Saturday, 10 July 2010

Cooperation or Collaboration?

Now here's a thorny issue. Is dealing with the state and attempting to help them Get It Right regarding home education considered to be sensible cooperation or nasty, Quisling collaboration?

At one level, we mostly assume that because we've rejected state education, the state can keep its nose out. The previous government with its attitude that parents were not to be trusted and that the Man from Whitehall knows best has certainly strengthened these assumptions and much work needs to be done on both sides before the damage can be repaired.

However, we were nearly flattened by a bulldozer with no steering, and were only saved from it by the fact that it ran out of fuel slightly short of its goal. Had that legislation started a session earlier, we'd have been squashed by bureaucracy. There is nothing to stop a future government (I am hoping that this one, having sided with us when in opposition, will tread much more carefully) starting up another bulldozer to complete the job they tried last time. They're still out there, waiting for another chance.

It's hard to consider any assistance given to such a bulldozer as anything but collaboration - once early efforts to change its course had failed, it was obvious that nothing was going to deflect it from its purpose. The Select Committee helped us in the attempt by pointing out that actually, there was no evidence to suggest that the legislation was necessary, and indeed, there wasn't much evidence of anything in the home education field.

We have an opportunity now, the present government has more pressing things to do than spend money it hasn't got on home education, and the Select Committee observation that there is little research has highlighted to students that it's a field with wide potential for original research.

Now we come to the question. Is cooperating with such researchers a good thing, or is it considered collaboration with the enemy, either real or potential? Researchers will come to the subject with bias (naive, misinformed but willing to learn, we hope), based on what they've read and heard, but if they're not getting government money to provide a particular slant and really want to produce objective work, then it must be in our best interests to assist them, explain why some of the questions they're asking are not right because home education doesn't work that way, and attempt to get some good peer-reviewed work in the field that backs us up. We quite rightly stick two fingers up to politically-motivated stuff, as with the Ofsted survey, but once we get researchers understanding asking the right questions, we get chance to show the right answers in the proper light. Those that refuse to learn find that their source of research subjects dries up.

Let's face it - if we didn't believe that what we're doing is better for our children than sending them to school, then why are we here? And if we believe it, wouldn't it strengthen our position to have documented evidence that we're right?

Of course, it still might not stop the bulldozer, but it gives us a better chance.