My current thoughts about EO and AHEd
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.