Sunday, January 07, 2007

My current thoughts about EO and AHEd

EO should have dropped its political activities at some point in the last few years when it transpired that individual HErs outside of EO wished also to be politically active in defence of HEing rights. Those people within EO who want to be politically active should have joined forces with the others and hammered out a joint agreement to present to government, or approached govt as individuals only. Using what is essentially a support org to further one's personal political views is not acceptable in my opinion.

The situation that should be avoided at all costs is rival orgs approaching government with varying messages and agenda, so that divisions can be exploited and manipulated by govt, as they have in other areas.

HErs need to work towards achieving a united front in the face of govt threats and while ever we have closed-shop orgs like EO and AHEd, which I gather has been set up in the face of EO's dogmatic refusal to stop its representations to govt 'on behalf of' its members, this main object will be defeated.

Neither org can 'win' but govt will use all its guile, experience and position to ensure that both expend all their energy on trying to defeat each other instead of itself, the original enemy, and when it has succeeded in so many other NPO fields, why should it fail in ours?

I will not become a member of an org who 'represents' me whilst making behind-closed-doors political decisions and uses my membership (as a number) to add weight to its political clout without actually consulting each member and gaining agreement from all about the exact nature of its representations.

We're all home educators ( - I hope). To varying degrees we have lives, children, jobs, complications etc. We are not full-time salaried officers with desks, computers and no other distractions. Sometimes you might ask members for feedback and people can't or don't reply, for whatever reason. We can't all be politically active and aware all the time. But a lack of reply does not tacitly imply agreement and blithely assuming it does has been EO's biggest mistake. If most of your members are saying nothing politically then you do not have the right to represent them politically, unless they've specifically agreed to allow you to do this.

EO does a very good job at supporting new HErs, individual HErs and groups in their fights against LEAs. The helpline, the contact list and the local contacts system are all good and this is a vital job in HE which needs doing. I don't understand why EO couldn't contain itself to that very considerable business instead of insisting on politically representing ALL its members, whether they liked it or not.

I didn't agree with a lot of the political representations EO made to govt in my time as a member, even in my time as an active member, but I was never directly asked for my opinions. Instead it was assumed that as a member I was happy to delegate this activity to the committee or whatever working party had been selected to make decisions about that. I wasn't. If I'd have been prepared to put the time into all the dubious networking, ingratiating and back-scratching that was necessary to become part of the inner sanctum of EO I could perhaps have affected some decisions to some extent, but I wasn't, so I left the org for that and other reasons.

EO's political arm should be stopped. It has no mandate to do what it does and it does not have the support or agreement of the rest of the HEing community. Setting up a rival org to do things in a similar way but present the views of some other people might stop EO, but I doubt it. I don't know what would, since it seems many things were tried that failed.

Why do we need orgs to represent our interests? Govt would like us to have them so it can exert more control over us, but why should we succumb to govt's preferences? Fighting a many-headed hydra beast is surely harder work for them. Or a loose-knit less specific co-ordinated effort like HE Consult. Let me be clear that I put the blame for the failure of this plan at EO's door for refusing to abandon its own political agenda.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. How could we, who have been at the mercy of this maxim, and made fundamental decisions and lifestyle changes in our families to avoid it, ever have forgotten it?

I do agree with the stated aims of AHEd on their holding page but then again I agree with EO's stated aims also, which are very similar. EO has proven that there's a world of difference between an org's stated aims and its activities in practice. There is an element within EO - less powerful than before but nevertheless still existent, which believes that the only people who should be allowed to HE are those who decided to from the start, are middle-class and are themselves suitably educated or intelligent, that schooling for most children and education for all children should be compulsory and that HE should not be used to avoid truancy from school. In this those few influential people are in agreement with government and not, I strongly suspect, with the main body of their membership.

Most HErs probably believe, like myself, that any and every parent should be allowed to HE at any time, unfettered by govt or LEA interference unless there are specific and very strong reasons to suspect the child's physical welfare is threatened. Even then this is not an educational concern, but purely a welfare concern in which education officers should not involve themselves. The Education Act itself is fundamentally flawed and what ostensibly began as something to prevent children being abused in the workplace has evolved unhealthily into a form of abuse in itself: that of seeking to control what, when and how a child learns. I suspect most of the key members of AHEd, now that I've found out who they are, would agree with me on this so if it comes to taking sides my affiliations would probably lie with them.

I do understand, from talking to Tech about it on the phone this morning, what has led those people who are setting up AHEd to do so. I sympathise with their ongoing battles against the arrogant long-established EO political machine. I respect their right to set up a rival org. But I'm worried about the effects of this on the position of HErs generally and I'm wondering what I personally want to do about it, if anything.

EO should be stopped from claiming to represent its members to government, for sure. But I'm not sure whether tackling them head-on with a similarly-structured rival org is the best way of doing this. I guess, as just an ordinary flotsam and jetsam non-org-member - not party to any particular in-crowd or committee - home educator, I need to either put up with what's going on, keep my mouth shut and quietly get on with living my life, or get involved and try to do something.

