Quoting Quiverfull: Should Homeschooling Be a Basic Human “Right”?

Quoting Quiverfull: Should Homeschooling Be a Basic Human “Right”? January 10, 2014

by Brian Unruh from World Net Daily – Judge: Homeschooling a ‘concrete endangerment’ to kids

A judge has issued a stunning verdict in a homeschooling case in Germany, ordering that the parents cannot have custody of their children because the family might move to another country and homeschool, posing a “concrete endangerment” to the children.

Dirk and Petra Wunderlich’s case made international headlines in August when 20 armed police arrived with a battering ram and forcibly took their four children from their home in Darmstadt, Germany, and enrolled them in public school.

As WND reported at the time, the children, ages 7 to 14, were taken into police custody. They were allowed to return home three weeks later when their father and mother, given no choice by the federal bureaucracy in Germany, agreed to allow their kids to attend public schools despite their objection to the social and religious instruction there.

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, an international organization advocating for homeschool rights, the ruling from Family Court Judge Marcus Malkmus rejected emphatically the parents’ request to regain custody.

Lawyers for the family had asked the judge to allow the parents to have custody because they had met all court demands for their children to go to public schools, and they wished to move to France, where homeschooling is legal.

The judge, in his ruling, said that even though the Wunderlich children were academically proficient, well-adjusted socially and without educational deficiencies, he was horrified by homeschooling.

Malkmus compared homeschooling to having the children wear a straitjacket and said he had to make sure the children remained in Germany so they would be integrated into society.

He feared “the children would grow up in a parallel society without having learned to be integrated or to have a dialogue with those who think differently and facing them in the sense of practicing tolerance.”

Such treatment, he warned would be “concrete endangerment to the wellbeing of the child.”

The father, Dirk, told HSLDA the recent decision was shocking.

“I had really hoped the judge would just let us leave Germany peacefully. We don’t isolate our children. They are well adjusted and doing well academically. We are happy for them to be connected to society. We just prefer to homeschool them because we believe it is better for them. It is so sad that my countrymen are not able to see that homeschooling should be allowed. It is legal in many other countries, and I believe it’s a human right.”

He compared Malkmus’ decision to building “another Berlin Wall apparently designed to prevent all parents who might leave to homeschool from leaving Germany.”

Wunderlich said it’s no different “than what happened in the former East Germany under communism and before that under the Third Reich.”

“We need help from others around the world to help our country see this terrible violation of human rights,” he said.

Comments open below

Comment Policy

QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers to examine the ideas of Quiverfull honestly and thoughtfully.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • texcee

    Here’s a clue… If you want to homeschool your children, don’t live in a country where it’s illegal, doofus!

  • Joy

    That is what they are trying to do but the judge refused to let them.

  • Mary

    Yeah, for once I’m on the HSLDA’s side (based on the facts as presented here). Not every kid thrives in school. Some kids (for instance, those with disabilities or illnesses, mental or physical, or LBGT kids) are subject to bullying in almost any school environment. Some kids are unable to keep up with the class work, or are capable of working at a level far exceeding their peers, or have behavioral issues that make them disruptive to others. Some parents travel a lot and bring their kids with them. Some kids act in plays (or TV shows or movies) or are professional level musicians or are Olympic athletes and need to organize their days around their training in those fields. There are many reasons besides religious isolation to homeschool your kids, and to not only make it illegal, but to stop families from emigrating in order to be able to homeschool is going to make life miserable for a lot of kids. I do see that policy as a violation of human rights, not the parents’ rights, but those of kids who may need more flexibility, even as I also see homeschooling for the purpose of indoctrination and isolation as a violation of the rights of the children who are homeschooled for that reason.

    By refusing to let separatist communities be separatist, states do end up breaking up families and driving away whole communities of people who feel persecuted by demands that they conform to the majority culture. Better to simply welcome the children of these families to the world as gently as possible if they want out when they grow up, and let parents “protect” them from the world during childhood if they must — so long as there is enough interaction with the world that “the world” can also protect them from abusive parents, if necessary. This is why I’d prefer monitored homeschooling with a teacher-supervised portfolio with occasional home visits and interviews.

  • teaisbetterthanthis

    I need more information about the family in question to either support or oppose the judge’s decision. If there is no evidence of abuse or neglect and the children are all at or above “grade level” AND have opportunity to socialize with a variety of peers, then yes, the judge is wrong. BUT, if the judge is right, and homeschooling is not in these particular childrens’ best interest…I can’t fault the judge for making a decision that the parents didn’t like.

