Dirk and Petra Wunderlich’s children were returned to them after a court hearing today, three weeks to the day after their four children were seized during a police raid. The Wunderlich children were returned after the parents promised they would send their children back to a state school....click here for more
At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 29, 2013, in what has been called a “brutal and vicious act,” a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany,
forcibly removing all four of the family’s children (ages 7-14). The sole grounds for removal were that the parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.
The children were taken to unknown locations. Officials ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing their children “anytime soon.”
HSLDA obtained and translated the court documents that authorized this use of force to seize the children. The only legal grounds for removal were the family’s continuation of homeschooling their children. The papers contain no other allegations of abuse or neglect. Moreover, Germany has not even alleged educational neglect for failing to provide an adequate education. The law ignores the educational progress of the child; attendance—and not learning—is the object of the German law.
Judge Koenig, a Darmstadt family court judge, signed the order on August 28 authorizing the immediate seizure of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich’s children. Citing the parents’ failure to cooperate “with the authorities to send the children to school,” the judge also authorized the use of force “against the children” if necessary, reasoning that such force might be required because the children had “adopted the parents’ opinions” regarding homeschooling and that “no cooperation could be expected” from either the parents or the children.
In October 2012, state youth officials had been granted formal legal custody of the Wunderlich children by a German court based solely on the fact that the family was homeschooling. German lawyer Andreas Vogt sought appellate relief on behalf of the Wunderlichs and was able to forestall immediate removal of the children. But, yesterday, as the family quietly began their homeschool day, a ringing at the door signaled the interruption that turned their lives upside down.
Dirk Wunderlich described the frightening turn of events.
“I looked through a window and saw many people, police, and special agents, all armed. They told me they wanted come in to speak with me. I tried to ask questions, but within seconds, three police officers brought a battering ram and were about to break the door in, so I opened it,” he told HSLDA.
“The police shoved me into a chair and wouldn’t let me even make a phone call at first,” he said. “It was chaotic as they told me they had an order to take the children. At my slightest movement the agents would grab me, as if I were
terrorist. You would never expect anything like this to happen in our calm, peaceful village. It was like a scene out of a science fiction movie. Our neighbors and children have been traumatized by this invasion.”
Looking for a Home
Over the past four years, HSLDA has reported on the Wunderlichs’ saga as they have moved from country to country in the European Union looking for a place to call home where they could freely homeschool their children. Although they found refuge from homeschool persecution, Mr. Wunderlich was unable to find work, and last year the family had to return to Germany.
The family resettled near Darmstadt, just 25 miles south of Frankfurt, with some trepidation. It is mandatory that all residents of Germany register with their local municipal authorities. Within days of the family registering their presence in the town, authorities initiated a criminal truancy case, and just months later the “Youth Welfare Office” was granted legal custody of the children. However, the court left the children in the residence with the parents since they were being well treated and otherwise cared for by their parents
Authorities even took the children’s passports, making it impossible for the family to escape—a violation of a number of human rights guaranteed to them by the European Convention of Human Rights, said HSLDA Chairman and Founder
“The right to homeschool is a human right,” said Farris. “So is the right to freely move and to leave a country. Germany has grossly violated these rights of this family. This latest act of seizing these four beautiful, innocent children is an outrageous act of a rogue nation.”
“This latest act of seizing these four beautiful, innocent children is an outrageous act of a rogue nation.”
HSLDA Founder, international law expert
The right of parents to decide how children are educated is a human right of the highest order, said Farris.
“The United States Constitution is not alone in upholding the right of parents to decide how to educate their children. Germany is a party to numerous human rights treaties that recognize the right of parents to provide an education distinct from the public schools that so that children may be educated according to the parents’ religious convictions. Germany has simply not met its obligations under these treaties or as a liberal democracy,” Farris said. “HSLDA and I will do whatever we can to help this family regain custody of their children and ensure that they are safe from this persecution. This case demonstrates conclusively why the Romeike asylum case is so important.
Families in Germany need a safe place where they can educate their children in peace.”
Following the raid, Dirk Wunderlich told HSLDA Director for International Affairs Mike Donnelly that he and his wife were devastated.