Well first I'll think a lot more about what I'd want to do if I was going to do something because right now I don't know.


Blogger Tim said...

I think there some unescapables:

Government loves organisations like EO. They can use meetings and interaction with organisations like EO so that they can appear to be doing consultation before going ahead and doing what they planned in the first place.

Single individuals already have a channel through which to make their feelings known. That is via their MP. Occasionally, this works superbly, when an individual MP takes up a case and champions it. In the main though, and quite understandably most MPs are much more interested in promoting their careers by serving the interests of the party they rely on for sheep votes. Hence they will not be willing to rock the boat, ask difficult questions, or step out of line.

So as far as democratic process is concerned, we rely totally on a few percent of MPs, people like Bob Marshall Andrews, who are prepared to put their conscience and beliefs above self interest.

As far as Home Ed is concerned, it seems to me that the current regime will probably not ban it, but will regulate it out of existence. I think this would be quite easy to do without the masses turning a hair and you could even make it look like you were supporting freedom of choice and home education while you did it.

What I mean is this. THE standard for education is the National Curriculum. Simple enough then to announce that you are introducing a programme of support and resources and funding for HE. Stick it in the next Ed Act. Hire a load of "Support" Officers and send them out to introduce all HEers to a bunch of enticing new resources, and leave them with their first batch of, now compulsory, National Curriculum Forms. Step Two, revise the National Curriculum so that it is effectively impossible for anyone except the very rich to comply through HE without going through the lengthy "NC Exemption" process, which will be used by all the private schools MPs send their children to. So when you go to court to try to carry on HEing, the test will be simply "are you providing National Curriculum?" YES/NO.

1:23 pm, January 07, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Well I've said this before and I know there's not a lot of common sense happening in legislation ATM (if there ever was) but maybe its worth me mentioning this point again.

Without the clause 7 *Parents* being responsible for ensuring etc.. the truancy law couldn't exist and so nor could compulsory schooling, unless the state took on responsibility for ensuring attendance and uptake, which would be impractical even in this day and age.

If the state took on responsibility by statute this would negate any blame directed at parents for anything children did and the current 'parents being responsible for ensuring suitable provision' could provide a handy get-out-clause should suing one's LEA for poor provision ever become more fashionable.

They can't, surely, give us a responsibility to ensure suitable provision without giving us a range of choices ('or otherwise') within which to do so.

I think the only reason we're allowed to continue doing what we do is because we serve as a potential safeguard to govt in those respects.

Even so, they're treading dubious ground by trying to coerce everyone into going along with the school system without actively spreading information about the other choices, if it's in the hope of putting us forward as proof the other choices were there all along.

But they don't seem to mind about that.

You're probably right about the NC though. It looks like that's the way they're thinking, from things they've said already. However, last time I looked at it, it was perfectly possible to demonstrate compliance with it for any family living in a normal healthy way and educating autonomously. It would just be a pain in the neck to have to.

A plague on governments who MUST have a finger in every blooming pie. When will they ever stop? Do we have to have a complete upheaval and a period of total anarchy to re-introduce any kind of reasonable way of managing our affairs? Because things are getting ridiculous, and have been for a long time now.

2:27 pm, January 07, 2007  
Blogger Tim said...

W.r.t. the National Curriculum, yes I agree you can probably comply at the moment. But I think it would be relatively easy to change the NC so it wasn't AND oblige autonomous educators to complete ALL the documentation teachers are obliged to AND submit to inspections in the same way as schools. By the time you have done all the form filling, for every subject, demonstrated you are complying with H&S legislation and everything else they can come up with most people will have been deterred from ever starting out.

qThere is no need to ban something which is practically impossible to do.

3:00 pm, January 07, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Agreed :-(

Seems like the most effective way they have available to try to control us atm.

4:28 pm, January 07, 2007  
Blogger Allie said...

Hi Gill,

'Why do we need orgs to represent our interests?'

This is why. But then I was raised in a union family! Honestly though I think there is something about being picked off one by one if we can't get it together to agree on some (very basic) principles and work together to defend them.

Personally I think that if an organisation says to govt "our members just won't comply with this" then they stand a chance of being believed - and the govt may back away from the mess that would ensue. If we as individuals say "I won't comply with this" then govt thinks "yes, well we'll see what you do when the court summons appears".

Also, some people really need the feeling that they have others around who will be at the barricades with them. An organisation can help - especially isolated people.

I don't know much about the politics of eo - though I had guessed some of what you say. Interesting times ahead (no pun intended)!

9:06 pm, January 07, 2007  
Blogger Allie said...

Sorry, that link doesn't work! It is a mass of little fishes who make the shape of a big fish that eats the single bigger fish - know the one? Got to go, people want bedtime stories...

9:08 pm, January 07, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks for that Allie, it does help me to understand things better. And I know that some of the people involved have been struggling valliantly on their own for quite some time, feeling thwarted by EO's clout and status. If they think being involved in a similar set-up will help them do what they need to do then I wish them all the best with their venture. It's probably a vain hope, but maybe EO will get back to doing what it does best if it sees the political angle being covered by another strong, dedicated org too. If they did, I might rejoin them because as I said, they do that bit very well IMO.