  • Madame

    Exactly.
    But I can’t let the parents of the hook in this case either. Both the parents and the government let those children down.
    I don’t know why the parents came back to Germany when they weren’t planning on sending their children to school, but they should be allowed to leave with their children.

  • R_Tam

    @Joy

    The oldest child is 14. School starts age 7 or lower – they’d been breaking the law for 7 years before the government finally stepped in. If you ignore polite requests from the government to please stop breaking the law, then refuse meeting with social workers, again, for years and do not emigrate to a foreign country where homeschooling is legal in the ample time you had… I don’t feel a lot of sympathy.

    You can make the argument that homeschooling should be legal, that the law is wrong – but it is the law and you can’t just break it because you feel like it. If you’d like to see it changed, there are avenues for that – campaigning, raising awareness, voting, writing your political representatives.

    They had 7 years to leave. And now they are shocked – shocked – that the judge is actually enforcing the law.

    EDIT: Disqus has some weird formatting issues and attached my reply tot he wrong person. Oops.

  • Nea

    *After* they’d been busted for breaking the law, that’s when they tried to leave.

    There’s a similar case of a German family that claimed asylum here because they wanted to homeschool and the US has said that homeschooling was not an asylum case. During discussions of it, it was made clear that many of the countries around Germany do allow homeschooling, so it’s not like there weren’t plenty of homeschool-friendly options.

    I find the argument that this is “just like” Nazi Germany to be pretty rich, considering that the law was created in part to be sure that German culture was homogenized enough to prevent the rise of another Reich.

  • Joy

    Did they know it was illegal in Germany before they started? If they did, then yes, they should have moved at that point. If they didn’t, then they should be allowed to leave now. Either way, the judge shouldn’t prevent them from leaving.

    Homeschooling should be legal but the children should be tested to make sure they are doing well academically.

  • Joy

    I still want to know when the parents became aware that homeschooling is illegal in Germany. They should be allowed to leave if they want to.

    It’s perfectly within a country’s rights to choose whom to let in, but people should be allowed to leave if they want to.

  • Madame

    I agree with the German law being enforced. The parents broke the law, knowingly, and the government can fine them for breaking the law and has the authority to demand that the parents send their chidren to school. But they don’t have the authority to hold them hostage in this country (I live in Germany) and treat them like criminals. Homeschooling is not lawful here, but it’s not a crime either.

  • Madame

    They’ve been having problems with the government for years. They left Germany, tried to settle in some other European country, and came back because they couldn’t find good jobs or something.

    I don’t think the parents acted wisely or even in the best interest of their children. They chose to homeschool with the full knowledge that it was unlawful, and they resisted for years. In an earlier article I read that they came back and the authorities told them that they would have to send their chidren to school or lose custody. They chose not to send them, and the children were seized (quite brutally).

    My problem with this case is not the homeschooling issue. I believe each country has its laws, and citizens should abide by those laws, but citizens should be allowed to leave a country if they aren’t willing to live under its laws. The government is abusing its authority and child protection services is losing the trust of the very people it claims to be there to protect and serve.

  • Madame

    They knew it was illegal. Every family receives a letter informing them of the child’s “Schulpflicht” a year before s(he) should start school.

    I agree that homeschooling should be legal for many reasons, and I also agree that there should be some regulations, maybe even contact with the local school and teachers to ensure children are doing well academically.
    While this family is being given a hard time, there are many immigrants whose children rarely, if ever, attend school. CPS is not that concerned about their schooling, it appears.

  • Joy

    Thanks for the replies, Madame. I think (hope?) I understand the situation somewhat better now.

  • Madame

    Ahem…the law was passed in 1919, well before the Third Reich. There was a different law (that the HSLDA keeps referring to) from 1938-1945, enforced by Hitler and most probably supportive of his political endeavors, but you can’t say Hitler invented the German “Schulpflicht” or that the “Schulpflicht” was created to prevent the rise of a new Reich.

  • Madame

    Your welcome.

  • Nea

    I bow to the knowledge of a native. I had been misinformed.

  • Sarah Henderson

    Madame, I’m curious about something: is there an issue or a possibility that parents may not register their children at birth or anything like that, in order to avoid the letter to appear at school?

    What would the consequence be for perhaps having a child at home, and not getting them a birth certificate? I ask because it happens in the united states and the lowest consequence is nothing, and the highest is a $20-40 dollar fine.

