Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Pink Panther - Our Perspective

Well that was unusual: I mean, you must know that particular syndrome that occurs when you go to see a film at the cinema and gradually become infiltrated by the utterly different personality of the major character and end up walking out feeling as if you see the world anew, as if through the eyes of another? Well, the disappointing truth is it didn't really work like that for us today. The thing was, we went to see the matinee performance of the new Pink Panther movie, and for most of the time we felt that there was absolutely nothing new for us here.

We tried to suspend total belief, but it was terribly difficult, what with Dd, being very slightly too light for the newly re-sprung pop-up chairs, intermittently exploding upward, and emitting a spume of salted popcorn in the manner of a very active volcano. Or when on at least two other occasions, in the calm following bouts of audience hilarity, one would become aware of a rather alarming trickling sound, which on inspection would turn out to be Dd, in open-mouthed wonder at the general entertainment value, slowly sprinkling her half-litre of mineral water over her trainers.

So with mounting disappointment, we all felt completely normal as we walked out of that particular film and set off the alarms at the exit of the cinema. This actually turned out not to be our fault, though we were blamed for it. Later on, I have to admit, we did actually set off an alarm in the restaurant exit, which actually was our mistake, brought about by me demonstrating why it wasn't our mistake last time.

The day only took on a more surreal turn when we got home, since there we were met by Dh with a funny sort of look on his face that I couldn't really read exactly. He asked if we had anything to tell him, and we did explain all about the power cuts, and the accidental purchase of a pot of Dulux paint, necessitated by not being able to get the lid back on in the shop, after we had looked in it to check that we really didn't like the colour, but his funny look didn't go away with all this admitting of stuff.

The problem is that he has developed this conspiracy type theory that I have a problem with my car and that I am trying to get it stolen, so that I can claim on the insurance. This is absolutely not true, but it really didn't help that I had left the driver door wide open during the film, and he had happened to pass by that way.

Ahhh, anyway, am blogging now as am in a state of semi-having-been-sent-to-Coventry and am currently in search of a very good explanation.

Stop the Rod UK

A new blog Stop the Rod UK is telling it like it is from the European perspective.

Creationism IS to be Taught in UK Schools

Seems I spoke too soon. According to the Spectator, (errgh - most pertinent stuff under sub),

"From September, in English schools biology pupils will be required to understand and discuss theories no scientist gives credence to. Jacqui Smith, the schools Standards minister, said in a parliamentary reply that 'creationism is one of many different beliefs which pupils might discuss and consider.'"

Forget the fact that even the Archbishop is of the opinion that thinking of the Biblical creation as a genuine explanation of the creation of the world amounts to a category error. Forget the fact that creationism could quite reasonably be taught in religious studies lessons and potentially useful spiritual lessons drawn and contrasts with scientific theories done there, ie: in a philosophical context. No let's go do something dumb and mix up two clearly delineated branches of knowledge, which almost immediately will make it much more difficult to reconcile these in any sensible fashion.

I had assumed that the argument for Darwinism and evolution had well and truly won in the UK but things could change . According to a recent poll"45% of Americans...believe that God created life on earth at some point in the last 10,000 years", so if we want to prevent a return to the intellectual dark ages, it may be best to whip those kids out of school.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

South Park

Ds is, as a rule, very tickled by South Park just now, so was interested to hear his reaction to last night's repeat of the home schooling episode.

The verdict: he loved it, particularly the bit where the school kids duck-tape the HE kid to the playground bench; and have actually just checked: he also fully realises that some people out there really do think that homeschoolers are nerdy Spelling Bee winners who unwittingly walk into tight social situations, and this despite the fact that all this is pretty removed from his actual experience.

More on Proposed De-Registration Changes

So here's the case that Education Otherwise are presenting in response to the proposed changes to deregistration from schools.

E.O. has made the case that there's little point objecting to the fact that it is proposed that schools must first inform the LEA by at least two days before the school removes the name of the child from their register, because E.O. thinks that the government, who have become concerned at the number of children being encouraged by schools to leave, will not move on this point.

Instead E.O. have asked that it be clear that when parents remove the child immediately and the name of the child is not removed for two days, that it become a matter of law, rather than merely of guidance, that the child be notified as being "absent with authority".

In their response, E.O don't make any mention of the fact that the two days minimum will allow time for the LEA not just to pressure schools not to pressure parents to dereg their kids, but that it will also allow them to get at parents too, potentially encouraging/forcing them to put their child back into school.

E.O tell us that they will get on to this point subsequently. We will be looking forward to hearing from them to this effect.

Educrats Out

Here's the Adam Smith Blog's take on the current Education Bill, particularly in a comparison with the Finnish model.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

13th Carnival of Homeschooling

Can't think why I haven't linked to this event before, but in the spirit of never too late - the US Carnival of Homeschooling is up, as it has been now for 13 weeks, no less.

Some of the links do take you to Homeschoolblogger and it isn't necessarily easy to tell, but hey ho. If you click accidentally, perhaps you could ask the HSBer whether they would like to consider their changing their blog home.

Comment Moderation

Just a note to let potential commentators know that moderation is still on-going and that whilst occasionally I may let ad hominems slip through, I will only do this when they are directed at myself.

I will always ask commentators to remove such remarks when they are directed at anyone else.

Please therefore try to frame an argument without attacking the person. That way we can all think about the issues clearly.

Homeschool Blogger Boycotts HSB

Even Homeschoolblogger Blogs are carrying the HSB boycott emblem now, which is great news and am more than happy to infringe the boycott to go see this kind of stuff!

Link here to find out why

HT: Doc

Monday, March 27, 2006

NHS Deficits

Furthur on the subject of deficits, we hear via this week's Panorama, that the budget deficit for the NHS runs to approximately £800 million and counting, vastly exceeding Patricia Hewitt's pronouncements of 2005 that the projected deficit for this period should amount to some £200m.

