Thursday, August 31, 2006


If anything was going to make me deeply sociopathic, prone to drug and alcohol problems, violent reactions, depression, unwanted pregnancies, (you know, the works), Mr Blair's suggestions contained herein, would probably do it.

Good One, Mike.

Mike was just SO RIGHT and the German Prof. approximately 95% wrong in this piece from the BBC World Service. Mike successfully tied the Prof. up in knots, despite an HE sceptical interviewer. Annoyingly and nonsensically, however, the Prof. was allowed to conclude that compulsory schooling was the best possible mode of education for a democratic society. Whaa?

Honey, I Suckle the Kids

There's an interesting discussion on the merits or otherwise of the Channel 5's Attachment Parenting Programme over at Playing it by Ear. Liz, who was featured, has contributed to it.

My feeling: that the essential goodness of the British family did indeed shine through, despite heavy attempts by the editors to make them look peculiar. I also agree with Clare that there was some strange goings-on in the single child American family - the child will in all probability suffer terribly from the mother's narcissistic investment. The other American family struck me as potentially suffering from a similar problem, the mother appearing so extremely zealous that the children run the risk of seeing themselves as products of her ideas, and not individuals in their own right, but I may be wrong here. This could well have been another problem of the editing, with the editor prompting mum to proselytize about AP instead of relaxing and just getting on with it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Down Side

Ouch, Owwww...ow and general twisting and turning and moither. This is definitely one of the downsides of Home Education!

The problem is you have the opportunity to fall in love with other HE people and their families. You spend so much time with them. Your kids love their kids. You learn so much from them. You get to know them so well. You're in and out of their lives and homes. It becomes a part of one's own life. Then sometimes, for very good reason, they have to go.

You twist and turn. The move would be great for them. It is the right thing, clearly. It would solve problems that could not otherwise easily be solved. They will be happy in the new place. It will provide them with exactly the right opportunities. And yet....Whaa...Sorrry, I am crying.

JFT...DOOOOONNNNNNTT GOOOOO...and that applies to you too...SP and family. New Zealand is a lucky country.

The CAF - Why We Should be Scared

Here's Spy Blog detailing some of the problems (technological and otherwise) with one of the most sensitive areas in the children's database fiasco. The list is long enough already, and that's without touching upon such major issues as whether lives so micro-managed can possibly be considered free.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Detachment Parenting and the Ezzos

Of course it isn't just the Pearls who advocate an utterly unnecessarily cruel approach to child rearing. Here's Hailey on the Ezzos with their arguments for detachment parenting.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Attachment Parenting & Home Education in the Independent

The Independent has a piece on attachment parenting from a home educator. Rings a lot of bells.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Home Education and Exam Results

The Home Education GCSE list has contained a good number of success stories. We hear of people who were miserable at school and not doing as well as it seemed they should, who at home have achieved results well beyond that which was predicted for them at school. MANY CONGRATULATIONS!

For anyone who did struggle and does still need these exams, there is always the option to try again.


Blogging life is getting easier all the time, for not only does the ARCH Rights blog cover more or less everything that I would feel obliged to write about if I had the time and the general clarity of thought, but bf Georgia (no relation) has now also taken to blogging.

She accounts for some of what we got up to yesterday, and I would agree with her assessment of the goings on in the philosophy circle, though the problem that I took away with me was that of the common perception in the group of the free market being a coercive or perhaps simply an ethically or aesthetically unpleasant environment. Whilst this doesn't come as much of a surprise, I was slightly taken aback by the misunderstandings that underpinned or informed or even inflamed these opinions. For example, Ayn Rand's perception of humans as consumers who are responsible for the perpetuation of their own existence, having made a free decision that this is the way they want to go, was translated entirely pejoratively into "Ayn Rand thinks that humans should be allowed to be selfish". (The philosophy lecturer).

Ho hum. I think Georgia and I both left with the overall feeling that the general notion of personal liberty was well received but that the economic and political structures that would allow for such an existence were either not well received or perhaps not well understood.