    I’m just curious how that might impact this as a national issue for Germany.

  • Madame

    Children must be registered at the local civil registry office within a week of birth. I don’t know what cosequences a family would face if they chose not to register their children, but I doubt they would go unfined or unpunished in some way or another. Parents have the obligation to take their children to their regular medical checkups. If parents fail to take them within the given time period, they receive a letter informing them that they will receive a visit from the local CPS.
    I can imagine that not registering your child coud even lead to the loss of custody.

    But I think it also depends on what part of the population the parents belong to. There are a lot of immigrants living in semi-illegal circumstances who could probably get away with not registering their children as the government has turned a blind eye to their living situation and their illegal work. But then these are the very families that want as much protection and financial help they can get, so why would they not register their children when it means that their family allowance will go up and the government may even have to help them find better housing?

    To answer your last question, Germany offers a lot of support to families with young children. Women who were employed before having the baby are protected from losing their jobs by the “Mutterschutzgesetz”. After the birth, mothers receive up to 67% of what they were earning, or a minimum of €300 for the first 12-14 months of the baby’s life. Add to that the Kindergeld, which is a minimum of € 154 per month, for each child.
    I would think that the money alone motivates parents to register their children.

  • Sarah Henderson

    Thank you for your reply. I see your point about the motivation to register your children (except those who feel government assistance is evil).

    It sounds to me like Germany has a more involved government with more firm hand on the tiller, and that families might need to take the control with the assistance.

  • Madame

    “It sounds to me like Germany has a more involved government with more
    firm hand on the tiller”
    Yes, I would say you are right.

    ,” and that families might need to take the
    control with the assistance.”
    What do you mean?

  • Sarah Henderson

    Just that families who choose to live there and accept the assistance agree through that action to comply with the larger set of regulation (control). It wasn’t meant to be political.

  • Madame

    I understand it now. Thanks for clarifying.
    The laws prevail whether families choose to accept the assistance or not.
    Yes, it is control, and sometimes it feels wrong. like parents are employed by the government to oversee the health and upbringing of children that belong to the state and can be assigned to a different family if mother government feels their job isn’t being done properly.

  • R_Tam

    “My problem with this case is not the homeschooling issue. I believe
    each country has its laws, and citizens should abide by those laws, but
    citizens should be allowed to leave a country if they aren’t willing to
    live under its laws”

    Yes and no. The adult citizens themselves absolutely have that right – but we’re talking about minors here. It’s the children who are being kept within the country, not the parents. To pick a more extreme example…

    Female Circumcision. It’s illegal in many european countries, so families who practice it will go ‘on vacation’ in a country where it is legal, perform it there, and come back. If such a case is suspected, it is absolutely within the government’s right to ceize custody and not allow the child to leave the country, because of the harm that will come to them if they do.

    Now obviously homeschooling is nowhere near as bad as mutilating a child. but that’s why it’s very much about homeschooling and not about the abstract right of the government to keep a minor within country borders. Keeping a child in safe custody because harm might come to them if you do not can be the right thing to do, in my opinion.

    As said in the article, “The judge, in his ruling,
    said (…) he was horrified by homeschooling.” Homeschooling, in his view, is doing harm to the child, so from his perspective, he is acting very reasonably. Of course, many do not think homeschooling is harmful, and that’s the crux of the issue here.

    PS: Just to be clear, I also think homeschooling should be legal (though strictly regulated). So I don’t agree with the judge’s behaviour here but I do understand where he’s coming from.

  • Madame

    I agree that the government should intervene if they have the knowledge that parents are taking their children out of the country to inflict harm on them. But obviously, lots of problems can arise when you try to actually carry this out. Do we immediately suspect any family going home on holiday with a baby or very young girl to a country where female circumcision is practiced? Do we only suspect those who “look suspicious”? Should all people coming from countries that practice female circumcision be questioned as to where they stand on the issue? What about male circumcision?

    I believe this case is more about the abstract right to deny parents the right to leave the country with their children than about the homeschooling aspect, although I agree that it plays a role because homeschooling is illegal in Germany but it can’t be considered a crime because it’s not a means to harm people. The judge himself said that there was no sign that the children’s academic level or social skills were lacking, which speaks against his fear that the parents are harming their children by keeping them away from public school and homeschooling them. I’ve tried to have conversations about homeschooling with German parents, and most look at me as if I were suggesting we talk about the logistics of jumping off a bridge. “It’s agaisnt the law”, “parents aren’t trained teachers”, “that’s illogical!”. That’s the extent of the replies I’ve gotten. The judge is acting out of prejudice or fear of what he can’t understand. Should judges be allowed to rule based on prejudice or fear?

