Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not given much attention

What with all the kerfuffle about President Obama's Teleprompter's first State of the Union Address (which seems to have gone down not at all well with anybody except the hard core of the faithful) and the fuss about .... errm ... nothing very much in British and European politics, one story was not given very much attention., except, for understandably reasons, in Germany.
(Though, to be fair, the Guardian has reported it.)

Der Spiegel reported that an Evangelical Christian family who wanted to home-school their children were granted an asylum in the United States. Though one might think it was the religion that was the problem from the headline, it was actually the home-schooling, which is illegal in Germany.

Judge Lawrence Burman in Memphis, Tennessee stated that the Romeike family were entitled to asylum because their basic human rights were encroached on.
HSLDA [Home School Legal Defense Association] attorney Mike Donnelly called the decision "embarrassing for Germany." According to Donnelly, the Memphis court issued a final ruling "that homeschoolers are a social group that is being
persecuted in Germany." A "Western nation should uphold basic human rights, which include allowing parents to raise and educate their own children," Donnelly said. "This is simply about the German state trying to coerce ideological uniformity in a way that is frighteningly reminiscent of past history."
There is no need, in my opinion, to remind people about Nazism as modern Germany is not a bit like Hitler's Germany. Furthermore, home schooling is a sore point in many countries. Indeed, there have been attempts to control it in the United States. Mostly they have failed.

Deutsche Welle takes out the religion and concentrates on the home-schooling.
While religious homeschoolers are often covered in the media, they don't represent all German homeschooling families, said Dagmar Neubronner, a publisher and therapist in Bremen who moved her children from Germany to France to homeschool them.

Neubronner told Deutsche Welle when her children were in public schools they often complained of not having enough academic freedom and of noise and disruptions from classmates.

"Our children didn't thrive in school," she said.

After attempting to get permission from German courts to homeschool her children, she says she was threatened with fines and jail time. It was then that she and her husband decided to move their children to France where they could legally homeschool them.

When asked whether homeschooled children have difficulty integrating into society, Neubronner said those claims were "not proven by reality."

"Just look around to all those countries where homeschooling is permitted," she said. "You don't find a group of ex-homeschoolers who fail in life."
Eugene Volokh, himself a successful past asylum speaker, raises the question of whether not having the right to home schooling does give one the right to asylum in the United States. Without saying so, he seems to be doubtful. The discussion, as usual, is very interesting and well worth reading in full.

There are many aspects to this case that will reverberate in other countries, not least Britain. The situation here as regards home-schooling is rather confused. Legally it is perfectly acceptable. It is not schooling that is compulsory but education, though LEAs (local education authorities), Ofsted ( Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) and other suchlike organizations would prefer it if people did not know about this distinction.

Officials spend a good deal of time harassing home-schoolers and demanding proof that the education thus provided is "adequate", proof of which they do not seem to demand from schools. As the term "adequate" is defined by these officials with no reference to anything outside themselves and their ideas, proof of it becomes hard to impossible to provide.

Most recently, educational and "child welfare" officials have found another way in which they can harass home-schoolers. The latter would now have to prove that they are not paedophiles (after all, what other reason can one have for wanting to give one's child a real education?) and some of the children have been put on the at-risk lists. One wonders how many of them are now contemplating the notion of asking for asylum in the United States.


  1. .. and our government seems to be slowly tightening the vice on Home Schooling. If you've heard of the Badman report, which seems to assume that Home Schooled children are at risk, you will know that it is a very poor report, the recommendations of which are not supported by the research. This is not stopping the government from producing legislation that is at present going through the commons and Lords. Now that we have one organisation (DCSF) for education and welfare, the supposed welfare of children seems to be paramount and, of course, only teachers can properly monitor children, cant they!

  2. Wow this is an interesting story! Here in the States there are more and more people home-schooling their children. I am sure that our teachers unions are trying to arrest this developement. I do want to say the kids seem to do fine as they are also allowed to be involved in certain afterschool/athletic activities whereby they are with and thier interacting with their peers. Do you all have that over there in Britain with your homeschoolers?

  3. While on the issue of President Obama's State of the Union speech (or not) here are two essays that have not been given much attention (or none at all) in Europe:

    Pre speech: Mr President: Please try, I'm listening

    Post speech: The credibility gap


  4. We went through the harassment in 1986-90 homeschooling in S.Wales. The fact that my wife is a trained teacher rather took the wind out of their sails. We were also pagan which carried its own problems - see Booker & North 'Scared to Death'.
    We moved to Ireland to live on a schoolless island where we were left in peace. All five children have grown to normal adulthood and are employed. When I get to feel concerned that we let them down they insist otherwise. Not many in recent time have grown up with the self reliance our kids developed.

  5. Aileni, thanks for that. My impression is that there is no reason for home-schooled children to be anything but well-adjusted, well-educated, good human beings. If they are not, the problem is not the home-schooling per se.

    Natalie, as far as I can make out, the whole network is not as well developed here as it is in the States for lots of historical reasons and because of the continuous harassment home-schoolers endure. Though I think the historical reasons might be more important. I am trying to follow up the story and shall update on the blog when I can. Certainly, children need to have sports and other events with other children and learn to relate to non-family adults. But, given how bad most schools are at fostering that, I think Ofsted should start looking at the problems there. But it is not about the children's development but state control.

    Mikgen, thanks. I shall read it. When on earth do you have time to keep up with everything? Do you ever sleep? ;)