Friday, 26 March 2010

What's wrong with Children's Rights?

Laudable idea, children's rights, isn't it?

Really, without children having rights, I wouldn't be allowing my two to stay up late or to buy what they want with their own money. I would be tempted to sell them into slavery to fund my world cruise.

Badman, of course, defends our children's rights to, well, be talked to by strangers in their own homes. He defends their right to go to school, whether or not the children actually wish to. He wishes to bypass a parent's right to speak for his or her own child - and it is ridiculous to expect that any parent should be cognizant of his or her child's ideas, thoughts and feelings - to manipulate the gift of children's rights to - er - exploit children's inability to reason out an ulterior motive on the part of an 'authority'.

Children's rights are a part of this government's desire to 'safeguard' children. Not all children apparently though.

The Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE's) legal director, Katy Swaine said:

"The UK’s readiness to lock up children and keep them in unsafe conditions – whether in prison or immigration detention - is a national scandal of which we should all feel deeply ashamed. Unless the present Government takes urgent action, its legacy will be to leave us with thousands of vulnerable children locked up unnecessarily in unsafe conditions, with still no public inquiry into any child death in custody nor into the unlawful use of physical force on children. How long must children wait before the Government finds the courage to stand up for them and meet its legal obligations?

High aspirations – for all children?

All the main political parties express high aspirations for the nation’s children. However, these aspirations do not always extend to all children. In his 2007 Children’s Plan, the UK’s first Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families set out a ten-year strategy for making England the ‘best place in the world for children and young people to grow up’. This cannot be achieved until the challenge of reforming the juvenile justice system is wholeheartedly taken on by Government at the highest level, and until children’s best interests are truly prioritised in the immigration system.

Following the tragic death of Baby Peter, the Government has again keenly focused attention on improvements to the child protection system, recognising that the best way to keep children safe is to respect their rights – including their right to be heard. However, despite 30 child deaths in custody since 1990 and overwhelming evidence of the harm caused to children by immigration detention, we have so far seen nothing like the same strong leadership from Government Ministers on behalf of children deprived of their liberty.

Immigration detention of children – a national scandal

They pushed me on the floor and got my hands behind me… then they took me to the van. I was on my own in the van and I didn’t know what was happening to my family. (11 year-old child, UK, 2009)

In 2008 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child criticised the UK for its continued detention of children and young people for immigration purposes. Yet despite heavy criticism and clear evidence that detaining children and their families is deeply damaging for children and young people, the Government’s policy remains unchanged. "

Once again, it is only SOME children who have rights or whose rights are respected. Those of home educators'. Our children are in a privileged position indeed.

And, again:

"Official figures show that children are restrained an average of 656 times a month in the English and Welsh juvenile secure estate. Two inspectorate reports published this year reveal that shocking restraint practices continue in child prisons. In relation to HMYOI Cookham Wood, inspectors describe ‘an unsafe and poorly controlled environment’ with high levels of use of force and a ‘safeguarding policy’ which remains ‘largely unimplemented.’

Every Child Matters? Well, only when they are being used as political footballs.

Leaving aside the fact that the average evolved state finds it abhorrent in the extreme to maltreat children in any way, even when the children are being punished, does the fact that home educated children would, under another Labour government, be regimented and overlooked add anything to the home educated child's life. Apparently not, says American research (obtained from super-blogger Kelly Green and Gold):

" The authors of this study find no evidence from their analysis that supports the claim that states should exercise more regulation of homeschool families and students in order to assure better academic success in general or improved higher-education success in particular. On the contrary, the findings of this study are consistent with other research findings that homeschool students perform well academically – typically above national averages on standardized achievement tests and at least on par with others on college-admissions tests – and do so regardless of whether they live in a state that applies low, moderate, or high governmental regulation of homeschooling.”

So, given five minutes or so of touring the internet, Mr. Badman, there is evidence to suggest that bug-eyed inspectors make not a jot or a tittle worth of difference to the process of home education. Isn't that evidence that it should be dropped? The whole idea should be kicked into the long grass and forgotten, along with manicuring all our green spaces, thereby contaminating eco-systems, and removing benches near beauty spots where elderly people are happy to spend some time enjoying the views.

