innocent families in the UK will be protected by the Data Protection Act. This idea met with a burst of derisive laughter at the talk at LSE entitled
Children: Over-Surveilled, Under Protected, which is well worth a listen, despite the crisp packet at the beginning.

The BBC also carried the story "Concerns over new child database". Here in response to accusations that we are turning into a surveilled society, the government claimed that the database would not include details of whether children were eating their five portions of fruit and veggies, but why this should be obvious to us is not clear, particularly after hearing recently that a teen was rather shocked to learn that his Connexions file not only included the standard information about him, but also remarks such as "was seen walking in the high street at 12.30 on Monday". Yikes! The Securitate may have been disbanded 16 years ago in Romania, but if any of them are still out there looking for jobs, it seems the UK may be the place to come.

The Daily Mail and The Guardian also join in on the right side of the argument...finally.

Home Education by Google

This piece from American Daily describes a good deal of what goes on in this household: home education made easy - all you need is an internet connection, some critical reading skills and access to a bunch of others who think in similar fashion. Ta-daaa...easy-peasy.

HT Daryl

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Very slow posting round here atm. Actually it is not for want of either wanting to, or for ideas, but rather the reverse: an intensity of wanting to find expression for a number of inter-related ideas that don't come (to me at least) easily packaged, coupled with a new shortness of time: children sleeping even less, the odd work day here and there, and more late nights. At some stage (probably in my dotage) I hope that (like my dear dad) I will get it all down somewhere, but till circumstances change ( I suddenly need less sleep, I stop having peculiarly riveting conversations, I stop feeling the recent need to pull ideas together in a properly argued sort of a way), this blog may be quieter than it has been.

Then again it mayn't! Put it on Bloglines then you won't feel cross with me when you've bothered to click and I am still caught up!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Meaningful Freedom in UK Hangs in the Balance

OK, so the reference to Nazis probably wasn't the best PR move ever, but I think this story of the current Home Education situation in Belgium is pertinent and instructive, given what is going on here in the UK with the implementation of the Every Child Matters.

We gather from the Belgian story that HEors there, having had a relatively easy time, are now required to sign up to UN Convention on the Rights of a Child which all sounds so benign, all those laudable aims and objectives; but if we pause to look more closely, we immediately find that the contents of this particular document are so frequently directly self-contradictory and ultimately so utterly meaningless that the urge to scream is difficult to resist. By way of a quick example, (though there are a plethora of similar howlers):

"1. No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.
2. The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. "

...though clearly here, the matter of what constitutes arbitrary interference is a matter that is established by law and therefore the child does not have protection when the agency of interference is the government/UN itself.

So here they have it the poor old Belgians. The message they get: "Go on just sign on the dotted line, this thing that looks so laudable, and that even proposes the protection of political conscience and freedom, but then again if you don't sign it, we will prosecute you. In effect, children and parents are left with no power to make decisions in almost all areas of their lives. The government and the UN decides and directs and requires that everyone abide by their decisions on every matter of life, including that people be happy. And so, if some poor Belgian HEor refuses to sign this document (on some fairly reasonable pretext, for example say, that they ain't signing anything produced by an organisation that is remarkable only for it's expense accounts, corruption and incompetence), then they get banged up good and proper.

And terrifyingly we run precisely the same risk here in the UK. In a neighbouring county, we hear that the enactment of some of the objectives of Every Child Matters, ie:

* to Be Healthy,
* Stay Safe,
* Enjoy and Achieve,
* Make A Positive Contribution
* Have Economic Well Being.

is underway. Some perspicacious HEors in the area have organised a meeting in a response to a proposal by educrats to discuss how this may best be done. My guess it that most of those who are going to this meeting are wised up to the possible implications of the enactment, though goodness knows, these outcomes all sound so cosy that it would be quite understandable if someone were to innocently walk into some quite appallingly Orwellian situation without any awareness of the dangers.

In aiming to meet the above objectives, government (if it is as good as its word) will be stumping up the cash. If any innocent member of the public actually uses this money, the ptb will want to see that it is well-spent, and will start to monitor the users. Given that the agenda is aimed at every child in the country, it rather looks as if every child will be required to use these services, ergo every child, every family in the country will be monitored by government - freedom of political belief and conscience and right to privacy go hang.

Call to arms, guys. It may be that the best we can do here is to ensure that the uptake of any services created to meet these objectives is voluntary, and many congrats if you can manage this, for this is certainly considerably better than the nightmare alternative of everyone being forceably monitored for every mood swing and repeatedly tested to ensure that we never fail at anything.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A New Reason Not to Go to School

...the proposed Euro-curriculum. Here's Boris Johnson on the subject.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Guardian Gets it Right

...about the Pearls. (Story over a week late...sorry... am trying to catch up when should be packing yet again - this time for a camping trip.)

