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Romeikes As Canaries In Coal Mines

Michael Farris of the activist Homeschool Legal Defense Association writes about the case of the Romeike family [1], German homeschoolers who fled their country to the US after facing potential jail time and confiscation of their property for defying Germany’s strict ban on homeschooling. The Romeike case is now in the US courts, with the Obama Administration taking sides against the family; if the Justice Department prevails, the Romeikes will be sent back to Germany. Farris writes:

The prospect for German homeschooling freedom is not bright. But we should not reserve all of our concern for the views of the German government. Our own government is attempting to send German homeschoolers back to that land to face criminal prosecutions with fines, jail sentences, and removal of custody of children.

We should understand that in these arguments by the U.S. government, something important is being said about our own liberties as American homeschoolers.

The Attorney General of the United States thinks that a law that bans homeschooling entirely violates no fundamental liberties.

You might say, “Well, Farris is an activist, and so he’s naturally overstating things.” I wouldn’t be too sure. Here’s Joseph Knippenberg, writing about the Romeike case at First Things. He begins by taking issue with one aspect of the Justice Department’s stated case for opposing the Romeikes’ asylum petition:

This is a common argument on behalf of public education that assumes (wrongly, I think) that a certain kind of pluralism will be fostered by having everyone learn the same thing at the same time in the same place. This is not an education in tolerating differences, but rather one in homogeneity. I suppose that I shouldn’t expect Justice Department attorneys to be cognizant of the rich theoretical literature here, but it displays (how shall we say?) a tin ear regarding the concerns of religious minorities in a pluralistic society. (I expect nothing else from the Obama Administration.)

Let me state the matter another way: The German government’s position is defensible, so long as one is willing to sacrifice the rights of conscience and the rights of parents on the altar of social solidarity and false toleration.

Knippenberg continues:

Perhaps they simply don’t want to open the gates to a flood of German families seeking to escape the oppressive Geman Bildungsstaat, and they’ll avail themselves of any argument that will keep those pesky homeschoolers out. I’d be more imprssed by their narrow legalism if they took the time to denounce Germany’s highhandedness toward homeschooling parents (which for a time merited a rather neutral reference in State Department human rights and relgiious freedom reports, but which seems to have fallen off the radar).

But with Farris, Nazworth, and Carter, I worry about what the future holds in my country. I’ve seen my share of liberal elite hostility toward homeschooling. I can at least conceive the possibility that a state might seek to regulate it out of existence. And if that happened, I don’t see the Obama Administration on the front lines, citing either the various international covenants or Meyer v. Nebraska  [2]in defense of the rights of parents.

My hope is that as homeschooling becomes more popular, and as liberal and/or secular parents keep discovering that it is a viable solution for some of them, that there will be bipartisan opposition to any government move to quash homeschooling. Still, it is hard to imagine a Romney Justice Department taking this tack with the Romeikes. This kind of thing is why, had my state not been in the bag for Romney last November, I would probably have held my nose and voted Republican instead of withholding my presidential vote.

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91 Comments To "Romeikes As Canaries In Coal Mines"

#1 Comment By Richard Parker On February 18, 2013 @ 11:20 pm

“Don’t complain if your kids go to college and have to learn stuff that contradicts what you taught them, and the professors don’t give diddley about their beliefs about pi or the dinosaurs, and the kids have a crisis of faith and turn agnostic.”

Who cares if some believe that pi is 3 and that dinosaurs bit the dust in Noah’s Big Flood? Are these people designing bridges or attacking Dino Digs with pitchforks?

That someone believes differently from me is, in general, no threat to me.

I know loons that attended public schools who believe in astrology as a science and think that “Roots” was a documentary. My God, Burn Down The Public Schools!

#2 Comment By Loudon is a Fool On February 19, 2013 @ 12:04 am

Fran rightly points out that the Administration does believe some fundamental rights are so important that folks can seek asylum from countries that criminalize their expression. The fundamental right to sodomize and be sodomized, for example. The Administration has noted:

In some countries, homosexuality is criminalized and, “if discovered by the authorities, a lesbian or gay man may be arrested or imprisoned based on her or his sexual orientation” . . .

as an important consideration in asylum cases involving LBGTWXYZ types.

Many commenters make the sensible observation that the violation of a fundamental human right alone should be insufficient for asylum. But it is a bit odd that (1) the Administration denies that a fundamental human right is at issue and (2) the criminalization of some fundamental rights is evidently odious enough allow asylum, provided the fundamental right involves a crime against nature. They’d also probably make an exception if you wanted to snuff your kid in the womb.

