Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Free-Born Mind - Homeschooling and the Government

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike

Many years ago, my dad was standing behind a lady in the grocery store. She had several children, and was asked where they went to school. “We homeschool,” she said.

Dad did a double-take. What was this…home school? He mentally separated the two words. Some sort of private school? But no. She meant, literally, school at home. In our small out-of-the-way country town, it was the first time my dad had even heard of another option.

Many years later, I sit here, a homeschool graduate. Needless to say, we now look on homeschooling quite differently than my dad did twenty years ago. We’ve had to get over the occasional “So are you going to homeschool them all the way through high school?” asked with an incredulous expression. There’s the one family member who insists on quizzing me and my siblings on various subjects. We endure our state senator calling us “a threat to what it means to be an American.” Still, it’s not like we’re being acted against legally. 

For the Romeike family, it’s another matter. In 2008, the family fled their home country, Germany, and received asylum in the U.S., but the Administration has overturned that decision. The Huffington Post writes:

“In Germany there is basically religious freedom, but it ends at least with teaching the children,” Uwe Romeike says in a video produced by the Home School Legal Defense Association, the Christian organization providing the family’s legal support.
The Romeike case is unusual in a system backlogged with people trying to escape violence and persecution. The Romeikes are comparatively well off, and come from a country that hosts more than twice as many refugees as the U.S. 

 But because they home-schooled their five children (a sixth was born in Tennessee), they faced high fines and tension with local authorities. At one point, police forcibly corralled the oldest children into a van and delivered them to school.

Most Germans who home-school, many of whom are Christians, do so in secret. It’s estimated that hundreds or thousands of German children are home-schooled, according to interviews with advocates and lawyers.

This problem is not only in Germany, but also in most of Sweden, Spain, and the Netherlands. Homeschooling is illegal or heavily prosecuted.

I have seen some argue that the answer is simple – just allow one’s children to go to public school. It won’t kill them. You’ll get to keep the kids, and save yourself from jail time. Why not? It’s not like it’s physical persecution. Another option is to move to another European country, rather than applying for refugee status in the States. 

My answer, too, is simple. Of course it’s not physical. But that’s not the point. The problem is not with the parents. Let’s stop blaming the victim. It is not a question of one family’s decision, it is the behavior of the German government. This is an infringement of freedom. The question is, where does America stand on this point? Do we think it takes a village, or a family? I know that many argue it’s an argument about refugee status, and thus following the letter of the law strictly, but it is still an important ideological moment. What’s the U.S.’s position on this?

Here’s C.S. Lewis, speaking decades in advance (as usual):

“I believe a man is happier, and happy in a richer way, if he has ‘the free-born mind.’ But I doubt whether he can have this without economic independence, which the new society is abolishing. For economic independence allows an education not controlled by Government; and in adult life it is the man who needs, and asks, nothing of government who can criticize its acts and snap his fingers at its ideology. Read Montaigne; that’s the voice of a man with his legs under his own table, eating the mutton and turnips raised on his own land. Who will talk like that when the State is everyone’s schoolmaster and employer?” (God in the Dock, my emphasis)

How about you? Do you trust the State to teach your children how to live? It’s better than some options, certainly, but what if they start teaching devil worship? Technically, they could—in the name of religious tolerance. What then? That day hasn’t come yet, but if it did, would you have the ability to take charge? What if it’s not devil worship—what if they teach that your religion has no bearing whatsoever on life? Oh, wait…

I know very well that sounds like ridiculous paranoia. I don’t think we’re going to see devil worship, but I can easily see the over-arching secular mindset of the culture significantly impacting children’s minds. It starts small. I have no problem with people putting their children in public schools. It’s the best option in many cases. But people should be free to explore another option.

That freedom is being destroyed. Slowly. Whether or not one believes homeschooling is the best option, Americans who believe in freedom must say that it should remain an option. It should remain an option both for white, evangelical homeschoolers, and African American Muslims, and what-have-you. You and I should be just as zealous to defend the freedom of people who don't look like us as we are those who do. More zealous. If public schools taught rigidly sound Christian theology, people of other religions should have the homeschooling option.

As for the Romeikes, they lost their appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court in May. However, a group of 27 congressmen and –women have requested that the cases be reheard.

Now let me be clear—I don’t think all the fear-mongering from the religious right is honest or helpful. The dangers are probably being magnified. Nevertheless, this is something the administration needs to take a stand on. I will—and you should—be watching Big Brother before he's watching you.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. It is such a big and WRONG problem. Something I think about often. Basic freedom.


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