OK, so this won't help us a great deal when it comes to limiting local authority and government interference in our lives, not least because the "Every Child Matters" programme is to be predominantly funded through local authority budgets, on which I have still failed to get any details. However, this huge NHS deficit will soon result in yet more staff cuts and more pressure on resources, which could quite reasonably be expected to lead to more difficulties for the ptb with information-sharing and the database.

And Amen to that, I say, for not only does information-sharing most often involve breaching doctor/nurse/other practioner/client confidentiality, it also means that professionals disseminate the responsibility, which in turn makes the Climbie disaster more, rather than less, likely because none of them feel ultimately responsible for any one particular case. (OK, so I have forgotten my very recent source for this rather significant point...I think it was the British Medical Journal...will go and look it up.)

So, all in all, I won't be replying to the letter I received today from our local Primary Health Trust, demanding to know which school Ds goes to. The health services they offer through the schools are pretty paltry anyway, you can access them from any friendly GP, high street optician or dentist, and I fail to see what difference it makes to any clinical treatment my son may require that they should know what school he does or does not attend.

Proposed Changes in Pupil De-Registrations

Talk about shooting themselves in the collective foot! If the DfES is trying to get children in through the school gate, one sure way not to go about this is to make school de-registration more difficult. Yet that is precisely what they are doing.

The proposed changes from the DfES would mean that if a child is withdrawn from school with two or more days warning, the school will inform the Local Education Authority immediately and then delete the child's name at the time of withdrawal.

In the situation that a child is withdrawn immediately, the school would immediately inform the LEA, wait for two days and then delete the child's name from the register. In the interim two days the child will be marked down as absent from school.

Why bother with all this change? Why can't we stay with the system we already have, whereby you just tell your school you are deregging, they take your name off the list, and then at some stage the school informs the LEA about the deregistraton? Several conclusions suggest themselves:

1. That LEAs will be running those databased checks on us, contacting everyone they can think of, police/probation/social services/GPs (in complete defiance of the notion that we don't live in a police state).

2. That LEA will have an opportunity to get their foot in the door and intimidate us into not removing our child.

3. That it might give the LEA the opportunity to refuse to deregister the child.

Any which way you swing it, it doesn't look good and as suggested in the first paragraph, will almost certainly have effects counter to those intended by the DfES. The thing is, if deregistration becomes more difficult, those HEors who might give school a try if their child happens to show some inclination, these HEors are much more unlikely to actually do so. This very real possibility should be put on the table, I think.

UPDATE: The point has been convincingly made elsewhere that these proposed changes are probably not aimed specifically at parents seeking to deregister their children at school, but are more about preventing schools from deregging troublesome pupils, as some have been known to do. However, my guess is that it appears to the educrats to work very nicely whichever way they look at it, potentially allowing LEAs to put pressure on both schools and parents.

Daycares Don't Work

Thanks to Anon for forwarding a link to Daycares Don't Care.

Lots of choice points, eg: from the Magazine Articles page: The British Medical Journal carried a piece in 2003 entitled "Daycare Doesn't Reduce Poverty". This rightfully should put the kibosh on this government's drive to get mothers of young children back in the workplace.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Creationism will not be Taught in UK

It rather looks as if creationism isn't going to catch on in science lessons here in the UK, what with news from The Telegraph that the Archbishop of Canterbury no less is of the opinion that thinking of creationism as a genuine explanation of the origins of the world amounts to a category mistake.

Over at the Adam Smith Blog, they give space to Richard Dawkins' explanation of the creation of the eye.

Mothering Sunday

Does the UK Mothering Sunday often fall on the day that we put the clocks forward? I haven't made this connection before, but it seems somehow appropriate that the day should be only 23 hours long!

Government Advice on Home Education

As of today, government advice to Home Educators remains as it has for at least the last eight years or so. The advice is mostly fair, apart from two areas of obfuscation:

*the bullet pointed section on how to provide evidence to the LEAs when that they enquire as to the suitability of a child's education, is ambiguous since it could be read as meaning that you have to do all of those things including home visits, when it is the case that just a written report, for example, can be taken as sufficient evidence.

*the section where HEors are encouraged to inform the LEAs that they are HEing. Ime, it is the actually the case that most HEors who are in contact with their LEA don't get anything out of the relationship and often instead experience a significant amount of hassle, stress and a sense of being intruded upon. Naturally enough none of this is mentioned, despite the fact that this would be a fair picture of the situation.

I suppose, though that we should be grateful for what we have here, and we will therefore be keeping a close eye on this website, particularly in view of the changes that may result for Home Educators from the current Education Bill.

When Testing is Useful

Future Pundit has an entry on a proper use of testing. Note that the testing here that actually aided memory retention was a private activity, not open to feedback by an outside assessor.

Anyone game on for writing appropriate e-books with privately managed testing facilities?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What's 3% of 2%?, how much of a minority can one expect to be? It's not as if home educating is not minority enough, but it would perhaps be wise to avoid a move, particularly to the Midwest if you happen, as I do, to have a sceptical take on the concept of God.

From The University of Minnesota, there is news that only 3% of the American population describe themselves as atheists. Not that this in itself is too much of a problem, though the general attitude towards atheists could be just that.

"Many of the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism. Edgell believes a fear of moral decline and resulting social disorder is behind the findings. “Americans believe they share more than rules and procedures with their fellow citizens—they share an understanding of right and wrong,” she said. “Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.” "


Reason v. The Pearls

From the comment section at Shannon's Blog, we have a defense of the indefensible.

Deep breath, calmly: a refutation of a couple of choice points:

Dani wrote:

"As parents, we have to diligently teach and train our children to obey."