Cheered up afterwards due to b-i-l (a free marketeer if ever there was one) listening attentively over supper as I got a sort of debriefing lecture on Milton Friedman out of my system. (Thanks, W!)

I then got an A minus on Big Brain Academy - the first one I have managed when fully sober. I think I can hear my liver offering up a thanksgiving prayer. Ds now concedes that I am better at it than him...but only for the moment. He is improving all the time and I will have to work to keep ahead.

Children's Databases on Air

We're set to record this one: next Friday September 1st at 7.30pm, Channel 4 "30 Minutes" programme is on children’s databases.

People at Action on the Rights for Children have been working with the documentary team.

They say:

"As it is a 30-minute documentary, it can only outline the problems but we hope there will be more programmes to follow. "

Friday, August 25, 2006

Goodbye Data Protection

Despite risking becoming just a referral site for ARCH blog, I feel compelled to point people in the direction of this one.

Here's a taster, as quoted by them from the Guardian:

"Ministers are preparing to overturn a fundamental principle of data protection in government, the Guardian has learned. They will announce next month that public bodies can assume they are free to share citizens' personal data with other arms of the state, so long as it is in the public interest.

The policy was agreed upon by a cabinet committee set up by the prime minister, and reverses the current default position - which requires public bodies to find a legal justification each time they want to share data about individuals."

If this really is all in the public interest, what is the problem?

The problem with this proposal, apart from the complete destruction of privacy, the likelihood of a massive increase in data sharing - most of which will be unnecessary, the probable abuses of the system and high chance of errors, increased state expenditure, and the assumption of statist rights to intrusion and by implication to exist as if by divine right, is that the public interest is decided centrally. A state-decided "public interest" may not actually be in the interest of the public, or it may be in the interests of some and not other members of the public.

By way of an example, it is now assumed that it is in the interests of the public to know where children are being educated. Whilst this may be in the interests of a section of the population, such as those children who are being educationally neglected, it contravenes the inclinations of home educating parents who want to be left alone by the state to educate their children as they see fit and without an LEA officer with their unsupported assumptions that they know best, telling parents how to do it.

There are no obvious and established answers to the question of public interest and the current precedent should therefore remain.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Not a Surprise

ARCH Blog has more on the problems with the NHS records system computer upgrade. Guess what - it isn't working out too well.

And what is it with having problems with getting software developed in India? Everyone I know who has tried this says that they wouldn't do it again.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Meme of Three

Jonathan from Liberal England sent this meme this way. Thanks Jonathan.

1.Things that scare me:
Skiing holidays

2. People who make me laugh:
Bill Bailey
Peter Cook
People who've decided to go on skiing holidays

3. Things I hate the most:
Tyrannies of any variety (including parental and schooling)

4. Things I don't understand:
Why so many parents think school the answer
How the BBC gets away with it.
Why Kate Moss?

5. Things I'm doing right now:
Ignoring Ds as he straps water balloons to his trousers. I don't 'think' it is an extremely sick joke. (Oh bother. It is).
Ruffling fur on wolfhound with my left foot.
And yes, fairly predictably, I've just been told to be quiet, even though I was only making a very soft tapping sound. Apparently this is enough to wake up dollies.

6. Things I want to do before I die:
Be around when someone works out a way not to.
Be able to go to Israel and feel safe.
Find Dd's other shoe

7. Things I can do: very uncertain about how to answer this question.
Let's get back to basics. I clearly can turn on my computer.
Access the internet.

8. Ways to describe my personality:

9. Things I can't do:
Solve the energy crisis
Stop worrying about asteroids
Find Dd's other shoe

10. Things I think you should listen to:
Anything you fancy
Elgar's Cello Concerto, 3rd movement, but only in the English countryside on a sunlit evening.

