Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Juergin Dudek of Germany says his nation’s treatment of homeschoolers is “utterly inhuman, cold, brutal – run by bureaucrats who think they’re only doing their job but uphold the system at all costs.”
He’d know. After all, he and his wife repeatedly have been convicted and fined for homeschooling their own children. One time they even were sentenced to jail, a penalty challenged on appeal.
It’s into that atmosphere in Berlin, where the government has been known to describe homeschooling as child abuse and makes it a violation of the law, that the Global Home Education Conference 2012 is preparing to hold its first-ever meetings, Nov. 1-4.
It’s recognized as a right by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
So why is it still outlawed in Germany and why in the conference going to be held there – roughly the equivalent of having a tea party rally on the front lawn of the Obama White House or a GOP event in the middle of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte over recent days?
“The reason for this is critically important: when the government exercises a monopoly over education, this forecloses freedom and liberty and contributes to a totalitarian society,” organizers explain. Internationally renowned education professors Drs. Charles Glenn and Jan DeGroof have written that to deny parents this fundamental right is “unjust and unworthy of a free society.”
In the Dudeks’ case, their most recent conviction and fines in Germany came just days ago, when Juergin Dudek spent a nearly sleepless night pondering a government that would so attack parents and families.
“I could hardly sleep. I was drowning in futility with a venomous sting of injustice numbing me. Doom [cast] a shadow over our family with no way out. Our begging was of no avail. I can only turn to God for strength,” he wrote in an email to the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The organization, which advocates on behalf of homeschooling worldwide, said the Dudeks’ story has been one of continuous pressure and threats – “the powerful resources of the state against a single family.”
They have homeschooled eight children over eight years in Germany “where homeschooling is essentially illegal.”
Dudek said a global conference to bring awareness to the issue might help.
“My attorney tells me that somehow this system cannot continue,” he says. “It is so wrong for families to be treated this way. Perhaps a conference will help put things in their proper perspective and convince authorities that homeschooling families should not be treated this way.”
Surprisingly, Germany is not alone among developed nations that have attacked homeschoolers.
According to an HSLDA report, “Just a few hundred miles across the North Sea, Swedish homeschoolers face a similar deteriorating legal situation. After years of fighting in courts and losing – just as the Dudeks have – Jonas Himmelstrand, the president of the Swedish national homeschooling association, ROHUS, is now in exile in neighboring Finland where he continues the battle for his family and many others.”
“Home education is not only the world’s fastest growing form of schooling, it is also one of the most urgent human rights issues in the democratic world today. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights makes it all very clear in article 26.3: Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children,” he said. “But not all countries respect this right equally.”
A global conversation is now due, he said.
“I chair a board of homeschool leaders from all over the world to organize the first-ever global home education conference in Berlin this November,” he said. “The board is made up of 10 homeschool leaders representing eight countries and five continents. We hope for positive change in attitudes towards parents who home educate. But we can’t do it alone.”
It was in 2010 when a German homeschool family was granted political asylum by a federal immigration judge in the United States because of the threat they would face if returned to Germany.
And in 2009, it was the Sweden government that “state-napped” 7-year-old Domenic Johansson from an airplane on which he and his parents had planned to move to India, his mother’s home country.
Endorsed by the German Friedrich Naumann foundation and sponsored by American and other home education support organizations such as Classical Conversations, Clonlara School, and Home School Legal Defense Association, the global home education conference is being funded by sponsorships and donations. The endorsement list of some 60 other national but often fledgling homeschooling organizations shows that there is interest in a global dialogue over the issue.
Michael Donnelly, attorney and director for international relations at the HSLDA, is secretary of the organizing committee.
“We are reaching out to parents, politicians, policy makers, and professors to come and discuss the obstacles and opportunities facing homeschoolers around the world,” Donnelly said. “We welcome all regardless of motivation or methodology. Our vision is to have an impact on global educational policy in favor of home education.”
One of the speakers will be Michael Farris, founder of HSLDA as well as Patrick Henry College and the president of ParentalRights.org.
“Although international human rights doctrine clearly recognizes the prior right of parents to decide how their children are educated, governments are imposing increasingly restrictive compulsory attendance policies on parents – effectively gutting this principle,” he said. “The unfortunate trend in recent decades with some U.N. treaties is to put the state in a position superior to parents in making decisions about their children. This should not be. A global home education conference will advance an important discussion about education and human rights.”
It was in 1937, when the German dictator, Adolf Hitler, said, “The youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled. This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, commented previously on the issue, contending the government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.”
As WND reported, Drautz emphasized the importance of schools teaching socialization, which was evident in the government’s response when a German family in another case objected to police officers picking their child up at home and delivering him to a public school.
“The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling,” said a government letter in response. “You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers. … In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.”