Our opponents…

On one of the major home education lists recently, somebody commenting referred to ‘our opponents’; meaning those in the government and local authorities who seek to introduce measures such as the registration of home educators. This casual remark was revealing in the extreme, because this is just precisely how some parents educating their children at home view the ‘authorities’.

For over twenty years I had professional dealings with local authority officers in various capacities. My wife is a social worker and most of our friends are either social workers or teachers. I can truthfully say that I have never in all that time encountered a single local authority officer or social worker who was opposed in principle to home education. A few teachers are, but that is only to be expected. Having spent years training for what they believe to be a profession, it is irritating to see a bunch of amateurs undertaking the same kind of work with no training. Their reaction is pretty much what you would expect of a federation of plumbers if they heard of a movement which encourage people to carry out their own repairs on pipes. They don’t like it and predict that it will end in disaster!

As for everybody else, all the professionals apart from teachers, many of them  certainly want extra safeguards and checks, but nobody is opposed to home education. I spoke to Graham Badman three years ago and I did not get the least feeling that he was opposed to home education either. I have also met some of the more notorious figures from home education departments in various parts of the country, individuals like Myra Robinson and Tony Mooney. None of these people are ’opponents’ of home education.

The rules, regulations and laws regarding practically every activity known to humanity are changing all the time. This is the case whether we are talking about forestry, smoking in cinemas, commercial kitchens, driving, education or anything else you care to think of. It strikes me that many home educators are having difficulty with the concept of change. They are reactionaries, who want everything to remain just as it has always been in the past. This is not a realistic wish; all things are in a state of flux and nowhere is this more true that of human society and institutions. Instead of treating those who want the law to change as enemies, we would perhaps do better to work with them to hammer out a new set of arrangements which, while not fully satisfying either side, might perhaps be just about acceptable to all. Thinking of those who seek change as ’opponents’ is singularly unhelpful and will, in the long run, prove damaging to the best interests of all home educators.

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