A few days ago I was ticked off here, possibly with some justification, for referring to certain home educators as displaying the signs and symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. I think that the person making this comment felt that it might be offensive to those actually suffering from this disorder. It has also been pointed out recently that one cannot judge British home educators in general from looking at the nutcases one encounters on the internet; also a fair point. However, the lists and forums of this sort do have thousands of members and some, BRAG and Home Ed Biz for instance, are public. Many local authorities actually direct parents towards Education Otherwise. For this reason, I think it reasonable to say that even if those on the lists are not typical of home educators, they certainly have an influence upon many parents. The atmosphere on these places is so mad, that even if they only affect 10% or 20% of home educators they are a little worrying.
North Yorkshire County Council is well known for reaching out to home educators, not in order to make them register, but simply to offer help and advice. They run sessions where home educating parents can come and talk to education professionals and they also do a lot of work helping home educated children move on to college and university. When a little while ago they contacted parents offering an open meeting to discuss careers and so on for the over 16s, one person at least could smell a rat. She emailed them saying, ‘In order for us to come along we would like an assurance from the County Council that we will not be forced to give personal details and that we will not be pursued after the event into accepting home visits or submitting annual reports’. Now this is, I am determined this time not to use the ‘P’ word, shall we say excessively cautious. ‘Forced’, ‘Pursued’; I mean really!
The person from the local authority responded quite affably, saying, ‘You can have our assurance that we will not force you in to giving any details, there will be a register to sign but you are welcome to sign this anonymously.’ Perfect, you might think; parents may now attend without any anxiety. You fool! What has been deliberately left out of this answer? Let the parent tell us, ‘they have deliberately ignored the part about not pursuing us after the event! This makes me very wary about going’. We will not ask what form this ‘pursuit’ might take. If the organisers are content with a false name, then presumably the fear is that the pursuit will be physical. Will local authority officers actually chase this poor woman down the road after the meeting or might they engage private detectives to follow her home? Once again, I am restraining myself from making use of the ‘P’ word. Paranoia! Whoops, it just slipped out. Sorry.
The reaction of others on the list was revealing. Instead of telling the woman not to be a bloody fool, they encouraged her in her feelings of persecution. Here are a few of the responses;
something doesn't feel right. I'd suggest staying under the radar.
If you feel like something is amiss - it probably is.
do you have an email address which doesn't give away your real name? If not, now might be the time to create one and arrange for incoming messages to be forwarded to your usual email address. Think about whether you want them to have your mobile number too. You could think up an alias of some sort
. You can always create a spare Yahoo or Gmail account to put down as an email contact point in case they've got anything useful to send out.
I think your right o be on your gurd, given some of the horror stories that happen sometimes
True, some others suggested that it would be OK, but you see what an uphill struggle North Yorkshire County Council are having in helping some home educated children?
This particular list has thousands of members and this is by no means the maddest exchange on there lately. So the next time I inadvertently use the ‘P’ word on this blog, I hope that readers will forgive me; I have searched my thesaurus from cover to cover for a suitable synonym, but none seems quite so apt.