All of us have ill-defined stereotypes, fears and misperceptions that bleed into our actions and behaviours. They can be particularly persistent when we are thinking about the parenting and education of children. We can either choose to recognise this and assess the validity of these thoughts, or we can studiously ignore them and the cognitive dissonance that arises.
It's so easy - and fantastically emotive - to describe other people's parental choices as "abusive". The subtext being that those "abusive" parents should be stopped from doing whatever it is that has been labelled, without questioning whether it can be objectively considered abuse.
You might not like some of those choices. Deep inside you might even wish you had had parents who chosen differently for you. Or perhaps you would like to choose differently for your children, but you don't have the resources or the resistance to stand up to other people's ignorance and judgement.
But let's be very clear. Protecting one's children from harm is not abusive. Loving one's children is not abusive. Refusing the offer of state education is not abusive. Embracing a philosophy or religion is not abusive.
To say that any of these things is abusive is to do serious injustice to children who have been abused, unequivocally so.
Khyra Ishaq was abused, unequivocally so. She was starved to death. Her mother and stepfather removed her from school not to home educate her (for she was not legally or literally home educated) but in order to continue abusing her. It was deliberate, systematic abuse. Badman's proposed programme of parental licensing and inspections - of a completely different segment of the population - would not have helped Khyra one jot. Systematic abusers will simply buck whichever system they are in, as Khyra's abusers did when they removed her from school.
It is appalling that anyone would obsfucate the truth about who and what was responsible for this little girl's death in order to push through some profoundly unpleasant and constitutionally questionable legislation.
Parental licensing and inspections will only have negative impacts, for the majority of children who are not abused as well as the minority who sadly are.
- It will hamper predominantly child-led education and completely destroy autonomous education.
- It will muddy the water with false positives and take resources away from children like Khyra, who desperately needed intervention before it is too late.
- It will create the potential for more neglect, if not actual abuse.
What do I mean by that last point? Well, if government agencies and their associated parasites
continue to drive wedges between parents and their children, then, over time, something fundamental will be lost. The remit of parenting will be changed, perhaps irrevocably so. Those nebulous mental constructs I mentioned will be fed by an unchallenged belief that it is the government
who makes the decisions about how children are raised. We already see this in the sphere of education, which is why many people cannot conceive of how a child can learn how to take their place in the the real world without first being institutionalised.
If this agenda continues then perhaps we will come to believe that it is not okay to claim your children as your own. For the record, yes, it is okay
to do this, even if you are the most ardent believer in the autonomy of children. Ultimately, it is far easier to neglect - or abuse - something (someone) you do not claim as a product of your own physical and emotional investment - especially when you have been programmed to believe that someone else is responsible for their education, safety and welfare. That's bad news for any child.
Khyra puts what abuse is into stark relief: it is not being a disabled parent, or homebirthing a baby, or breastfeeding a child, or wearing the "wrong" clothes or shoes, or letting your child play with DVD boxes, or having an untidy house, or refusing the services of a health visitor or anything else that people have emailed me about in recent weeks.
Starving your child to death is abuse. A child needing to steal food is abusive. A child wandering around outside in her underwear, in an emaciated condition, scavenging bread is abusive.
Is this shocking? Yes. Almost beyond belief. But... Khyra wasn't hidden. She was in full view. People saw it with their own eyes.
Are the parents to blame? Yes. Their child, their responsibility, their failure. There are no excuses for treating a child in this way. None.
Do the authorities bear any responsibility? Yes. They take our taxes for the provision of social services and they did not protect a child who was not hidden - a child who was known to them, a child about whom teachers had grave concerns. A child who was starved to death.
If we lift the filters that have been placed over our eyes, the ones that show that democracy is fair, taxation is good, the state is kindly and benevolent and protective, and schools are such an effective safety net for our children, then we will realise that
1. It is best when we are each responsible for our own children.
2. We are also responsible for speaking out and acting when we see that something that is dreadfully wrong elsewhere.
We are encouraged to believe that certain non-government sanctioned personal preferences are abusive. We have been discouraged from using our judgement and listening to our consciences about what we believe to be morally acceptable. We have been instructed to defer to the authorities and we have been prevented from intervening and helping.
All of those things, and not home education, contributed to the death of Khyra Ishaq. Gerald Warner understands this.