Growing Movement Hit by Statist Backlash – except NZ

Michael Donnelly
HSLDA Director for Global Outreach

The Wunderlich family


The Wunderlich family is determined to stay in Germany and continue fighting for homeschool freedom. Their case exemplifies the way many foreign governments are attempting to restrict a growing movement.

HSLDA’s director for global outreach reflects on the tragic stories of families bearing the brunt of government hostility towards homeschooling. He argues that such repression cannot be tolerated in free societies and cannot solve what some authorities view as the “problem” of parents seeking educational freedom. Such hostility only reveals a dangerous totalitarian philosophy whereas new research shows that home education produces an important social benefit that critics argue is impossible—greater tolerance.

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As the homeschool movement continues to grow rapidly in the United States, and even more rapidly abroad, some families who choose this non-traditional path of education have sometimes faced overwhelming resistance from state power. In Europe particularly, but not exclusively, statist forces are exerting greater control over families—and not just in education.

For homeschooling families however, the effects of state interference can be intense. Some have been forced into exile; children have been taken. A few parents have even been jailed over conscientious objection to government control over the education of their children. In free societies such a forceful reaction to home education reveals a totalitarian desire to control society and disdain for basic freedoms.

However, brave families facing such consequences have shown that force will not prevent them from doing what they think is best for their children. Their example and experience is a lesson for all parents—whether or not they homeschool.

Families Under Fire

Read more about these families in this link…

In Germany, the Wunderlich family – click here

Finland…Jonas Himmelstrand – click here

In Northern Ireland…Monica O’Connor – click here

New South Wales, Australia – click here

In the United States – click here

Meanwhile in New Zealand (not included in the link above) we have had the Red Tape Cluster Buster Meetings with Support Groups and the Problem Solving Survey which all home educators have been invited to fill in (deadline closed at 9:00am today). It would seem that the MoE is interested in home education in New Zealand in a good way. They have been asking us what is working well between the MoE and home educators, what is not working and how can they change in the future.

Home Education Foundation’s Problem Scoping Survey

Barbara Smith’s Problem Scoping Survey

From the MoE: “After 3 October 2014, we will be collating all the feedback from the home schooling sector and organisations involved in home schooling.  We will summarise what is working well and anything that people would like to see changed. A copy of all the feedback and the summary of this collated feedback will be provided to the home schooling sector by the end of November 2014.  We will seek feedback from the sector on this document to ensure we have accurately captured what is working well and what people would like to see changed.  The feedback we receive from the home schooling sector will inform us of the next steps.  Any proposed next steps will be provided to the home schooling sector for comment also by the end of November 2014.”

We look forward to seeing feedback and the summary of the collated feedback and the next steps at the end of November 2014. We are anticipating having an even better environment for home educating in New Zealand as opposed to the Countries mentioned above.

Does Democracy Demand Standardization?

Although the vast majority of research continues to show that homeschooling is an effective means of educating children and yields positive academic, social and civic results, some of the most vocal critics of home education still assert that children can only be socialized in government-controlled education systems. These critics, which includes the German Supreme Court, argue that more control over home and private education is necessary to force the general population into exposure with others, ostensibly so that children can be taught to get along with those who may look, talk, act or think differently. Somehow, apparently, if we can make everyone get together we can make everyone get along.

Some suggest that pluralism and democracy require total state control over education in order to ensure democracy’s survival. Such a view embraces the idea that children are the mere creature of the state, an idea the United States Supreme Court rejected nearly a century ago. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion on the matter, parental rights remain threatened by overreaching bureaucracies motivated by the desire for more control.

But, looking at it from another angle, what if minorities do not want to “integrate” (the Amish, for example)? And what exactly is meant by “integration?” Is it the state’s role to force people to relinquish distinctive attributes like language, culture, religion, or philosophy that are important to them? That is not to say that a democracy should have to sacrifice equal protection of the laws (such as in requiring the equal treatment of women) or that a common language be used (like English) or even a common culture (whatever that may look like). As our American experience with pluralism unfolds, it is not without great controversy in some areas.

Nevertheless, in a free and democratic society the state oversteps its legitimate boundaries when it commandeers the education system as a means of “integrating minorities” into the “mainstream” and only allows for the teaching of state-approved standards, values or curriculum, e.g. the Common Core.

Private education is an important check on the development of totalitarian tendencies, and democracies should foster private education, not repress it. In the United States an innovative form of private education is home education, which has grown dramatically from virtually zero children in the 1970s to over 2 million in 2014.

As it has grown, proponents of public education bemoan the growing population of children who are not “integrated.” They argue that such a trend is a foreboding portent of the demise of our pluralistic democracy. But if there is any evidence to support the claim, they don’t point to any.

Homeschooling Promotes Tolerance

On the contrary, thanks to the work of educational doctoral student (and public school graduate) Albert Cheng, there is now important evidence that counters these claims. In fact, Cheng’s study, “Does Homeschooling or Private Schooling Promote Political Intolerance? Evidence from a Christian University,” suggests that home education is actually a force that yields more, not less tolerance.

It appears that the impact of parental involvement in education also plays a role in contributing to a healthy view of pluralism that our Founders envisioned.

Cheng evaluated hundreds of students at an evangelical Christian university and grouped students by their exposure to home education. Using an accepted definition of political tolerance, which is the willingness to extend civil liberties to those with whom you disagree, Cheng found that the more exposure a student had to homeschooling, the more politically tolerant he was likely to be. The study was small, but significant, and is the first scientific research showing that not only are the critics wrong, but that the reverse may be true.

Cheng’s research points to a potential connection between a child’s educational environment and his or her likelihood to exhibit tolerance for difference. Educational research has long shown the important role parents play in their children’s education. It appears that the impact of parental involvement in education also plays a role in contributing to a healthy view of pluralism that our Founders envisioned. Read a review by Dr. Brian Ray, a leading home education researcher.

Cheng’s small study will undoubtedly be subject to more scrutiny, but these early results show what many intuitively know: the family is a safe and nurturing place where children can learn and grow with confidence. When children learn and grow with confidence they are more likely to be sure of themselves and comfortable in tolerating difference. At the end of the day, no society founded on pluralism and self-government should tolerate hostility to private education or home education. Especially when common sense, now proven, even if in a small study, reveals homeschooling delivers a foundational element required for peaceful self-governance—true political tolerance.

Pluralism worth protecting appreciates that different people have different views but can still live together and self-govern peacefully. A system that represses educational freedom and denies that parents, not the government, know and act on a child’s best interest is a far graver threat to republican form of self-government. Policies in countries like Germany, Sweden and others that do not tolerate home education reveal a statist mindset that undermines their status as truly free societies; such policies should be changed. And those who criticize home education as creating intolerant, narrow-minded graduates should look at the evidence and re-evaluate their own narrow, and often overly politically motivated perspectives.

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Protect Your Family

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To read the whole article click here…


From the Smiths:

Updated 1 October 2014:  Three years on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here


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