11. Things you should never listen to:
The Archers
The UN

12. Things I'd like to learn:
More maths
Some chemistry
How to put a functioning lock on the bathroom door.

13. Favorite foods:
More or less anything cooked by somebody else

14. Beverages I drink regularly:
Diet Coke

15. Shows I watched as a kid:
Blue Peter
The Dam Busters
The Longest Day (ie: only anything very, very earnest)

16. People I'm tagging to do this meme:
Clare at Playing it by Ear
Jax at Making it Up
Dawniy at Our Learning Together

To Do

Oh joy! Top of my "to do" list this lovely am: *Fill in tax return and *Find the hornets' nest.

The hornets demonstrate qualities of intelligence and evil in equal measure, pursuing the children out of the garden and into house with an appearance of such malign intent that it is truly chilling. They terrify the horses in similar fashion. A normally sanguine friend, recently stung, reports that it felt as if someone were pressing a cigar to his forehead for a whole week. There is good reason to believe that I am allergic to wasp-type stings. Hornets are truly gross, yet somehow I still feel drawn to this issue.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Random School Allocation

Dr Eamonn Butler has yet another prospective reason to choose home education.

Studying Arabic

...after doing maths, biology and art. Think we can see where government priorities are pushing things at the mo!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Databased USA

Oh looks as if there is nowhere to run if Spunky has it right.

The Side Effects of Testing

With all this talk of A-levels, and the general all round jollity that the latest batch of best-ever results has inspired, I can't help thinking back to my own experience of that time.

Whilst we hear from many academic sources that various types of testing are beneficial to see the discussion in this piece from the Digital Library, I personally found that almost every lesson that I derived from this kind of testing had very little to do with anything constructive.

Ann Lahrson Fisher from the National Home Education Network sums up my experience very neatly and it is worth adding another one which is that over the long term, I have retained very, very little knowledge about the actual subject content of my A-levels. B-I-L confirms that despite only just having got a very good degree, he already remembers diddly-squat about huge chunks of it.

Side Effect Lessons:

Someone else knows what you should know better than you do.

Learning is an absolute that can be measured.

Your interests are not important.

The subject areas being evaluated on the test are the only things that are important to know.

Thinking is not valued; getting the 'right' answer is the only goal.

The answer (to any question) is readily available, indisputable, and it's one of these four or five answers here; there's no need to look deeper or dwell on the question.

Your worth can be summarized by a single mark on a paper.

The purpose of learning is to get a high score. High test scores are the only purpose of testing.

If you score very well, you are better than other people who do not score as well.

Poor test scores mean that you are a failure.

If you score poorly, there is nothing you can do to change it. Why try?

I haven't learned to read yet. I am not smart.

Since we are tested once a year, we have to spend the rest of the year preparing for the test.

The test was too hard. I am not smart.

The test was easy. I don't have to learn any more.

The test was easy [hard]. Public [home] [private] school kids are dumber [smarter] than I am.

The questions on the test are what is important. What I have been studying is not important.

I have to get a higher score next year to show that I am learning.

Fisher notes that there are indeed some anxieties in academic departments about the effects of testing. Here are some:

Standardized tests cannot measure creativity.

Test scores reward children who have one style of learning, and penalize all other children for having a different style of learning.

Standardized tests cannot measure the ability to think, and actually teach children bad thinking habits, such as trying to outguess the test makers, rather than thinking for themselves.

Standardized tests result in a type of evaluation that is easy to manage (true/false, multiple choice).

Thinking skills are very difficult and time consuming to evaluate.

Standardized tests are designed not to test individual progress, but to compare a child's progress to the progress of other children. Thus, tests promote competition, not cooperation.

Poor test scores decrease self esteem, possibly leading to social and discipline problems.

Testing can damage the trust relationship between teacher and student.

Test scores and grading are a divisive force in families, separating parents from their natural position as the child's first and most committed teacher. (Wow! Some educators know this! Dare I hope for a positive future?)

Reliance on standardized test scores reduces initiative, independence, creativity, and willingness to take risks in learning situations.

Test scores become the goal of student work (extrinsic reward) rather than the sense of satisfaction and wonder that naturally follows discovery of something new (intrinsic reward).

The drive for high test scores creates unnecessary, unproductive stress.

Standardized tests promote under achievement.

Test makers assume that all children have equal readiness for all subjects at the same age.

