I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

28 September 2013

German Homeschooling Cases - What do Germans think? What sort of political lobbying is going on?

Hydrangeas - Photo by A. Stahl

One of the things I get asked quite frequently is "What do those living in Germany think about parents who want to teach their children at home?" and "Is there as much hype in Germany about these cases like what we're hearing in the US?" which is quickly followed by, "Is it just not in your news?"

I'd like to try to share some of what I have seen and heard in response to those questions.

Germany has a completely different traditioncompulsory education - which was introduced in Prussia almost 300 years ago, and applies to all children from the age of six forwards. Parents who disagree with the curriculum, may establish a private school if need be, as the state requirements for this are quite strict. Those who choose to teach their children at home do so illegally.
Spiegel:  Homeschooling: Bibel-Lehre statt Sexualkunde 
[Homeschooling: Teaching the Bible instead of sex education]
 The German laws mandating public-school attendance date back to Germany's first experiment with democracy in 1919, according to Hans Bruegelmann, an education professor at the University of Siegen.
...previously private education was only available to the elite, and that the public-school mandate was a clear political choice.
" is an embryonic democracy and will help to integrate children and young people coming from different backgrounds into the democratic culture," ...
US judge grants German homeschooling family asylum
 "At home, children only experience one segment of society, where they live, learn and grow up. They don't get to see the broad spectrum, which our young citizens need to be exposed to," said Bunselmeister-Lohr.
 More Families in Rural Areas Opting for Illegal Home Schooling
 I do not think that Germany should allow homeschooling. We already have a huge problem here with immigrants ...especially women and children -- being kept at home by their male relatives due to religion and cultures that they have brought with them and therefore those women and children cannot speak basic German and know virtually nothing of their rights or obligations in Germany.
Anti-Americanism, Homeschooling and Happy Housewives
 We are a family from Germany now living in New Zealand because we had to leave our country because of homeschooling...
In Germany we felt ...persecuted the German government is not interested in Christian education anymore. We did homeschooling in Germany in a bilingual way so the children had no difficulties to move into an English speaking country. They passed the tests at a homeschool cooperated school very well, as well as all other native speakers. in New Zealand ...children are far more accepted in the society than in Germany. -- Laurien Family, NZ
Readers' Mixed Feelings About Germany's Homeschooling Ban
 Parents have to take care that their children attend classes. If the parents fail to push their children to participate in the lessons, they are actively violating compulsory education laws...
Sohn schwänzte Schule: Mutter muss sechs Monate ins Gefängnis
skipped school: mother has six months in jail]

Home-schooling fuels a heated debate in Germany. Families in favour of home-schooling say they are persecuted without cause. Critics point to the extreme religious views of some home-schoolers and question the safety of allowing children be educated without state oversight.
'We have the power to take your kids away'
 "What I could imagine is for homeschooling to be allowed within narrow parameters, with students being frequently tested by authorities," said Heinz-Peter Meidinger, head of the Deutsche Philologenverband, an association of German high school teachers. "What I would not welcome is when such students are the rule and not the exception."
German Parents Wanting to Homeschool Turn to EU Court
Patrick Meinhardt, education speaker for the FDP notes, “I don’t want to start writing up a lot of new rules for homeschooling. I imagine that as long as some state control over the curriculum and teacher training remains, home schooling should not be restricted any more.”
In short, the FDP advocates using the laws on the books for private schools, in order to finally open the door to home-schooling in Germany. The other German parties, however, generally oppose homeschooling more out of...fear that the teachers and their materials will be substandard...
 Patrick Meinhardt also said: "Parents have a fundamental interest to be able to decide on what sort of education their children have."
Erstmals Globale Konferenz zur Bildungsfreiheit - Homeschooling bald erlaubt?
First Global Conference on Freedom of Education -  Will Homeschooling be allowed soon?]