    I agree that homeschooling should be legalized and regulated.

  • Madame

    Oh.. I`m not a native, but I live here.
    I googled the history of the German “Schulpflicht” law and Wikipedia gave me the information. The HSLDA should visit Wikipedia and get their facts straight, too! 🙂

  • R_Tam

    “The judge is acting out of prejudice or fear of what he can’t understand. Should judges be allowed to rule based on prejudice or fear?”

    As you yourself just pointed out, german society at large has these prejudices, and enshrined them in law. The judge is completely within his right to hold up the law as it is. That the law itself is unjust or prejudiced is not for the judge to decide, but the people and the government. For judges to ignore laws based on their personal feelings would be wrong-

    “[lots of rethorical questions]”

    No, obviously none of these, and female circumcision was just an example, so it kinda feels you’re missing the point.

    IF

    1 The government has hard evidence that Peron Z is planning to leave the country to foreign country Y with their children to perform action X

    AND

    2 Action X is illegal, but legal within country Y

    AND

    3 Action X does harm to children

    THEN

    4. It is just for the government to seize custody of the child and deny the parents the right to take the child to country Y

    For #4. to be a reasonable action, conditions #1, #2 and #3 would have to be met.

    In this case of homeschooling, condition #1 and #2 are most definitely met, and the judge also believes #3 to be true. In all your rethorical questions, condition #1 (hard evidence) was not met, which is not in question in this case, and thus not really relevant.

    Do you believe there is a case where conditions #1,#2 and #3 are met where #4 would be a good course of action? As in, placing the wellbeing of the child before “the abstract right to deny parents the right to leave the country with their children”? Because if there is such a case, and #4 isn’t the problem, then it really isn’t about that abstract right at all, but about #3 – whether homeschooling does harm or not.

    I hope I communicated that better this time 🙂

  • Madame

    Sorry I went down the female circumcision rabbit trail. I got your point . I should have simply stated that I think this sort of governmental intervention can become a slippery slope if it’s not restricted to cases where there is hard evidence that abuse/harm is going to (or is very likely going to) take place.

    You can’t really lay down a law in stone granting authorities the power to keep children in the country if they suspect the parents are leaving to practice something that is illegal in the country they want to leave, but legal and perfectly acceptable in the country they are emigrating to. It really depends on what they want to practice.

    The reason I keep saying this is not about homeschooling is because I think that accepting the judge’s decision is opening the door to similar outcomes where the judge decides based on his prejudices, however supported they may be by the law of his country. Judges have to make a decision like that based on cold facts. In this case, there is nothing to point towards homeschooling harming the children, however much the judge feels the practice may lead to harm. If the children had a poor academic level, showed signs of abuse/neglect or lacked social skills, then the judge’s decision would be justified.

    To answer your question, yes, I believe there are cases where children’s safety overrules the parent’s right to move with them, but the decision has to be based on facts that harm will happen.

    I’m sorry if I’m not very coherent at times. I was writing late last night and I’m really struggling to get my thoughts down clearly.

  • Anima

    Actually that’s not quite true either. The laws regarding school are all on the state level. Those laws where created when the BRD was formed after WW2 (among with several states that didn’t exist before).
    So it would be wrong to say that the law was created during the Weimar Republic. Even more so since there is a long history of mandatory attendance laws even before that. There where a lot of exceptions for the rich and influential who could hire private tutors. It wouldn’t do having their offspring study together with the plebs of course.

  • Madame

    According to the German Wikipedia site, under the history of mandatory school, it was the Weimar Republic that first made school mandatory for all German children from grade 1 to 4, although it was only in the 1960s that it became mandatory for non-German children living in Germany.
    After WWII, the DDR had it’s own system and the BRD continued with the same school system. After the unification, the BRD system was adopted in the eastern states.

    You’re right about the earlier history of mandatory school.

  • Anima

    There were already component states that had mandatory attendance laws much much earlier. The first would have been the dukedom Pfalz-Zweibrücken in 1592. Early adoption was mostly in the protestant states of that time.
    The interesting thing that happened during the Weimar Republic was that an unified school law was introduced instead of leaving it to it’s component states.