Tests focus on a narrow band of learning, emphasizing memorization skills.

Reliance on test scores and grades causes students to drop courses of study.

It is worth noting that standardized tests, in addition to being narrowly focused and frequently misused comparative measurements of academic progress, are powerful teachers in their own right. Only when these instruments have been imposed on huge populations of students for many years can we begin to see that the tests take on a teaching life of their own, quite apart from the intentions of their creators.

None of which applies to my recent self-imposed testing, which resulted in the over-riding lesson of remembering to make sure that our wine cellar is well-stocked. Hmm.


Actually, I think testing is great. (Have just come third and then second in this. Na na na naa na. And I was stone cold sober.)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Performance Enhancing?

It is the case that most of us discover just how insightful and generally all round brilliant we really are after a couple of glasses of something or other. And yes, it turns out to be completely true...for yesterday night, in the interests of science, and after about four units of red wine, I increased my score on Big Brain Academy by a whopping three whole notches - which may not be good news for my liver, since the next day, I was back to my previous sober best.

Perhaps this is why I find the news from Future Pundit that human brain cells can replictate in culture so very inspiring. Brain cells or liver cells, either would be good enough for me.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


By way of consoling myself as regards the expense of home education, I regularly compare costs with private schooling. A recent estimate from Charles Moore of the Spectator set the price of putting a child through private school at approximately £250k, so there aren't too many worries there.

However we do have to concede the case with regard to state schooling, with current parental expenditure estimated at £14,000 for a school-life. But of course when you take value for your money into account, home education wins hands down.

Pearl Update

It seems that the number of bloggers and their commentators who will no longer tolerate the child beating teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl continues to grow. See here by way of an example.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pot Calling Kettle Black?

With what is becoming a bit of a theme here - following on from the last post about ill-educated nursery nurses, we now hear that tests of teacher trainees show that one in 10 recruits has trouble with the spelling of words such as "receipt".

Just wondering what a Nursery Nurses Union would make of that? "Benny Hawkins in the Staffroom" would seem only fair.

HT: Tom Morris. (Bother...don't seem to be able to link to you right now.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Vicky Pollard, the Nursery Nurse?

This story from the Guardian seems to have arrived courtesy of a press release from the Professional Association of Teachers - yes those them ones with a fairly recent notorious history of unresearched HE bashing and other frankly dotty suggestions, so perhaps all in all, one needn't take this story too seriously.

But whichever way you look at it, you wouldn't want your child in the school system since either the story is true, in which case, you don't, or it is not and you still don't, given that the voice of teachers would therefore be so out of whack.

HT: Jonathan

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Home Educator's Town Square Test

Home educated Lulie stands up for what she believes in and wonders whether Britain is really a free society. Hmmm...looks like the jury might be still out on that one.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Moral Equivalences

Gil posted this a while back but it comes to mind on a daily basis atm, and seems as pertinent as here it is.

What's Going On?

DS's sense of humour is getting in the way these days. For example after watching me beavering away as quickly as possible to get some work at home done, he chimes in, not awfully helpfully,

"You servants are all the same. Taking money from the rich and keeping it for yourselves."

The thought that he may be mutating into Eric Cartmen has completely put me off my stride.


This new game from the makers of Grand Theft Auto looks set to cause a stir. Not only does it contain scenes of violence (which will result in the usual splurge of outraged condemnation), but the violence takes place in a school, which will doubtless also result in school advocates getting in a tizz at being so represented.

Note, I didn't say mis-represented since from the little that can be gathered from the blurb, it doesn't look as if it is far removed from at least two of our local senior schools, where we know of children who have been headbutted, knifed, pushed downstairs, had their heads slammed against walls and mirrors and fingers slammed in doors as well as having all their stuff repeatedly nicked.