No, I don't. I teach my kids to think: to test their theories against the available data, to see if their theory contains explanatory force, to see if it is internally consistent and logical, to see if it is consistent with other good theories, to see if the theory actually works, to throw any other pertinent criticisms at it that they can think of, and above all to hold their theories tentatively. They may be wrong! Better theories may exist.

Teaching my children to think rationally seems to me to be the best way of helping them not to do stupid things just because someone who is more powerful than them tells them to. Home Education, of all educational methods with it's potential for free thought, could be about that.

"Children are not capable of thinking 'rationally' about a situation, but they can associate pain with bad behavior".

To the writer of the above I would say: just think about that sentence for a little bit. Take it seriously for a minute or two. Is it internally consistent? And just in case you don't get it - no it isn't, which all rather suggests that it is not the children who are being irrational in this instance.

(I am seriously worried that you may still not get it. Just in case this is so: if children are incapable of thinking rationally about a situation, how is it that they can associate pain with bad behaviour, since this is clearly quite rational under the circumstances you defend?)

"That point is that the small pain they feel now will prevent them from feeling great pain by the act they are committing, which could cause them loss of their lives in some cases. For instance, if a child tries to run across the street, using 'natural' and 'logical' consequences could cause the child be run over by a car and killed."

But my unsmacked children haven't been killed in a car accident, despite walking on unpavemented roads practically every day of their lives, since they could first walk. Miraculous? No. I just helped them enact their preference not to die. Rational choice all round, facilitated with explanations and without smacks.

Please think again. Violence in this context is utterly unnecessary. My guess is that you aren't in favour of murdering apostates, despite this being called for in certain sections of the Bible. So think again about this other issue concerning violence that has been implicated in the death of a child.

Making it Crystal Clear!

The link for this can be found here.

Thanks to Chris O'Donnell for this.

In Need of a Rallying Cry!

I think I have it right when I say that at the last HE meeting, every single HE parent there has either seriously considered emigrating or is actually doing so.

There are several reasons for this. One of the main ones is the increasing sense that HE, as we know and love it, will effectively become impossible in the UK in the not too distant future. And the main reason for this surmise: those who have had the opportunity to explore the situation extensively have recently drawn this conclusion. For example, Mike Fortune-Wood of Home Education UK had the foresight, under the Freedom of Information Act, to ask for all the consultation documents that the DFES received in response to their call for criticisms of their draft guidelines about how LEAs are to deal with Home Education. The documents from HE organisations are predictably pretty sensible. The ones from the LEAs are almost unremittingly awful, most often calling for much greater powers of intervention and control. It is hard to believe that government will continue to ignore calls for strict regulation of HE in the near future, particularly given their recent track record of intervention in family life.

There are other reasons for considering a move. The housing market here is still crazy. People who find it impossible to live in appropriate housing could do very much better in many other countries. The country is gradually going bankrupt. Nobody likes the look of their pensions. Stealth taxes afflict us more than many dare to contemplate. The amount of red tape gets you down. Various bits of impending legislation, such as the Education Bill and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, look as if they will erode our freedoms further. (The Tories promise to set about limiting the powers of the latter, so that it will indeed just limit red tape, but aside from wondering whether more red tape can really limit red tape, we worry that these amendments will be simply ineffective.)

Despite all this, most Home Educators have decided to stick it out for the moment, and thank goodness for that, but there are implications for HE with this sense of impermanence. Those who are moving will be missed so badly. The links between HE families can become deeply significant. Certainly parents who have done both the school gate and HE meetings say that it is a vastly different experience. HE parents can become deep friends. Forget the kids- it's us we are concerned about!

Seriously though, we go on and on about how socialisation isn't a problem for HE kids, but the fact is, that it isn't that it just isn't a problem, it is that it really can be vastly superior to many school relationships, often simply because there can be SO much time to form deeply meaningful bonds between children. If their HE parents have any sense, (and most of them do), these kids are not called away by a school bell in the middle of a complex interaction and games can become serious entities with gradual evolutions that are deeply meaningful. All of which can mean that breaking these ties can be a serious wrench. Given that the HE community is still small, and the people within in it can be so wonderful, it can make the loss of relationships seem doubly sad. HE parents need to be there to pick up the pieces. Sometimes it is hard not to pre-emptively protect yourself and your family by not getting too involved in the life of someone you know is harbouring thoughts of emigrating. Doesn't really work though.

We will miss you so much SP. You won't be surprised to hear that JFT and I are both distraught and I have to admit that I keep dreaming in melancholy fashion about you and yours. Even the saintly SM has admitted that she harbours thoughts of sabotaging your preparations! Ds has gained so much from knowing your family, for which I will forever be grateful. We all know it is the most utterly sensible and brilliant decision for you and yours, but sniff, sob, OUCH.

Meanwhile, we ourselves ain't going anywhere just yet. Dh and I have talked about the extent to which we would go down the route of civil disobedience first. Dh seems quite happy with the idea. Me: Ummm...errr....

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Petitioning Amazon "Don't Perpetuate Child Abuse."

We all know that censorship, as a rule, is a bad thing, but incitement to violence is a criminal offence. The Pearls, who promote the physical disciplining of children do, in actual fact, very specifically incite violence against others. Not only that, they incite violence against the most vulnerable members of the human race, namely children, including babies. This, by rights, should constitute a criminal offence. The fact that it doesn't, is a terrible indictment of our society, a mark of how far we are yet to go to achieve basic freedoms for all humans.

How are we to explain to our children that conflicts are best resolved without resort to violence and that the only legitimate use of violence is one of self-defence when the kind of rubbish perpetuated by such as the Pearls is allowed to be widely distributed?

Amazon could lead the way in promoting this argument. At the very least, it should not perpetuate the abuse of children. Sign the petition asking them to stop selling books that promote the abuse of children.