“These are broken people,” Donnelly said. “They said they felt like they were being ground into dust. They were shaken to their core and shocked by the event. But they also told me that they had followed their conscience and the dictates of their faith. Although they don’t have much faith in the German state—they have a lot of faith in God. They are an inspiring and courageous family.”
“I’ve been fighting for German homeschool freedom for years,” he continued, “and I had hoped that things were changing in Germany since it has been some time since brutality of this magnitude has occurred. But I was wrong.”
“Mike Farris and I spent time with the Wunderlichs at the first global homeschool conference in Berlin in November 2012,” Donnelly went on to say. “They are a delightful family with precious children. They are really just regular people who are doing what millions of people here in the United States do every day.”
“My question to the political leadership of Germany is: How long will you permit these kinds of brutal acts to be perpetrated against German families?” said Donnelly. “Why is it so important to you to force people into your state schools? The echo of this act rings from a darker time in German history. When will leaders stand up and make changes so that brutality to children like the Wunderlichs no longer happens because of homeschooling? Isn’t there any German statesman willing to stand up for what is right anywhere in Germany?”
Wunderlich said that his 14-year-old daughter Machsejah had to be forcibly taken out of the home.
“When I went outside, our neighbor was crying as she watched. I turned around to see my daughter being escorted as if she were a criminal by two big policemen. They weren’t being nice at all. When my wife tried to give my daughter a kiss and a hug goodbye, one of the special agents roughly elbowed her out of the way and said—‘It’s too late for that.’ What kind of government acts like this?”
After the children were taken away, the family was “invited” to a meeting with the senior social authority in charge at the scene, Mr. Behnis. The Wunderlichs agreed to the meeting and were joined by their attorney, Andreas Vogt, who came as soon as he was notified, traveling hours by train.
When the parents asked when they could seek a hearing to contest the seizure of their children, they were told they would have to wait until the regular judge returned from vacation. Vogt told HSLDA that the authorities had displayed little sympathy. Vogt has become a key lawyer in the German homeschool movement, representing many active cases. He has taken some to the German Supreme Court with no success to date.
Petra Wunderlich said her heart was shattered.
“We are empty. We need help. We are fighting, but we need help,” she said.
What to Do?
Contact the German Embassy in Dublin - Online Contact Form
Some pointers for your email:
I would like to share some good news with TEACH families, and some encouragement to other homeschool Mums.
Our daughter Aimee-Louise has recently graduated from the School of Biological Studies at Queen's University Belfast, with a first class honors degree in Agricultural Technology. She was accepted to Queens with no other qualification but the NCSC Level 3 Certificate. She was the only one in her year to obtain first class honors, and also received 3 out of the 4 special awards for students in her chosen field of study: the award for the top student in Enterprise Technology and Enterprise Management, the award for the top student in Livestock Production, and the award for the student with the highest marks over all. She has been accepted to study for a PhD with an agricultural and food research institute in September.
When we first started homeschooling we had no ambition for our children to enter university. Our prime purpose was for them to have a godly education and to learn to hear from the Lord themselves, and to follow the Lord's plan for
their lives. As in most families, the day to day task of homeschooling was left to me. At the beginning I felt totally overwhelmed by the responsibility.
I was not very well educated myself and we had enormous opposition from some family members who felt we were ruining our children's lives, but we had the conviction that this was what the Lord was leading us to do and so went ahead.
There have been some tough times, times when we may have given up had we not had that firm conviction that this was God's will for us as a family. We have battled criticism (mainly from church members, relations and other Christians,
people who you would usually go to for support). I have often felt isolated, as running a home and educating your children leaves little time for anything else and being a homeschooler seems to automatically give you the title
of "Odd Ball". And there has been the frustration of trying to help your children along when you're not really sure of some of the subjects they are learning.
But God is so faithful. We have seen His provision time and time again, not only financially, but also academically, by bringing along someone with just the right skill we've needed at that time. We have been so blessed by the ACE
curriculum, and I feel I have been educated myself just by supervising the children's work.
May I encourage all homeschool Mums to keep the vision and passion for godly education alive in their own hearts. It is easy to feel discouraged and unappreciated, because being a mother, especially a homeschooling mother is a hidden ministry. But the Lord sees, and He blesses in spite of all our mistakes and short comings.
ACE Mums have the chance to give their children one of the best academic and godly educations available, helping their children to realise their full potential. As the regional coordinators for Northern Ireland we have seen the
difference Christian education is making in the lives of many families.
