April 23, 2014
Home Education: It’s a Right
Announcing the Second Global Conference on Home Education
HSLDA Director of Global Outreach
|Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly is HSLDA’s director of global outreach.
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This idea is the theme of the second global home education conference being organized by 14 international homeschooling advocates and organization leaders, to be held in Brazil in March 2016.
The organizers extend an invitation to you to visit the GHEC 2016 website to explore how you can be involved. Like us on Facebook. Tell others about the conference. Sign up for updates. Take the survey. Explore the destination.
This second conference builds on the successful first global conference organized in Berlin, Germany. GHEC 2012 attracted nearly 200 participants from 24 countries and helped energize the German home education movement—a movement that continues to be repressed by authorities, which demonstrates the need for the global home education movement to meet in solidarity and mutual support.
This second global home education conference has been invited to Rio de Janeiro due to the influence of Brazil as one of the world’s largest and fastest growing democracies, in addition to the uncertain legal footing of home education in the South American nation where it is the subject of active debate among Brazilian policy makers.
Today the practice is tolerated in Brazil, although there are homeschool families who encounter difficulties with local authorities. Nevertheless, there is a growing interest in home education, and it is estimated that as many as 2,000 Brazilian children are homeschooled. By going to Brazil, conference organizers hope to influence the small but growing movement and to assist policy makers there to better understand home education as a concept, practice and right.
Brazil’s centrality in South America and proximity to Central America will also allow many other nations to participate. Home education is a growing movement in Mexico, where it is estimated some 10,000 children are homeschooled, also under uncertain legal authority.
Organizers and sponsors expect to build on the successful Berlin Conference and attract leaders of national home education movements and organizations, public policy makers, researchers and home educating parents. A broad program is being designed to address the needs and interests of these key audiences. Organizers also anticipate that bringing these groups together to discuss home education as a right will help the growing global home education movement in tangible and long-lasting ways.
We here at HSLDA are excited by the growth and vision of the GHEC organizing board, which includes individuals from every continent and region.
The board intends the conference to be open to all who have an interest in home education, whether supportive or skeptical. We believe that the best friend to expanding homeschool freedom is broad exposure—exposure to practitioners and graduates. Our hope is that this conference will expose many people to the idea of home education, assisting them to understand both practically and conceptually how it works and why it ought to be protected as an important right.
Understanding Home Education as a Human Right
As HSLDA’s director of global outreach, I have been studying international human rights law as part of a formal course of study at the London School of Economics. The program has allowed me to better explore the views of international law theorists and human rights advocates.
I plan to write about this more in the future but for now, as a practical matter, one important discovery I have made is that there are many countries—Brazil in particular—whose political leaders are greatly influenced by the notions of international human rights.
Even as we in the United States rightfully defend our constitutional system against attempts by elites to introduce and ratify international human rights treaties, such as the UNCRC and UNCRPD, there are numerous countries that are influenced to adopt and incorporate international law norms. Incorporating such norms could undermine important and foundational components of our constitutional system, such as governance by consent, legislative sovereignty of our own Congress and state legislatures, the unique recognition in our founding of God-given rights, and our dual federalist system. In certain cases, however, one can make the argument that adopting these international norms are steps in the right direction for some of these countries that do not have the same foundational history as our own.
Exploring the ideas of international human rights, and the constitutions and legal systems of other countries, affirms that our system of governance is exceptional, unique, and a model for many other nations. It is also worth defending. While we may have issues and legitimate concerns about how our republic is functioning, or in some cases, not really functioning, we must remember too that we have a culture and a system of governance that has allowed our homeschool movement to grow and flourish. It is the goal of HSLDA to see homeschooling flourish everywhere.
Undermining Home Education as a Human Right
Although the right of parents to home educate their children is universally accepted and respected by law in the United States, this is not the case in every country. Our courts and legislative bodies have formally recognized that parents have a fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children.
But this idea is not universally accepted. There are those who believe that citizens cannot be trusted to maintain a free democracy. Some have a vision of society that requires the use of state power to control education. HSLDA’s Chairman Michael Farris has explored some of the writings of these pessimists in an article that you can download for free here.
Some proponents would use the UNCRC and other international laws to undermine this right of parents—both here in our own country as well as abroad. Recent examples where authorities have sought to impose intrusive and even draconian measures on home education—in Great Britain, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland—show that the latest human rights treaties like the UNCRC can and are used to advance state control over families. And, perversely, this is done in the name of protecting children.
Some proponents would use the UNCRC and other international laws to undermine this right of parents—both here in our own country as well as abroad.
Historically, this is not the view that human rights advocates have taken with regard to children. The UNCRC, drafted in the 1980s, sees the child as an autonomous being where the state is the supreme decider as to what is in the child’s best interest in any conflict. Earlier human rights treaties, however, clearly recognize the institution of the family as a bedrock of society that deserves particular protection. Most treaties recognize the right and responsibility of parents as the primary decider as to what is best for children.
The founding document of the modern human rights system is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It explicitly recognizes that parents have a “prior right to choose the kind of education that their children shall receive.” (See the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.)
Subsequent treaties such as the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Charter of Fundamental Freedoms of the European Union, the Charter of African Rights, and others explicitly recognize the unique and protected role of parents in making decisions about the education and upbringing of their children.
Global Conference Will Cultivate Awareness and Promote Change
Let me be clear we are not advocating that the United States jump on the human rights “bandwagon.” A major concern with modern human rights theories is that they threaten not only our national sovereignty but also other legitimate democratic societies.
The modern global human rights movement is populated by many advocates of global governance whose objective is to impose a progressive, transnational system. These advocates aren’t necessarily seeking to create an all-encompassing one-world government, but are somewhat more realistic, perhaps even subtle, in their aspirations. Many seek to develop a network of international systems that create administrative requirements by agreements.
The end result is the same—republican democracy is undermined. As John Fonte writes in his book, Sovereignty or Submission: Will Americans Rule Themselves or be Ruled by Others?, “The advance of global governance is a direct challenge to the future of liberal democracy.” The book is well worth reading for those with an interest in the subject.
We must work within our own nation to retain and strengthen self-governance. (For example, Michael Farris’ Convention of States project seeks to reinvigorate our republic.) Still, there is room to use modern human rights ideas to defend the freedom for home education and to advance these important ideas especially in countries that are open and influenced by them.
Our goal is to see that home education is a practice permitted everywhere and available to everyone.
Please visit the GHEC 2016 website. Explore what the GHEC organizing board is doing. Discover how you can be involved. And consider the freedom we have and what it takes to defend it.
It is a privilege to serve homeschooling families like yours and all of us at HSLDA appreciate our members and invite you to consider joining HSLDA.