#3 Comment By JayR On February 19, 2013 @ 12:31 am

The idea that this says anything about homeschooling in the US is asinine. We have certain constitutional guarantees. Other countries don’t. The absence of such guarantees is not in and of itself persecution meriting asylum. We shouldn’t be in the business of imposing our constitution on the rest of the world. Or should we be offering asylum to British libel law violators? German Neo-Nazis that violate their Holocaust denial prohibition? Australian assault weapon owners who defy their gun ban? Any non-Orthodox citizen of Greece or non-Jewish resident of Israel who objects to living under a state religion? Or does this only matter when it is Christian prerogatives at issue, so that we would effectively be in the position of exporting our brand of Christianity to the world? Really, now.

Besides, I call BS on the idea that their only option is to move to the US. They are EU residents, which mean they have the right to live and work in any EU country. To the best of my knowledge, options for them without claiming refugee status are the UK (legal and easy for sure, since I know several homeschooling parents, and if they want to live in the US then the language shouldn’t be any more of a problem), Austria (where they can still speak German), the Netherlands (live there and work in Germany if they want), Belgium (ditto), Denmark (ditto, although you are required to teach your kids Danish — still, the bacon is excellent…). With all these easy legal options close to home, are they really refugees or just back door green card queue jumpers.

#4 Comment By Gretchen On February 19, 2013 @ 12:42 am

@Richard Parker: 6th grade classes are a monoculture about climate change, because it is a fact to every scientist who isn’t in the pay of the oil companies. It is a problem for our whole society to have a subset of children indoctrinated in things like global-warming denial rather than being taught to evaluate scientific evidence. I can see that Rod and his wife have the intelligence, education, resources, and will to do a good job of homeschooling. But I also know insular people who don’t have those resources, who rely on workbooks and fill-in-the-blanks materials to homeschool, because they don’t have much education themselves. When I see the work that my children’s public school teachers put into teaching each of their classes, supplemented by the music teacher, the art teacher, the librarian, and the physical education teacher, I think most families would be hard-pressed to compete.

#5 Comment By EngineerScotty On February 19, 2013 @ 1:14 am

This thread reminds me of an old comedy routine during the Cold War. I think it was Cheech and Chong. In the routine, Cheech portrays a Mexican national discussing his clever plan to emigrate to the US: he means to show up at a border station, walk up to the US guard, and announce himself as a defector.

Regarding the mandatory public school law considered (and invalidated) in Pierce vs Society of Sisters: While the law was secular in nature (all private schools were banned in Oregon), and one of the claimants was indeed a military activity–the law in question was the handiwork, largely, of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was very active in Oregon politics in the 1920s, and given that the state had a miniscule non-white population at the time, the primary target of the KKK was Roman Catholics–and the law in question was primarily designed to target Catholic schools–where it was alleged that all sorts of unpatriotic things (including greater loyalty to the Vatican than to US authorities) were being taught.

Regarding “cross-dressers” being given political asylum. There are many parts of the world where sexual minorities (including transvestites) do face severe persecution, including death. I’m certain that European transpeople aren’t getting in on such grounds; but folks from the developing (and in particular, the Islamic) world, where persecution is very real.

Abortion is illegal in Ireland (it carries a sentence of life imprisonment), and until recently, it was illegal also for Irish women to travel abroad to have one. (That restriction has since been relaxed). What if, during that time, an Irish woman who came to the US and aborted a pregnancy, applied for political asylum? Assume her actions were known to the Irish government, and she faced arrest were she to return home.

#6 Comment By Erin Manning On February 19, 2013 @ 1:28 am

Steph, your honest and thoughtful comment at 5:45 p.m. intrigued me; I wish people who were uncomfortable with homeschooling could always articulate their thoughts this peacefully and well.

Your comparison of homeschooling as an attack against authority like that of people who think they know better than their doctor is one I’ve heard before, and yet it’s not the best analogy. Modern medicine has a proven track record in most areas, and though doctors are still fallible human beings (as a relative of mine found out recently when her physician diagnosed as allergies what turned out to be a respiratory virus) the level and sheer amount of expert education and study that goes into an M.D.’s credentials can’t be easily replicated by the average person.

Unlike modern medicine, however, modern education does not have a provable track record of advancement, nor do advanced education credentials in the form of degrees specifically in classroom education automatically make one person a teacher on a level that a non-teacher can’t hope to achieve without those credentials. To put this in simpler language, the public school experiment of the modern age has shown that it is capable of processing much greater numbers of students than schools of the past could hope to process, but few people would say that this process has conferred higher degrees of literacy, mathematical skills, communication skills, basic knowledge of facts and information from courses like history or science, etc. than we saw in the past.

In other words, the mechanistic factory-school model of education has been really good up until the present at systematically processing large numbers of kids, but it has not excelled in producing scholars, and employers today complain that significant numbers of high school graduates are barely suited for the most trivial forms of work. Then, too, colleges are finding it necessary to offer remedial education courses to incoming first-year students at increasing (and expensive) rates.

