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March 19, 2012

Global Pressure on Parental Rights Mounting

Mike Donnelly is HSLDA’s director of international affairs. He and his wife homeschool their children. Read more >>

Swedish Ambassador to the United States Jonas Hafström defended Sweden’s continuing repression of homeschooling to U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in a letter obtained by HSLDA.

“The government,” states the ambassador, “does not find that home schooling is necessary for any religious or philosophical reason.”

Senator Blunt wrote Ambassador Hafström inquiring about the Himmelstrand family, who currently face fines in excess of $26,000 in U.S. currency over homeschooling. The family has since fled the country for neighboring Finland where homeschooling is protected and accepted.

The letter from Ambassador Hafström cites the Swedish school law’s requirement that instruction be “comprehensive and objective” to explain why alternatives to the public school are needless in the Scandinavian country.

Michael Donnelly, director of international relations at HSLDA, says that this letter represents a totalitarian philosophy that the state knows best.

“The idea that only public schools can adequately provide students with a ‘comprehensive and objective’ view on all subjects and issues is a twisted view of reality,” stated Donnelly. “Experience shows that government schools seek to impart their own state-approved worldview to children. It is pure totalitarianism to deny parents the freedom to homeschool their children simply because the government believes it can do ‘better’.”

Pressure against parental rights to direct a child’s education is mounting outside Europe as well. Canadian parents now face an imminent threat that would severely restrict their ability to instill their values and beliefs in their children. In the province of Alberta, officials are poised to pass a new education act that would impose “diversity training” on families—even those who teach their children in their own homes. Canadian homeschoolers have rejected a proposed amendment as a slap in the face and are planning to rally at their parliament to protest the invasion of their homes by the government.

HSLDA Chairman Mike Farris says that a parent’s right to determine the values and content of a child’s private education are superior to the state.

“Parents have a prior right to determine the form and content of their children’s education,” said Farris. “Yet instead of acknowledging this right, the new education act in Alberta assumes that the government should dictate what each and every child should learn—including formative issues such as religion, human sexuality and sexual orientation. In the situations in Canada and Sweden, we see a one-size-fits-all approach to education that seeks to restrict, if not deny, a parent’s ability to teach what they believe.”

Pressure against parental rights has been growing steadily over the past several years, particularly in the application of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In many countries, the UNCRC has been used by governments to diminish parental rights, specifically in the realm of educational freedom.

Ambassador Hafström says that the Swedish government’s position relies heavily on the treaty to justify its hardline crackdown on homeschoolers.

“Sweden believes in defending the rights of the child, and as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Sweden offers strong legal protection to the rights of children,” said Hafström. “All children in Sweden have the right to education on the same terms and high quality instruction, and we find that compulsory schooling is a way to guarantee that this right is fulfilled for all children. Under Swedish law, school instruction must be comprehensive and objective. The government does not find that homeschooling is necessary for religious or philosophical reasons.”

Swedish officials have assessed crushing fines and indiscriminately referred families to the courts as well as holding a boy in state custody for more than two years over homeschooling. Some parents have had their parental custody threatened, and a number of families have fled their homeland under pressure.

HSLDA continues to work for greater freedom for homeschoolers here and abroad. Join our fight for freedom by becoming a member or donating to our overseas work via the Home School Foundation’s International Homeschooling Fund or our work here in the U.S. at the Homeschool Freedom Fund.