HT: ARCH who amongst other tidbits provide more evidence of the failure of the Sure Start scheme.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Blogs Against Hitting Kids and/or for HSB Boycott

Below, a collection of the people I've come across so far who have expressed a strong opinion either generally against corporal punishment of children or specifically against the type of abuse as promoted by people such as Michael and Debi Pearl. For more information, see below * and/or click on the "I don't link to Homeschoolblogger" logo on the right here.

Please do let me know if I missed you or anyone else out.

Anne's Cafe
ARCH Rights
Atypical Homeschool
Atypical Life
Auntis House
Barefoot Homeschooling
Being Bridget
Bene Diction Blogs On
The Brew Crew Adventure
Butterflies and Wheels
Carol's Storybook
Choosing Home Blog
Church of the Holy Cross
Creating an Oasis
Current Era Blog
Daisy-Down Livejournal
Dante's Virgil
Dare to Know
Dark Christianity
Distance Law Student
Disturbing the Comfortable
Doc's Sunrise Rants
Editorials from Hell's Leading Newspaper
Electric Barbarella
End Corporal Punishment in the Home Now
Escapee from the Meme Machine
An Ethereal Girl's Adventures in Cyberland
The Ethical Society of St Louis
Evil Missy
The Farm School
Firewheel Vortex
4 Girls and 3 Boys
Four Little Birds
Fr. Dann's Blog
Get In, Hang On
Glo's GabFest
The Gookins.Net
The Green Knight
Green Mom
Growing Wild like a Tree
The Happy Homeschooler
Harmony School
Holy Experience
Home Education Magazine
Homemade Fireworks
The House of Us
How Sweet It Is
I'm A Blogging
In His Courts
Intent Journal
Jenn's Blog
Keer Unplugged
Kitchen Table Learners
Knitted in the Womb
Let's Be Honest Here
Living in Freedom Everyday
Life with Heathens
The Lost Camel
Mom is Right
Mommy Brain
Mommy Revolution
Ms Bobo
Mt Pleasant Classical Academy
My Life: Written by the Finger of God
My One Long Day
My Pet Goat, No Greater Joy!
Natural Childhood - Campaigning for Children's Human Rights
The Natural Child Project
Naturally Simple Homeschooling
Next Stop Willoughby
No Mountain
No School, Just Learning
North Carolina Homeschoolers
Not Sheep
Notes in Samsara
O'Donnell Web
One Jelly Donut Please
One Sixteenth
Opine Away
The Opinionated Homeschooler
Our Homeschool
Our Learning Together
Paxye's Rant
Phat Mommy
Picayune Democrat
Playing it by Ear
Prairie Home Soapmaker
Principled Mom
The Prodigal Liberal
Random Musings
Reflections of a Not so Ordinary Mom
Reformed Chicks Blabbing
A Room of My Own
Scheiss Weekly
A Small Corner of Nowhere
Soul Gardening
Stop the Rod UK
Street Prophets
Suburban Tree Hugger
Talk To Action
Teribear's Thinking Place
The Thinking Mother
The Thomas Institute
Triad Academy
The Truth
Tulip Girl
Twice Bloomed Wisteria
Two Passes Place
Two Small Birds
An Unschooling Life
Unto the Least of These
View From Earth
View from the Loft
View from the Riverwalk
Village Blog
The Void
Vox Verax
The Voyage
Warts and All
Weathertop Academy 4 Boys
We Hate Workbooks
We Have Always Lived in a Homeschool
What About What's Good, What's True?
Woodstone Prairie

*From another article in the News and Observer :

"This is a sampling of Pearl's advice from "To Train Up a Child" and his newsletter, "No Greater Joy":

PROBLEM Baby bites during breast-feeding
SOLUTION Pull baby's hair

PROBLEM Boy is a crybaby
SOLUTION "When he begins to scream his defiance or hurt, just ignore him. ... If he demands attention to a supposed wound, then reach in your purse, pull out a terrible tasting herbal potion and give him a spoonful. After he gets through gagging on the vitamin and mineral supplement, tell him that he is now completely healed, and invite him to come back for another dose if he again gets hurt."

PROBLEM Rebellious child who runs from discipline
SOLUTION "If you have to sit on him to spank him, then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he has surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring, and are unmoved by his wailing. Hold the resisting child in a helpless position for several minutes, or until he is totally surrendered. Accept no conditions for surrender -- no compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final."

PROBLEM Child whines to mother after father disciplines him
SOLUTION Mother must go over to child and "give him one or two licks on his exposed ankles or legs while commanding, 'Obey your father.' "

PROBLEM Child lies
SOLUTION Switch him 10 times at noon each day. Make him pick the tree branch.

PROBLEM What to use for a rod
SOLUTION For babies under age 1, a footlong willow branch shaved of its knots. For older kids, plastic plumbing pipe, a 3-foot shrub cutting or a belt to help turn a child "back from the road to hell."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Rhythm Method Kills Embryos

If this article in the New Scientist were to be believed, it should have profound implications for human health and happiness.