A Good Idea Gains Momentum

Latest from the US: Chris reports, via Doc, that the boycott of the homeschoolblogger (with it's connections to child beaters the Pearls), has enlisted the support of at least 100 other bloggers.

Joanne at the Happy Homeschooler, in also making a stand, seems to offer a hint of an explanation as to why it has been difficult for US home schoolers to object to the ideas of the child beating proponents to date.

"As 'in the trenches' as I am in trying to counter the culture of adversity, I have attended homeschool conferences and passively accepted the pamphlets, the books, the flyers and the propaganda that advice abuse."

But great news: it looks as if the momentum behind the idea that child beating is unacceptable is gathering and that it should therefore become increasingly easy for US homeschoolers to denounce corporal punishment, even in those awkward moments when one normally feels that one should be doing one's utmost to fit in with the group, given that home schoolers can be few and far between.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Another Option for Homeschoolbloggers

If any homeschoolbloggers happen to be pass by, and also happen to be considering a change of blog site, (due to hsb's relationship to child beaters Debi and Michael Pearl), Ron and Andrea have developed a new homeschooling weblog site, powered by Wordpress MultiUser, versatile, user friendly and very easy on the eye.

Go on, don't support child abuse.

Also for the record, R and A, I too would like to change when I get the chance and the courage: this though, for all the features you offer and the great look.

Budget Deficits - Our Only Hope

Further with regard to the "as far as it is possible to do so" clause, in the Children Missing from Education section of the Education Bill, this probably refers also (apart from the Data Protection clash) to the funding crisis in the various departments that would be tasked with finding these kids.

There are reports of significant deficits in social services departments, for example, though goodness it is hard to find a clear declaration that this is indeed the case. I personally can't be sure that I'm reading the Audit Commission's accounts correctly. If anyone can look at this from page 57 onwards, not nod off and make sense of it for me, I would love to hear from you.

Am living in hope that the considerable expense of enacting the legislation requiring the tracing of children missing from education will be prohibitive and that we may therefore be left alone.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Doing the Right Thing

The blogging 'link and click' boycott of the child beaters, Debi and Michael Pearl, along with their advertisers, the Old Schoolhouse Magazine, and of the TOS-related Homeschool Blogger is spreading stateside. Good stuff.

Education and Inspections Bill, Feb 2006

So here it is: the Education and Inspections Bill, first published 28th of Feb, second reading done and dusted on 15th March and now going before committee. There is probably very little that we can do about it now, so what will it mean for Home Educators?

The bit that concerns us arises in Section 4.

(1) Duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education.

A local education authority must make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but—
(a) are not registered pupils at a school, and
(b) are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.

(3) In this Chapter, “suitable education”, in relation to a child, means efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have.

Ooooh deeear....

First, (1a) here seems to suggest that there is no way out for HEors. De facto registration will now be required by law (so far as it is possible to achieve), as opposed to it being merely a guideline, as has been the situation following the 2004 Children Bill. Some in the HE community think the "so far is it is possible to achieve", is there to prevent the bill from an obvious conflict with Data Protection legislation, but that in practice, dirty tactics like pressuring new home owner/occupiers to provide new addresses of previous inhabitants will be used. Seeing as this has already happened, you can't call these claims outlandish.

Worse, (1b) seems to imply a shift of emphasis. We shall no longer be investigated merely in the situation that it appears that a suitable education is not being provided. Instead, in order to meet the requirements of the new law, we will have to prove, in all cases, that a suitable education is being provided. Given that in effect, we have been required to provide preliminary evidence that we are providing a suitable education, in order that LEAs may determine that we are doing so, this may mean very little. On the other hand, it could mean that we are required to provide much more extensive evidence for LEAs to form their opinions.

At this point, we must refer to the definition of a suitable education: it must meet the needs of the child according to his age, ability and aptitude, and in order to render him capable of living within the community in which he is raised. We could add in a bit from European Human Rights legislation, about suitability being determined by parental wishes, but this is cold comfort in the face of the increasing requirement to provide evidence of suitability, particularly when you throw in the LEAs' previously notoriously unreliable interpretation of suitability of education.

Ho hum. Various sensible redrafts have been suggested, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

The only hope that remains, is that LEAs will realise that there are so many HEors out there with unique and tricky learning styles, that the ptb would be mad to insist on a single criteria of suitability, since this would mean that all these kids could end up back in school, needing loads of expensive specialist help, or else requiring the imprisonment of hundreds of hardworking and successfully educating HE parents.

Life: That'll Do!

What a notably sumptuous day that was: spent about 80% of it being expertly pampered in the most luscious surroundings with two extraordinary people who consistently say the darndest* things which I shall remember for the rest of my life; the next 10% with the family of another person who so persistently does the same thing, that I struggle in conversation because I don't want to look as if I'm making mental notes all the time. This magnificent, and yes, petite person has given birth to the most gorgeous baby BOY. At home. 10lbs 2 oz.

Dear child, welcome to the world, this beautiful, turbulent spring day.

Then on for a delicious meal with close and slightly extended family. OK, so these lot (actually apart from the Master & Commander), do immediately start taking the piss, but I reckon that'll do by way of a day!

*Darndest: profound, significant, sweeping, insightful, miraculous. From film "Local Hero", (in an awed Scots accent): "You say the darndest things, Marina."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

It's All in the Telling

Blogging will be light, at least for the weekend. We have a packed diary. This, in itself is true. Full diaries however, as a rule, don't stop me blogging, so it's basically untrue.

