Friday, July 24, 2009

Home school aggreements to be compulsory, including spying clause?

In an article in this morning's Independent on 'The Mad Democracy of Snooping', Terence Blacker is less than impressed at Education Secretary Ed Balls' plan to make home school agreements mandatory. The agreements will also apparently include a clause requiring parents to spy on and report families they suspect are not fulfilling their legal obligations under these contracts.
"The best way to control people, as any competent dictator will know, is to get them to police themselves. No citizen is more comprehensively cowed and disempowered than one who believes himself to be at the mercy of other ordinary people. Britain, not a totalitarian state, is nonetheless on a steep learning curve when it comes to the first rule of suppressing individual liberty: everyone should be watched and everyone should be a watcher...

These contracts between parents and the school of their child will commit them to supporting his or her education, ensuring that they attend school, do their homework, go to bed at a reasonable time and so on. Then, almost as an afterthought, the new agreement will also invite parents to spy and inform on families which they believe are not adhering to the agreement. Complaints made by families against families will be heard by Local Education Authorities. It is a neat way of exploiting the suspicion and paranoia which have become part of the British character. Citizens will become the unpaid spies of authority.

Ed Balls, the secretary of state behind the initiative, has made the usual appeal to decency and commonsense. The agreement will support "parents who do the right thing" and bring to justice a small minority of "recalcitrant" families. He might have added that, if you have nothing to hide, then you will have nothing to fear."

Nothing to hide nothing to fear... cough... expenses scandal... cough... and they still don't get it. And until MPs en masse and ministers in particular start repeatedly personally feeling the effects of the mass surveillance society they've been building I doubt there will be a reversal in proceedings any time soon. Externalities Mr. Balls, externalities.

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