I am the captain of my ship

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard the Titanic, the world’s first unsinkable ship. Whether you are travelling as first class passengers or in steerage, we are all sailing together on this voyage of discovery to a new land of opportunity. The finest engineers in the world have built this vessel, so you need have no fear of icebergs along the way and need not worry about your own and your children’s safety, although you should note that the token lifeboats are reserved for the captain and crew.”

It didn’t work out, did it?

Fast forward to the 21st century and we are now being welcomed on board another supposedly unsinkable vessel by Captain Stephen Heppell and his first mate, Mehool Sanghrajka. Both are so confident that the good ship Learning Possibilities Plus (LP+), will transport us all, willingly or otherwise, to their promised land of global learning that they don’t spare a single thought for the small independently piloted craft which are in danger of being totally overwhelmed by the tidal wave in its wake.

One of the Twelve Good Men and True Gill has researched over at Sometimes It’s Peaceful, Captain Heppell is credited with putting the C into ICT, although there is some debate as to what the C actually stands for. His inclusion in the team of “experts” presently reviewing elective home education in England has not elicited much of an “aye aye, Captain” response from the home ed community, however – perhaps because they are already having to navigate their way through the choppy waters stirred up by big Government tankers which seem determined to pollute their natural learning environment. Having already escaped the slave ship School, they are not prepared to be press ganged on to a new technologically powered Titanic.

According to Captain Heppell and his crew, LP+ is about building education fit for a new world, which presumably means that its primary aim is to ensure that everyone fits neatly into the new world order and worships the new god of globalisation, whether or not they are believers. “What we are trying to do”, explains the first mate, “is build a platform that is not only global but is also all the aspects of learning that kids need to live in and work in a world like this.” Shiver me timbers.

The Captain himself tells us that learning is the great hope for this century because we can do so much with it; for example, “inoculate children against poverty” and “rebuild collapsed economies”. We can even “save nations through learning”, but most importantly, we can “empower children and adults as great learners.” Truly messianic stuff.

Learning by our own lights will not suffice, of course, and we will require technical support from the Most Advanced Learning Gateway Anywhere [cue LP+]. Since autonomous learning in particular cannot be trusted to achieve appropriate outcomes, all learners will be obliged to submit to the rules, regulations and monitoring of an externally approved and imposed learning system.

We are reassured by LP+ proponents that it “all ready” and “hugely exciting”, but they want to develop it further – with us, not for us – as a “conversation” with all their users. The first mate elucidates: “As we move forward, we will start to see users become part of our development, part of our community, part of the way this whole product moves and … it becomes something that you develop with us, rather than us delivering it to you.”

LP+ is a product to be tested, developed, packaged and sold to end users, who can only become empowered and successful learners if they buy into this Most Advanced Learning Gateway Anywhere. Does this remind anyone else of that 1970s Coca Cola television ad in which the New Seekers promised they could teach the world to sing in perfect harmony – if only the word would embrace the “real thing”?

The Captain is naturally enthusiastic about the advanced learning community he and his crew are creating and exhorts us all to come on board: “This is global learning we are going for here, not national learning, not regional learning, not community learning – those are all key components but this is about global learning bringing countries, cultures, children together all round the world.”

So what will become of us freedom loving home educators who prefer to chart our own voyages, sail our own schooners and exercise our own choices about which islands we stop off at on our personal learning journeys? If the Government is to be believed, such independent mariners are as dangerous to mainstream shipping as icebergs, and according to Mr Badman, the status quo cannot remain.

We can probably all guess where this is going, but while forcing home educators on board Captain Heppell’s global learning ship may seem like a convenient solution to an inconvenient “anomaly”, the only guaranteed outcome will be: “Mutiny, Graham lad”.

I am the captain of my ship,
Facing a violent, stormy sea.
Who and what I am in life
I believe is my responsibility.

~ Elias Tobias


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