If modern medicine had made the overall health of average Americans worse instead of better, and if routine health care methods left people sicker instead of well, the analogy might hold up. But can we honestly say that people who graduate from high school today are better educated than people who graduated from high school fifty or a hundred years ago? There are definitely *more* people who attend and graduate from high school, but are they better educated? In 1912, only about 6% of Americans graduated from high school–but in 2012, in an age of compulsory education, at least 14% of adult Americans can’t read (and the number counted as “functionally illiterate,” meaning they can’t read or write well enough to function in modern society, is much higher). The percentage of high school graduates who are illiterate or functionally illiterate continues to climb.

Homeschooling families (many of us, anyway) are doing the same thing people who choose private schools do: selecting a method of education that has a better track record than the public schools. Catholic schools in my area, which would be my other choice given that we’re Catholic, are extremely expensive (the local Catholic high school is in excess of $12,000/year when you add mandatory fees). I can provide a similar education to my children for pennies on the dollar, augmented by real-world experiences, online learning, and lots of other enrichment possibilities.

And, yes, I want our Catholic values to be part of our education experience just as they would be if our children attended Catholic schools, but I have a strong dislike of “Catholic triumphalist” education materials and don’t use them (luckily, those materials represent a small subset of Catholic thinking and are not at all the standard). But I also want my daughter who has discovered that she actually loves Shakespeare to experience as many of his plays as she wants this year, instead of having to abandon Shakespeare in order to read “Catcher in the Rye” or something. Why shouldn’t she be able, in high school, to choose Shakespeare over a typical reading curriculum? Don’t we all sometimes wish we’d had that freedom in high school, instead of having to wait until college or beyond to study what interested us?

To sum up, I see homeschooling less as a “I can do anything the so-called education experts can do!” movement and as more of a “I think that modern education is failing too many students, and while I can’t fix things for everybody I can probably make things better for my own kids,” movement.

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 19, 2013 @ 2:13 am

If the parents in question were to apply to emigrate to the U.S. from Germany, their great-grandchildren would still be stuck in jail there unable to homeschool, before the waiting list for green cards was exhausted. Unless they were executives or employees sponsored by a corporation – there is a two tier immigration system, just like the legal system, with the one reserved for corporate persons granting far more leeway and immediate service for those they favor.

As homeschoolers, and Christian ones at that, we voted in 2008 for Obama. (He was the best Republican running, I quipped at the time, not realizing how prescient that was.) Since he turned out not to be change we could believe in, we wrote in Ron Paul for President last November.

Strangely enough, giving the lie to some commentators’ low opinion of academic excellence, all three of our homeschooled children have graduated from state universities Magna Cum Laude, despite initial admissions officers’ biased doubts. We played the card of their American Indian ancestry to do turnabout against that first ideological prejudice against them.

If it could, much of the educational establishment would outlaw homeschooling in a heartbeat and that is what many sought to do, all through the nineties. Does anyone else recall Hillary Clinton characterizing home schooling as child abuse, and some states requiring home school groups to turn over member parents’ information, to be listed on child abuse registries, as Florida did? As per some of the comments here, this attitude still lurks close to the surface.

#8 Comment By Gilligan On February 19, 2013 @ 3:13 am

Speaking of respect for other countries’ laws, what is the German policy towards extraditing murderers to venues in the United States where they will face the death penalty?

#9 Comment By Tini Do On February 19, 2013 @ 3:16 am

Germany is not seeking extradition for the Romeike Family, it’s strictly a US political asylum case. And I very much doubt that German authorities are looking forward to getting the loony Romeikes back.
In Germany – I am a German – homeschooling is widely regarded as one of those typical USamerican right wing nut case things. Homeschooling is not an accepted behaviour, it’s regarded as a sign of severe dysfunctionality in the family. Actually, there are only a handful of homeschooling cases in Germany, it’s not something Germans are really interested in. We have a very vibrant culture of private schools, ranging from left wing hippie ideas to Montessori and Walldorf Schools to schools run by traditional catholic, protestant or muslim initiatives. Especially where the Romeikes come from in Germany (I live in the same region), there are a lot of religiously conservative schools where they could have put their kids. They opted for ruining their lives to make a case.

#10 Comment By Heather On February 19, 2013 @ 4:35 am

“the fear is that home schooled children won’t get a chance to hear more than one perspective and as a result won’t be able to make informed choices”

Ivan K says: “Getting only one perspective is what most homeschoolers believe happens in public school, which is why they homeschool in the first place.”

Exactly. Take the subject of the times, homosexuality. What better example could you find of a dictatorial party line as “education”? Second, since when are students allowed to hear any perspective that has a religious foundation? That is also a crime in the public school system.