At the meeting talk education experts and practitioners of homeschooling from many countries, including the USA, Russia and Finland. Even the FDP Bundestag member Patrick Meinhardt , educational policy spokesman of the FDP will hold a keynote speech.
Berliner Konferenz zur Bildungsfreiheit
[Berlin Conference on the Freedom of Education]

Perhaps the most significant formal accomplishment of the summit was the signing of the Berlin Declaration by home education leaders and human rights advocates from all over the planet.
The document outlines various human rights conventions and treaties protecting the fundamental right to choose home education while calling on rogue governments to end persecution and repression.
WND EXCLUSIVE Parents shed tears over homeschool-crackdown horrors

As far as political lobbying goes; it looks like there was some hope when the Piraten Partei (Pirate Party) was founded, that they would help legalize home education. This was voted down by 76% vote in the party. (source 1, source 2)

So, put together a note for German home educators to say who was the best choice to vote for just prior to the elections. The basics were that none of the available ruling parties with majority in Parliament could be worked with for various reasons, and we're referred to vote for the PBC. [Which, actually, I'd never heard of. I feel slightly embarrassed by this fact.] They flat out said the CDU/CSU were not workable. For what it is worth, I didn't even see the PBC being given a listing when votes were counted. Maybe they were listed under the all-encompassing "other". I'm not certain.
A German home-schooling page on Facebook went another direction, suggesting the Alternative für Deutschland party.

This is a screen capture from a German pro-homeschooling group, pushing for its supporters to vote for the AfD - Alternative für Deutschland - in this year's election.
"Tomorrow is election day in Germany. The Alternative für Deutschland is the only party we can trust to give us any hope of a legal decision on homeschooling in Germany. In terms of training and education, we can expect them not to mindlessly parrot the sick collectivist consensus [on the legality of home education].

 Now, I had been following some of the news on the AfD and had noted that they are quite similar to The Tea Party in the US, with the exception of being an actual political party, rather than a movement. Apparently, I was not the only one who noticed this, as it was being discussed in almost every German newspaper that I perused. There were some other things that stood out to me, that caused the recommendation above, to cause me to have quite raised eyebrows and wide eyes. My hope was that they would not make the 5% threshold to get into Parliament, not because of their policy towards home-schooling, but due to their other political aims and leanings. [For those who absolutely must know, I cannot vote in any of these elections. I can only express much interest and research as much as I like about these things.]

Its openly anti-euro message has prompted a debate in the governing Christian Democrat (CDU) party, for example - is silence the best policy or should the party's pro-Deutschmark message be addressed head-on?
...The AfD usually gets 2-3% support in the opinion polls. If it can raise that to 5%, under the electoral laws of Germany it gets seats in the Bundestag (lower house), and in a coalition system, small parties then have power. 
Germany's new anti-euro AfD party causes political stir
Who reduces the AFD on their right-wing populism ignores the real ideological threat posed by that party...

The paleolibertarian calls for the submission of all areas of life to the market ideology. Social authorities such as the family and the church are there to protect the individual from the state, which is the enemy of paleolibertarian. The EU opposition of the AFD fits seamlessly into the philosophical ideas of fundamentalists. Anyone who wants to reduce the state to a minimum, of course, also rejects any form of a strong central government.
 Die Gefahr der neuen Partei ist nicht der Rechtspopulismus - Die deutsche Tea Party
[The danger of the new party is not the right-wing populism - The German Tea Party]
 Behind the scenes, a power struggle is raging between a liberal wing, to which many former members are from the FDP, and a conservative part, where the boundaries are quite fluently leaning towards right-wing populism. Questions over of whether gay marriage is right, whether the nuclear power making a comeback or whether individuals should have a right to "homeschooling."..
Alternative für Deutschland - Wie die Wähler die AfD zur Protestpartei machen[The Alternative for Germany - How the voters make the AFD into protest party]

For those who do not know, there is a Fünf-Prozent-Hürde, or a Five Percent Hurdle that each political party must reach to enter into the German Parliament.  The AfD will have participated for the first time in federal elections this September. Emotions were high and everyone wondered how much wind would be in their sails. In the end, they won 4.7% of the vote. This doesn't mean much in the way of Parliament, but it can mean something for some local elections.

I don't really understand all of this, since my husband is extremely pacifist and isn't big on history, politics or political parties. I haven't seen enough of our friends or extended family to discuss politics in ages, and the last political book I have about German political parties (in English, mind you) was published in 2003. We have a few new parties since then and some of that information is quite outdated.

What I do know, though, from my experience in the United States, is that you always follow where people are saying to vote and examine that as far as you can to better understand where they fall politically and what sorts of other beliefs they hold.