But that is only a tiny reason why we HE. We HE because HE is a fun and great way to learn!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Muddle Puddle

Hey, it's happened...I'm there, on the Muddle Puddle Early Years Blog Ring! (See side-bar). Yippeeee...and thanks Jax for sorting this.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Costs of Creativity

Daniel at Key Words coincidentally almost exactly duplicates a conversation I had yesterday with someone who has just completed their physics doctorate. Daniel and this person both maintain that intelligence is often perceived, particularly in early stages of education, to be linked to the replication of accepted dogma and that more lateral, creative and critical thinking (of the kind that best serves post-doctorate researchers, for example), is often regarded very poorly during this same early stages.

I suppose I did have an inkling that this was the case, but it's nice to have it confirmed by people in the field.

What We Do in the Countryside

We had a fantastic night out in a beautiful local pub not so long ago. Sounds rather peculiar when you know what it was exactly, but it really was one of the best nights I've ever experienced, for a number of completely unforgettable reasons.

It happened to be the first time that I have managed to get to the local Philosophy Circle...format: one hour lecture, followed by discussion from the floor. I have never listened so attentively as I did that hour. (The first memorable thing). It felt as if my life depended upon what was said, so intriguing was the subject, and so relevant with regard to what is currently going on with the terrorist threat.

Second memorable thing: I simply basked in the reflected glory of accompanying two people who's minds quite clearly don't fit easily into their skulls and both of whom spoke with such intelligence, clarity and humility.

Third memorable thing: there were other people there whose precision of thought and expression rocks you to the very core, almost as if someone had held a very pleasurable source of electricity to your stomach.

Fourth memorable thing: towards the end of the discussion, one of my accompanying egg-heads very, very mildly shook the entire foundations of the lecture.

Fifth memorable thing: the lecturer said effectively "Hey, you know what, I think you're right". Good grief, that one blew me away too!

Sixth more embarrassingly memorable thing: I did manage to stumble out a proposed solution to the problem, which being a newbie I imagined would be disregarded. Instead it received the sincere recognition from a very experienced and eloquent philosopher.

Anyhow...just realised what the next two lectures are fav topic: two talks on liberty from two different philosophy lecturers. Can't wait!

Desire of Success Causing Childhood Neuroses

There is much that I agree with in this article - A Nation of Wimps from Psychology Today.

The central argument: that parental hyper-concern for children is inhibiting children's development. Other related themes: that this parental hyper-concern and attendant scrutiny is borne of parental perception of the competitive nature of the world out there, that children must be assisted by their parents to win in this race, that children know about and are diminished by this assistance and that unstructured play is an important means towards developing the qualities that lead to an unneurotic adulthood.

I don't have any complaints here. I agree with all this but there are some problems with the extent of the arguments. For example, I don't think hyper-scrutiny is solely the fault of parents; it comes from schools too. The pressure/hyper-scrutiny that is applied to kids in schools means that children realise that significant weight is given to success in various forms, so that they feel devastated when they cannot achieve. School assessments can be almost entirely responsible for this kind of self-appraisal and damage, leading children to develop the paradigm that the world is indeed relentlessly competitive, that co-operation is not an option, that they must always strive to be on top and yet are forever unlikely to get there. All of which doesn't look like a recipe for terrific mental health.

This does undoubtedly all go on, so what is the answer. Of course I am going to say HOME EDUCATION, but then one of the common criticisms of home education is that the children are over-protected by their parents, therefore giving their child the impression that the world is a dangerous place out there, and generally turning their kids into neurotic messess that way. These claims, though, are usually a load of old hogwash, particularly if children are educated autonomously. Not only are they not clossetted away in a classroom, having a better chance of actually seeing how the real world actually works, but they also have choices over their own life right from the beginning. They can be assisted to make rational decisions when they need the help, but they only rely on their own appraisals to test the success of their own ambitions, which means that very little terrifying weight is given to the idea of success and failure. The autonomously educated child can fail at things and it is only by his own assessment that this failure matters. He knows that he is still safe to carry on, that failure doesn't risk the loss of love, attention, or in anyway compromise his survival.

