Thankful Thoughts on Freedom, Homeschool, and Writing in England
I sometimes come upon a thought so well expressed that I just have to share it! Today’s guest post on freedom, homeschool, and writing was the editor’s letter from a Writing-World.com newsletter, and it’s reprinted here with the kind permission of the author, Moira Allen.
Freedom, Homeschool, and Writing in England
by Moira Allen
This Thanksgiving, my husband and I were deeply aware of the many things we have to be thankful for — chief among them being the fact that we are once again living in the United States. As most of you know, we spent 15 months in England, pursuing (but not precisely living) a lifelong dream. Those 15 months made us appreciate so many things that, as Americans, we take for granted.
Freedom, for example. One thing I’ve always taken for granted is that if a civil authority (e.g., the police) wishes to enter my home, a warrant is required to do so, issued by a judge and only on
presentation of “just cause.” Not so in England! Any number of “civil authorities,” including social workers, council representatives, “wheelie bin police,” and quite possibly the vegetable seller down the street can legally enter one’s home for any number of reasons (including things like whether you’re importing an illegal variety of potato — which admittedly wasn’t something we worried about overmuch).
The latest furor, however, has arisen over a proposal to allow authorities to enter the homes of parents who are home-schooling their children, to “inspect” the premises and ensure that they are “safe” for this very “vulnerable” segment of the population. (Apparently a child is considered unsafe in the home only during “school” hours, as there has been no proposal to invade the homes of parents who send their children off to a public or private school.)
But it gets even better; now the British government has proposed to require any parent who wishes to home-school a child to undergo a criminal records check, to ensure that the parent has “no record of violence against children.” (Again, evidently only parents who choose to teach their own children are considered potential child abusers; just HAVING a child isn’t enough to arouse official suspicion . . . yet). Oh, and by the way, the parent has to pay for a criminal records check, to the tune of approximately $300 (last time I looked; it may have gone up by now) — imagine paying your government just to prove you have the right to educate your own child!
Did I mention that our beloved newsletter editor home-schools her daughter? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have a potential criminal on our staff, one who has already flagrantly defied the law of the land by swapping child-care with a friend. (Yup, this is illegal in England, because friends who swap child-care are receiving a “benefit” for offering such care — that benefit being getting their OWN child cared for in return — and they are therefore operating a “business” without a license. Presumably, too, it’s illegal to watch your friend’s child without undergoing a criminal background check — because ANYONE who is involved in any sort of business or volunteer activity that might get them within 100 yards of a child must have one!)
So, looking backward, I am thankful beyond words that I live in this country, which has such interesting little things as a Constitution and a Bill of Rights. But what, you may be wondering, does this have to do with WRITING? Well, a lot, if you think about it.
Because writing is, at the most fundamental level, about freedom. Countries that wish to restrict the freedoms of its citizens invariably get around to restricting the freedoms of writers. One of those things that I DO take for granted is the freedom to write what I want, without fear of having someone knocking on my door late at night — or worse, without the fear that someone has a right not only to knock but to enter, without a warrant or anything resembling “just cause.”
Governments that don’t like freedom don’t like writers — because writers have this nasty tendency to tell the world all about what their governments are doing. Frankly, I sometimes get tired of our press complaining nonstop about our government — but I will never get tired of the fact that the press CAN complain!
There is no power on earth as important as the freedom to be able to say, and write, whatever you wish. There is no gift so great for writers to celebrate in this holiday season as the freedom that we have, at least in this country, to WRITE.
That freedom means that we have the power to speak up about things that we don’t like — and the power to demand and make changes to the world in which we live. It is the gift that makes the difference between being “citizens” rather than “subjects.” Many of us may never feel the need to exercise the full power of this gift, but we should never forget that we have it. And we should also never forget those who don’t.
It’s also something that we can pass on. Whenever you help someone develop their writing skills — whether it’s your own child, or a total stranger that you’ve met through an Internet writers’ group — you’re passing on more than just the ability to craft a better sentence. You’re passing on a gift of freedom.
Moira Allen is the editor of Writing World newsletter, and the manager of the enormous Writing-World.com website. She’s provided a valuable resource to writers for many years, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to reprint her thoughts here.