BTW, Ivan, we usually agree on a lot.

There were many good contributions to this thread, many important points highlighted. Homeschooling will become a “crime” if it threatens ideological control. As long as it’s minor and has little impact overall, it will be allowed.

“In our increasingly multicultural society school is the place for a peaceful dialogue between different opinions, values, religions and ideologies,” said Berlin’s education minister, Juergen Zoellner. “It is a training ground for social tolerance. Therefore home-schooling is not an option for Germany.”

It sounds like Zoeller never set foot in a high-school to see how controlled discourse and dialogue are.

“The Swedish parliament is just in the process of tightening the laws on home-schooling, effectively banning it. Bertil Östberg, State Secretary for Education, told the BBC’s Europe Today programme, that “children have the right to be taught by professional teachers, and the teaching should be objective and based on science”.”

Science! Objectivity! Like the APA. Because Science is OBJECTIVE and is NEVER wrong.

Echoing German concerns Mr Östberg added that “schools should be a meeting place where tolerance and social values are communicated”.

That amazing tolerance for the liberal viewpoint only.

[3]

#11 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On February 19, 2013 @ 4:54 am

Glaivester, I understand that most Christians read the bible and don’t require it to be accurate in the same sense as a physics or biology textbook.

However, there are sizable minority of Christians who do, and they either withdraw from the public schools when outnumbered, or try to inject their views into the public education curriculum when they’re not. So while the Pi example edges into hyperbole, it is sad to say that the dinosaur example does not. It’s also not a problem confined to the past or even one geographic region of the country.

#12 Comment By JonF On February 19, 2013 @ 5:05 am

Re: Still, it is hard to imagine a Romney Justice Department taking this tack with the Romeikes

I can imagine that pretty easily. Our immigration laws specify refuge for people who are being persecuted, not for people who are being inconvenienced. This simply too trivial to qualify. Which doesn’t mean that I agree with the German government, only that I don’t think we extend asylum to every foreigner who disagrees with hjs government’s laws on this or that.

#13 Comment By Sam M On February 19, 2013 @ 5:50 am

Actually… you do have the right to homeschool, no? You can teach your kid whatever you want in the confines of your home. Nobody will stop you. What you can’t do is NOT send them to the common government school to learn the common curriculum.

If I lived in Germany, I’d be bitter about this. At the same time… limits are a bitch. All of them are, for somebody.

Whether you are talking about minimum wage laws, immigration laws, trade laws, health care mandates, it doesn’t matter; regulations restrict your right to make your own choices.

On principal, then, unless you are a hardcore libertarian, you don’t have a leg to stand on here. If the government can tell me that I SHALL NOT pay a teenager $4.50 an hour to work in my ice cream shop, even if the teenager agrees to do so, and that if I do I will go to jail, then the government has a right to demand that I learn a common curriculum. How’s that any different than the draft or jury duty?

I think you can actually make a compelling conservative case for it. Homogeneity? Yeah. That’s the case. Common culture. Common language. Common history. Otherwise known as… place.

Germany’s history might actually make the case more compelling.

Again, I am against such laws. But a lot of people on this site are sort of “weak” libertarians, people who prefer the order of the market but tolerate or even prefer social engineering in certain circumstances, especially when there is a community benefit.

I know it’s trite, but that’s a pretty slippery slope. What does this family propose to teach their kids? They can teach them whatever they want. In the evening and on weekends.

Maybe they don’t want their kids learning what’s taught at the government school. Well, some people don’t want to serve in the military or on a jury. Some people don’t want to pay their taxes. Some people want to import things without tariffs. Some people want to risk living without health insurance. Some people want to live in a structure that’s not up to building code. Some people don’t want to get immunized.

If you are a fan of limits, this is what they look like.

#14 Comment By Richard M On February 19, 2013 @ 7:51 am

Glaivester,

Seeing as they have no problem opening the gates to a flood of Central and South Americans, there is no principled reason why such a thing should bother them – unless of course the principle is “no immigration for non-third worlders.”

Especially if they are conservative or traditionally Christian non-Third Worlders.

But it’s pretty obvious that this administration isn’t much of a fan of parochial or homeschooling options in the first place.

#15 Comment By alkali On February 19, 2013 @ 8:01 am

@Roberto: It’s been a while since I was conversant in asylum law but as I recall the law requires a “well-founded fear of persecution.” I don’t want to be flip but prosecution isn’t persecution.

It’s hard to know because the record is closed — as is usual in asylum cases — but this is likely it. By way of contrast, the few transvestites who have been granted asylum (which someone referenced above) have suffered abuses such as repeated rapes by police officers in their home countries.

#16 Comment By Consequences2 On February 19, 2013 @ 9:01 am

To be canaries in a coal mine, one has to assume that there’s an enormous flock of similarly situated birds who will face the same destiny and just don’t know it yet.

