Saturday, 16 July 2011


We gatecrash the Tolpuddle Martyr's Festival. By accident.

I had no idea this was the weekend when the museum is taken over by the TUC. I drove into the village, saw the red flags, the portaloos in the layby, and the cagoules in the rain with the dripping placards. Unity is strength and workers unite.

My heart sank. All I did was drive by the museum, on the off-chance it was open, with half an idea to teach the kids about the spirit of England which is to be traditional social and radical independent all at the same time, and now look. I have to sneak about a wet field pretending to actually have a service job, be a downtrodden worker, always on my guard against the fascist regime, and in solidarity with my working muckers.

Shut up, Shark. Don't mention I am an idle woman, gadding about the countryside, daddy legging it, selling his soul in Hong Kong for a pile of cash, and mummy hoping there's still a Chanel handbag hiding somewhere in the settlement. Be quiet. We are in solidarity with the brethren. Stop arguing. And also shut up about the do-your-own-thing style of education because look, there is NASUWT.

Now there'll be trouble. Shark says come away and stop yelling. But I have a particular grudge against them. I am sure I recall their pronouncement a few years ago. How home education was an abomination against society conducted by baby eating parents, how it should be banned immediately, and a uniform learning policy implemented for all five-year olds because that is FAIR.

I paraphrase. But I am sure I caught the spirit. Bastards. Anyway, they have to say that, don't they, because they are maintained as a collective of teachers with an interest in employment, and home education makes people wonder what teachers do, if it turns out that education is a job any attentive parent can do instead.

From my opinion, which obviously I am not allowed to express given the fact that I am sneaking about in solidarity disguise, home ed blows their cover. It shows that today's teaching is not, in the main, about education.

Teaching in schools is about managing large groups of people in small spaces using skills you might have to use in the disciplined services, or in confinement situations, or in prisons. That is, new teacher, you must contain the fringes of the crowd, please the mainstream, negotiate the behaviours that are weird, disruptive, unfathomable, call the bizarre healthy, normal and perfectly acceptable and, throughout it all, deliver a differentiated lesson that the government says you must if you want to be paid.

Don't imagine I am saying this impossible job is not needed. Yes it is. There are plenty of kids who want to go to school, plenty of parents who want to send them there, and plenty of people who have ideals to work there. Fine. What I am saying is, you do that, and let me, in my single community of oddball, renegade and radical, get on with my own thing, please. I don't want to be hunted down and beaten over the head with your enforced ideas about fairness and inclusion.

Which points to my fundamental dilemma with the whole union thing in the first place.

I grew up in a working class, union-oriented household where the party line was adhered to whether anyone liked it or not. A show of unity was essential. So I sort of agree, yes, I am trained to see the point of it, because the Tories will screw you down if you give them half a chance, and your strong bet is to join together and argue for a particular point of view. Down tools and up fingers.

Yes, of course we need to unite; even we oddball home educators need to join forces at times.

But there is not a lot of scope for high autonomy and individual dissent in a union, is there? And that is my particular problem. Joining a union means having to parrot an ideology that is given to me, inevitably by some fat bloke, who tells me, that thanks to him, I am empowered.

My gut reaction is to tell the git to Sod off. I will make up my own mind, thanks. Even if I find myself totally alone, with no benefit in it, and beaten up in a ditch.

Maybe I had a bad early union experience (possible). Maybe it is my own peculiar anti-authority misaligned character (probable). The result is, I am suspicious of all large-scale organised social groupings. I hate having to say what someone told me to say, and my skin burns with the idea that at some point I would have to chant the party line.

Okay, then yes, I am basically an argumentative loner and mouthy bastard who will pick a fight in a chancel if I don't like the clergy.

I think there is no way out for me from this tortured borderland and included/excluded perspective. Except, maybe to say, how I remain confident that I will never be totally alone. Because look who's coming to give me a piece of her mind. The apple never falls far from the tree.