|Photo by J. Stahl|
I'm probably not going to earn any brownie points today from any of my readers or family after this post... and I'm sure I know why.
I have been asked repeatedly for my opinions on the Romeike family from Germany that is seeking assistance through the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) for asylum in the USA.
Many people think that because I am a former home-schooler, and especially because I live in Germany (I'll come home before my children go to school and home-school them, right?) that I will be incensed and defend the family.
However, since the story broke, I have pointed out several inconsistencies, as well as the fact that the Romeike family could pursue legal actions for the laws to change in Germany, take it as high as the highest courts in the EU and even go to another European country that is not restrictive towards homeschoolers rather than lying about Germany on their asylum application.
Many might think I'm overreacting by saying that they lied about Germany... especially since my children's foray into education is still very fresh and in the non-mandatory stages of compulsory education. Actually, I've spent many hours looking into their case (not just today!) and into the German educational system when I entered into it, as well as when I found out that I was pregnant. I've asked extensive questions and I've been researching all home-school cases friends and families send me that are out of Germany.
Here is the news that the HSLDA is disseminating about the Romeike family right now:
There are four articles I found that sum up every bit of the story very well in a nice tight bow. You can find them here, here, here and here.
You can also find a video in German from a show here that covered the Romeike's after they went to the US. This video is shared via the HSLDA, but is originally from a talk show in Germany, which tries to show both sides of the issue.
It bothers me terribly that the main thrust of the case all dependent on issues that just throw a monkey wrench in everything. If you want to make a good point, do not invoke Godwin's law.
I know Wikipedia is not authoritative, but honestly, it's the best write-up I've seen in a very long time (in English) about the German educational system. (see here) I love all of you, but Hitler was not the one who made school compulsory in Germany. Each of the Länder (German states) decided on compulsory education and all had different laws. The goal was that all children, whether poor or rich, had an equal chance at education in a time when many children were removed from school to work at home, or in the fields.
Germany wasn't really unified until around World War I. Even as the Federal Republic of Germany, each state has it's own government, laws and practical application until around World War II. Compulsory Education was actually put into place by Napoleon and the Prussian Empire. Some of the best minds about children's early Education came out of this market in Germany, Austria and Swizerland. (Friedrich Fröbel, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Rudolf Steiner)
Yes, the Nazis used compulsory education to their own ends. I definitely do not dispute that. The least I expect is a bit of factual reporting. At this point, most of the information that has covered Germany and homeschooling has been full of holes.
School here is completely different. Government here is completely different. I'm actually finding it very laughable that they are claiming Christian persecution. Germany is in every sense of the word a Christian nation, even if most/many of the actual citizens are not Christians, and the bulk of the Christians are "nominal" at best. (I really hate using that word.) Many are unaffiliated and therefore not even counted due to various reasons of theological difference and not wishing to pay a flat church tax out of their income. (You pay tithes and offerings, we pay church tax [Kirchensteuer])
All public holidays here that are not explicitly listed as Federal holidays, are Christian holidays. (see here) Most of the political parties have a Christian basis and base. (see here) Many public schools and kindergartens still have religious symbols up. (Crosses, Crucifixes, Mother and Child)
As it stands, if one does not wish to use the public school closes to them, the following options are available:
- Waldorf School (206 schools in 2007)
- Montessori method school (272)
- Freie Alternativschule (Free Alternative Schools) (85)
- Protestant (63) or Catholic (114) parochial schools
I can semi understand the concern that the Romeike family may have in regards to sexual education... but at some point someone has to tell all children the facts of life, and about how babies are born, marital relations and that sort of thing. With the hours at school being as few as they are, parents have as much opportunity and much more obligation to disseminate this information than schools do. I wish I could say all parents feel the same, but they sadly do not.
Depending on one's school district, what is covered in sex ed will vary from school to school, state to state. Most of the kerfuffle I've heard from the US or even the UK in regards to sex education in our schools here, actually center around older initiatives or books that are available in the library, but hardly ever checked out. It makes me wonder what the actual point is of those articles and what is covered in the sexual education. . . if anything much.
I do not understand their apprehension and statements about witchcraft and paganism at school. Neither are at this point recognized religions that have religious coursework in either state, but that could possibly (maybe) change in the future. For now, you have Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Islamic studies offered. If you are non-religious, you can take a social ethics course instead.
I also do not understand their statements about indoctrination at school. The attitudes here as far as education goes is so far from indoctrination that I find it pitiable that such a statement has been made to American mass media, especially those with a religious bent. As far as the quality of education, their home state is home to some of the most prestigious universities in Germany. (I would love to know more, but I live in a neighboring state and am very happy with our educational opportunities.)
There has also been brought up that the family may face fines or prison time for home-schooling. This is only a half truth. If the Romeike family sends their children to school, and home-school after school hours or on the weekends; they will not be penalized. They also could move anywhere in the EU that home-schooling is still legal while still fighting for legalization here in Germany.
Another argument the Romeike family raises is that their human rights were breached. The current court decisions deny this, and I hope to discuss this further on my blog at some point in the future.
I wish their family no ill will, I only wish to present some facts unavailable to the American public in general.
My home-school experience wasn't the best, and I know that there are exceptional, awesome home-schoolers out there. I wish all of them the best, but I find cases like these certainly do not help ours, or for us to be better accepted or trusted by society at large. As someone pursuing higher education at the moment, I find it difficult not to speak up.
UPDATED on 22.9.2013 with some additional information