Even this - the European Convention on the Exercise of Children's Rights - says that the child, after expressing his or her views has the right to be informed of the possible consequences of compliance with these views and the possible consequences of any decision, not just to be consulted or to express his or her views (and then be ignored) :

A. Procedural rights of a child
Article 3 – Right to be informed and to express his or her views in proceedings
A child considered by internal law as having sufficient understanding, in the case of proceedings before a judicial authority affecting him or her, shall be granted, and shall be entitled to request, the following rights:
to receive all relevant information;
to be consulted and express his or her views;
to be informed of the possible consequences of compliance with these views and the possible consequences of any decision. "

The intention of this convention is quite clearly to be informed and instructed by the child's opinions, not just to manoevre a child into saying what you wish the child to say.

From the magnificent book, What's Wrong with Children's Rights:

"... the law should refrain from intruding on the ordinary practices of adults responsible for children."

I believe it can be argued that many children in many countries need the protection of the United Nations Rights of the Child. I think it can also be said that the United Kingdom, other than for incarcerated children, does not need the protection of the UNCRC. In elevating children's rights above parental duties, we run the risk of losing the cohesion that a family gives and the circle of protection and safety that the majority of familes afford their young, especially from the overzealous depradations of the state.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

One law to rule us all

We are supposed to follow the law. Be ruled by it, as it were.

Home educators generally do follow it. They usually are ruled by it. They stand on the law. They know it, memorise it, recite it, cling to it. Their bulwark, their friend, their line-in-the-sand, the law.

Local authorities do not. They regularly flout the law. They lie. They demand what is not in their legal duty to demand. They harass and they harry. They treat caring parents like criminals.

In this, they are aided and abetted by everyone who tacitly allows them to harass and harry home educators: everyone who knows and chooses not to react, everyone who encourages them by not speaking out, everyone who allows them to bully and harass and harry and lie to home edders.

So why is it one rule for home educators and another for local authorities?

And, why, if the law should change according to the Children Schools and Families Bill, for example, will local authorities be rewarded for regularly harassing, lying to and harrying a segment of the law-abiding population?

And why should a segment of the population follow the law when the local authorities do not?

What profit is there in following the law if local authorities' representatives, who are also supposed to follow the law as we do, regularly break it?

They break the law and are rewarded by the promise of more powers.

We keep to the law and are punished by the law-breakers who incur more powers to harass and harry us.

It's enough to make you think that crime does pay, that breaking the law will result in someone being rewarded, not punished, not stopped....

It's enough to make you say NO, isn't it?

With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien, here is a mangled quotation from 'The Fellowship of the Ring':

One law to rule us all
One law to find them
One law to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Butchers to investigate vegetarianism

The Daily Grind, March 18th, 2010

Reporter: John Winston

'The government award-winning butcher, Mr. Gordon Gristle, is to head up a study of vegetarianism announced the Department of Scraps, Chops and Fillets today.

"We are particularly concerned about the increasing number of children who cannot even drink milk at school because their parents won't allow them to," said Mr. Gristle, a long time member of the British Butchers' Association. "We believe that local butchers' and dairies' representatives should visit every home to ask mothers whether or not they serve meat and milk to their children. Perhaps we should be consulting the children privately on whether they wish to continue their lives as vegetarians."

A British Butchers' Association (BB Ass.) spokesperson said: "We are delighted that the government is finally taking a proactive stance on this issue. Children are being denied good protein and animal fats in their meals at home, and we are determined to make sure that young people are receiving the best nutrition to keep them healthy and achieving."

A member of the BB Ass., Mrs June Carver, said today: "My neighbours are vegetarians, and their six kids are constantly roaming the streets as pasty-faced as poverty-stricken waifs. I invited them in for a good roast on Sunday, but they said they weren't supposed to eat meat. Never mind the parents' rights - it's the nippers I'm concerned about. Someone should ask them if they want to eat meat. I'm all for freedom of choice but forcing children not to do something as natural and wholesome as enjoying a good, healthy, tasty dinner of beef and potatoes with lashings of gravy is wrong."