All of this really leaves me scratching my head. The more I find out about the people willing to suffer heavy fines or jail and what political parties they're pushing - the more I feel like I've fallen down Alice's rabbit hole.


  1. Deutsche-Landeskunde04 October, 2013 23:34

    Yes Germans are hard to understand - as are US-Americans (to all people non-American). So let me offer you my two pennies worth on homeschooling and public opinion from the perspective of a Cultural Studies professor teaching at a university here. In Germany, the homeschooling issue is looked at like the debate on legalising drugs, like, say: heroin. It crops up from time to time, but most people reject it.

    Why? The reasons are the same in both debates: While there will be some who make use of "it" (read both "homeschooling" and "heroin") in a responsible way and use it with moderation, thus making the most of "its" inherent benefits, the overwhelming majority who feel attracted by "it" will abuse "it". Why? Because abuse is systemic in both cases: heroin is addictive and so is ABSOLUTE power over your children. No, not all parents will isolate their children from the rest of the world, in order to deny them any other thoughts than their parents'. BUT: the temptation is overwhelming to try and generate clones. No, not all parents will beat their children into submission, BUT the strain of raising your children AND teach them all school subjects is overwhelming. Add to that: If a family likes to hide abuse, a homeschooling situation is ideal.

    Then, of course, Germans have seen that so far ALL cases of homeschooling in their country fit the label of "religious nutters". In Germany, teaching evolution is not an issue of difference of opinion: "oh what a nice alternative to creationism, but you should teach both or just creationism". Denying scientific findings, for instance, is seen as close to child abuse. And no: This is not ideology.

    Moreover, the case of the Twelve Tribes has of course been a highlight here in what Germans always feared about homeschoolers: Their children were isolated, beaten and otherwise abused, and taught highly dubious contents of racist and antisemitist nature (and you really think the German state should once again tolerate that??? Denying Auschwitz here is a criminal offense and is not covered by freedom of speech, for instance).

  2. Deutsche-Landeskunde04 October, 2013 23:35

    So back to our analogy: Legalising homeschooling in Germany would have similar consequences as legalising heroin: Both would jeopardise Germany's hard won democracy and pluralism, as it would in fact allow 24/7 non-democratic indoctriation of minors and, come to think of it, even slavery (who is to keep checks on all the homeschooling parents who hold their children hostage?); it would mean succumbing to a financially powerful and legally savvy cartel from abroad that moves in and undermines consensus about even the low common denominator that the German constitution is, radicalising well-meaning middle-of-the-road parents (the cartel I am referring to is the HSLDA); it would mean mopping up the disastrous consequences of the victims of abuse ("consumer math" instead of Calculus scholars on the dole, financed by the taxpayer, without a chance to a decent job; psychological wrecks that will need therapy for the rest of their lives; children of fundamentalist families grown into brainwashed extremists that think they are soldiers of "culture wars" (whose mission it is to topple this democracy and establish some sort of dictatorship). Germany says that there must be a limit to what parents may subject their offspring to. Of course the law allows parents to tell them that Darwin was an idiot, that women should be subservient to men, that gays are sick people - AFTER school where they have been exposed to all sorts of other teachings by teachers who hold different political opinions, have different religious affiliations, different personalities and quirks and what not: The focus is on exposure to DIFFERENCE. As Germany is a pluralist society, the German government is interested in having citizens who can live with difference.

    Germans are looking to the USA who during the latest Bush administration tried to have Germany blacklisted for religious persecution for denying Scientology the status of church. What Germans are seeing is this: The USA obviously is a democracy that is no longer able to function, as the regular shutdowns in the past years and now have shown. The USA's political institutions have an inbuilt demand to forge consensus and seek compromise. Whether Obama or the radical Tea Party faction are made responsible for the deadlock: the result is the same. The USA's "culture wars" are destroying a country that once was No1. Germans – to whom Obama and the Democratic Party are culturally closer than the Republicans – believe that the homeschooling movement has a lot to do with the deterioration of the nation for the reasons mentioned above: permissiveness of home-grown extremism that in turn is absolute in its intolerance, indifference to human rights issues at home (e.g. children's rights)….

    Why, they keep asking themselves, should they legalise what has proven to be a deadly weapon in America's culture wars? In order to import those culture wars?

    1. I agree. That's about how I've come to see a lot of this talking with family and friends in Germany and reading the news and doing the research.

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