Here is a post on Dare To Know featuring ‘Tony Mooney’, and another more important one on Gloucestershire’s Local Authority who are telling the DfES that visits to home educators must be mandatory or at least that the LA should have automatic rights of access.
Tony Mooney is the Bogeyman of HE in the UK. Sadly there is no organized professional PR effort to debunk his rentaquote nonsense. Whenever they (BBC or anyone in the media) want someone who is against HE to provide a ‘balancing’ argument they call him, and he is the only one they ever call.
There is widespread ignorance about HE in this country both in terms of how well it works for children and families on every level and how well it is performing abroad. Sadly, most people get their misinformation and opinions from newspapers – this includes MPs.
I have argued before that we need a permanent professional PR company to promote the facts about HE in this country as a long term educational strategy (!!) focussed on getting everyone in the UK to understand what HE is.
Look at this clipping from the Washington Times:
More and more colleges are actively recruiting homeschooled students; each year there are an estimated 50,000-plus homeschool high school graduates who find work or go to college, and thousands of new curriculum products have become available over the past five years. Meanwhile, the number of homeschoolers continues to grow by 7 percent to 15 percent each year; more states are reforming their laws to remove the burdens from parents who want to home educate, and homeschoolers continue to excel in national competitions as well as on standardized tests. In short, homeschooling is a major success story.
Now, for the first time, homeschooling has been recognized in an opinion by a U.S. Supreme Court justice as a viable educational alternative. Morse v. Frederick, which recently made national headlines, involves free speech and whether a public school can regulate what a student says. The 5-4 decision said that the school principal, Deborah Morse, did not violate the free speech rights of Joseph Frederick when she took down his pro-marijuana banner, which said “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” The student had violated school policy and was advocating illegal drug use.
While the Home School Legal Defense Association agrees with the ruling in this specific case, it is a reminder to all families that when your child enters the public school, you have virtually ceded your parental rights to the public school.
The clearest explanation of this view was expressed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Fields v. Palmdale, when it said, “While parents may have a fundamental right to decide whether to send their child to a public school, they do not have a fundamental right generally to direct how a public school teaches their child.”
This is the reason many parents have chosen to homeschool, especially those parents who have a religious worldview, because they know their children will be taught secular values by the public system.
In Morse v. Frederick, however, Justice Clarence Thomas said, “If parents do not like the rules imposed by those schools, they can seek redress in school boards or legislatures; they can send their children to private schools or home school them; or they can simply move.”
This is the first time the Supreme Court specifically has recognized homeschooling as a viable educational alternative. HSLDA has worked for 24 years to advance a parent’s right to homeschool and to promote homeschooling to the general public.
After 24 years, it is gratifying to read the words of a Supreme Court justice who rightfully placed homeschooling on a level playing field with public and private schools. This kind of recognition is tremendously significant to the homeschool community.
It’s another step on the long road to raise homeschooling to the point where, when the terms public, private or homeschool are used in the same sentence, they all will be seen as mainstream educational alternatives.
Now in the UK, journalists are still writing about the doubts concerning HE, when in fact, there are only positive things to say about it, and it is growing wildly in the US, so much so that it is transforming the way people think about education.
Very soon in that country, the the underachievers will come predominantly from the state school system as parents switch en masse to HE.
The control of perception and growth of HE has not happened by accident. It has taken place thanks to the hard work of the HSLDA and other professionally run HE groups whose work has actually created new law to protect the rights of HE families.
The quote from this article says it all:
Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong—these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history. — Winston Churchill, speech, House of Commons, May 2, 1935
We should not be waiting for the next interview with Tony Mooney; we should be preemptively pushing out the HE message with a dedicated team of professional PR workers so that, say, in five years there will be no one in the UK who does not agree with HE, because they already understand what it is all about.
It will then be much more difficult for MPs to pull shenanigans in the House of Commons to whittle away our rights, though they might certainly try.
It is important to understand how newspapers and the media work when considering this argument. Newspapers get their stories and features almost exclusively through PR companies trying to promote a product or idea. Imagine there is a special filter through which you can see different types of media and imagine that this special circle of glass highlights all articles placed in newspapers by PR companies red. If you were to look at a newspaper through this special piece of glass, you would find that a paper like The Guardian is a dense patchwork of red.
Most of the articles in a newspaper or even at a website like the BBC are placed by PR companies. Journalists sit down and have material fed to them on a constant basis, and depending on the combination of the relationship they have with the person ‘selling the story’ at the PR firm, the hotness of your story idea and the slowness of the news at the time, your story either gets in immediately or is deferred.
This symbiotic relationship works well for the PR company and the journalist, who is eager to fill her quota of words and who also wants to be the person who wrote a very widely read and syndicated story. Hot stories can start in one paper, get read by other journalists who then pick it up and repeat its ‘facts’ verbatim in their own papers; the original source however is usually a PR company who provided the original material in the form of a press release or story idea.
There is absolutely no reason why this tool, professional PR, cannot be used by people wanting to promote HE. All it takes is some money and the will to do it. I have often asked HE people if they would pay a small amount of money after the enacting of some bad legislation restricting Home Education in the UK to reverse it, and the universal reply is ‘yes’. What these people need to understand is that it is better to spend that money in advance of such an attack to prevent that legislation being drafted in the first place. I don’t think £20 a year is too much to pay towards making bad legislation an remote possibility, and something of that order spread between 1000 families would more than do the job.
As HE grows in the UK, the government will feel obliged to step in and control it. They do not like anything to be outside of their influence, and something as fundamental to the national character as education will not go unregulated if a large percentage of the children of the UK begin to home educate. It is therefore imperative that the awareness and perception about HE is steered by the people who are practicing it, and not the people who are pathologically hostile to it.
The proportion of HE families vs schooling in the UK is relatively huge, and the law in the UK very liberal compared to some of the other countries in this list:
Germany and Brazil stand out immediately as countries where HE is banned outright.
Your rights in the UK are precious and need to be cherished and defended. You should not take it for granted that you have these rights, and you should work to preserve them using all the tools available to you.
When the consultation document is published, if it the complete opposite of what you require, what are you going to do to undo it? Only a few people have submitted their opinions out of the many tens of thousands of parents that are out there; what would you pay to undo the bad things that are on the horizon?
That is what you need to ask yourself.