Thursday, 18 June 2009

Bully for You

The saying has come down to us from history: "Bully for you" meaning essentially well done. Sometimes it has a little edge of sarcasm to it.

Arthur: "I got 98% on the Maths test this week."

Jim: "Well, bully for you, I got four right. Smart ass."

Tim Field who studied bullying for many years and was himself bullied at work which resulted in illness reckoned that fifty percent of the population have been bullied.

Bullying, as opposed to assault or harassment, is characterised by "an accumulation of many small incidents over a long period of time." Many different bullies colonise many different niches, one being the corridors of power, and considering the possibilities and opportunities for bullying in the highest positions in the land it is small wonder that these people congregate there.

"Often there is a grain of truth (but only a grain) in the criticism to fool you into believing the criticism has validity, which it does not; often, the criticism is based on distortion, misrepresentation or fabrication."

Home educators have been criticised in many areas during the past few years. They have fought off officious and sanctimonious attacks from the pulpits of preachers condemning what they know not of. Local authorities have whined that home educators may abuse their children. Yes, they might, but so might local authority employees. We have been misrepresented as twisted statistics testify in Home Education Review by Graham Badman as seeing the social services more. This may be easily explained by the fact that many children with Special Educational Needs are over-represented in the home educated group of children: they are the ones who probably suffer most from the inflexible and impersonal confines of school. Other home educating children have been reported to social workers because of misunderstandings about home education and because of some malicious impulse from neighbours or other busy -bodies.

"In society, being singled out and treated differently; for instance, everyone else can get away with murder but the moment you put a foot wrong - however trivial - action is taken against you."

Children can die on school trips but no one calls for closer surveillance of schools - the deaths are explained as accidents. Let a man or woman slap the home educator label on him or herself and he or she is immediately branded a child abuser. So much so, that the very authorities who are given the task of checking out genuine cases of abuse and turn their backs and walk away, are in a furore of righteous vigour about the rights of children to be 'safe.' Just a little two-faced when various authorities have been found less than able to deal with genuine abuse cases. Then a few inconsequential people are sacked, their careers are ruined of course, but someone has to be the sacrificial lamb. Meanwhile the ones who are left in post clamour for more powers to assess the condition of more children who are perfectly safe in their family units.

"Finding that everything you say and do is twisted, distorted and misrepresented." I imagine that autonomous learners who spoke with Graham Badman could testify that whatever they said was challenged, belittled or ignored. Badman has certainly chosen not to avail himself of a google search which would bring up many research reviews for autonomous learning; however, bullies tend not to want to examine the truth or anything which contrasts with their world view.

"Having your responsibility increased but your authority taken away." Mr. Badman would have us submit detailed plans of future educational direction, possible in some cases, but impossible in autonomously educating children's cases. Our authority as parents would be severely compromised should we accept the devolution of our position to mere 'stakeholders' in our children's lives. Our authority as human beings would be blighted were we required to explain every move to hostile local authority agents. We are captains of our educating ships and do not expect to file shipping plans with the remote authority on shore.

Now to focus attention on a bully.

He or she is also ... "aggressive, devious, manipulative, spiteful, vengeful, doesn't listen, can't sustain mature adult conversation, lacks a conscience, shows no remorse, is drawn to power, emotionally cold and flat, humourless, joyless, ungrateful, dysfunctional, disruptive, divisive, rigid and inflexible, selfish, insincere, insecure, immature and deeply inadequate, especially in interpersonal skills."

I don't know Mr. Badman personally, nor have I ever met him even briefly, but I can attest that he is devious. He wanted his words left unreported when Education Otherwise members had a meeting with him. He doesn't listen: many articulate and deeply committed parents of autonomous children sought to detail the joy and pleasure of child-led learning to him but he was either not listening or was uncomprehending. He was given a CBE in January 2008 for services to education and local government by the Department of Children Schools and Families (DCSF), was Specialist Adviser to the Education and Employment Parliamentary Select Committee (1997) and is chummily referred to as 'Graham' in a letter from Ed. Balls, the Secretary of State for the DCSF, one can fairly assume then that he is drawn to power.

Bullies select their targets from amongst people who are excelling and succeeding in their endeavours. They resent others who "show independence of thought or deed." They target those who are experts "and the person to whom others come for advice, either personal or professional (ie you get more attention than the bully)." Patently, home educators are experts on home education and the bullying technique of appointing representatives of a review panel who were ignorant of, or largely uneducated in, the vast areas of complicated strands in which home education exists was apparent. No one should be an expert on home education but Mr. Badman, not those who practice it and not those who participate in it.

Unfortunately, as proponents of a generally superior system of education, we have drawn attention to ourselves and have become targets. "Our performance unwittingly highlights, draws attention to, exposes or invites unfavourable comparison with the bully's lack of performance (the harder you work to address the bully's claims of underperformance, the more insecure and unstable the bully becomes)." The multifarious failings of the state school system threaten and undermine a person who has spent forty years being an apologist for the regular school system.
It would have been surprising, after all, if Graham Badman had produced an impartial and unbiased report.

Since we dedicated home educators have "honesty and integrity (which bullies despise)," I hope that Winston Churchill is correct when he writes: "The truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is."

All quotations or paraphrased quotations are taken from the website, Bullyonline, started and caringly nurtured by the incomparable Tim Field who died of cancer on January 15th, 2006. It has no connection with another website Bullyingonline, now renamed Bullying UK.

To Tim Field, a man who spoke out for all the workers under other men's boots. Rest in peace.


  1. "I imagine that autonomous learners who spoke with Graham Badman could testify that whatever they said was challenged, belittled or ignored"

    That is almost exactly how one autonomously educated teen reacted when she read the report. She was FURIOUS in that he was politic enough to apparently take her arguments seriously when they met face to face, and yet he hasn't even bothered to address her extremely relevant and extremely cogent points. He has just ignored all this completely, which is enough to make anyone feel belittled and FURIOUS at the same time.

  2. All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

    I wonder if Ed Balls will want to ban Animal Farm from school libraries...?