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Homeschooling families in Germany have been in a bull’s-eye since Adolf Hitler was in power, and WND has reported over the years on a German teen who was ordered into a psychiatric ward for being homeschooled and parents who were told to serve jail terms for homeschooling their children.
More recently, WND reported the case of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, whose children were returned to their parents on condition they would attend public school classes after armed police officers equipped with a battering ram forcibly took them from their home.
But now the German government may be showing a hint of change regarding homeschooling: German ambassador Peter Ammon has held a meeting with several members of Congress who support homeschooling.
The meeting was reported by the Home School Legal Defense Association, which represents homeschoolers nationwide.
Reps. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., Tim Walberg, R-Mich., and Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., met recently with Ammon.
“It was a very productive meeting,” said Webster. “It went very well, and Ambassador Ammon was very cordial. We all agreed to maintain open lines of communication as we move forward.”
The three members of Congress were able to “explain their own experience with homeschooling, how it has benefited their families and how millions of American families enjoy this freedom,” HSLDA said.
“The meeting was a product of years of effort to bring attention to the plight of German homeschoolers and to advance homeschooling freedom in Germany,” the advocacy organization said.
HSLDA’s strategy has been to create a conversation in Germany about homeschooling.
“We have been working closely with these members [of Congress] for several years,” said Will Estrada, HSLDA’s director of federal relations. “They and their staff have been incredibly supportive of our efforts to protect and advance homeschool freedom, both in the U.S. and in Germany. This meeting would never have taken place without their tireless dedication to homeschool freedom for all families.”
HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said the members of Congress have been very helpful.
“These men used their personal stories – including their fight for homeschool freedom years ago when they were state legislators – to urge Germany to give all parents the freedom to educate their children at home,” he said. “This freedom is one that we in the United States hold so dear, and it is a freedom that we believe to be a universal human right.”
Farris argued on behalf of the Romeikes, a homeschooling family ordered by a U.S. court to return to their native Germany before an administrative decision voided the ruling.
Previous German ambassadors haven’t been willing even to talk about homeschooling, noted Michael Donnelly, HSLDA director for international affairs.
“Although the German states, like in America, have the final say on educational policy, the federal government has some influence, and homeschoolers in Germany need all the help they can get,” he said. “If there is going to be change, it will come through the legislative process in Germany.”
Wolfgang Drautz, a onetime consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, wrote on a blog that Germany bans homeschooling, because it “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.”
The Romeike case drew to a close last month.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their case, letting stand a deportation order from a lower court. But then the Department of Homeland Security told the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has been defending the family in court, it would not enforce the ruling.
Homeschool advocates in the U.S. remained alarmed, however, because a legal precedent now exists for homeschooling parents to be deported even if they would face persecution in their home country. The Romeike decision was administrative and applied only to the family’s case.
The anti-homeschool law in Germany has a dark origin: It was Hitler’s idea, and the nation has never changed it. It was in 1937 when Hitler himself said that 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,” the dictator said. “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.”
A year later, the Nazis adopted a law that eliminated exemptions that previously provided an open door for homeschoolers under the nation’s compulsory education laws.
As WND reported, the German government believes schooling is critical to socialization, as demonstrated in its response to parents who objected to police officers picking up their child 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. “… 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.”
In Germany, children have been seized from their parents in several cases, most recently last September when armed police officers equipped with a battering ram forcibly took four children from the Wunderlichs because they were being homeschooled.
The current German government has endorsed Hitler’s view of homeschooling. In 2003, the German Supreme Court handed down the Konrad decision in which “religiously or philosophically motivated” homeschooling was banned. Four years later, the German Federal Parliament changed a key provision of German child protection law, making it easier for children to be taken away from their parents for supposed “educational neglect.”
The only documented statement previously by the German government in support of homeschooling came several years ago when Norbert Blum, a prominent member of Angela Merkel’s German CDU party, 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.
He said: “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.”
Germany’s attitude on homeschooling is shared by several of its neighbors, including Sweden.