Because his successes or failures are only measured in his own terms, he doesn't introject the lesson that is implied by the school system, that the whole of life is relentlessly competitive, and that meaningful co-operation is a non-starter. Nor does he have to face the issue of where he comes in the pecking order, since he simply will not know most of the time, nor will it matter. What matters instead is that he solves the problems that he considers important to solve, which is surely as much as one could ask.

Parenting children to facilitate their autonomy is not a matter of being hyper-involved. It means being available to be asked for help, which is a different thing. Also, the play that is mentioned in the article as being beneficial to development is an integral part of learning for the autonomously educated child, there being almost no distinction between play and the work of learning.

HT: Karen at The Thomas Institute,

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Leave Us Alone

It seems that home educators everywhere would usually prefer to be left alone. From the Washington Times, Michael Smith of the HSLDA puts a couple of arguments in favour of freedom for HEors.

Am only hoping that he has it wrong in the last paragraph and that we will eventually be able to put this whole tiresome issue aside. Perhaps, when state officials eventually realize that monitoring us when we don't want to be monitored, and telling us what to do when we would rather be doing something else, that this effectively means that parents are absolved of responsibility for the education of children, which therefore means that any family who has been let down by state education will have a righteous grievance and a case in court...perhaps then HEors will eventually get left alone.

Poor old Puerto Ricans...looks like their government hasn't got it yet. Here's hoping the HEors there have the nous to put the case.

HT: Spunky

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Muddles We Make

By way of demonstrating very neatly why it is so important to have a good grasp of ethics and theories of knowledge and to be able to express these as clearly as possible, we have the following:


1. My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE .
"If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning."

2. My mother taught me RELIGION .
"You better pray that will come out of the carpet."

3. My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL .
"If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"

4. My mother taught me LOGIC .
" Because I said so, that's why."

5. My mother taught me MORE LOGIC .
"If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're not going to the store with me."

6. My mother taught me FORESIGHT .
"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."

7. My mother taught me IRONY .
"Keep crying, and I'll give you something to cry about."

8. My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS .
"Shut your mouth and eat your supper."

9. My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM .
"Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!"

10. My mother taught me about STAMINA .
"You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone."

11. My mother taught me about WEATHER .
"This room of yours look's as if a tornado went through it."

12. My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY .
"If I told you once, I've told you a million times. Don't exaggerate!"

13. My mother taught me the CIRCLE OF LIFE .
"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

14. My mother taught me about BEHAVIOUR MODIFICATION .
"Stop acting like your father!"

15 . My mother taught me about ENVY .
"There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do."

16. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION .
"Just wait until we get home."

17. My mother taught me about RECEIVING .
"You are going to get it when you get home!"

18. My mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE .
"If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they are going to get stuck that way."

19. My mother taught me ESP .
"Put your sweater on; don't you think I know when you are cold?"

20. My mother taught me HUMOUR .
"When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."

21. My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT .
"If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up."

22. My mother taught me GENETICS .
"You're just like your father."

23. My mother taught me about my ROOTS .
"Shut that door behind you. Do you think you were born in a barn?"

24. My mother taught me WISDOM .
"When you get to be my age, you'll understand."

25. And my favourite: My mother taught me about JUSTICE .
"One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you"

Makes me realise quite how wonderful the theories of Taking Children Seriously really are. At least TCS grown-ups shouldn't be making these kinds of mistakes, ie: errors of thinking, judgement and expression!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Philosophy of Liberty

We all enjoyed this flash animation explaining the principles of freedom. Simple, straightforward, and triggering some important points of discussion, eg: whether or not it contains a particularly accurate perception of the nature of time, and then some quibbles over the "initiation of force" issue.

HT: Chris O'Donnell

Sunday, August 06, 2006

David Deutsch on Fixing the Big Problems

Playing catch-up yet again. Here's an article from the Telegraph from November last, which is characteristic of the writer's work in that it is elegant, precise, informed, visionary and essentially optimistic. What more could one ask?

Big England

Dave at Temperama is continuing his Big England series with a post of mine on the subject. Was very flattered to be asked and have loved reading the other contributions, such at this from Roldy.