So the real reason? It's that typing hurts just now because I've injured my R ring finger in a kickboxing accident. You could drop that fact into a conversation and be quite happy with it, I think, but the problem is that I wasn't getting much sympathy in my neck of the woods, and so talked to at least three of you about it. So yes, as it happens, I was indeed caught by an almighty punch to the ligament in the forearm that connects to the 4th digit, and yes it was from an unusually capable four-year old.

Friday, March 17, 2006

US Bloggers Do the Right Thing

Credit is due to US Home Ed bloggers Daryl and Chris for their boycott of They are rightly advising people to stop using and linking to, the site which advertises stuff for the child beating advocates, Debi and Michael Pearl.

We fervently hope that this action will spread far and wide.

Jefferson Turning in his Grave

Liberty Central has been added to the blogroll. From the "What we are about"page:

"First and foremost, a meeting place for projects, campaigns and individuals who believe that our essential liberties and freedoms are, today, under threat as never before...

"We believe that the slow and steady transfer of power to government over the last 30-40 years and, in particular, the transfer of power directly to Ministers and from Ministers to various QUANGOS, functionaries and other unelected and unaccountable bodies, has already gone too far; in fact under this present government it is accelerating at a rate which threatens not only the liberty of citizens but the very fabric of the constitution of the United Kingdom and the social contract between its citizens and the State.

"If the slide towards totalitarian government has not yet begun in earnest then, at least, the machinery of state authority necessary to affect such a form of government is slowly and surely being assembled in the name of security, public safety and efficiency.

"If government is permitted to continue with this unchecked that we will have, within the next few years, compulsory Identity cards and a National Identity Register, which will place our very identities into the ownership of the State, a national CCTV system with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) monitoring our roads twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and potentially a ‘Road Pricing System’ that uses satellite tracking, both of later enabling the state to monitor and records our every movement.

"We already have, in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, emergency powers accorded to Ministers which, if used, would permit them to make emergency regulations equivalent to an Act of Parliament or direct use of the Royal Prerogative, powers from which not even the provisions of Magna Carta are exempt and which would permit the confiscation and destruction of property (without compensation), the restriction of movement, censorship of the free press and even the curtailment of habeas corpus; all by Ministerial decree. To that we may shortly be adding the provisions of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, already dubbed the ‘Abolition of Parliament Act’, which again will permit legislation to the passed by Ministerial order with the minimum of Parliamentary scrutiny and with few exemptions – such orders may not introduce new taxes, create new criminal offences with a maximum penalty of imprisonment in excess of two years or increase the maximum penalty for minor offences beyond two years or tinker with arrangements for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly but otherwise provides Ministers with a blank legislative cheque on which to write, amend or repeal laws. And again, there is no exemption from its provisions for core constitutional and civil liberties legislation; Magna Carta could be ‘reformed’, habeas corpus suspended, Christmas cancelled – and all by Ministerial edict."

There's a Freedom of Expression March, from Trafalgar Square, 25.3.06. OK kids, get your boots on while we still can, though mind, we may just have to keep going and get right on out of here.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Child Beating Promoters Linked to Death

In memory of Sean Paddock, who died at the age of 4.

From the News and Observer:

"Lynn Paddock ordered books by a minister and his wife that recommended using pipe to spank kids. Sean Paddock died last month. "

The minister in question?

"Paddock ordered Michael and Debi Pearl's books and started spanking her adopted children as suggested. After Sean, the youngest of Paddock's six adopted children, died last month, his older sister and brother told investigators about Paddock's spankings".

Further in the article, with regard to the Old Schoolhouse Magazine:

"Gena Suarez, publisher of a magazine for home-schooling parents that publishes advertisements for the Pearls' books, said their teachings are often inappropriately used to defend child abuse.[The Pearls] are talking about something that would fit in a purse," Suarez said. "The only way you can kill a child with that is by shoving it down his throat."

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine tour is NOT wanted here.

Via Daryl

Feel Gloomy No Longer

There's not a trace of baby blues here. It's just made our day!


Schools Abandoning the National Curriculum

Thanks are due to the friendly teacher who sent us the following morsel from 'Report' (the magazine for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers):

"More than 50 schools have now supplanted the national curriculum in favour of the Royal Society of Art's (RSA) Opening Minds curriculum, which is based on skills and competencies rather than the accumulation of facts and information. The first school involved in the project to report its first benchmark exam results is St John's School and Community College in Wiltshire, where 80% of pupils who began their GCSE double science under the RSA curriculum two years earlier than their peers have achieved grades A*-C compared with 58% in the control group who took their GCSE double science exams as normal in Year 11. Encouraged by these early indications of success, the RSA has launched a series of classroom materials including a resources CD-ROM and a classroom wall poster. To find out more or to order materials go to: The RSA New Curriculum."

Teacher friend comments "This new attempt certainly sets out to deal with what teachers and pupils hate so much about the national curriculum, ie: the endless lists of 'essential facts' which offer little opportunity for creativity".

This person also makes the key point that there is simply no way that ministers can now insist that home educators should follow the national curriculum, given that schools themselves are not following it, and are obviously p****d off with it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Saving Parliament

Further on the proposed abolition of Parliament - the case against the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is made very succinctly here. Click through to the next page to see how to object to this scary piece of proposed legislation.

Internet Resources

Am always on the look out for any useful stuff to add to the kids' Internet Resource Page. Any suggestions gratefully received.

The Totalitarian State Coming Soon Near Us

I missed this from the end of February. To be honest, there's such a constant stream of new legislation pouring from this Government that it is hard to keep up; yet it will soon stop mattering very much whether or not we keep our eye on the legislative situation if the proposed Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is anything to go by. From The Times,

"The boring title of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill hides an astonishing proposal. It gives ministers power to alter any law passed by Parliament. The only limitations are that new crimes cannot be created if the penalty is greater than two years in prison and that it cannot increase taxation. But any other law can be changed, no matter how important. All ministers will have to do is propose an order, wait a few weeks and, voilĂ , the law is changed. "

That's it then. See you in prison, fellow HEors.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Still Learning!