However, those who do the best both in regards to character development and academic performance are those who use the system correctly. Careful adherence to procedures brings self disciplined learning and academic confidence. Don't cheat your children by taking short cuts, stick with the program. Not all children are high academic achievers, but they still have the opportunity to reach their highest level of attainment, and develop a godly character by the self discipline, self motivation and sense of achievement that the ACE procedures provide.
We are very proud of our daughter. She has been so blessed by ACE herself, and knows from first hand experience what an excellent preparation it is for university. As a science graduate, she has the academic confidence to argue the case for Creation and to point out the errors in evolutionary theory that are in so many text books. On her last day at uni, her course supervisor said that Queens have great hopes for her, and so do we. We hope that in the years to come, as a research scientist, she will be able to promote Christian education, and refute the claims of ardent evolutionists who
are prepared to accept poor scientific research when it promotes their agenda, rather than diligent careful study of the evidence for Creation, and the claims of the Lord upon their lives.
The first Global Home Education Conference was held in Berlin, Germany, from November 1st – 4th 2012.
This was a historic gathering of about 200 leaders and policy makers in the Home Education movement from every continent on the globe.
One of the major highlights of the conference was the presentation of the Berlin Declaration which calls on all countries to protect and respect the right of Home Education. Read it here.
The location of the conference in Berlin was significant in itself, as Germany has a strong track record and policy of
persecuting Home Educators. Michael Donnelly, secretary of the conference organising board and director of
International Relations for the Home School Legal Defence Association (HSLDA), explained why Berlin was an important place to hold the conference.
“Berlin is a city that invokes freedom,” he said. “The fall of the Iron Curtain and the unification of East and West Germany symbolize victory of liberty over tyranny. It was a fitting backdrop to our conference. We found that homeschoolers just as diverse in their reasons and approaches to home education could also find unity in the idea of liberty. We support the idea that a parent’s right to decide how their children should be educated is a fundamental human right that must be respected by all nations.”
Germany is one of the most oppressive countries in the West against Home Education.
Despite its image as a modern, free and democratic society, it does not extend to its own citizens the most basic of human rights. That is, the right of the parent to choose how to educate their own children.
Patrick Meinhardt, a member of Germany’s main opposition party in the Bundestag and their spokesman on education, delivered a keynote speech at the conference in which he called for greater freedom in educational choice in Germany.
One of the other highlights was another keynote speech delivered by HSLDA Chairman and Founder, Michael Farris.
He really pulled no punches in highlighting the fact that the right to choose to Home Educate is a human right of the first order.
He said, “Denying parents the right to choose education in conformity with their religious and philosophical convictions, including home education, is an act of a rogue state and bears the same level of shame in international law as the practice of indiscriminate killing, torture, and slavery. States that deny parents the right to control the education of their children are condemned by international human rights law for an invasion of the highest level of protection—the denial of a non-derogable right.”
Jonas Himmelstrand, forced to live in exile in Finland, is President of the Swedish Homeschool association, and was the Chairman of the GHEC organizing committee said:
"Home education is one of the most urgent human rights issues in the democratic world today. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights makes it all very clear in Article 26.3 [that] parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children, but not all countries respect this right equally,"
Other Keynote speakers were Dr. Gordon Neufeld of the Neufeld Institute who delivered a very impressive talk on child development and Andre Stern, a noted free schooler, who delivered an entertaining and interesting speech, which led to
much debate and Michael Donnelly who worked tirelessly during the whole weekend to ensure the smooth running of the conference gave an impassioned address to delegates.
It was great to meet up again with Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute who gave a great speech in his own unique and entertaining way, presenting the vital statistics from his years of research.
It was good to also meet and chat with Dagmar Neubronner and hear of her experiences at the hands of the German social authorities. She is a biologist, therapist, translator and publisher. She sued her city for legalisation of Home Education and consequently lost several court cases. After her bank account was seized and she was fined thousands of Euro, she had to flee the country and now lives in exile in France.
Dagmar describes herself as a secular un-schooler, and she was impressed by the diversity of people at the conference.
There were a number of other families I had the privilege to meet and get to know.