The Secretary of State for the Department of Scraps, Chops and Fillets, Emmett Hamm, has announced a review into vegetarianism to report in two months. "I am delighted that Mr. Gristle has agreed to chair the review into vegetarianism. The government believes that all children should have a safe and healthy diet to ensure that they grow up strong enough to undertake their economic duties to the state. Of course, vegetarianism is an important part of the lives of a minority of families, and we support it, but we are concerned about the small number of families in which the children have rickets - which can occur when children consume no milk - in a number of serious review cases. We believe that meat-eating is a robust and family-friendly way for parents to deliver nutritious food and to bond with their children, and to help them to meet the five government objectives as detailed in the 'Five Governmental Objectives to Help Children Live Healthy Lives' white paper."

The Vegan Society's press officer, Mr. Joel Green, said: "There are plenty of alternatives to meat that can deliver a healthy and balanced diet. The review will cost the taxpayer approximately £250,000 at a time when this country cannot afford spurious investigations into non-problems.
Perhaps the government will reconsider this course of action as it is clearly not in the public interest to pursue it."

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Mini-blog 4: Now the DCSF are going to research

Well, now, the DCSF are going to research home education, are they?

A difficult task since probably very few home edding families want to be researched. A lot of families won't participate which may lead to a skewed sample.

And an impossible one when you know that the people researching you actually are plotting to kill your way of life.

And I won't co-operate because I know you won't do it properly. You'll have a strong case of confirmation bias and that means that whatever you think about home education at the beginning of the 'study' is what you'll miraculously find at the end.

And what is the point since you intend to stamp out home education anyway?

The whole thing looks like a) shutting the barn door after the horse has been sighted six miles down the road in another farmer's field and b) a vendetta against home educators and c) a huge and unnecessary burden on the already-plundered and anaemic public purse.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The law of the institution

It came like a flash of a bolt from the blue this evening.

Institutions always protect themselves.

Every institution behaves like an organism, and what an organism does is struggle to stay alive.

Every institution wants to stay alive; more than that, it wants to grow and acquire more power, more reach.

Schools are institutions. When you challenge them, they recoil from you. They argue the toss. They subvert your power. They deny culpability. They seek to extend themselves into your personal lives, your home territory.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in December 2008, in the UK, the average person worked 37.0 hours full time. The average five year old in school is supposed to put in ten minutes of homework time each evening so he or she works 32.5 hours (9 am to 3:30) in school and has 50 minutes of homework in a week. That's 33.3 hours an average five year old spends working a week. I've not allowed for breaks because those can be as stressful for some children as the actual schooling part can.

It's even worse for older children. At 15 or 16 the student can expect to devote at least 2.5 hours a day to home work. Therefore a young person works 45.0 hours per week, longer than his dad or mum spends grafting for mortgage money.

The institution of school not only controls with homework, it demands that your child's attendance record is perfect, unmarked by days off sick or visits to the dentist. Parents are now fined, or threatened with fines, if they decide to give their toiling young a holiday in off-peak time.

I recall the ferocity of attacks delivered by two representatives of my daughter's first middle school. The battery was swingeing and nasty, hitting below the belt, nearly reducing me to a state of impotent ire. These bombardments were directed at me because one of the teachers misheard me saying that I would sue the school (which now I would do) for failing their duty of care. What I actually had said was that I was considering suing the parents of my daughter's tormentors.

The institution took exception to my attitude. In a classroom, two teachers stood in front of me and slandered my daughter and myself after luring me in by telling me we were going to 'discuss the bullies.' The bullies were never discussed. They weren't the problem. My daughter was for being bullied. I was for defending her and righteously demanding a swift end to the abuse because bullying is abuse.

