So given that it is so wet we have managed not to go and support the library workers strike, the spring walk has been cancelled and so has the star gazing evening.

So that leaves me with big kids to get to Newport for swimming, cinema and shopping, and a tired and tummy achey Jonathan and the Save the Library Rally and general Stop the Cuts thing in Newport.

So we get back from dropping off big kids and Jonathan is a bit pathetic! So we settle down with duvets on our slouch and listen to Monday’s episode of Big Toe Books. Jonathan listens and does his Nature Detectives bird word search and I drop off! Then he is still drippy so sits and watches 3 episodes of Blue Peter back to back. At some point in the proceedings we have managed to get some soup down us.

Then we head off to the library to support the strikers stopping on the way to look at the bracket fungi on a tree stump.

We headed down to County Hall to join with the people making general protests about the cuts.

I liked the Pugh Porta Loo

Little Bo Pugh leading his sheeply conservative counsellors - they block vote on everything.

Some supporters thought a dictionary borrowed from the library might have helped this banner!

the wonderful Mick Watson

Mick ended the meeting with his wonderful song “Long Walk To Newport” hear it on the Ventnor Blog.

My plan had been we’d head out to Ventnor and pick up chips to eat on the Downs watching the stars with friends – instead, because of the weather, we went home and had fishfinger sandwiches with baked beans or peas and finished off with tinned peaches – really posh nosh at our house tonight!

Bins out, living room tidied, Jonathan off to bed, tent semi erected in the living room. And relax!

I had a friend round to help with some plumbing recently and managed to get drawn into his latest scheme. It’s a good one though, because it involves action to help save our libraries. If you have missed all the local and national media coverage of Island library closures, the Isle of Wight Council are threatening to close down 82% of Island libraries. We will be left with 2.

This is a short sighted action with long term consequences and I for one am keen to see it stopped. We should be celebrating our libraries, making them better, not closing them. These aren’t just novel-lending facilities – a Blockbuster for books – these are vital multi-use community facilities, serving needs from helping children learn to read to helping unemployed people find work, from ensuring lonely people still have some interactions with people to facilitating important research. And much more besides. Plus they lend lots of novels too, which is also great (before I get walloped by one of my family, just ‘cos I don’t read novels much).

So, the campaign idea is simple (but with a twist as Dan Roberts is involved!). If you live on the Isle of Wight and don’t want to see your libraries closed then make sure your elected representative knows how strongly you feel. If you feel strongly enough about it not to vote for them again if they vote to close your library then tell them. And if you’ve done that, why not go a stage further and tell them you will campaign against them. If you are prepared to do so, sign a pledge to that effect so they will know. Campaigning against them could mean a range of things, from suggesting to friends and neighbours that they don’t vote for them (reminding them of the councillors history) to standing as an independent candidate.

So, Dan decided to issue pledges. Being who he is, he hand-built a printing press to produce pledges for people to sign. You can read all about it on the VentnorBlog. Even Dan could see the shortcomings of his device though, in that many more people would want to sign than he could produce pledges for. So, we have cooked up a little website. It’s quite simple, and provides an easy mechanism for you to sign the pledge. So why not take a look, and join our campaign? Help ensure our councillors know they will be called to account if they axe our libraries.

Well so much for the idea that the new legislation that comedy duo Balls and Badman want to introduce will only be good for home educators, it has done much harm even while it is only proposed legislation, not least in the amount of time it means that we home educated parents have wasted on it. The trustees of our local HE group wrote to 120 Lords last week campaigning, that’s quite a lot of time taken by people who are already serving the HE community locally beyond just providing for their own children.

Anyway onto my minor muttering.

Tomorrow on the ferry while I am going through the wonders of factorisation with the girls Martin will not be playing Shut the Box with Jonathan as I had planned. Rather he will probably be busy blogging a rant and writing to our MP about the consequences of the latest attacks on HE.

