Saturday, January 31, 2009

Our own review

Tech has posted a vote about this on the Facebook group's discussion board. I'm definitely in favour, as I think it's crucial that we have something strong with which to counter the inevitable negative headlines that will accompany the publication of Mr Badman's report.

I couldn't help suggesting a few questions myself - some of them a little bit tongue-in-cheek, admittedly, but some not. For a more serious list, you might want to read Augustin's suggestions in the comments here.

My suggested questions were:

1. Are extra welfare checks needed for home educated families, over and above the existing welfare system already in place? Please give reasons for your answer.

2. Are there any reliable statistics to prove that home educated children are especially vulnerable to abuse? If yes, please cite them. If no, please speculate about the possible reasons why people might want to insinuate that there are.

3. How would mandatory welfare and education checks carried out by your local authority or Ofsted affect your child's wellbeing and love of learning? Please give reasons for your answer.

4. How many proven cases of abuse by home educators should it take to justify an unwarranted, compulsory monitoring regime for the rest of us? Does your answer change if any of those cases involved families who were *already* being checked and monitored?

5. Please tell us how you think full-time school attendance might affect your child's health, wellbeing and love of learning?

6. How small is the cupboard that you keep your child locked in? If there is no cupboard, please describe the extent of your child's social activities and explain how this compares to that of an average schoolchild in a 15-minute spell in the playground?

Though admittedly, I haven't thought them through - I just typed those six out very quickly in a response to the thread. The first things that came into my head. But, really, is the last one any more ridiculous than Mr Badman's..

6. Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?

Two replies spring to mind, again, off-the-cuff:

Firstly: I don't really mind the domestic servitude. I mean, yes, I'm a bit tired when my head hits the pillow at night, but that's what I signed up for when I opted for parenthood, isn't it? As for the forced marriage.. that was bad, but I eventually managed to get a divorce. (Sorry, I'm feeling mischievous this morning and not intending to demean anyone's plight, but really! Such a list of questions is surely designed to bring out the worst in us!)

Secondly (and slightly more seriously): What should government do to ensure that people don't express such concerns? It could refuse to pay attention, on the grounds that school attendance is obviously no protection. Furthermore, I know several people who were severely abused in their home as children, all of whom attended school on a full-time basis throughout, and none of whose abuse was ever noticed by the 'experts'. This is backed up by the Eunice Spry case, whose foster children were 'seen' and questioned regularly by various professionals, to no avail whatsoever.

Monitoring doesn't protect against abuse. School attendance doesn't protect against abuse. Shall we look at what might do?

Well, anyone who spends all their time with their children will know that the easiest way to encourage 'naughtiness' is to be strict, to have no trust, to frequently suspect wrongdoing and to set up a pattern of oppositional behaviour. On the other hand, if a child is happy, taken seriously and trusted, that child will 'behave well'. (I don't even like terms such as 'naughty' and 'good', because they externally set the patterns for behaviour and therefore obstruct the necessary personal development that's required for people to make their own moral judgements. Obedience doesn't lead to good moral judgements, in my opinion. The freedom to choose does.)

So, taking this on board, what's the best way to discourage child abuse? Trust. And the best way to encourage it? Suspicion.

If people (in general, not home educators) didn't feel harrassed, harangued and generally stressed out by life, they might not be tempted to kick the cat/ abuse their children. Not that everyone who feels stressed out automatically starts abusing either animals or children - in fact, most don't - but if they did, then surely an investigation into the reasons why abuse takes place and then seeking to cure that in society, would be a better use of time and resources?

And this business of educational neglect constituting child abuse, we saw it coming years ago, and of course it depends entirely on your definition of 'educational neglect'. If you think it means not forcing your child to take on a series of facts as laid out in the National Curriculum, then yes, some of us will be guilty. But if you think (as I do) that it means suffocating a child's natural curiosity by deciding in advance what should be learned, regardless of the child's own opinion, then most of us will not.

Hmmm.. who will?


Blogger Elaine said...

I hope one of yours can number crunch if a child spends 14hrs a day awake =5096 hrs
a child at school 6hrs a day 38wks yr =1140
so around 20% of time at school yet if you look these figures do they not show that around 40% of accidents to children happen in school?

just curious :)

10:39 pm, January 31, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Yet another good point from you, Elaine!

11:29 am, February 01, 2009  

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