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June 19, 2008

Criminalizing Homeschooling

From Germany: A Press Release Concerning Homeschooling

Homeschooling is a criminal offense, comparable to a trucker who repeatedly gets behind the wheel drunk. At least this is the opinion of Chief Judge Becker, who has sentenced the Dudek family to three months imprisonment without parole.

With this verdict the judge maintains the ignoble tradition begun on July 6, 1938 with the signing of the Reichsschulgesetz (Reich/Imperial School Legislation) by Adolf Hitler and Reichsminister Rust. This tradition reached its high point in 2007 with the deplorable decision of the German Federal Supreme Court to legitimize revocation of parental custody rights for homeschooling.

These verdicts have their origins in a common spirit of political despotism, as has twice been gleefully celebrated during the infamous period of the German dictatorship. The justifications offered for such harsh measures against families providing education in the home always present the same old stereotypes, but cannot stand up under any serious legal examination from the bench.

To say that “the community has a justifiable interest” to “counteract the establishment of religious or other parallel societies motivated by a worldview, and to integrate minorities in this area” is not a legal justification, but is actually a purely political declaration. The politicization of the judiciary is a well-known hallmark of dictatorship. This is completely incompatible with a constitutional state. Also, this leaves aside the point that no verifiable evidence has been found to show that homeschooling in any country in the world has ever lead to a parallel society. In many large German societies such parallel societies thrive in spite of existing compulsory education.

The oft-cited motto of a “state educational mandate” is nowhere to be found in the Grundgesetz, the German Constitution. The frequently misquoted Article 7 of the constitution only places the overall system under the supervision of the state. However, the cafe and restaurant industries are also subject to supervision by the state, and yet no one has had the idea to forbid eating at home on that basis, or to speak of a “state nutritional mandate.”

This current decision ignores the validated fundamental rights of freedom of belief and freedom of conscience according to Article 4, as well as the paramount parental rights and the protection of the family unit of Article 6 of the German Constitution. And the frequently stated premise that “the protection of minorities constitutes an essential component of a free and democratic constitutional state” is not supported in this decision. That notion is quietly swept away by the new political principles of inhibition and elimination of “parallel societies,” as well as the integration of dissenting voices and those who would live differently as if they had never existed.

The judge and the prosecuting attorney could not care less about the well-being of the children or the best mode of education. The fact that the oldest son of the Dudek family, while transferring into the local school passed all of the qualifying examinations with A’s (“One’s” under the German system) was left unmentioned. Indications from the local upper level senior high school indicate that there is nothing precluding a transfer into the upper level senior high school. The director of the school district office was visibly impressed with the meticulously maintained documentation on homeschooling instruction, as recorded by Juergen Dudek, the father of the family.

Germany has isolated itself worldwide by its harshly repressive position against homeschool families. UN Special Representative Vernor Munoz, while writing in his report “Mission on Germany” last year pointed out that “education cannot be reduced simply to attendance at a school.” “Distance learning and homeschooling represent…valid options, which can be further developed under specific circumstances, where we also cannot forget the rights of the parents to select the most suitable type of education for their children, as set forth in Article 13 of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”

Jan Fiegel, EU Commissioner of Education responded in a public hearing to a question on homeschooling by saying that: “The charter guarantees the right of the parents to select the preferred mode of education. Pluralism is the correct way…. The EU is a mosaic, but we must respect all differences; we need diversity in unity.”

Almost all nations of the world, excepting China and North Korea, have long since reached agreements to freely allow learning in the home, empowering families to avail themselves of alternative educational methods.

The Dudek Case is another backslide into an authoritarian state mindset, and into a politically motivated dictatorial judiciary system, which finds itself at odds with a modern, pluralistic world.

And even more: To incarcerate and imprison a mother of seven who is actively nursing a child bears witness not only to a loss of all proportion, but it is also an expression of ice cold inhumanity such as one finds only under totalitarian regimes.