Education Research Also Gets a Fail

Continuing with the theme from the previous post, on the matter of the embarrassingly ignorant, misconceived, mis-directed state of thinking in and now behind education policy, we have this from the National Foundation for Education Research, (NFER), a body largely funded by the DfES and LAs.

Every home educating list, (well, all the ones I'm on anyhow) has carried strong objections to what looks like a propaganda piece for LAs. Home Educators are right to object. What more needs to be said when we hear that the researchers were teachers and the four home educating families who were selected to partake in the research were put forward by the LAs? No wonder you end up with this sort of response:

"Parents noted the benefits of local authority officers having a teaching background. A keen interest in, and a connection with, the children was considered key to the development of an effective relationship between the local authority and families. "

Whaaa? Effective for whom exactly? It might serve the authorities very well in their mission to control, but I've yet to hear of any HE family who has been bowled over by the help provided by an LA, teachers or no teachers, and even if we were to be offered all this help, we CERTAINLY don't want to HAVE to have it. The thing is, help will only come with scrutiny and this scrutiny is more than likely to actually damage learning in the situation that families feel the pressure to produce for the LA rather than attending to the specific needs of their children.

At least now we know what the LAs really want. It is out there, in its full awfulness:

"Local authority personnel's legal concerns led them to propose the following: that all parents register their intent to home educate with the local authority; that the term "efficient and suitable" full-time education be more accurately defined; and, because of the local authority's responsibility with regard to safeguarding children, a requirement for EHE children to be seen by professionals (although local authorities are responsible for safeguarding and promoting children's welfare, they do not have powers to enter homes). Other recommendations fell under the remit of monitoring and assessment and included the importance of monitoring the educational provision made for EHE children and the need for regular assessments to determine EHE children's educational progress. "

Ok, so where does all this monitoring actually stop? Perhaps we should monitor the monitors just to make sure that their learning is up to scratch. In fact, by their own argument surely they must see this as essential. Given the evidence so far presented, it is quite clear that the policy makers and the LAs haven't got a good grounding in very much at all that is pertinent here, eg: in how to undertake or read research, or in learning theory, or in the British tradition of freedom for the populace. It looks as if we must set rather a large amount of homework for marking with a final examination on the subjects of the problems of scientism and statistics, epistemology, ethics and including a large section on the reasons for the importance of freedom and the dangers of subjugation of people.

However, I personally would rather not bother. How about this idea: we will leave you alone to get on with stuff that might be useful, and you leave us alone to get on with stuff that will be useful?

Go here to lodge objections with the NFER and to provide further rather more accurate information than they've managed to seek out so far.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Education Policy Gets a Fail Mark

Blimey, if you followed my last post, you were doing well. To be fair, I was in a huge hurry this am, and it is interesting (well to me anyhow) to see what spills out in such a situation. Basically, it seems that my inclination towards pedantry, (a hopefully usually recessive genetic aspergic trait) pops up when I let myself go unedited.

By way of a contrast and as a picture of clarity and good sense, and a more legal viewpoint, please see the ARCH comment for a very satisfactory critique of Prof Archard's piece.

But before signing out, there is more on the matter of what the government is proposing for schools, on this occasion from The Times. Don't worry, I'm not going to start all over again, though GOOD GRIEF, it's tempting - all those hidden genes are bubbling to the surface at this very moment....just look at this for an example of provocation to pedantic criticism:

"SCHOOLS would no longer be required to teach children the difference between right and wrong under plans to revise the core aims of the National Curriculum. Instead, under a new wording that reflects a world of relative rather than absolute values, teachers would be asked to encourage pupils to develop “secure values and beliefs”.

Ummm, STOP. What I just want to know is - who is it who's actually confused here? Is it government policy makers or the hacks, or as I strongly suspect, is it both?

Anyhow, whoever it is should go read Popper and get their heads slightly more round this subject matter. They could start with Bryan Magee's very succinct Popper if they have to get their policy or copy out in the next few days. Once they've done this and have got at least a basic grasp of ethics and theories of knowledge, and then visited the ARCH website just to make sure they aren't infringing any current legislation, THEN and only THEN should they start offering up their ideas on these sorts of issues.