Have just spent a rather peculiar evening proof-reading brother-in-law's economics dissertation (all 94 pages of it), so I now know more about principal-agent theory and the Enron problem than I am ever likely to know ever again; so go on, bring it on -- any questions?

OK, so I couldn't fully get to grips with his graphs, but I shall be sorely peeved if he doesn't get a first for his semi-colon placement.

The State We're In

So it seems that some parts of the US get it, while others just don't get it at all. Via Daryl:

"Last month, a Durham woman used a belt to discipline her children, and she left marks on her 3-year-old. After a day-care worker reported this to authorities, the woman was charged with three counts of felony child abuse and jailed under a $90,000 bond. In contrast, a Robeson County teacher struck a child five times with a wooden plank with holes drilled in it, and the child’s buttocks were covered in bruises. This teacher is still teaching."

According to Project No Spank, there are some twenty plus states where schoolchildren may still be beaten with paddles, so you can sort of see where the spankers from TOSH are coming from.

Although we could claim legal consistency on corporal punishment here in the UK, I guess we shouldn't get too cocky, since Government failed to enact the one useful thing that could have come out of the 2004 Children's Act when it copped out of a full ban on corporal punishment. Instead we have a compromise amendment from a Lib Dem peer to the effect that battery of a child cannot be justified if it amounts to wounding and causing grievous bodily or actual bodily harm or cruelty to persons under age16.

In other words, kids here in the UK do not have rights to personhood under the law since the effect of this compromise is that common assault for correction remains legal for children.

Shame on us.

And so the questions remain: How is it possible to explain to children that non-violence is a superior way to resolve conflicts if we also maintain that it is right and/or necessary to hit children, and this in the light of evidence that many people have been raised successfully without a single tap on the knuckles?

And how, in justifying hitting children, does one justify the laws of assault that apply to adults?

Monday, March 13, 2006

If Every Lesson Counts, Why Doesn't This One?

The latest government initiative Every Lesson Counts demonstrates rather well the ridiculous contortions that you have to go through to support a basically corrupt idea. The aim of the initiative is to educate parents as to the importance of every single lesson for their kids and to encourage them not to take their children out of school during term-time, say for a holiday or even for routine appointments.

Honestly, does anybody really believe this stuff? In whose head precisely does every lesson count? Surely the ptb know that kids may well be in class. The kids may even look as if they are listening. But it sure doesn't mean that the lesson counts for anything at all anywhere important, ie: in the minds of the kids. Really, if every lesson counted quite as much as the government says it does, how is it that they are happy to let teachers progress to the next one when the last one was so patently not understood by a certain proportion of the class? And how are they so sure that going on holiday to Tuscany, or even just talking to parents, or going to the shops, won't be a far better learning experience than sitting in a classroom?

Sorry, this initiative is epistemological rubbish.

And just in case anyone is falling for the idea that this initiative is all nicey, nicey re-education stuff, think again. This story from the BBC suggests that parents who take their kids out of school, even for apparently very educational purposes, will end up being prosecuted for their efforts.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Tyranny of the Standard

Allie bucks the educational trend by describing the importance of bucking the educational trend.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Busy, Busy

We've had a fine time so far this week, with many thanks to all who organised everything and for helping us out in tricky moments. We loved all of it, apart from Ds's moment of panic when he believed that he simply couldn't do one of the activities due to the suggestion that it may involve some acting. His panic passed with the promise that he wouldn't have to do it if I couldn't help him out. In the event he enjoyed himself and didn't need me at all, though I doubt that we have really tackled the stage fright thingy in the long term since the acting demands were actually pretty minimal.

I am not unduly bothered by Ds's inability to face the acting stuff. My brother (a wag and a wit and now a public speaker par excellence) virtually couldn't make himself stand upright on a stage as a child. When eventually put on his spot, his only option other than collapse was to tighten every muscle in his body and stand completely rigid until someone dragged him off again. So I sort of figure it might work it's way out of Ds's system at some stage, or if not ever, so be it.

Yes, we've done a lot this week. I guess I should have realised how busy we'd been and not tried to buy socks late on a Friday afternoon.

In the sock shop:

Me: "No..honestly cannibals do, or at least used to, eat people. That is what cannibals are about."
Dd wide-eyed " Muuuuummm...they don't eat people. They blow people UP".
Me re socks" Not those, not those; they're way too big. NO cannibals EAAAAAAT people."
Dd, backing away and looking for other people to attach herself to: "Mum, I don't think that is what happens."
Me "Yes, it is. It is. It is. They EAT, EAT, EAT people. How many pairs do you think?"
Dd "Errr...Can I have the phone? I think I might phone daddy."
Ds " Yes, yes, phone a friend. You're both NUTS. "
Me: "Look darling. I know it's disgusting and perhaps I should have told you at a more sensitive time, but you're pretty cool about these sorts of things normally for someone of your age. I didn't think it would freak you out like this. But sad to say, that yes, in some cultures, Papua New Guinea, I think, cannibals really did eat other people."
Dd, "But how could they? They don't have mouths."

A ninety-six year old woman hobbles past, breathing heavily and sporting a hearing aid. She asks ME if I am alright and then goes on to say that in her opinion I am talking about cannibals whilst Dd is discussing cannon balls and did I need any other help.

Yeah, right.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

What to Do with Child Beaters from a Libertarian Perspective.

Given that most libertarians would say that they think it right that the state intervene as little as possible in family life, it may therefore follow that it is right to let people who beat their children with or without implements to just get on with it. Their family, their decision.