    The BRD pretty much gone back to the state before Weimar and left the legislative competence for school and culture with it’s component states instead of exercising central control on the federal level. That’s why it’s incorrect to imply that the current laws are a continuation of Weimar or Nazi laws.

    It’s also incorrect to assume that Germany has a school system as well, since it actually has 16 school systems that can differ quite drastically.

  • Madame

    I can’t really reply to this. We live here and my kids go to school. It seems to be the same for kids all over the country: they start school the year they turn 6 unless they were born after a given date, which I think is September 30th, and then it’s up to the parents to decide if they should wait one more year or have their child’s maturity tested to see if they should start school or not.
    Primary school goes up to 4th grade, then the children move on to middle school. The more academic children go to “Gymnasium”, with the goal of entering University. Slightly less academic children go to “Realschule” and children who aren’t very good at school go to “Hauptschule”. They finish school at 16 and go on to learn a trade.
    Our eldest is in 4th grade, so we will know more about all this soon enough!

    I only pointed out the mistaken idea that mandatory school was invented by Hitler (and is thus a sign of dictatorial or fascist leanings, as the HSLDA seems to believe or want us to believe), or that school was made mandatory to avoid the rise of a new “Reich”. I’m no expert in the German school system (or systems). I grew up in another country and went to school there.
    As far as I understand, school was made mandatory to give all German children access to a basic education, not to control them or indoctrinate them.

    Like any other good measure, it can be abused. Not all children thrive in a public school and some would greatly benefit from being homeschooled.

  • Anima

    Well for an example elementary school in Berlin and Brandenburg is six years instead of four. In some states a test determines which secondary school you’ll visit, others rely on teachers recommendation and then are those that leave the choice to the parents.
    There are also additional school models like the Gesamtschule which is an integrative school form. Or the newer Stadteilschulen that were recently created in Hamburg. In some states the length was also different, only a few years ago in my state you went to school for thirteen years, but now you only go for twenty. And that’s just a selection among structural differences, the curriculum is different as well and each states has its own.

    My point was more that you were in error regarding the current school system. Also to empathize that there is a long tradition of school and mandatory school here in Germany.
    The main reason school was made mandatory was that parents needed their children to work instead of wasting time in school. Considering some stories coming out of the christian homeschooling bubble I think that this is still a depressingly acute concern.

    Regarding children that would benefit from homeschooling, I’d rather see a solution that doesn’t depend so much on privilege like homeschooling is.

  • Madame

    Thanks for the informative post, Anima. I stand corrected. whenever there is talk about “the school system”, it`s always “the German school system”, so I had assumed that the whole country had one system.

    I think six years of elementary school is a lot better than only four, and I wish our state would adopt that model. I also wish they wouldn’t grade children’s work so early. My third and fourth grader are already being told that they have to get better grades (by their teachers, not us), and I don’t like that at all. At that age, school shouldn’t be about grades.

    Yes, we also have Gesamtschulen here. I forgot to mention them. I like the idea of children continuing their education together, instead of being segregated into different classes or even sent to different schools so soon.

    I hear your concern with homeschooling, especially Christians homeschooling. There was one case in Hamburg where the parents were asked to bring some lesson plans and teaching material to court and those parents arrived with a cart full of books and stuff. When asked to explain how sending their children to school is against the Bible, they couldn’t give good reasons. This family wanted to isolate their children and hardly have a social life.
    Here’s a link (in German) to the article: http://www.spiegel.de/schulspiegel/geldstrafe-fuer-schulboykotteure-wir-wollen-nur-das-gebot-gottes-erfuellen-a-401569.html

    I hardly think that families will be pulling their children out of school in throngs to homeschool them and most of the parents who could are the ones whose children do fine at school because they have that parental support at home. Privilege exists on every level. There will always be the children whose parents can afford all sorts of stuff for them, and the ones whose parents hardly have time to take them to different lessons, let alone have the money to pay for them. There are parents who can’t help their children with their homework or teach them how to swim and can’t afford lessons or tutors. Not all families who could use the financial help to pay for their children’s extracurricular activities qualify. There are hoops that not every family can jump through.

    I’m not against working on solutions in schools, but I would like to see the option of homeschooling legalized.
    I believe that parents should have the right to make that sort of a choice for their children and shouldn’t be penalized for trying to do what they believe is best for their children as long as they are providing an adequate education and social life.