Amongst them were Dirk Wunderlich and family. Talking to Dirk you would not suspect that he had recently lost custody of his children after returning to Germany to look for work having been in exile in France. Just because he Home
Educates. He was full of the joy of the Lord and confident that God’s hand was upon them and was eager to tell me that he freely quotes in his writings, the freedom bestowed upon Irish Home Educators by our constitution.
You can read more on their story here.
Jurgen Dudek is another Godly Christian whose very demeanour and character betrays the struggles and trials he and his wife have endured at the hands of repressive German social officials. This brother & his wife have been hauled through the courts no less than 6 times over the past few years. In 2008 they were each sentenced to 90 days in prison for Homeschooling. That decision was appealed and subsequently overturned with a €900 fine imposed instead.
You can read more about the Dudecks story here.
Probably the most heart rending account that I have ever come across of Home Educators suffering persecution, involves the Johanssen family. They live in Sweden, which is much worse than Germany in its oppression against Home Educators.
In brief, in 2009 Christer & Annie Johanssen and their son Dominic were sitting on a plane ready for take off to India.
Suddenly the Swedish police boarded the plane and (what now appears to be illegal) abducted their only child Dominic from them, and he was placed in foster care. They effectively kidnapped him.
There has been numerous court cases over the years in an attempt to get Dominic reunited with his parents. The
social services have resisted and blocked at every opportunity. Initially, Dominic’s parents were able to see him for one hour every 5 weeks. They have not seen their son since November 2010. His mother Annie has suffered an emotional
breakdown and suffers from panic attacks when talking about him. Dominic’s appearance and demeanour have completely changed. Just looking at before and after pictures, it looks like two different children. The family has been
Having spent some time discussing the case with the Johanssen’s lawyer, the well known Human Rights attorney, Ruby Harrold-Claesson, President of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, it quickly becomes clear that something sinister is at work within the Swedish state.
Here is a State that likes to project itself as a beacon of social utopia to the rest of the world. That was always my impression.
Yet, just below the surface lurks a twisted and barbaric state which is reminiscent of the Soviet Union era in its totalitarian approach in dealing with its own citizens.
Ruby says that the State treats Children as commodities and will not back down and admit that it can ever get it wrong. The State believes that it knows what’s best for children, not the parents.
I believe that the recent Children’s referendum here in Ireland amending Article 42 of the constitution will ultimately grant powers to our State to conduct itself in a similar manner if it so wishes. Unfortunately, little by little right across Europe, States are taking to themselves more and more power. They are stripping away the Biblical, God-given authority vested in the Family and supplanting themselves in its place.
People need to wake up. The social regression we are witnessing in the West is an insidious attempt to numb people’s minds and consciences. In doing so, people become sterile, compliant and accepting of what the State tells them. Right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right. What the Scriptures teach and what society only recently considered as sin, has now become an expression of ‘freedom’, a‘right’, a ‘choice’. However, the opposite is true. People are enslaving themselves to that which is not of God. There is a new morality based on what man thinks rather than what God says. God no longer figures. Freedom is lost. Liberty has been snuffed out.
It is virtually incomprehensible that in 21st Century Europe the type of regime that exists in Sweden can be allowed to exist. We need to pray for this family and their lawyer, Ruby, who is a gentle, sweet, compassionate person and demonstrates great courage and humanity in confronting the Swedish authorities in this case.
For more on this horrendous story please read here.
In addition to the Keynote speeches, there were at least 20 workshops throughout the conference covering a vast range of topics such as; Home Education and Children with special Needs, Home Educators in Exile, Public-Policy Makers
Forum, Should Home Education Be Considered a Human Right?, Giving Persecuted Home Educators a Helping Hand, Home Education: Success at University, Work and Life, and many more.
Finally, but by no means least, our own Emer Farrell and Bridget McGreal from the National Education Welfare Board were present to keep an eye on me! Emer participated in one or two of the policy-makers workshops and her views on the situation here in Ireland were widely sought after due to the Constitutional freedom we enjoy.
It was good to spend time with Emer and Bridget, exchanging views and catching up on news.
Many delegates commented to me about how they looked at Ireland with envy and many would view us as the utopia of the home education environment. However, we must remain on guard at all times to protect our freedom. Do not be mistaken, there are forces at work that would like to increase their control over how we direct our children’s education.