Is German society really on the brink of totalitarian oppression of its various bird species, so to speak?

#17 Comment By German_reader On February 19, 2013 @ 9:42 am

I’m undecided about the merits of homeschooling (but then I don’t have children so I haven’t been forced to think about such issues) and I can see that Germany’s prohibition of it can seem rather harsh. But Mr Dreher, as much as you may sympathize with the Romeikes, if people from Germany which certainly has many flaws and problems but is a mostly functioning democracy, a NATO member, and probably one of the safest (and most boring) countries on earth, could be granted asylum in the US, pretty much the entire world could make the same claims. Do you think that would be a good idea? And it certainly isn’t what asylum was originally intended for (though that has been of course the case for decades, though usually in other contexts).

#18 Comment By Hal Espen On February 19, 2013 @ 10:02 am

Defending home schooling as a right is a political fight that Europeans need to mount. Spain, the Netherlands, and other countries also forbid home schooling in most circumstances, and the European Court of Human rights has upheld the ban. Narrowly construing this family’s lamentable dilemma as some creepy confluence of German beastliness and creeping Obama socialism, with little heed for asylum precedents and the broader immigration-policy context, is a mistake.

#19 Comment By Rod Dreher On February 19, 2013 @ 10:14 am

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that the Romeike situation portends persecution in Germany. I think Germany’s laws are wrong, but I think I understand where they come from. I see the Obama administration’s response to this case as potentially troubling for US homeschoolers. It’s easy to overreact, I know, but I wish I had more confidence that my own government could be counted on to respect homeschooling liberties.

#20 Comment By Consequences2 On February 19, 2013 @ 10:22 am

Surprising the number of folks whose minds immediately go to what they assume must be the flood of gay and “cross dressing” asylum seekers let into this country. Well, perhaps not so surprising.

The truth is that the U.S. is extremely reluctant to consider asylum seekers on the basis of discrimination against gay people in their home countries. Very few people even try to come here.

[4]

250 per year

#21 Comment By ber2 On February 19, 2013 @ 10:35 am

Germany’s ban on homeschooling was made law by the Nazi government. Unfortunately it was never revoked after they lost power. It was used in their goal of raising a new breed of children locked into the Nazi philosophy.

In another case within the last few years, German authorities prevented a family at the airport from boarding a plane as they were immigrating back to their home country (India I think). They were stopped for no other reason than because they were homeschoolers. They had custody of their children removed, and allowed visitation with their children for something like 15 minutes once a month. So far as I know to this point this situation remains. The parents have to fly back to Germany for their rare visits with their children.

#22 Comment By Steph On February 19, 2013 @ 10:44 am

Yes, this is one of my gripes with so-called liberals…. Loving parents who can do better for their child than the default should do better.

But it’s absolutely diabolical IMHO to do nothing to provide such an escape route for those less well off.

I agree with this. It’s why I support such things as vouchers and charter schools, even though I’m not sure how well they work as public policy. It comes down to the fact that there are schools I would never let my (hypothetical) children attend, and that I’m fortunate enough that I could pay for a private/parochial school of my liking or move to a school district that I’m comfortable with. In that I have that freedom and would take advantage of it, on what basis is it right to deny options to poorer parents?

I think of this as a liberal idea and do know many liberals, including those who are more left than me on other things, who agree. However, I admit that in the broader political debate it’s the Dems who represent the main opposition to such ideas for various reasons.

#23 Comment By J On February 19, 2013 @ 10:46 am

If the parents in question were to apply to emigrate to the U.S. from Germany, their great-grandchildren would still be stuck in jail there unable to homeschool, before the waiting list for green cards was exhausted.

Not this again. The U.S. immigration quota for Germany was, last I checked, 50,000 per year with 5-10,000 actual applicants per year. Most German immigrant people I know have no real complaints about INS- white western Europeans get treated best by INS, quite frankly. But most stay on Green Cards as long as they can and keep their kids’ options open as to which side of the Atlantic they choose to reside in as adults.

Here’s some news for you and ‘Glaivester’: high competence EU citizens largely consider U.S. citizenship second rate. It has to do with people like you and the Red State phenomenon generally. European media portray Red Statia as heavily Third Worldish and a large lunatic asylum dragging down an otherwise great country. Their argument for this concept is caricature, but it’s what Blue State elites think and the evidence in aggregate can substantiate. That is not to say that Red Statia is entirely without merits. But these are unlikely to be what its partisans propose.

On the whole this thread illustrates this, going the same place that gun control threads and abortion threads and gay marriage threads here go: people asserting a privilege to be lunatics and/or uncivilized yet adamant about not getting called such.

