Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Freedom or Death

Tech, Freedom In Education blogger, recently made a comment on her Facebook status:
"Capitulation? No thanks. I'll go down fighting for what is right, not what is the best of a bad job!"
I may be wrong, but this may be in response to Kelly's post on her blog, suggesting (opening for debate, not advocating) that home educators in the UK might consider working for a change in law that may be beneficial rather than rejecting any change out of hand.

The following was my initial reaction. I will probably tidy this up and repost it at some point, time, work and poorly baby permitting.

The thing is we've been put in a position where capitulation, or compromise of any sort is now impossible. Fourteen months ago, when I was a young, silly optimist, I'd have said that fair negotiation towards mutual preference were the secret of civilised life. However now the government have shown they are anything but civilised or fair (and I've no reason to believe the other parties would be any better) it's become impossible to do anything but go for a hard line defence of what are basic human truths: the parent has first and only say in the upbringing of their child and the state should be severely limited in it's powers so that it acts as a safety net to catch those for whom there is evidence of need, not as a watchdog, seeking out bad things to pounce on.

This would go a long way towards sorting out the problems that led to the deaths of Khyra Ishaq, Baby Peter, etc as it would mean SS were available and resourced to deal with real problem cases and not spending all their time and energy running around doing 'just in case' checks on hundreds of people who are doing very well on their own.

Also if LA powers were thus limited, and the staff properly trained and motivated, people who
do want help and guidance might be more willing to call on them voluntarily as a service. After all, a public service is what they are supposed to be.

Finally, if LAs no longer had statutory duties to invade the privacy of anyone they fancy, they would not have the grave responsibilities which lead to all and sundry desperately trying to cover their backs, pass the buck and avoid potentially litigious issues. Perhaps then some more kids might actually get help they need.

But we live in the real world and the vast, creaking machinery of control and supervision that has been constructed in the name of the god of safeguarding is unlikely to be dismantled quickly. It has been built over decades and would take decades more to deconstruct, even if there was a popular will to do so, which there certainly isn't. Despite recent movements like the Convention on Modern Liberty, there is an underlying feeling among the majority of the population of the UK (and of Europe, and probably most of the Western world) that the state
should monitor and adjust and look after its people. Safeguarding (the paranoid and precipitate idea that "it shouldn't be allowed" and "someone should do something" that kills any kind of personal responsibility) is the cry of a lazy public who want everything done for them. There can be no victory for freedom until the vast majority of people are made to see what passive, docile suckers they've become. Given the effort that has been put in over the last century to turn human beings into consumers (passive, isolated, receptive, selfish), I'm not sure how likely this is.

Freedom or death was the Suffragette cry. As a people we are no nearer true freedom than we were a century ago. In the absence of an escape route, it seems all we can choose is to slide further towards death, kicking and spitting as we go. If anyone has evidence for the contrary, reason for hope, please let me know cos it's looking pretty bleak from here.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Response to my complaint to the BBC

My complaint to the BBC can be found here: http://every-child-matters.blogspot.com/2010/02/my-complaint-to-bbc.html

The following is their (standard) reply.

Thank you for your e-mail about the article regarding the case of Khyra Ishaq and please accept our apologies for the delay in replying.

We are sorry that you feel unhappy about the coverage of this complex case. The article you have highlighted looked at whether there could have been interventions that might have prevented the young girl's death. It reflected widespread public interest in the case.

Part of this story was that Khyra had not been in school - and in reporting this we reflected the views of Birmingham City Council about difficulties gaining access to see the child. They put this in the context of the wider debate about children being educated outside of school. This included Graham Badman's report commissioned by the government.

The article reflects these arguments; it does not take sides. It also includes the strongly expressed views of home educators who clearly rejected the council's linking of this case with the wider question of children being withdrawn from school. It also reflects the argument that Graham Badman's proposals on home education would not have affected the

These are sensitive subjects - about a very sad individual case and about an issue on which there are strongly held and very sincere differences of opinion.

We do our best to reflect these ranges of opinion. We have written many stories about parents' opposition to some of the proposals regarding home education. Last summer we ran a series of features showing why families had opted to educate their children at home.

Reflecting the views of home educators, the findings of the Badman report and the opinion of Birmingham City Council was an honest and thoughtful attempt to explore a set of particular circumstances, within the limits of a news story about the death of a young girl.

There would never be any intention to offend any part of the audience, including home educators.

Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch with us.

Best wishes,
BBC News website

A few notes about this response:

The quotes from home educators which were included in the piece are frankly tokenistic. Two sentences from a single home educator were quoted, compared to nearly 300 words, the introduction to the piece in bold, and a boxed out pull quote on the government line.

The views of Birmingham City Council even at that point were widely seen to be flawed and self-serving. They have since been recognised far and wide as the attempts of a desperate public servant to point the finger of blame at laws and systems which currently protect families from the abuses of state, as well as (when understood and followed) protecting children as far as possible from harm.

Graham Badman's proposals on Home Education were very probably dreamed up in advance by the DCSF in partnership with a group including Graham Badman and Tony Howell. The "Independent" Review of Elective Home Education was created as a smokescreen at least partly in response to the Khyra Ishaq case, as has been shown here. This blog, incidentally, does all the work which I would expect a respected institution like the BBC to do in researching and piecing together information from here and there to form a picture of what has really been going on behind the government spin. It is an excellent example of investigative writing which the BBC could learn from. The journalist who put the BBC's own piece together was in possession of many of these facts, as they were passed to him by the home educators he interviewed. He chose instead to regurgitate the national and local government line, placing heavy emphasis on an irrelevant side-issue (education) at the expense of the real story: the failure of social services to follow procedure, the subsequent desperate passing of the buck, and the scurrilous use once again of the death of a child to prop up anti-family, anti-freedom, anti-child legislation.