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« Home education consultation | Main | An open letter to Lynne Featherstone MP »

Lynne Featherstone responds

Lynne Featherstone has been kind enough to respond in the comments thread on my original posting. I am reproducing her comment here in full.

It is because I am interested in finding a way to back your freedoms that I firstly took time to meet constituents, secondly took time to write about the issue very broadly on my blog; thirdly took time to read and response to comments - and am open to the arguments people people have made. But if all the home educators'responses are simply about slagging me off for even wanting to hear the arguments, daring to examine the concerns raised by the Badman Review and see what the challenges are to complete and absolute freedoms - then how liberal are you? If you cannot tolerate discourse and scrutiny and your only response is to attack me ........

Anyway - you have all helped shaped my views and over on my blog there are one or two really good posts that I have found helpful and constructive.

Firstly I have to take issue with the comment about all home educators slagging Lynne off. None of the commenters on my earlier posting have made any personal comments about Lynne. I see nothing in my own post that could be seen as abusive either, although not being a home educator, I presumably don't fall into the category Lynne defines. Whatever might have been said elsewhere, I would hope that Lynne would recognise that this site has been conducted in orderly fashion.

That said, there is a conundrum for us on the outside looking in at our representatives. When we observe our parliamentarians discussing the abolition of long-cherished freedoms, are we really expected to stand and watch with equanimity? Are we to make polite representations suggesting that perhaps the abolition of the assumption of innocence is not such a good idea and maybe politicians might like to reconsider? Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

I infer from Lynne's own site that she is now receptive to the civil liberties defence of home education, which is welcome, and speaks of a certain strength of character in the face of some strong criticism. But I'm still not satisfied (and when I say this I am not trying to "slag off" Lynne in particular, but parliamentarians as a whole): should it not concern us that we outside parliament are having to point out to our elected representatives that what they are proposing is such a disastrous infringement of our rights? How is it that we have elected people who need to have this explained to them?

Isn't the first job of parliamentarians to defend the liberties of the people?


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Reader Comments (12)

I certainly agree you have been very civil.

However her response is problematic

If her detractors are arguing using ad hominem attacks that is just a bad argument - it is not being illiberal.

Oct 16, 2009 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterTDK

Oh, your grace, you have DARED to QUESTION the LIBERAL ORTHODOXY.

That means you are a RAYYYCIST!

Will no-one think of the CHIIIIIILDREN?

Oct 16, 2009 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrian, follower of Deornoth

"Isn't the first job of parliamentarians to defend the liberties of the people?"

No, because Parliamentarians no longer stand as a check to the power of the crown. They are the conduit through which this power is exercised. So now the liberties of the people need to be defended from the depredations of Parliamentarians.

Oct 16, 2009 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Risdon

Peter Risdon makes the correct point.
There are no libertarians in parliament in the sense that there no (or at least very few) who are prepared to trust the people whether it is in the use of their own money, the raising of their own children, the care of their own health, or any other aspect of human life which the modern breed of politician thinks he can do better than the great unwashed.
I regret to say that Liberal Democrats tend to be the worst; one of their own number recently confessed that the phrase is oxymoronic before correcting himself and admitting the party is not particularly liberal and, as far as the people are concerned, anything but democratic.
All politicians of the left (soft, hard, in-between) instinctively want to be in control of events. They are still at the anally retentive stage and cannot bear to see anyone doing anything that they have not passed judgment on.
All for the people's good, of course!

Oct 16, 2009 at 11:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterSam the Skeptic

Good of Ms Featherstone to "take time" to meet her constituents - isn't that her job?

Oct 17, 2009 at 3:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Just been thinking that maybe we need a curriculum for politicians. We (well some of us sigh!) were assuming they hold the philosophies one would expect given the names of their parties, clearly some don't. Some see they are doing us a favour if they listen to us. Some think every 16 year old should study Shakespeare. Some think the innocent 'til proven guilty thing is silly... Some think the state should have access to the citizens' homes

The argument that society should expect a certain level of education from its elected, salaried representatives is surely far stronger than the argument that society should expect a certain level of education of its children.

People need all sorts of education depending on the lives they choose, it is for no one but the person themselves to direct. If we coerce learning we risk killing it. If people choose a career in politics it's fair that the electorate should expect a certain level of knowledge from them.

Oct 17, 2009 at 8:11 PM | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

Oddly enough I have a long standing plan to write a book along these lines. I'm actually intending it to be for older children, but it would do for our MPs too I imagine, so long as they took their time and had a dictionary to hand.

Oct 17, 2009 at 8:50 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

"thirdly took time to read and response to comments"

You might insert the "sic", so it is clear that it is her error.

Oct 18, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterDB

The book idea sounds cool.

Have you heard of The Fallacy Detective. It's a book written by American HE Teens. A Christian slant but useful for all kids, parents and possibly politicans.


Oct 19, 2009 at 9:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

That's really interesting. I was wondering how to teach formal logic (the school's not going to do it are they?)

I have Madsen Pirie's book, which is really only good for adults, although it's very good. The Fallacy Detective looks like a really clever idea for the younger ones though. One of those ideas which makes you go "Why didn't I think of that?"

Oct 19, 2009 at 10:10 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Seems Lynne is not a liberal in any sense, on her latest blog:

We had a bit of a meander through the philosophical issues around how you get the have-not kids to mix with the haves (how to heal a divided society) and whether a national, civil youth service would be an answer. If it was - should it be compulsory?

Discussions about illiberal ideas like national service get me pretty excited and onto my soapbox, but don't expect to read Lynne following up with "Naturally, as a liberal, I was appalled at the idea".

I believe that if you are a classical liberal, you instinctively know when something smells wrong, you can then add arguments to it as to why it is wrong, i.e. before giving it much thought, you've already exclaimed "bloody hell fire, what is wrong with these people". On home education and national service, that nose for illiberalism seems to be sadly lagging wrt to Lynne Featherstone.

Oct 22, 2009 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud


Yes, that's fairly damning isn't it? Given her reaction to having the illiberality of her views on HE pointed out to her, might it be best to do the same in this instance? I just wonder if she's still learning. It sounds patronising of her, but could it really be that she has just never thought about these issues in terms of liberalism?

Oct 23, 2009 at 9:04 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

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