Institutions defend themselves. They don't care about your child. They don't care for your child. They don't defend your child's rights; they are only interested in protecting themselves and acquiring more power. They grow. They are aided in this growth by funding from the government which is ultimately our money.

The thought 'Throwing good money after bad' comes to my mind as I think about the institution of school. The thief of time. The robber that steals a child's joy and freedom. A place that is defended and congratulated on socialising many children into the habit of bullying.

What kind of society cheats a young creature of its play? Animals play. Our young do homework.

In return for what?

What kind of bargain have we made to sell our children's youth?

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Mini-blog 3: Crazy old ladies

I watched a daffy older lady today.

She sounded off her trolley. Her eyes looked mad. Her voice rose. Her points were ludicrous.

The poor old woman had a total lack of regard for common sense, and threw around words that made it seem as if she wants ALL people of a certain kind to submit to extreme measures proposed by an increasing totalitarian government.

Like the government, she jabbered wildly, chattering about things she knows nothing of, and repeating a pathetic creed that she had learned from someone else. Also, like the government, she parroted the same exhausted excuses for her actions or actions that she demanded that someone else should implement.

Poor old woman.

My mother.

Bet you thought it was Baroness Deech I was talking about, didn't you?

Saturday, 6 March 2010

How to damage a person without really trying

"Personal identity was perceived as being challenged through experiences which were felt to be disempowering, dehumanising and devaluing. Gender, class and race differences also emerged in respondents' perceptions of identity threat."


Everyone has a Personal Identity made up of thousands of little pieces. Things like your beliefs, your genes, your gender, your sexual orientation, your political stance, your age, your educational background, your cultural background...

I'm sure you can think of a few more.

All of the parts add up to the magnificent whole which is YOU.

The You then fits into some sort of Social role. For example, a social role can be created when you join a group or become part of a group. Like I became a home educator - tentatively at first and then joyfully and whole-heartedly.

I am also a baby boomer, and a political wanderer in the mix: I don't know where I belong except, because of the events of the last few years and the harassment that I've seen home educators face, I'm inclining toward anarchism as an ethos!

You get the picture I'm sure.

Then come the insults. The You of you is insulted because you know You are an expert (in the truest sense of that word) on your children which then extends to finding out more about the new group you have joined, the home educators. In the past, generally, no one reasonable has ever challenged your beliefs about your children or your role as your children's mentor and guide. You give opinions and dispense rules and justice to your family, and proceed to raise your own offspring.

Until the 'experts' come along, see your child once, and think that they can pronounce on your child and your parenting with impunity. What they say shocks YOU. That is a personal identity shock. They insult You. They exterminate You. They indicate that You are not the power in your child's life and that They are.

The LA inspector tootles along, and you accept a visit. It seems to go all right. Your child talks to the inspector, and the inspector is polite and friendly enough, except he never quite catches your gaze and you see his eyes wandering all over the DVD and video collection in the corner and the fine collection of spiders' homes in the corner where you keep forgetting to clean. Where you live is part of who You are, and where you dwell is being judged. This, then, is another personal identity threat.

Your social self is bound up in the home educating community. Not many friends stay the course when they cannot moan about how horrible their child's school is and have you sympathise because, these days, you're likely to tell them to get their babies out NOW and point them towards an example of a deregistration letter. That puts them into a slight tizzy. They just wanted a bonding bitch, and you confront them with the truth that school is not healthy for their child.

Your old friends dwindle away. You become a card-carrying member of that wild bunch of people called home educators.

The government spreads bull about home educators abusing their children. That leads to social identity shocks as we all absorb the fact that we are being attacked and lied about. We stick close together. We email. We band. We listen to each other. We become politically active.
The shocks don't end. A man reviews home education and calls us names and slings mud which sticks and stones us.

His boss does the same, diverting attention from where attention should be which is squarely on the overworked, underfunded and inadequate social services.

Every time someone tells us that we are not parenting properly, we are being less than our best as parents, we encounter more personal identity shocks and more social identity threats.

It continues....

On and on it goes...

Little wonder that we are tired. Small wonder that we seethe and rage.