This was a land-mark conference which was extensively reported on by the media. Its aim was to focus on the core human rights that parents have – the prior right to choose the form of education appropriate for their children, including home education, the fastest-growing form of education today, and without doubt the Organisers deserve full credit for its
. This is frightening stuff and have no doubt, it will soon follow in Ireland. This is socialism at work, programming the minds of children and simultaneously undermining God ordained parental authority.
One teacher says that children should be taught in school to resist what they are taught by their parents! - see for yourself.
If you ever waivered on your conviction to Home Educate your children, viewing this clip will make you want to praise The Lord for the decision you have made to exercise your God given mandate.
A law review article written by Miki Kawashima Matrician was published in the
May 2011 Boston College International and Comparative Law Review and
provides additional support for the Romeike family’s political asylum case. The
law review article, entitled “Germany Homeschoolers as ‘Particular Social
Group’: Evaluation Under Current U.S. Asylum Jurisprudence,” provides an
interesting and comprehensive analysis of this controversial and unsettled
aspect of U.S. asylum law. Many groups have attempted to seek asylum under the
status of a “particular social group,” including abused women, individual
families, taxi drivers, and gang recruits.
In January 2010, U.S. Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman granted the German
Romeike family political asylum in large part because of their membership in
the particular social group of “homeschoolers in Germany.” In a case that is
the first of its kind, Burman stated that “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.” The Romeike family fled Germany with their
children and were represented by HSLDA in their political asylum case.
The Romeikes’ case was immediately appealed by the Obama administration to
the federal Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), who have had the case since
July 2010 but have yet to make a final decision. In their appeal, the U.S.
Government Agency for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) called
homeschoolers too “amorphous” to be a “particular social group” and that “United
States law has recognized the broad power of the state to compel school
attendance and regulate curriculum and teacher certification” as well as the
“authority to prohibit or regulate homeschooling.”
Germany officially states that homeschooling is illegal, although more than
500 children are currently homeschooled in Germany. Virtually all operate
underground or face some type of court proceeding.
In her article, Matrician discusses in detail the definition and criteria of
“membership in a particular social group.” In light of the evidence, she argues,
the BIA should find that all German homeschoolers comprise a particular social
group, regardless of whether the Romeike family successfully established a
claim of well-founded fear of persecution. “Homeschoolers in Germany … are
perceived as a recognizable group by their alleged persecutor, as well as by
society at large—in Germany and abroad,” she concludes. “[The BIA] should
strive … to provide a safe haven for those in dire straits.”
HSLDA Director of International Relations Michael Donnelly notes the
“We have submitted the law review article as new evidence in the
Romeikes’ ground-breaking case. There is a strong argument in favor of
upholding Judge Burman’s decision to grant asylum to the Romeike family. We are
hopeful that this new evidence will further demonstrate to the BIA that
homeschoolers in Germany are members of a particular social group and that
Germany’s treatment of them is persecution and therefore that they qualify for
protection under U.S. asylum law.”
For the first time in its 50-year history, the World Congress on the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy included homeschooling on the agenda of its biannual global conference. Held in Frankfurt, Germany at Goethe University August 15–20, the congress attracted nearly 1,000 academics and legal practitioners. Experts in human rights gave papers at a special workshop, organized by Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, noted Christian apologist and distinguished professor of philosophy and Christian thought at Patrick Henry College. The workshop included presentations by Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, a German theologian and director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom, and by Michael Donnelly, attorney and director for international affairs at the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.
In his paper, “The Justification of Home Schooling vis-a-vis the European Human Rights System,” Montgomery said that homeschooling should be tolerated in every country.