So once more we are campaigning for the right to continue to HE how we want rather than actually spending the time HEing how we want. And playing maths games on the ferry is what I want to do!

Keeping Children Safe - What Balls would like us to believe

Keeping Children Safe - What Balls would like us to believe

I’ve just heard the latest on Kerry Robertson and the thought of social services virtually wrenching her baby from it’s mothers breast leads me feeling numb. I’m not one for trial by newspaper, especially where the Daily Mail is concerned, but Fife council’s behaviour has all the hallmarks of our current statistic approach to child protection. Compassion is gone, trust in parents is gone, the state knows what is best for us all. We have been fed a lie through politicians and bureaucrats whispering in our ears, demonising those that oppose then and grabbing ever more power for the state by instilling a sense of fear into the population. Through fear they can control, as they tell us how they will keep us safe.

I’m not saying there isn’t an argument for the state taking a role in child protection. I simply think it has reached a stage where they are doing more harm than good. The approach is typified by Graham Badman’s recent comment made to the house of commons committee debating plans to force me to register my children as I can’t be trusted to raise them:

“You ask me why the urgency. My urgency would be very simple: if, by going forward with a registration scheme, we safeguard the life of just one child, it is worth it.”

What a load of tosh. If your cognitive abilities are so poor that you can’t understand that government should never make policy on that basis then you shouldn’t be within 100 yearsd of parliament. The fact they let him in the door is evidence of the insanity of the system. Your urgency isn’t simple, your argument is simplistic.

And yet, this phrase has been trotted out time after time, and many people simply nod, hypnotized. Think it through people. You have to think beyond the emotive issue of the life you “safeguard” and look at the bigger picture. Does the action put a life somewhere else at risk? What impact does it have on people’s freedom to participate fully in society, to express themselves, to hold differing views? What impact will it have on the quality of life other children can expect?

Trying to distil a highly complex issue down to a crappy little soundbite which tugs at people’s heart strings is little short of evil.

Our system must stop trying to convince us there is greater danger than there really is, it must stop trying to eradicate any line of thinking which does not accord with the PTB’s ideology, must start trusting, and must be prepared to take some risks. Risk that things will go wrong. Risks that people will get hurt, physically or emotionally. Risks that people will die. We don’t live in a perfect world, bad things will happen. Government cannot protect us. Time to give back more trust, more faith in individuals, in parents, in families, in society, let’s take the risk.

Image courtesy of the Department for Children, Schools and Families and used under the terms of a creative commons license

HC-610_Home-ed_Page_01Over the last few days I have been posting a series of blog articles looking at the Badman review of home education, and proposals to introduce new legislation on the back of it. If you don’t know about the review, or the catastrophic effects it could have on educational freedoms and family rights in the UK, then I’d recommend you have a read. It is in 10 parts, so why not make a cup of tea before you begin 🙂 This is not a full analysis, nor a recommendation by recommendation critique, rather it deals with a series of topics related to the review. I hope it makes for accessible reading for home educators and non home educators alike.

Part 1 – Introduction

Part 2 – What’s wrong with it?

Part 3 – Who’s the parent

Part 4 – Powers to enter the family home and interview children alone

Part 5 – It won’t cost any more. Eh?

Part 6 – The danger of defining education

Part 7 – But there’s more support for home educators isn’t there?

Part 8 – Government maths

Part 9 – Where’s the fire?

Part 10 – Death by a thousand plans?

I was once sat in a doctors surgery, rather bored, waiting for my turn to go and be poked and prodded. As I sat in the half empty room someone came in, picked up a chair and left. No-one batted an eyelid. No-one missed the chair. We were all still sitting comfortably. Then someone else came in and took a chair. Same reaction. It occured to me that they could gradually take the chairs away like that, and no one would care. We would barely notice. Eventually there would be so few chairs left that new people coming in would have nowhere to site. People leaving the chairs to go in to an appointment, but who then needed to come back in and wait a while longer would find there was nowhere left for them to sit. I wonder if people would defend the last few chairs? They may do, but the rest would be long gone. All our freedom had been gradually taken away and we barely noticed, and never resisted. Sorry, I mean chairs. Don’t I?

