For the second time in less than a week, a crack has appeared in what has been a largely unified condemnation of homeschooling by officials in Europe, and this time it’s coming from the radically anti-parent government in Germany.
Norbert Blum, a prominent member of Angela Merkel’s German CDU party who served as Helmut Kohl’s minister of labor for 16 years, has said Germany’s modern education system is “usurping” children and ignoring the important role parents must play in education.
His comments were made in a presentation prepared for the Global Home Education Conference 2012, which will be held in Berlin next week. They were reported by the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is contributing to the conference.
“Today I observe a total usurpation of children by school. Children are exhausted by leaving home early in the morning and returning late in the evening. … I am against the state’s education monopoly and see parents responsibly homeschooling as a healthy response to an imperious school system,” his statement said.
According to HSLDA, Jonas Himmelstrand, president-in-exile of the Swedish national home education association and chairman of the conference, welcomed Blum’s support.
“Blum is the highest ranking political figure in Germany to recognize the need for reform in Germany’s view on parental freedoms in education. As a former minister of labor under Helmut Kohl, Blum’s remarks can hardly be ignored by his party. We are very excited how the goals of the conference to engage policymakers to have a positive impact on home education are being met even now,” Himmelstrand said.
Michael Donnelly, GHEC 2012 secretary and director of international affairs at Home School Legal Defense Association, said Blum “has said what no one else in Germany has been willing to – that Germany’s iron-fisted monopoly on education is unhealthy for children and families.”
“I hope Angela Merkel and others in her party will listen to the wisdom and advice of this German statesman and take action soon so that parents in Germany can homeschool like millions around the world,” Donnelly said.
WND reported only days ago that a Swedish appeals court unanimously concluded that homeschooling parents in Gothenburg are allowed to educate their children at home in line with their faith.
Analysts said while the decision applied only to a single family’s case, it still carried the potential to become a major turning point in the battle over homeschooling across the region.
In Sweden, local officials had sought to violate the Namdar family’s internationally recognized rights to home education and religious liberty. Last year, the municipal government slapped massive fines on the parents, who serve as Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch representatives to Gothenburg, and demanded that the children be enrolled in school.
However, authorities were rebuked by the court, which found that the children were receiving a “very satisfactory alternative” to the Swedish government’s education.
“One part of this decision is that this family is in a very special situation with regards to their religious freedom,” Judge Per Olof Dahlin, one of three judges who ruled on the case, told WND in a phone interview at the time.
“There is a risk of harassment (for the children), and we considered that they earlier had education at home and online (for many years),” the judge added, pointing out that the family’s many children were doing extremely well in the world, with some going on to get advanced degrees. “If you consider all these things together it qualifies as exceptional circumstances under the law.”
According to homeschooling advocates and human rights experts, the ruling strikes at the heart of a new education law passed in mid-2010 purporting to ban homeschooling for religious and philosophical reasons in Sweden.
Under the recent reforms, home education would only be allowed in “exceptional circumstances” – in practice, homeschoolers said that meant almost never.
The law was also aimed at forcing all schools, even nominally private ones, to teach the government’s deeply controversial curriculum.
Earlier this month, a judge in Germany ordered the radical action of having the state take official custody of four children over the family’s homeschooling practices.
According to HSLDA, Judge Markus Malkmus in the German district court in Darmstadt ordered the four children of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich transferred to the state’s “child protective agency,” called the Jugendamt.
“This points out the need for a legislative solution in Germany for homeschooling,” said Donnelly. “Homeschooling is a legitimate form of education – Germany’s oppressing of people who do it violates their obligation to protect their citizen’s most basic human rights.”
Dirk Wunderlich said he received a letter from the Jugendamt in which the agency explained it doesn’t “wish to enforce [the] court’s decision by doing terrible things such as taking the children away from us.”
But he has little doubt that, ultimately, the state’s goal is to take custody of the children.
Wunderlich said the Jugendamt “told me that the children must go to school.”
Germany has a long history of persecuting homeschoolers, dating back to the era of Adolf Hitler, who claimed children for the state.
In 1937, 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.”
Just a few years ago, a government spokesman, Wolfgang Drautz, emphasized the importance of the socialization imposed on children through the schools.
His statement followed a response from the German government to another family that objected to police picking up their child and delivering him to a public school.
“The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling,” said a government letter. “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.”