“The right of parents a priori to the state to make decisions about how and where their children are educated is a natural right and one that is founded on the basis of holy Scripture. While some governments may choose to regulate or oversee parents who choose this form of education, all governments should tolerate if not encourage it. That is why I thought it should be covered at this conference. I’m glad the organizers agreed with me.” Missed Opportunity Montgomery argued that the European Court of Human Rights has missed important opportunities to correctly apply human rights law to the conflict over homeschooling, instead deferring to current societal prejudices and predilections in favor of secular and statist presumptions. He wrote:
“At the deepest level culturally, increasing secularism in modern society— particularly as manifested in Europe—poses special difficulties. The secular mindset can (as in the Konrad opinion) lead courts to an unconscious acceptance of politically correct notions of educational ‘integration.’ Sadly, this also means that where constitutions and international human rights instruments are silent on an issue, the law will not appeal, as in the past, to the ‘higher law’ as set out in the holy Scriptures—the inalienable dignity of the human person, his family, and his personal decision-making, as John Locke derived these rights principally from biblical revelation—but will tend to defer to state power and bureaucracy, infused by prevailing pluralistic viewpoints. Where this occurs, the tragic result will be, not an increase in human rights protections but just the opposite. In that respect, the home schooling issue may serve as a litmus test to discerning jurists.” Schirrmacher, also a professor of sociology, presented “Compulsory Education in Schools only? Divergent Developments in Germany.” He noted that homeschooling is virtually impossible in Germany because of an aggressive attempt by “legal and sociological machinery” to repress the practice while ignoring regular and rampant truancy among public school children. Schirrmacher argued that the country’s federal child protection law that allows the Jugendamt, Germany’s child protection service, to take custody of children is being misused when applied to homeschoolers. “Parents,” he argues, “who want something different, are not to be placed on the same level as parents who are violent and let their children get into a bad state and who should be punished.”
National Socialism Influence Continues Schirrmacher points out that compulsory education through school attendance has a long history in Germany, but that the criminalization of homeschooling is a recent issue originating with the rise of national socialism. He wrote:
“Princes wanted all subjects to be good citizens and youth to be raised to be good soldiers. For the first time, as far as I can see, the principle of compulsory education is expressed in the Weimar School Regulations of 1919. Even though educational instruction at home was nevertheless able to have a niche existence, it is still the case that compulsory education as it developed did not serve the august democratic goals of equality and equal opportunity. Rather, it was a central and controlling element with which the state educated the population in accordance with its principles. . . national socialism made use of the fact that in any case all children had to learn according to the manner the state prescribed, and thus it merely eliminated free alternatives in private and alternative schools as well as in home educational instruction.” Schirrmacher was highly critical of the Germany’s use of criminal law to prosecute homeschooling parents.
“Modern democratic Germany should not use criminal law against parents who homeschool. There is no doubt that the current enforcement approach of jail, high fines and taking children from parents over education began with the national socialists.” Seeking Asylum HSLDA has reported on numerous cases where the German government persecutes homeschooling parents. That is why HSLDA brought the first-ever homeschool asylum case in 2008 for the Romeike family from Germany. The Romeikes were granted asylum in January, 2010 by immigration Judge Lawrence Burman, but the Obama administration has appealed the Romeikes’ victory. As of August 2011, the family was still waiting for a determination of the appeal.
Donnelly, who is also an adjunct professor of government at Patrick Henry College, presented “Creature of the State? Homeschooling, the Law, Human Rights, and Parental Autonomy.” He argued that homeschooling is a human right of the first order and that pluralism as practiced in most Western societies demands its acceptance. He disagreed with those, like Emory Law Professor and noted child rights advocate Martha Albertson-Fineman, who argued that homeschooling is a problem in a democracy that should “require compulsory public education because only the government can assure the inculcation of values able to ensure the survival of a democratic society.”
“Nonsense,” says Donnelly. “Those who make this argument conflate ‘society’ with ‘state.’ State and society are not necessarily—in fact are not usually—synonymous. Indeed, a government’s interest in expanding its power may very well be at odds with the people’s interest in freedom.”
For over a century, compulsory public education has been a “standard” in most developed societies. But as homeschooling is on the rise internationally, much of the same drama American homeschoolers experienced for decades is repeating itself. Parents in some of these countries, including former communist nations hostile to any threat to state supremacy, are fighting hard to secure the freedom to teach their own children. HSLDA is helping by offering research and advocacy to public policy makers and encouragement to homeschoolers in other countries. In Germany, however, it looks like it will be a longer road than other countries. State and federal legislators in the republic told Donnelly that most German policy makers are unwilling to credit research gained from America’s 40 years of experience with homeschooling and remain fearful that an American approach to homeschooling will create parallel societies.