Our very selves are at risk in the onslaughts. Our personal selves and our social selves.

And the government, it's tame charities, it's favoured 'experts' and 'inspectors,' BBC cronies and thickly ignorant members of the public keep on and on taking the PIS.

It's completely shocking.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Mini-blog 2: How to learn Chemistry without blowing up

I understand from the APPG meeting on March 2nd that Baroness Deech thinks that a home educating youngster cannot learn Chemistry.

I suppose I can comprehend the problem. I learned a lot of Chemistry in High School in a course cunningly called Industrial Chemistry. It was brilliant. The course consisted of a manual, a lab and chemicals. We had a few moments of instruction about blazingly obvious things like 'You shouldn't run in a lab' and 'Please don't sniff the amonia or we might have to rush you to hospital' and the rest was an hour or so a week of doing the experiments and analysing the results which were then written up in the manual.

I got 100% for my term work. I loved it. Wonderful. No sitting taking boring old notes while waiting to start the real stuff. That was learning; that was exciting. I can still remember the buzz of experiments and the flutter of finding out which residue was on the filter paper.


Eldest has expressed an interest in the subject. So we got some books out of the library, we amassed some great websites, we bought a Chemistry kit and we're all ready to go. Now, if I can just wrestle her away some time from Law and Japanese and music and Chinese History that consume her at the moment, thunderbirds will be a go.

Can't wait!

That's how you learn Chemistry, Baroness Deech. When you're interested, you'll find a way because you want to. If it doesn't ring your particular chimes, then nothing anyone can do will light the Bunsen Burner of passion for Chemistry.

I'm off to do some Chemie now. Where's that GCSE Chemistry book that I got from another lovely home educating Mum? Ah, yes, just where it should be - next to the Chemistry set.

All set now.

Atoms away!

Note to Insoi: Burning wood or leaves is indeed a chemical reaction. One of my brightest memories was a day in summer when our family went outside on the driveway to use a magnifying glass and hold it over some twigs/leaves. Y evidenced great joy in the transformation. It was a delight to behold.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Advice to a possible home educator

I gave this advice on a home education forum to a prospective home educator. I'd like to share it with you although it probably doesn't qualify as a mini-blog. Whatever, I like the sound of my own vice (er, that should be voice!)

"You are your baby's mother. Not one person in the world knows her better or what is best for her than you. Do not take the parc from other people. Tell them that school is an institution that dominates human beings, squeezes out their natural life and joy and turns them into slaves who are seen as economic units by a wealthy elite. Buy them books by John Taylor Gatto. I can recommend Dumbing Us Down.

There is nothing wrong with home education. It is a superior way of educating the 'whole' person, unlike school which creates fear, terror and doesn't even see a child as a person (they can't even go to the toilet when they need to which can cause health problems later on). If your child has a will of her own, that's terrific. She will turn her attention to what interests her and will study it for as long as she needs to.

People are brainwashed. There is nothing normal or sane about school. Nothing. We are not Prussians to be trained up as an army nor are we all destined to work in factories (hence the bells at school) and that is where school originated. It is merely warehousing for children.

It's hard doing the right thing for your child when society would have you do what everyone else does, but you will get so strong that you'll be able to twizzle people around on their stupid and illogical arguments. Education has been made a big business so millions of people can be employed by the education business. Tell those who would direct you to 'normality' to do some educating themselves and look into it further. They may learn something. They may become supporters. If not, it's their loss. Your child's future is non-negotiable."

Monday, 1 March 2010

New series - mini blogs

I'm beginning a series of small, snack-like blog entries because I want to.

No one is forcing, coercing, telling me or promising me either money or qualifications if I behave in a certain way at the correct time.

Today's mini blog is Mini blog 1.

Catchy title, eh? I thought it up myself without help from a co-worker or reference to a - well, a reference book.

It's this:

If home education is part of the educational system, like Mr. Balls insists, why don't we get the pupil money?

If home education is not part of the educational system, why do they want to monitor something which is none of their business?

End of mini-blog 1.