#24 Comment By German_reader On February 19, 2013 @ 10:48 am

@M_Young

“If you go along with the system in North Korea, you won’t be ‘oppressed’. If you go along with the system in Germany, you won’t be ‘oppressed’.

Where is the difference?”

I actually have quite a bit of sympathy for your basic argument – I’ve long thought it’s ridiculously hypocritical for Western media and governments to demand “freedom for pussy riot” while at the same people in “free” countries like Britain can be jailed for relatively trivial reasons (like in this case [5] ), to enforce conformism to “progressive” ideology (the French, of course, are also rather bad in this regard, having criminalized not just Holocaust denial, but done the same for numerous other historical events).
But the comparison to North Korea is rather hyperbolic. Germany doesn’t run a gulag where dissidents and their families are disappeared forever and in any case, since the North Korean regime seems bizarrely irrational not being openly opposed to it, is no guarantee you won’t be killed (like in that recent story about a general who drank alcohol during the mourning period for Kim-Jong-Il and was executed for this – by being torn to shreds by a mortar).

#25 Comment By Steph On February 19, 2013 @ 10:55 am

Erin, thanks for the comments. I remain suspicious that you may not be typical of homeschoolers (of course, I doubt there is a typical), but I pretty much agree with all you said, so I will have to think about it some more.

#26 Comment By Floridan On February 19, 2013 @ 11:23 am

It’s easy to overreact, I know, but I wish I had more confidence that my own government could be counted on to respect homeschooling liberties.

I wish you could point to something specific that the Obama adminsitration has initiated that would make you suspect that “homeschooling liberties” are in jeopardy.

#27 Comment By Leinad On February 19, 2013 @ 11:28 am

Erin,

You had me until you said this:

“Why shouldn’t she be able, in high school, to choose Shakespeare over a typical reading curriculum? Don’t we all sometimes wish we’d had that freedom in high school, instead of having to wait until college or beyond to study what interested us?”

All high school students have the freedom to read whatever they want on their own time. I read tons of extra books because I wanted to, but I think being “forced” to read things in high school that you don’t want to read is important, as all jobs require us to do things we don’t “want” to do. Giving kids the impression that their desires should entirely dictate what they learn isn’t the best preparation for a working world that is often frustrating and dull. I feel about this the same way I do about people who say that education should be more like Facebook because kids “like it.” What kids like and what they need are often too different things, obviously. And as much as I love Shakespeare, “Catcher in the Rye” is a culturally significant book, and ignoring it doesn’t change this fact.

#28 Comment By Church Lady On February 19, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

We have a very vibrant culture of private schools, ranging from left wing hippie ideas to Montessori and Walldorf Schools to schools run by traditional catholic, protestant or muslim initiatives. Especially where the Romeikes come from in Germany (I live in the same region), there are a lot of religiously conservative schools where they could have put their kids. They opted for ruining their lives to make a case.

If things are as wonderful in Germany as you say, why even bother to outlaw home-schooling? If only nutcases will opt for that, what’s the threat? It seems like a needless persecution, and extremely “illiberal” of the Germans.

#29 Comment By Helen On February 19, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

“[Michael Farris is] considered a fundamentalist drama queen, and the HSLDA arguably does more to harm homeschooling freedoms in the U.S. than to help.”

Yes to this, except I would remove the word “arguably.”

Rod, this story, without more, provides exactly zero evidence that homeschooling is in any way threatened in the US. That doesn’t mean homeschooling could not be threatened, but this story does not suggest that it is.

Steph — there are certainly anti-intellectual homeschoolers who are doing a bad job educating their kids. But there are many more thoughtful, engaged, intellectual homeschoolers than not, on both the left and right, whether they are religious or not. I am a liberal homeschooling mother, and the main reasons we do so are to ensure that our kids get a rigorous education.

#30 Comment By Leinad On February 19, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

And by “too different things,” I meant “two different things.” Editing!!!

#31 Comment By EngineerScotty On February 19, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

There was a case in Norway [6], in which an Indian couple allegedly had custody of their children taken by authorities, for reasons alleged as specious (including co-sleeping). This story, while disturbing (I have not found any reasonable defense of the authorities’ actions in this case, such as allegations of any conduct on the parent’s behalf that I would consider remotely abusive or neglectful) has nothing to do with home-schooling, however (the children involved were toddlers), or to do with any anti-Christian policy.

#32 Comment By alkali On February 19, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

Updating my prior comment: it turns out that the DOJ’s brief is available online, having been posted by the HSLDA.

Here is the summary of the government’s argument:

Romeike’s petition for review should be denied because the record does not compel the conclusion that he faces a possibility of future persecution in Germany based on a protected ground under the INA. In order to prevail, Romeike must show that the record compels the conclusion that Germany’s mandatory public school attendance law is selectively enforced, or that Germany metes out disproportionate punishment, on account of religious affiliation or another protected ground. Here, no record evidence compels the conclusion that Germany selectively enforces its public school attendance requirement, or that it disproportionately punishes any particular group for failing to comply with the law.