“Eco Island is an ambitious change programme. It will turn the Isle of Wight into the ultimate Eco Island, with strong communities and the lowest carbon footprint in England by 2020.” (Eco Island website)

So, what happened to Eco Island? I know some things are happening, but after all the flash, whizz and bang of the launch conference and Big Green Picnic it has mostly gone eerily quite. What has happened to the radical thinking portrayed in The Guardian in Nov 2007?

I know I am not alone in wanting to see the Eco Island concept really embraced in a meaningful way, and I know there is a queue of businesses, organisations and individuals already trying to do their part, but wondering what has happened to the IW Council.

So, on the 4th June there are local elections, a chance for us to have our say. So my question to every candidate standing will be “What next for Eco Island?”. Points will be awarded for honesty and for understanding of the issues. So, who will join me in asking these questions of our leaders and would-be leaders? Or if you are one of those candidates, how about posting your position on Eco Island? Do you want to see the Island become an “eco trailblazer” and how are you going to make that happen? Do you have the political stomach to take difficult decisions, some of which will be unpopular with sections of society? How can the Council support the groundswell of enthusiasm on the ground?

In a bid to deal with the rising threat of terrorism, gun crime, grafitti, bunking off school and all the other evil things that would be rampant on our streets without our politicians keeping us safe, our Tone has hired storm troopers to patrol the capitals streets. You can see this one using his stop-and-search-for-no-flaming-reason-at-all powers, as this child should obviously be in school learning how to be greedy enough to keep Golden Brown happy, but instead he is wandering teh streets of London looking happy. Tsk, happy. I ask you. How will we keep the country running if people start getting all happy?

Actually this particular storm trooper was patrolling outside County Hall. Perhaps trying to track down that dengerous rebel Ken Livingstone, but his intelligence is a bit out of date, the info. that Ken left years ago and is now in a glittery building down the road hasn’t quite got through. Must have come from MI5…

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So often we here statements along the lines of “but if one less child dies…” or “if we can stop one child being abused…”. Indeed the government cliche of the moment is “Every Child Matters”. The trouble is, in a simplistic way I guess most of tend to agree with these sorts of statements. There is a problem in that statement though – the word “simplistic”. These are not simple matters, they are complex, and cannot be boiled down to “Every Child Matters – how could you possibly disagree?” The dangers of children being abused or endangered in some form of another need to be weighed against the risk of a meddling nanny state really screwing our kids up, or risk aversion that leaves our children soulless and with no sense of adventure or enquiry.

And please dear reader, do not forget, the state has a history of acting in loco parentis. It is utterly useless at it. So I’ll keep looking after my kids, and ask the government to stick to what it’s good at. As soon as I find out what that is.

Just been reading on the Solent TV website about a new survey which says the Isle of Wight is one of the worst places to bring up children. This is based on a survey of the things parents rate most important in an area, and then using statistical information to score each of these, duly weighted. Interestingly one of the important factors was “community spirit” – not quite sure what statistical measure they used for that?

Of course good state schools was at the top, good hospitals not far behind. It started me thinking about the amount of emphasis we place on what the state do.

I think the Island is a great place to raise kids. Lots of open countryside, miles of beautiful beaches, some really knowledgeable local people ready to share their skills and experience with people, good quality local food, relatively light traffic and clean air. But these aren’t things we can use a state statistic to rank how the state is doing. These are things we have to avail ourselves of, not something someone else will serve up.

So much of what makes somewhere a good place to live and raise a family is having some good raw materials, then making the most of them. Yes, I’d like good hospitals, and I can see good state schools might be a help for those who use them, but can’t we make things better ourselves? And when did community spirit become something you can buy into in a good area? Surely you have to help create it.

We’re addicted to the state. We think if they don’t provide, we can’t be happy. Time to wean ourselves off.