But hang on a second. From Wikipedia:

"Libertarians support an expansive view of liberty as the proper basis for organizing civil society. They generally define liberty as the freedom to do whatever one wishes up to the point that one's behavior begins to interfere with another's person or property. At the point of interference, each party would become subject to certain principled rules for adjudicating disputes, generally accepting that one who has demonstrated a proven lack of respect for the rights of others should be subject to sanctions, including possible constraints on their freedom. They believe that liberty is the right of every individual, with some viewing it as a natural right."

Yep...there it is. Liberty is the right of every individual. So in the above case, either we regard children as individuals, as proper members of the human race, or we do not. If we do not, then we are right to let families carry on beating their kids. If we do, we then have to decide whether beating a kid is sufficient to the description of someone "beginning to interfere with another person".

Clearly the only answer here is to ask the kid. Sometimes there will be cases where being beaten by the parent does not constitute infringement in the mind of the child, though one would query what inferior theories have been fed to the child in order to allow him to draw such a conclusion. (Of course, the provision of poor theories could well be considered a matter of abuse and constitute a matter of serious interference with another person. But to stick to the main point, for the moment: )

In the situation where the child expresses his view that the action of his parents does constitute negative interference, what should an outsider do? Well as above they should consider the fact that "each party (ie: parent and kid) would become subject to certain principled rules for adjudicating disputes". In other words, proportionate action on the part of members of civil society seems to be appropriate here: one might start with an attempt at re-education, with explanations, arguments; private then more public expressions of disapproval and obvious refusal to liase with those who partake of such behaviour may extend the pressure. But if all else fails, it rather looks as if, should we want to take libertarian principles seriously, the parents who physically assault their children should be subject to the same laws that adults who assault each other should.

How can we raise a generation of freedom-loving kids, if we don't explain and demonstrate that the principles work in as wide a domain as possible? I personally vividly remember noting all those internal contradictions in the religious faith that was handed down to me as a child. It made me sceptical and then a non-believer. Children may well notice if libertarian principles are applied to adults but for no obvious reason, are not applied to them. This may well make them sceptical. And they would be right to be so, not least because libertarian principles can and do work for kids. See eg: Taking Children Seriously, for more explanations.

Children can enact libertarian ideas and should be in receipt of them. They can be rational beyond the expectation of many in the situation that adults give them this chance and bother to explain things in a rational and consistent manner. There is absolutely NO reason or excuse to beat a kid in any rational scheme of things and in the situation that a child does not want to be interferred with in this way, the beater should be subject to the usual laws of assault.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Child Battery Promoters Not Wanted by UK HEors

Objections by UK home educators to the promotional tour by the people at the Old Schoolhouse Magazine continue unabated. The reason for the strong antipathy to the tour remains the same: the magazine promotes books and articles by Debi and Michael Pearl who advocate the beating of children, including babies, with various implements such as plumbers piping.

It is not only right and good that British HEors object so strongly to the tour, it is now a matter of self-preservation. It has become essential that it be widely known that the culture of child battery is NOT tolerated in the UK HE community at large. This not least because of the tragic news from the US that a four-year old child whose parents had claimed to be HEing their other children has died as a result of being beaten with PVC piping.

Message to the US...sort this out guys.

UPDATE: Please refer to Daryl's comment below. It is apparent that this tragic death has nothing whatsoever to do with HE. The adoptive parents were investigated by the Child Protection Services before the adoption, so the obvious point that may be drawn from this
is just how useless this type of assessment really is.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

When Inequality Matters

Lifted from Gil - in haste!

" I think that a large part of the gulf between leftists and libertarians is about our different conceptions of the nature of equality (and inequality) and what policies follow from these conceptions. Today, there's a great Cato Unbound article on the subject."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Dumbed Down Maths

The Telegraph reports on several reasons why maths teaching in schools is resulting in dumbing down in the subject. He finds a good solution too.

"At my older son’s school, the top set in maths is disproportionately packed with boys and girls from Asia, mostly Chinese, and some from Singapore and Korea (a situation borne out, at the global level, by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study — Timms). How come? A lot of the British children think the answer is that Asian children are just better at mathematics than we are.

"They are Manchester United or Chelsea to our worthy Conference cloggers. And they are right, not because of any inherent genetic advantage, but simply because in the Far East good young mathematicians are cherished and nurtured and coached in the way good football teams are. In Singapore, for example, the highly fluid and flexible web-based HeyMath system allows you to be as good as you can be".

State Teachers Go Private for Own Kids

It is reported that one in four state school teachers would educate their children privately if they had the cash. Other teachers play the system, (giving false addresses, for example), in order to get their child into the school of their choice. From the Sunday Times.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Future Structure of Families?

David Friedman blogs about the effect that paternity testing may have upon the structure of relationships: persistent monogamy or polyamory of one sort or another. He won't call it explicitly, which is probably wise!

Truancy Sweep Update

The results of the Truancy Sweeps for 2005 are up via Action for the Rights of Children.

In summary:

"The fact that the numbers have remained pretty much the same begs the question: if there is no reduction in the numbers of children stopped, what are truancy sweeps meant to be achieving?"

Good question.

It seems there may be some concession on the part of government as to the current ineffectiveness of the truancy sweeps since we gather that Community Support Officers are to have their role extended to include working with the sweeps; which simply means there are yet more people for HEors to try to avoid, unless we fancy explaining ourselves all over again and perhaps being forced to provide name and address, since according to advice from Liberty, not to do so when asked could result in arrest.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Need a Wee? Not in Class You Don't.

Gil makes the right call on the story about a teacher who is suspended for ten days for refusing to let a pupil go to the bathroom.

Home Education. Could Many More Parents Do It?

In the comments below, Leo asks some vital questions.

With regard to parents in denial as to their child's experience of school, Leo asks:

"Do you really think that the parents of those children you know would have any ability at all to home-educate?"