Moreover, as the Board properly found, “German homeschoolers” do not constitute a viable particular social group. The group lacks social visibility and particularity, and this Circuit’s asylum law requires both elements for a cognizable “social group.” The petition for review should therefore be denied.

The argument is that to be eligible for asylum, you have to be persecuted based on race, religion, etc. (not apparently applicable here) or on the basis of political affiliation. Political affiliation here means something like “a member of the political party not in power,” and not just disagreeing with a particular law.

#33 Comment By Ivan K On February 19, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

It’s noteworthy that the Romeikes had been granted asylum–because they had presented a credible case that the family would be persecuted if sent back to Germany–and that the US government appealed that decision. From the summary of the case at the HSLDA site:

“Uwe and Hannelore Romeike fled from Germany to the United States after their family was vigorously prosecuted (fines, forcible removal of their children, threats of jail and more) for homeschooling. Initially, the Romeikes were granted political asylum, but the U.S. government appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. That Board sided with the government.”

So it’s not just that the US government sided against the Romeikes; our hard-working civil servants spent money, time and labor to have a decision by the immigration authorities favorable to the Romeikes overturned. The US government’s appeal did not deny that the Romeikes would be persecuted; rather, they argued that homeschoolers are “not a viable particular social group”–in other words, that they aren’t a persecuted group favored by the left.

#34 Comment By Richard Parker On February 19, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

Gretchen

“But I also know insular people who don’t have those resources, who rely on workbooks and fill-in-the-blanks materials to homeschool, because they don’t have much education themselves.”

Due to my job(s), I am in the public schools a lot. I have seen plenty of workbooks and fill-in-the-blanks material in the public schools.

There are plenty of public elementary school teachers who should not be teaching math.

#35 Comment By Richard Parker On February 19, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

@Gretchen

“@Richard Parker: 6th grade classes are a monoculture about climate change, because it is a fact to every scientist who isn’t in the pay of the oil companies. It is a problem for our whole society to have a subset of children indoctrinated in things like global-warming denial rather than being taught to evaluate scientific evidence.”

You believe that this is settled science and that the only people that say otherwise are “paid lackeys.” This is simply not true. I am a well-read scientific layman and I have my doubts. 6th graders in the public schools are not, in general, being taught “to evaluate scientific evidence.” They are being indoctrinated in a fashion that meets your approval.

What is so threatening that some people somewhere sometimes think differently from you?

#36 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 19, 2013 @ 11:06 pm

Really? So just to be clear, are you contesting that the founders believed that the role of government was to recognize pre-existing rights?

I consider it dubious, unwise, and full of hubris, for ANY of us to contend that we know what “the founders believed.” Square that reservation, when it comes to putting late 18th century founders’ beliefs into early 21st century terms.

I believe that for a constitution to BE a constitution, there must be fundamental principles which cannot be wished away when they become inconvenient — a constitution is the grant of authority TO those who exercise governmental authority. I also believe that the APPLICATION of those principles can be expanded to encompass modern developments, without doing violence to fundamental principles. Thus, I am neither a rigid originalist, nor a fan of the infinitely flexible “living constitution.”

I have also come to believe that as a practical matter, individual rights only have enforceable meaning within a framework of social conventions, laws, and community committed to maintaining them. Pure anarchy results in the emergence of rule by the strongest and the toughest. Gang warfare and dominance is a good example, even though police in many times and places can degenerate into simply the Official and best armed gang. Also see the work of Keith Otterbein on How War Began.

Communities, citizens, and constitutions may be inspired by either divine will, or the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, by natural law, or by all of the above, in reaching decisions about what rights shall be acknowledged, protected, and preserved. But it takes constitutional republican government to make the enjoyment of those rights real. They have to be defined, codified, reserved.

#37 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 19, 2013 @ 11:14 pm

Writing separately about science:

It is well established by a mountain of scientific evidence that evolutionary biology happened over a period of some billion or so years on earth. Those who deny it are entitled to exercise their freedom of speech. They are delusional when they do so in the language of science. They have the words, but not the music. They engage in a metaphysical over-ride, not sober presentation of significant evidence.

It is well established that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. If there were NO carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the mean temperature on earth’s surface would be something on the order of minus 18 degrees centigrade. If is well established that a significant increase in carbon dioxide levels will raise the temperature further.

There is plenty of room for debate about what all the sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide are, how rapidly increased concentration will increase temperature, what might speed up or slow down this process, what other deleterious effects might also occur (e.g., slower warming due to absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, which will destroy formation of shells by oysters, scallops, etc.), also what the effects on weather will be.

