Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Dangers of Blurring the Private and Public Sector

From Simon Jenkins:

"Specialist publications covering the public sector, such as Computer Weekly, Building Design and Public Finance, report a litany of disasters as hapless ministers struggle with the public-private behemoths they have created but which fail to deliver. Jacqui Smith and Alan Johnson have neither the competence nor the courage to end the absurdity of the ID card and NHS computers, both victims of high-pressure consultancy with billions of pounds at stake."

Of course, Mr Jenkins could also have included any number of other useless government databases, most relevant here being ContactPoint, aka The Children's Information Sharing Index.

Am off to have another go at extracting ourselves from the NHS Spine. Apparently a letter is not enough.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Californian Homeschooling not imperilled, according to this analysis.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More on Doing Without Schools

...from I Cringely, this time seeing the possibility as being driven by Moore's Law.

HT: Raquel

Monday, March 24, 2008

Better Off Without Them?

From the irascible Theodore Dalrymple, we heard that:

"When we were students, a professor of public health once told us that the death rate declined whenever or wherever doctors went on strike. This was an even stronger argument, he implied, than the purely ethical one against doctors resorting to such action, or inaction. No profession should lightly expose its uselessness to the public gaze. "

Could these principles, by any chance, also apply to state education and the teaching profession? Is it just possible that we would be better of without them?

Brian Micklethwait seems to be thinking along these lines:

"I am more than ever convinced that if the entire state education system were to drop dead tomorrow morning, that would be a great improvement for some people immediately, for many people in a few weeks, for most people in a few months, and for almost everyone in a few years. After a decade, the results would be miraculous."

Dr. Dalrymple's other point about trying to avoid exposing the inadequacy of the profession could also easily apply to schools, and would account for the habit of teachers of choosing to blame families rather than taking the rap themselves.

Best Description of Home Education...

...for quite a while from Greg Millman in The Washington Post. Ok, so he is writing about homeschooling but on this evidence there's little difference.

"I've never heard a home-schooling parent refer to a child as "learning disabled," for instance. There are many kinds of intelligence, but conventional schools usually only focus on one. Take late reading. A conventional school education depends on written textbooks and workbooks and homework, so a child who can't read is unable to learn. But home-schoolers have developed systems and approaches that work with the kind of talent and intelligence a child has. One of our sons didn't read until he was 8 years old. That was no disability, though. He learned from audio tapes and DVDs and from being read to and -- very importantly -- from going outside and looking around. He could spot a deer on a hillside or a bluebird in a tree long before the rest of us. When he finally decided to read, he jumped into "The Chronicles of Narnia" and finished the series within weeks. "I want to read the books before I see the movie," he told us. "

Yup, that's all right on the button, as is the rest of the piece.

We'll be looking out for Greg's book "Homeschooling: A Family's Journey" (Tarcher-Penguin), due out in Auguest

In the meantime, am off to search out the online chat about homeschooling on the Washington Post site today, 1:00pm Eastern Time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I am not at all sure that I have understood the recent California homeschooling ruling. As I currently see it, homeschooling remains a perfectly legal option, you don't have to have teaching credentials, you just have to tell the state what you are actually doing, and not pretend to be using credentialed teachers when you aren't.

That aside, one really does have to take issue with the following from the judge, (and whip your child straight out of state school, if you do believe that there is a chance that it is the case):

“A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare,” the judge wrote, quoting from a 1961 case on a similar issue. "
Justice H. Walter Croskey

Whoa, hold on there pal! I don't want my child patriotic and loyal to anything, let alone the state and nation. I want them to think about whether what they are doing seems good and right. I am not even certain that they should automatically have to protect the public welfare. This really would be up to them, thank you very much.

More on School Stress

...from the Independent.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Home Education in Germany

Aspie Home Education has You Tube story of the Busekros family. It comes to us courtesy of the Christian Broadcasting Network, but this version tallies with other sources.

When last I heard, Melissa, who has now turned 16, has been allowed to return home, but not before the HE community in the UK has been alerted to the plight of other German homeschoolers. Plenty of UK HEors are ready to put up a fight on their behalf .

Thursday, March 20, 2008

School-Induced Problems and a Solution

I suppose one should be grateful that it is actually finally coming to the attention of those who might be able to do something about it, but I still can't help but wonder why on earth it has taken so long for adults to make that link between the emotional well-being of children and their experiences of school. Perhaps the recognition both of the link and the possible problems school can cause has been prompted by the spate of teen suicides and/or by the UN's finding that the UK's children come bottom of the league when it comes to well-being, but my honest reaction is "how could it have taken so long!" Are the reportedly high levels of self-harm, anorexia, aggression and bullying amongst school children really the new problems that the Guardian seems to think they are.

Surely school-inflicted damage is an age-old problem. Within my own experience, there were at least eight severe anorexics out of my year group of approx 120 girls, way back when I was at school. This problem appeared to be largely school-induced as it consistently developed at times when academic pressure was most heavily applied. Of the anorexics I know of now from this group, all have been seriously and permanently damaged by this affliction. None of them can eat adequately even now. They all have digestive problems and other health issues such as osteoporosis. At least one of them is sterile, probably as a result of being permanently underweight.

But it wasn't just anorexia. There were plenty of other pupils who were either near-anorexic, bulimic, smiling depressive, completely flat, clearly clinically depressive or proto-pathological narcissists. Plenty of these individuals continue to struggle with the trauma and the emotional habits that resulted from their school experiences.