Children: Products or People?

Jax pointed me in the direction of this one from the Guardian. Just when I imagined life was getting too full to blog atm, I can't help it, I'm back here! Couldn't let this pass.

Ooh, that article is rhetorically naughty and epistemologically dodgy, by turns. It's good on rhetorical devices that conceal the fault lines in the argument, vague about the implications of assertions, particularly in the key matter of learning theory, and apparently incapable of applying the logic leading to the first conclusion to the second instance.

The most notable rhetorical device centres around the use of the word "product". In the course of asserting that children are not, or should not be regarded as products, Prof Archard only addresses the issue of children being regarded as products *of their parents*. He does not touch upon the possibility of children being products of a school system. There is no explanation provided as to why this automatic exemption should take place. By this fallacious argument by omission, schools are automatically apparently exempted from the possible fault of treating children as products.

Without getting stuck on the matter of definitions, we need to know what the Prof. thinks he is implying by the idea of a child being a product. It seems by product that he means that someone asserts their right (whatever this may be) to control and mould someone else in order put the object of these attentions out there as some sort of representation of the maker. There is an implied epistemological point here, which is that that someone who is a product is not the master of himself; his qualities, thoughts, actions/ theories are not his, he is not able to apply critical thought to these things, nor to act freely. This because being a product implies conveying only those ideas that are imparted by the producer.

Given this definition, it seems that there is very good argument behind asserting that parents should not treat children as products. We would agree (for epistemological reasons since it is better that children apply their critical faculties to theories) that it is a very good thing that children be not products of their parents. But the thing is, this definition of what constitutes a product actually also fits precisely with the very thing that Prof Archard seems to be suggesting should be created by the school system, since he asserts that schools should seek to impart "secure values and beliefs" and this in preference to teaching the skills of critical thinking. In other words, he wants children to adopt ideas that are promoted by the school, which is the very definition of wanting to achieve a product.

It's pretty hard to see how Prof Archard is not saying that it is perfectly OK for schools to treat children as products when it is completely illegitimate for parents to do this. So how is that Prof? How do you justify your argument that children should be products of schools and not of parents? Well, he suggests that parents are much more likely to teach rubbish to their kids than schools are. JUST HANG ON a second here. How is this so transparently true? It certainly by no means follows so immediately from the assertion that schools should be teaching secure values and beliefs rather than critical thinking skills. In implying that parents are more likely to be teaching things like flat-earth theories, he implies that parents are the ones who are the sole owners of batty beliefs that do not have truth seeking qualities. But, but, but he the asserts that it is schools who should be teaching SECURE beliefs, and NOT critical thinking, the very things that are more likely to lead to the fault of which he accuses parents, ie: clearly irrational positions.

Hmmm, the thing is, it does seem to us that children be not regarded as products, (for epistemological reasons, ie: that it is better to be a free thinker since that way you can apply creative, rational criticism to theories, and generally pay attention to what you are doing in a much more constructive way), so if Prof Archard is promoting the force feeding of secure values and beliefs onto our kids, it is far better to keep children out of such an environment. Parents will only have the chance of offering critical thinking outside a liberal fundamentalist school (how it is not this, is another thing that never explained by the good Prof...despite the fact that he simply asserts it!)

Aha...someone may say, surely critical thinking is as much a secure belief and value as anything else? Well, not necessarily so. In fact, almost implicit in the notion of critical thinking is the idea that one can never be secure in one's theories, so that teaching fallabilism in the cause of truth seeking as a set of seemingly good ideas, and some that is worth sticking to for the time being, is a vastly different activity to "teaching secure beliefs."

It is arguable that secure beliefs would best serve the interests of society. I personally will stick with the idea that truth seeking, critical rational fallibilism is an apparently better way to go, and it certainly doesn't reduce anyone to a product, anywhere in any environment.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Carnival of Unschooling Voices No 2.

The August Carnival of Unschooling is up at Joanne's. Am off to enjoy. It will be a quick dash to work then.