5:27 am, January 08, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

"If they did, I might rejoin them"

Hmm, have just given that some more thought. They'd have to get rid of the bitchy gossipy in-crowd in that department too before I rejoined them. And let go of salaried staff members who were at the heart of that circle also.

LOL, it's not looking likely then is it? ^^

6:05 am, January 08, 2007  
Blogger Carlotta said...

Hi Gill,

Have just read your post over Dd's shoulder whilst she sticks a pencil in my eye every time she leans back to admire her handiwork, but from the bits I saw, I agree with your position on EO but have joined AHED because it does do a good job in representing my opinions and because of Allie's fish argument.

I don't know anyone personally on that list, and couldn't be counted as being with an in-crowd. I wasn't in on the setting up, but I completely trust people like Barbara, Tech, Allie, Dani having read their views over the years. I would want them to share their views with the government.

I think AHEd, if it watches itself, needn't get stuck into long-standing arguments about and with EO, but can stick to substantive counter-arguments to government proposals...perhaps even persuading EO along the way...or perhaps as you suggest EO can go back to doing what it is very, very good at!

Still hoping...despite pen in eye.

11:22 am, January 08, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

Interesting reading :-) I've never seen that little fish image but from the description alone it sounds like it sums the group idea up perfectly.

I'm not part of any incrowd either Carlotta! Don't do those, cliques have never done anything but cause hurt and damage and it's not something I ever want to be involved with!

As far as I'm concerned, AHEd is about giving people the power to help themselves, whilst giving them the confidence of a larger umbrella to shelter under.

12:12 pm, January 08, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

I'm hoping too Carlotta - and Tech, if I was going to wish for a group of people to set up a govt-lobbying org to represent me and present me with it all set up, I couldn't wish for a better group than the people who have set up AHEd!

But I wasn't involved in the setting up, possibly because I wasn't active on the lists at the time and possibly because I would have resisted it even if I had been and anyway it's not reasonable for me to assume that out of a select group of people I'd have been welcome at that point.

Family life for me here isn't quite at a stage where I could devote much more time to political activism in 2007 than I could in 2006 so I should probably maintain my 'interested bystander' position for now - notwithstanding the fact that I still can't decide whether I'm 100% in favour of doing things exactly the same way as AHEd has planned.

Perhaps as time goes on and the rest of us find out more detail about what's taken place and what's envisaged to take place in AHEd - and personally as things settle down here, I might ask to get involved if it's not too late then.

We HErs are a bit 'funny' about joining groups aren't we? ;-) And the more official the footing, the more nervous we tend to be, especially after so many of us had our fingers burned with EO. It's a trust thing, probably - which the semi-secret set-up of AHEd, though understandable, hasn't helped.

But knowing you all as I do, I know you'll be doing this for the very best of reasons and if you're happy with AHEd then I'm happy for you. I'll be really rooting for you to succeed with your plans and successfully avoid the pitfalls. Certainly if you do manage to do that seemingly impossible thing of circumventing govt's crazy plans I'll be on here publicly praising you from the skies!

All power and best wishes to you all, but I *think* I should hold back from joining at this stage, for the reasons I've given above and maybe a few others that I can't quite put into words yet but am thinking about.

12:52 pm, January 08, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

It'll never be too late to join Gill, it's not a time limited offer :-) Even if you and every other HEing person in the land never become members, one of the hopes I have for this venture is that the website will be a source of ideas/inspiration/action plans - brain is fried so can't think of the right word I want, but hope those kind of give the impression without sounding maternalistic lol - for non members to utilise too.

There is no intention of being elitist and I certainly hope that we will complement (not sure that's the word I want either - sheesh I need some sleep!!) all the other HE voices out there. I don't want to be getting into any battles (well, other than the ones we're going to need to have with TPTDOTB ;-) ), and honestly I can't see why anyone else would either because ultimately, surely we all want the same thing - the freedom to HE unencumbered by the state, and for our children's children to have that right also.

Thus ends this political non party broadcast ;-)

Look forward to reading the rest of those thoughts if you get to putting them into words :-)

3:32 pm, January 08, 2007  
Blogger HelenHaricot said...

hmm. panic - head in sand - panic - head gets lost.
I think that about sums me up on this.
I know, a crap position!
Have linked to this from my blog though as should probably think more rationally.
and aarghhhh to the letters thing. I NEVER get them right.

10:56 pm, January 08, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Tech, I'll blog those thoughts as soon as the words come!

Helen, yeah, it kind of makes me feel like that too!

10:31 am, January 09, 2007  
Blogger elaine said...

I can't speak for EO, but as a comittee member of AHEd I can state categorically that AHEd has no rivalry with EO.

AHEd is an entirely different organisation from EO. AHEd is fundamentally a campaign/rights organisation with different interests to EO. No such rivalry exists in AHEd.

8:26 pm, March 05, 2007  
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