Being ‘judgey’ is just a knee-jerk reaction to Twitter abuse

Home education: being 'judgey' ignores the rounded education it offers

‘JUDGEY’: slang, lazy text-speak form of the word ‘judgmental’, a word whose use carries a caution says CARO FENTIMAN

I come across the word ‘judgey’ now and again, usually in the context of parenting: one parent comments on another’s apparent failings, then chides him/herself for being ‘judgey’, or judgmental.

More and more I notice an unfortunate tendency towards judgmental behaviour, largely due to the knee-jerk reactions enabled by social media. ‘Fakebook’ notions and toxic Twitter threads littered with abuse and thoughtless criticisms represent a microcosm of something much more serious. Putin and Trump are intent on achieving world domination using a technique of divide and rule as their weapon of choice, and the anonymity of our forms of communication tempts us to follow suit.

In my own little world, concerned on a daily basis with education and small children, I have been struck twice this month by stories that have grown bigger than their content, to become divisive and unpleasant.

As a home educator, I reacted with mild alarm to a headline in the Mirror last week that screamed: MUM HOMESCHOOLS HER CHILDREN BY LETTING THEM PLAY COMPUTER GAMES FOR SEVEN HOURS A DAY!‘. Now, we all know that there is no entertainment to be had in reading about the thousands of families in the UK who home educate their children by reading with them, or ensuring they spend healthy amounts of time outdoors, or playing board games or doing exciting experiments.There’s no fun in that: very little to gawp at or criticise. The home educating community has responded to this article with horror and fear, sparking new hashtags such as #notmyhomeed.

Home educator Katie Pybus, subject of the Mirror‘s  toxic article, unsurprisingly disappeared from Twitter as horrified parents took to cyberspace to vilify her for ‘giving home education a bad name’.

I understand the anger: I spend a good proportion of my life defending our family’s decision to home educate. I recognise the importance of defending the basic right to choose how my child is educated. I know the history of the Badman report and the discrimination many home educators have faced. I work, through conversation and through my blog, to paint a positive picture of how education in the home can be a great thing.

Katie Pybus is one of the people who gave me the confidence to home educate. A little more care and context from the Mirror journalist responsible would have ensured that readers were fully informed and better equipped to respond. Pybus’ three children have enjoyed an education involving reading many books combined with a variety of outdoor activities. Her excellent blog, which she commits to writing for 15 minutes each day, has been both inspirational and reassuring. Pybus chooses to follow her children’s interests in an approach known as ‘unschooling’. Now, I do not advocate kids spending seven hours a day on screens, but I’m also not a big fan of children following a narrow curriculum, being tested too often and not spending enough time outdoors.

At worse, Pybus can be accused of naivety and failing to ensure that the journalist delivered a truthful account of her family’s home education journey. Sadly, though, the lack of honesty and huge amount of spin injected into the article means that it has become a divisive tool, punching holes in a community that must stay knitted together to protect its place in society.

It is not helpful in this situation to be judgey. It’s important to question and to respond if we feel strongly, but this is a woman trying to do the best for her children – why are we critical? The moral high ground is not a friendly place to be.

The second person I felt the need to defend is not someone to whom I would normally devote much of my thinking time, but the treatment of model Tamara Ecclestone after she released pictures of herself breastfeeding her toddler chimed exactly with the judgey tone I find so unhelpful.

Tamara Ecclestone: the photos that raised fury in some ‘judgey’ folk

When the world is swinging precariously on its axis and our government thinks it acceptable to discontinue the welcome extended to unaccompanied child refugees in the UK, why spend time being angry about how a woman feeds her daughter? Some children are fed with a bottle, others are fed with a breast. Both methods are acceptable. Where’s the controversy? Even the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding to a minimum of two years. This is not to undermine families who don’t, it’s just a recommendation. There doesn’t need to be a judgment on whether it’s permissible. You can scoff at someone breastfeeding in a ballgown in front of a camera crew, or you can say good on you, thanks for helping to educate people about the intended usage of the female breast. Or if it’s not your thing, you can just ignore it and check your emails.

The point is, we are all being drawn in to this hideous, divisive ‘judgey’ behaviour and it is achieving nothing.

Social media will be better used if we work together to effect change in areas that REALLY matter.


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