At the time, very few adults, be they teachers or parents, appeared to take these problems seriously in the least, or come to that, even bothered to recognise them for what they were in the first place. On the rare occasions when problems did come to light, (usually because a child was underachieving academically), teachers would almost unfailingly blame either the child or the family. The idea that a problem could have been generated by teachers or school life...nah, that just wasn't on. Staff would far rather cover their backs and not look for real causes or seek real solutions.

Of course, it is wise to avoid admitting that problems are likely to be caused by the one-size-fits-huge-numbers problem that afflicts the school system since it is nigh impossible to think of a way of solving it, other than by encouraging the child to leave, and schools don't want to do that in the private system, what with that big, fat cheque being on the line, and there is sod-all point changing schools in the state system, what with that poor child most likely getting out of the frying pan and plopping straight into the fire in one short step. Yep, it's pretty damn difficult to know what to do about it if you're invested the school system, so far easier to get blaming children and parents instead.

But really, is this absense of truth-seeking and problem-solving the best we can manage for our children? Is condemning them to hopeless misery and other pathological behaviours really likely to set them up for creative, exciting, responsible lives?

OK, there is some merit in learning to adapt to strenuous surroundings, but surely it is far better to help our children learn that they should only adapt to an environment or situation if they believe that the adaptation would be beneficial, that the cause is worthy. If you were to be conscripted into an army, life would doubtless be hard, but whether you chose to cope with this should surely depend upon whether you believe the cause worthy or not. You would ask yourself "is it a just war?" If so, you adapt. If not, you subvert. Either way, you live your values. Surely this is what we would want from our children?

It was the case that plenty of girls during my time school did appear to adapt to the regime on some level. But you know what? Most of them knew or at least sensed that they weren't doing it in a good cause and they often developed nasty little emotional and behavioural tics to cope with this dissonance. They became subtle bullies, mini-narcissists, religious nut-jobs, or hard around the edges when their better natures would never have allowed for this. Some of them have yet to get over this. They carry the mal-adaptations with them to this day and they often have no compunction about putting their children through a similar system, which whilst it may have improved over the years, still creates many of the same sorts of difficulties for at least some of the children. For many of the other old girl mal-adaptees, it takes a good many years to recover, to see the world for how it is. At that point, most of them vow never to risk repeating that experience for their children.

I have witnessed quite a number of these renunciations as they actually happened, these moments when people finally achieve clarity about how appallingly useless their teen experience had been. At old-girl functions, I see how gentle probing can unravel a huge web of bitterness and hatred for the oppressive institution. A few years ago, I opened the Sunday Telegraph magazine to read a six page denunciation of my school during the years I was there, and this from many of the girls who had appeared to tolerate it well. My recent school magazine carried a paragraph by the head girl in the year above me who had bullied those around her in the services of the school system she appeared to espouse. She has now finally had the wit and wisdom to see the school for what it was at the time. She denounced it roundly and good for her.

So the moral: It is not a good thing to force yourself or your child to adapt to a set of beliefs for which you cannot see a proper rational argument or explanation. It scrambles ones thinking, leaves one open to doing truly terrible things, prevents one from dreaming big about how to solve problems, causes one to repeat mistakes ad nauseam.

If your child senses that they can learn in ways that better suits their skills and interests and that these methods are not open to them in schools, don't try to browbeat them into thinking that they must forego their beliefs. If your child is unhappy in school, I would really be thinking very hard about this one, particularly in the light of knowing that there can be a MUCH BETTER WAY, a way of providing an education that it is suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. Consider home education.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Border and Immigration Education Page Update

OK, so there has been an improvement on yesterday's education page from the Border and Immigration Agency, for which we should doubtless thank the home education community and the internet.

We now read:

"This page explains your children's right to education, and your responsibility to make sure they receive full-time education, usually at school. You must make sure they receive full-time education if they are of compulsory education age.

It is compulsory for children to have full-time education between the ages of five and 16. This is usually at school. A child must start education in the term after he/she turns five, and must continue it until June of the year he/she turns 16. If you have any dependants of compulsory school age, you must make sure they receive full-time education.

The organisation responsible for providing education in your area is the local council. It must make sure all children living in its area receive full-time education, regardless of the child's immigration status. The education must be appropriate to the child's age and abilities and any special education needs he/she has. "

However, I'd still rate that a D and not just for the reason that there is no explicit mention of home education. Local councils are neither the sole providers of education, nor are they ultimately responsible for ensuring that a full-time education is taking place. Under primary legislation, parents are responsible for ensuring that a child is in receipt of an education and local authorities only have a duty to act when it appears that a parent is not making suitable provision.

Yup, it's up to the parents, stupid.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Outrageous Ignorance or Willful Lying?

...from the Border and Immigration Agency. You decide. Either way, it should erode one's faith in government institutions even further, (if that were possible).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

And Your Point?

...presumably that parents are a feckless lot who simply cannot be trusted to be left alone to get on with it.

OK, I give up. All parents everywhere in the UK must finally agree that the only sensible thing to do is to hand over our children at birth. After all, it's quite clear that the state's care homes and all those state approved foster carers never put a foot wrong.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Some of My Friends

There are at least 6 home educators in this cute You Tube Vid, one of whom I suspect would have thoroughly enjoyed his role, throwing the hero from the train.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

More on Schools and Home Education in Germany

For the latest on truancy rates and primary school results, visit ARCH Blog here and here and then there's Scatty's place for more on what German home educators are being forced to resort to.