The general trend is not a matter of valid scientific dispute, and the hard core deniers are, again, engaged in wishful thinking, without even the excuse of Scriptural interpretation, however flawed.

Science classes should teach what is well established, teach that new evidence is always possible, and teach the rigorous standards that must be met to credibly offer new evidence and new theories, as differentiated from rank personal opinion and preferences.

#38 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 20, 2013 @ 12:50 am

Cross dressers are now a recognizable group eligible for asylum – OK – but those jailed, separated and persecuted for their strongly held religious faith who believe in educating their own children are not?

We already recognized the God-given educational rights of parents in this country to direct the education of their own children without state indoctrination.

I am here to tell you these people are as much a part of an identifiable group, not so long ago persecuted in these United States, as cross dressers have been. Perhaps some prefer not to see us, because they hate us – I see ridicule, insults and ad hominem attacks being used rather than logic.

Especially since the immigration courts initially ruled for these folks but the current political appointees of a certain ideological persuasion were hostile to them?

It’s pretty clear that while these folks are disfavored for the ideological reason of hating homeschoolers, cross dressers are favored for ideological reasons, as well. If not, why aren’t they appealing those cases too? All those folks have to do avoid persecution is, stop wearing the clothes of the opposite sex publicly, as required by that country’s laws. Isn’t that rather trivial, far more so than the unselfish sacrifices involved in homeschooling?

Do we now regard soldiers who want to cross dress instead of wearing military uniforms eligible for asylum?

Why did we allow asylum seekers from China who didn’t abide by China’s one child policy? Isn’t that also an internal matter,for their laws, as the Chinese claimed – and they are a Most Favored Trading Nation with us, a relationship it’s claimed makes us unable to stand up for the rights of anyone persecuted by a friendly nation we are involved with in business.

I don’t say that these cross dressers should be prevented from being asylees, even though the New York Times ran an article on how the allowance is being egregiously abused by fakers. Some of the fakers have also been legitimately desperate – you can’t blame them for the ends they will go to.
Nor do I want people who would be forced to abort babies to be deported.

But calling the home schoolers “lunatics” and “nut cases” who ruin their own lives by choice – well, by the same measure, just what are cross dressers, or anyone else you think holds views not like your own?

From those who defend asylum for many supposed public cross dressers, but not for one family of obviously persecuted homeschoolers, it’s all very clear —

One man’s refugee is just another man’s illegal alien, according to one’s own preferred ideology.

#39 Comment By Gretchen On February 20, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

@Richard Parker: I am not threatened by people who think differently that myself. I, and all of us, are threatened by policy-making by science-denialists. You admit you are a layman. 99% of climate scientists think that climate change is real, man-made, dangerous, and requires counteraction. I suggest that you are getting the materials by which you are making your judgments from slanted sources. The Guardian recently had an investigative article about the huge sums of money the energy industries have spent to quietly fund climate denialism. You need to question who is funding your sources before believing them. And we need robust science education for all our children, so they will question the sources of their information, rather than believing whatever they read without realizing that it’s propaganda.

#40 Comment By Paul Emmons On February 20, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

>those jailed, separated and persecuted for their strongly held religious faith who believe in educating their own children are not?

Is that what it is? The article is surprisingly big on theory, including the theory that not indulging a German homeschooler with political asylum endangers our own right to homeschool, and short on specific details.

What are this family’s options (if any) other than to send their children to government schools? The Catholic and Protestant churches are more recognized by the government in Germany than they are here. I would guess that along with this recognition go Catholic and Protestant day schools. If these are available, then it is not just one school system that they have rejected, but three at least (and maybe Jewish schools to boot?). Information, please.

If they are neither Catholic, Lutheran, nor Jewish, then what are they such that they mustn’t be contaminated by contact with any of these? Muslims? That most of Europe has a problem with Muslim immigrants who have no desire to assimilate is hardly news here. In this respect, I want to wish the government and its citizens luck: they need it, and we shouldn’t undermine their efforts to address the situation. Or have they fallen for some obstinate, arrogant, and exclusivist minority sect with a slender pedigree both historically and intellectually? I can’t imagine many other possibilities.

My charitable impulse is to grant the asylum, but isn’t it always appropriate to ask what kind of folk we’d be admitting here, as well as how easy it would be for others to affect such “persecution” simply to be fast-tracked to the front of the line? Perhaps the latter question isn’t as important as we might assume: how many Germans yearn to move to the U.S. nowadays? Let’s not overestimate our own attractiveness. Economically and culturally (in the traditional sense), they’re likely to be as well off where they are.

#41 Comment By cynthia On April 6, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

The question about homeschooling looks like a simple FREEDOM OF SPEECH issue!