Won't Somebody Persecute Me?

One of the great disadvantages of being a middle class, white heterosexual in this country is that you seldom get the chance to play the victim. After all, we hold all the levers of power in the land; we make the very rules. Sure, we can ring our hands about the plight of starving Africans and writhe in synthetic agony at the destruction of the rain forests, but it doesn’t really hit us where we live and we can forget about it all until the next time we feel like chucking Oxfam a couple of quid. This is why Graham Badman's enquiry came as such a boon to some people; it gave them the chance to pose as victims themselves; to present themselves as prisoners of conscience.


For good or ill , the Badman business fell by the wayside and the legal situation remained unchanged, leaving many middle class home educators bereft; they could no longer claim to be on the verge of becoming political prisoners! Whatever was to be done to maintain the illusion? The answer was simple. Any letter from their local authority was to be scrutinised for offence and if that didn’t work then the council’s website would be trawled and Freedom of Information requests made until something turned up to which exception could be taken. Keep this up long enough and sooner or later you will come across some old document or flow-chart which hints that not all local authorities are abiding by every tiny detail of the law. Then you can once again make out that you are a victim; only a step or two down from a deported Jew about to enter a gas chamber.

There is something peculiarly middle class about this whole business of pretending that getting a snotty letter from your local council is on a par with being persecuted for one’s beliefs or ethnicity; middle class and horribly pretentious. Of course local authorities often misquote the law, either because they are in a muddle themselves or because they are trying it on. Normal people laugh it off and get on with their lives. I worked once at an East End market and the council was always sending threatening letters and promising to prosecute stallholders. The standard response was for the men to take the letters with them when they were about to visit the lavatory, telling their mates that they were going to wipe their arse with the council’s latest nonsense. This indicates that ordinary working class people tend to have a much healthier and more robust view of the realities of the world than some neurotic, middle class types!

There are signs that this kind of thing is starting to subside a little. It coincides with the latest figures, which show that home education is no longer on the increase. Perhaps in a year or two it will all be over. Those who seized upon home education as an alternative remedy like homeopathy will send their kids back to school and get on with their lives. The only remaining home educators will be those who genuinely want to home educate; those who choose to undertake their child’s education for positive and ideological reasons.


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