Donnelly recounted: “One state legislator was quite short when she asked the host of a meeting I attended, ‘Why is this American here? This is Germany—we’re not like America.’ During the discussion about homeschooling the legislator told a homeschooling mom present that ‘there was no way she could possibly have enough time to properly educate or properly socialize her eight children.’ ”
Religious Views Germany, like much of Europe, views religion differently than the United States. Unlike here, religion is taught in public schools. Germany’s growing Muslim minority, however, resulting from the influx of Turkish immigrants since the 1960s, invokes fear on the part of “ethnic Germans.” One federal legislator who supports homeschooling in concept agreed that this was a concern on the part of many public policy makers. This phenomenon helps explain the German Constitutional Court’s 2003 Konrad holding that the “interest of society in stamping out parallel societies” is justified so that “minority groups can be integrated,” taught “democratic values” and how to live tolerantly with others. Such prescriptions, however, clash with human rights acknowledged by Germany in writing.
Educational freedom is a foundational right explicitly recognized since 1925 by the United States Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters. The fundamental right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children has also been incorporated in other documents including the 1945 UN Declaration on Human Rights, the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Although sovereign nations need to address human rights and freedom issues within the context of their culture and law, organizations like HSLDA that seek to influence public policy both domestically and internationally are needed to speak for the good of all homeschoolers and similarly situated groups. Conferences like IVR 2011 are a place where ideas and information can be shared to ultimately seek to influence public policy.
“Homeschooling is a growing international movement. More parents are finding homeschooling as an alternative to failing public school systems,” said Donnelly. “Governments need to understand that homeschooling produces academically superior, socially well-adjusted and productive citizens.”
Conferences like IVR 2011 get the facts into the hands of academics who can then bring that information back to their countries and use it to inform policy makers so that decisions can be made—hopefully for the good of homeschooling parents. HSLDA has been advancing the cause of homeschooling since 1983 and hopes to help homeschoolers abroad by investing resources to fight these stereotypes in countries like Germany.
American homeschoolers are blessed with great freedom. It is important that we support the less fortunate who are restricted by government policy from teaching their children at home. Because technology allows ideas to travel at the speed of light, it serves the interest of all freedom-loving people to resist totalitarianism in education wherever and whenever necessary.
The papers presented by Donnelly, Montgomery and Schirrmacher will be published by a German publishing company and will be available in the coming months at the HSLDA bookstore.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
THE points system for selecting students for college could be replaced by the end of the decade under reform plans being initiated by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.
Although he acknowledged the fairness of the system operated through the Central Applications Office (CAO), he said it needs to be reviewed as it is designed around the dominant needs of full-time school-leaver entrants.
Almost one-in-three of the 45,000 college places filled through the CAO annually are students who did not sit the Leaving Certificate that year, with a significant rise in numbers applying as mature students or based on further education qualifications.
Mr Quinn said we need a system that caters for a more diverse cohort of students, with new levels and forms of demand for flexible learning and non-traditional routes of entry. He has asked college leaders and others in the higher education sector to give full and frank consideration to the issue in the coming months.
"The pathway into third level is not going to be dominated by Leaving Certificate students coming out of school, there will be mature learners and other students and their entry systems are not as transparent," he said.
The minister said there is a lack of clarity around application processes and requirements for progressing from one part of the further and higher education systems to another.
Although he has no pre-conceived suggestions of how an overhauled entry system might operate, he said it could involve greater use of modern technology.
Any changes would not be introduced for at least six or seven years, by which time students who go through a planned system of reformed assessments for the Junior Certificate reach the end of their second level education. The minister wants those changes to be progressed to the Leaving Certificate, ensuring students depend less on rote learning and are better equipped for the demands of the third-level system for undergraduates equipped to think and learn independently.
"The benefits of any senior cycle curriculum reform will be undermined if we do not address the demands and pressures that the current points system places on both teachers and students," he said.
Meanwhile, a group representing people with disabilities in higher education has asked Mr Quinn to review eligibility for thousands of free courses for unemployed people but which exclude those who are receiving disability allowance. AHEAD said many people with disabilities are out of work due to disability or the recession but want to work and avail of educational opportunities available to other unemployed people.
A Department of Education spokesperson said disability allowance recipients are not eligible for the Springboard courses because their circumstances may change and they may be able to return to work in their chosen profession without the need for re-skilling.
This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Read more: http://www.examiner.ie/ireland/college-points-system-could-be-replaced-by-2020-156329.html#ixzz1P6MFOZNL
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