Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Police State?

The response to the petition is out.

We wonder if it does indeed indicate that we are heading for the automatic policing of the intimate nooks and crannies of family life, all of which might be smuggled in in some sub-section the next White Paper on Education which has been a little delayed and is now due out in June.

From paragraph 1 of the petition response:

"One of the key principles underpinning The Children’s Plan published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families is that the government does not bring up children – parents do."

Yes, thanks for that, (very big of you), but who is actually responsible for children then? This is a different question. Are parents merely to do the government bidding with raising children, or are they autonomous agents, free to go about their own business unless there is some reason to think that they are not fulfilling their responsibilities towards their children?

"The review of home education does not threaten a parent’s right to educate their child at home."

Thanks, but we did know this much already and it does not resolve the problem of who is responsible for the education of children. If the state monitors the education all children to ensure that it is suitable without there being any reason for believing that it isn't, the state unequivocably becomes responsible for determining the nature of suitability of the education of all children in this country and parents merely become agents of the state in ensuring that this education is delivered.

Paragraph 2.

"However, there is always a balance to be struck between respecting the rights of parents, and ensuring that local authorities (LAs) and other agencies have the right systems in place to intervene where it is necessary for them to do so."

Hold on here - yes, strike a balance, by all means. This is what you had done with legislation that only permitted of intervention in family life when there was an appearance of parental failure. Sadly, recent developments have not shown such a respect for the importance of balance or an understanding of the importance of liberty. With the introduction of the universal database - ContactPoint, and with the recent Guidance on Identifying Children Missing a Suitable Education, it seems that this government believes that the whole population must be screened in order to determine if it guilty of something, whether or not there is any reason to suspect that this is so.

From the Devil's Kitchen: (HT: Louisa H).

"Your humble Devil has often been mocked for his assertion that we are, increasingly, living in a police state, but I think that the above idea is worth thinking about. The root of the problem is "preventative" laws—laws that penalise you because you might do something...

...In other words, the absolute right of the individual has been subsumed into the probability rights of society.

It is this attitude that it is right and proper to criminalise people on the basis of probabilities—coupled with the idea of the state as an entity that can be sinned against—that has led to the worst excesses of illiberal legislation over the last few decades or so.

...I have said before that I think that all criminal law could actually be distilled into one single law: "It is illegal to initiate force or fraud against another person's life, liberty or property."

Further on paragraph 2 of the petition response:

"LAs tell us that they have particular concerns about being able to fulfil their responsibilities in the case of home educated children. We must find out what is behind those concerns and make sure that the arrangements are fit for purpose."

And whilst you collect this evidence, be sure that you realise that plenty of LA personnel don't understand the limits of their responsibilities. For example, they often believe that they are responsible for ensuring that HE children achieve the five outcomes of the Every Child Matters agenda, when this is not stated in primary legislation and is ultra vires. LA staff may may exaggerate their difficulties not because they do not actually have sufficient legislation to deal with problem cases, but because they want to make their lives as easy as possible. They want the legislative back-up to enable them batter down our doors and make us do their bidding. But this is not the way to strike any sort of balance. It is not to respect the importance of freedom. And their jobs are not necessarily meant to be easy. That is why are paid for what they do.

"The welfare and protection of all children, both those who attend school and those who are educated at home, are of paramount concern. The independent review of home education is part of our ongoing commitment to strengthen the safeguarding arrangements for all children, whatever their background or circumstances."

Yes, welfare and protection of children is a concern of paramount importance, but it is, so to speak, of the most paramount importance to themselves and their families. This is how it should be, both for the reasons of principle, (since coercion acts as a limit upon rational and creative thought, and children must therefore determine for themselves how they would like to be looked after) and for the practical reason that the state couldn't possibly genuinely hold the welfare and protection of all children as of paramount importance. The government really must realise that the state must concentrate on the few whose parents fail most woefully.


Renegade Parent said...

"The government really must realise that the state must concentrate on the few whose parents fail most woefully."

I agree - but sadly it won't, will it? This no-child-to-slip-through-the-net approach with the likes of ContactPoint etc. is the government woefully attempting to disguise its own ineptitude in cases where children have been abused - unequivocally so.

The indicator of a police state described in DK's post is a similar feeling to the one I get when I see the health visitor (admittedly not very often).

Anonymous said...

I think it's part of the pressure that the privileged class exerts on the oppressed class. We are things to these people; things that they can do what they like to.

I cover some of this in

Elizabeth said...

@ renegade parent

You see a HV?
I stopped when I was advised to give weetabix and formula to my 7 month old instead of organic porridge and expressed breast milk
"We know what vitamins are in those, it tells you on the box! we have no way of knowing what vitamins are in a breakfast of porridge and breast milk do we?" She didn't actually say "dear" but it was in the intonation.

There is no answer to that one really except "Thanks I don't need your advice any more" which of course I didn't say.

But here we are as home ed parents looking like we will have compulsory advice from these state services yikes!!

Thanks for flushing out this response to the petition, good to know what we are up against at least.

Raquel said...

I am increasingly of the opinion that the state can go jump. If enough of us feel this might just do so!

Renegade Parent said...

@Elizabeth - we sometimes get "friendly" visits from the HV at the breastfeeding group I go to sometimes.

When Jenklett was born we were perplexed by the very idea of a HV (she made it seem as though seeing her was mandatory) and innocently asked her what the point was. She was none too happy and our r/ship ended soon after that :-)