In the cases I was writing about, yes, I do. The thing that strikes me about these families is how well they parent their children outside of the school. They do a good job. One family lack for academic qualifications, but the thing that is striking about this family is that their children are very similar to the parents in that they too struggle to achieve standard academic success, but like their parents, they bring an enormous amount of unschoolie type skills to the game. Their parents may not know how to write a well-rounded essay, but they know how to build a house (without ever having been taught). They know how to mend a lawn mower (again self-taught). They know how to care for young children. All these skills the children have inherited and the parents encourage and guide. The family could also access other kinds of skills from the HE community, so yes...even with this family, with apparent educational disadvantage, I think that their children would be far better off at home than in school, where the children are bored, disaffected and often beaten up.

"Would the children be happy with their parents?"

Yes, in these cases.

"Do you think it would be enough for the parents to snap out of the school meme for everything to be alright?"

Yes, pretty much. Of course, families would hopefully continue to grow and improve together, but the baseline starting point would be very satisfactory in all three cases. Of course, these are just the ones we are talking about here. There would be other situations where this would not be the case, but it seems sad that there is such a simple solution out there for these families which they are just too scared or too entrenched to take.

"Do you think once a person is a parent, they have to quit on growing and conform to aging?"

Lol...NO. I think most people only really start to grow once they have kids.

"You don't want to force parents but you point them as immoral if they are not kind enough to home-educate".

I would point to them as deeply immoral if they knew they could do it, their children were suffering and yet they still didn't do it. However, the immorality of the situation in these three examples is strongly mitigated by the fact that these families are so heavily invested in the school meme that they believe they cannot do it. Information on how they could manage it would help, but is not even then necessarily sufficient, given the strength of the school meme.

"If there were no cruel truant laws and children were allowed to miss school, they would be happier bunnies. If they could miss classes... If they could go out and about in the street during the day without being harassed by police and idiotic adults... If they were allowed in public establishments during the day like the rest of human beings... If there were no stupid signs rejecting children from establishments like they were dogs...But no, your culture treats kids like shit and on top of it disguises it with science. You have to take a stance against that, not just the parents. Parents don't adopt memes out of the blue, it's all around them".

If we hang around waiting for the state and the rest of society to clean up its act, our kids would miss out. Far better to grab the initiative on a micro level and start the revolution that way. If one has any energy left over, putting the HE message out seems like a responsible idea. Tackling the need for ASBOs etc may be a waste of energy, since they are demonstrably necessary now for a population who have been institutionalised, infantalized and from whom all real responsibility has been removed.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Schooling Meme in the UK

From a perspective outside the school system, this sort of story looks depressing. Apparently, "parent satisfaction was excellent, very good or good in 88 per cent of primary schools, 77 per cent of secondaries and 92 per cent of special schools".

The BBC has a slightly more sceptical take on these figures, mentioning parental loyalty to the school as a reason for the response and the commentator on Sky News was of the opinion that the kind of parents who filled in the forms were a self-selecting group of the contented.

All in all though, parental satisfaction with schools is reported today as being up on 1996-7.

You can bet they haven't asked the kids what they think of the whole thing. According to the Beeb, truancy rates have never been higher, despite the massive investment in anti-truancy initiatives and in another report from British Journal of Psychology, 24% of English pupils become victims of bullying every week.

So what is going on here? We see in many of the schooling families we know, a complete disregard for what is going on in the lives of their children. Their children often do not report terrible instances of bullying, violence and vandalism to their parents. If the child does report such things, the parents persist with the woefully entrenched meme that because school is the right thing, the child must somehow adapt.

It's time those form-fillers woke up and faced the real world they are so often keen to tell home educators they are missing out on.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Home Education Outcomes

Hmm, I do wonder as to the source of this information, and of course, it really is very different over there, but it may be worth thinking about what we could learn from this story about what US home schoolers do when they grow up.

"Dr. Ray, himself a homeschooling dad, studied 5,247 home-educated graduates and found that 49 percent were in college and the remaining 51 percent were earning their way in a wide variety of occupations. Over 10 percent were pursuing such prestigious professional careers as doctors, ministers, accountants, nurses, school and college teachers, and the like. About 3 percent were owners of small businesses or contractors, and 6 percent were office workers. Nearly 10 percent were salesmen, computer programmers, draftsmen, service workers, hairstylists and in other such positions. Two percent were wearing military uniforms or constabulary blue, and four percent were employed in such labor-intensive occupations as carpenters, mechanics, bakers and managers. About 7.5 percent were homemakers, and the rest were farmers and blue-collar workers."

I can't trace it but I seem to remember Prof Roland Meighan, formerly of Nottingham University and now of Educational Heretics Press, saying at HESFES that the outcomes for British home educators were very similar to outcomes from schooling. Must mean that we have something to learn!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Could Do Better

From a report on a quiz organised by the National Geographic we hear that:

"Out of 56 questions that were asked across all countries surveyed, on average young Americans answered 23 questions correctly. Others outside the U.S., most notably young adults in Mexico, also struggled with basic geography facts."

Before we get too cocky:

"Young people in Canada and Great Britain fared almost as poorly as those in the U.S".

"Among young Americans’ startling knowledge gaps, the study found that

• nearly 30 percent of those surveyed could not find the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest body of water;

• more than half—56 percent—were unable to locate India, home to 17 percent of people on Earth; and

• only 19 percent could name four countries that officially acknowledge having nuclear weapons.

Several perhaps interrelated factors affected performance—educational experience (including taking a geography course), international travel and language skills, a varied diet of news sources, and Internet use. Americans who reported that they accessed the Internet within the last 30 days scored 65 percent higher than those who did not."

A sample quiz can be found here . It is pretty straightforward.

Via Daryl