Sprechen Sie Homeschooling?

I had read this a day or two ago and not thought too much more about it until I read this piece from Volokh:

The Home School Legal Defense Association, which represented the Romeikes, excerpts the ruling (which, according to the Post, is not immediately available to the public):

We can’t expect every country to follow our constitution,” said Judge Burman. “The world might be a better place if it did. However, the rights being violated here are basic human rights that no country has a right to violate.”Burman added, “Homeschoolers are a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress. This family has a well-founded fear of persecution…therefore, they are eligible for asylum…and the court will grant asylum.”

In his ruling, Burman said that the scariest thing about this case was the motivation of the government. He noted it appeared that rather than being concerned about the welfare of the children, the government was trying to stamp out parallel societies—something the judge called “odd” and just plain “silly.” In his order the judge expressed concern that while Germany is a democratic country and is an ally, he noted that this particular policy of persecuting homeschoolers is “repellent to everything we believe as Americans.”

This seems quite odd to me, though I should say up front that I’m not an expert on asylum law. It’s not clear that homeschooling (as opposed to private schooling) is constitutionally protected in the U.S. There appears to be no such general constitutional right, though there might be such a right under the Free Exercise Clause, at least as to children 14 and above, if the parents feel a religious obligation not to send their children to any school, private or public.

I’ve had acquaintances who lived in Germany and dealt with some of this, but I was unaware that it could be considered sufficient grounds for asylum. It does seem, from what I’ve read of this particular case, that German government was rather intent on separating the family from itself for no other reason than of ensuring that the children were educated in accordance with German cultural norms, rather than those which the parents had determined should be used. I also understand that Germany’s laws are not nearly so protective of the average citizen as our own.

I found the following comment within the discussion for the Volokh article to be perhaps the most telling:

Homeschooling as a movement in the US is much more of a movement motivated by the complete failure of our public educational institutions from top to bottom, than it is about religion. Religion, social and political values that are felt to be endangered is part of it, but a far bigger part of it is just the general feeling that public schools have become both too dangerous and too inept to send your child off to waste their lives.

While there are a variety of reasons for homeschooling, this commenter hit the nail on the head. The single biggest issue which is driving homeschooling is the growing belief that public school just isn’t cutting it. Unless and until that issue is successfully addressed, one only expects the number of “non-traditionally schooled” individuals to grow.

It would appear, however, that Germans really don’t have the options we do. For that we should be both saddened and grateful.

3 thoughts on “Sprechen Sie Homeschooling?

  1. Maybe it is time for the government to get out of the education business all together. Allow every family with children a voucher to school their children where ever they like. Ask Churches that run day care to expand to elementary and encourage private schools. We would need central testing centers to insure that all students progress. Just think of the endless possibilities for students to chose the emphasis of their education and options for parents to be involved and do what is best fortheor own children. We would have a much better prepared work force with far fewer youth problems. One thing that we do know–statisically the bigger the school the lower the overall test scores–the only thing that gets better with bigger schools is the sports teams. So stop the consolidation efforts and work toward smaller more direct teaching schools–and homeschool is the ideal of that.

    1. Mom,

      A strong argument can be made that the federal government has no business whatsoever in education–with perhaps the exception of federal enclaves. This would leave it up to states and local governments.

      I’ve played around with some proposals for encouraging smaller schools–particularly in rural areas. Given today’s technology, there is no reason 20 kids in 7 grades could not get as good as or better educations than 400 kids in another school in those same grades. Further, it might well cost less per pupil. South Dakota is poised to permit its first charter school, perhaps the future will include many of these smaller schools.

      Homeschooling is not for everyone, for a variety of reasons, but it is generally true that approaching a 1 to 1 ratio of student to instructor does wonders for the students–if both are motivated.

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