Homeschooling Is A Human Right, But That Doesn’t Make It Immune To Regulation

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Homeschooling Is A Human Right, But That Doesn’t Make It Immune To Regulation, By Nicholas Bolzman

HA note: Nicholas Bolzman blogs at Looking for Overland, a joint blog project “authored by three friends who met at Patrick Henry College and then worked together at the Home School Legal Defense Association.” Nicholas Bolzman received his JD from Michigan State University College of Law last spring and is a graduate of Patrick Henry College.

In a recent post, Ryan made the case that homeschooling is not a human right and, as a result, state regulation of homeschooling (or even outright prohibition, as in Germany), does not amount to a violation of human rights. As much as I have been appreciating his examination of homeschooling culture, in this instance I disagree with his analysis. When I posted a truncated version of this on Facebook, he asked if I could expand it.

Ryan uses the example of the right to travel, which is a basic right, and contrasts that with the right to travel by horse, which is not a basic human right. He then equates homeschooling as the right to travel by horse, which is different, he argues, than the basic recognized right. In his argument, the former does not include the latter.

This analogy requires further examination. If the right to travel is a human right, then the exercise of that right (such as by horse, or by boat, or by car) would be likewise protected. Or, to use a parallel argument from American law, Ryan’s argument is like saying that since the First Amendment doesn’t mention blogging, government censorship would not violate the First Amendment.

Absent protections of specific methods of exercising rights, the abstract right does no one any good.

Ryan also included a discussion of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which he cited as authority for the child’s right to an education. However, his analysis only lightly brushed on part 3 of Article 26, which explicitly endorses the right of parents to direct their child’s education. Article 26 in its entirety reads:

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

The context for this third provision is particularly interesting, especially given the question of homeschooling in Germany. Johannes Morsink, professor or of Political Philosophy at Drew University, explains the history of that very provision in his book The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins, Drafting, and Intent:

Article 26 (on education) is one of the articles most clearly shaped by the experience of [WWII]. This article has three paragraphs, a nuts-and-bolts paragraph that is a standard constitutional item, a goal-and-purpose paragraph, and a paragraph that gives parents a prior right in deciding what kind of education their children shall have. The second and third paragraphs were put in the article as a way of condemning what Hitler had done to Germany’s youth and of making sure that it would never happen again….

The War Crimes Report that the Secretariat had drawn up for the Human Rights Commission explained to the delegates, as if they needed to be told, that “‘in order to make the German people amenable to their will and to prepare them psychologically for war,’ the Nazis reshaped the educational system and particularly the education and training of German youth, imposed a supervision of all cultural activities, and controlled dissemination of information and the expression of opinion within Germany as well as the movement of Intelligence of all kinds from and into Germany.” The second and third paragraphs of Article 26 were written in direct reaction and opposition to this Nazi abuse of state power. Paragraph 2 of the article states: “Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”

The first draft of Article 26, paragraph 2 was placed on the drafting table by Bienenfeld of the World Jewish Congress because his organization felt that there was a need to spell out both the goals and the spirit of educational institutions so as to avoid all kind of brainwashing the Nazi state had engaged in. Article 26’s third paragraph was added for the same reasons. Both the Dutch and the Lebanese delegations submitted amendments about parental rights. It being the shortest one, the Lebanese amendment was adopted after a vigorous discussion. The defense again was that the Nazis had usurped the prerogative of parents when they demanded that all children enroll in poisoned state-controlled schools, the paragraph was especially necessary because the word “compulsory” had been used in the first paragraph. [internal citations omitted]

Citing Morsink, Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon also made the same point in her book on the Universal Declaration.

Given this explicit wording and direct context to compulsory attendance laws, it is difficult to say that Article 26 does not permit parents to opt out of said compulsory attendance laws and seek alternative forms of providing for their children’s education.

Those alternative methods would include homeschooling.

Furthermore, similar wording identifying this prior right of parents appears in other human rights treaties. For example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art 18(4), states that “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.” The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, art. 13(3) declares “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”

Even the oft-criticized Convention on the Rights of the Child, art. 29(2) cautions that no educational goals “shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principle set forth in paragraph 1 of the present article and to the requirements that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.”

All of these, while recognizing the authority of the state to set minimum standards, protect the rights of parents, either individually or collectively, to determine the methods of education for their children.

The government’s role is secondary—to ensure that the parents fulfill their obligation to the children; but the obligation (and corresponding ability) is first and foremost on the parents. In this sense, they resemble Blackstone’s description of parental responsibilities and rights in education.

The last duty of parents to their children is that of giving them an education suitable to their station in life: a duty pointed out by reason, and of far the greatest importance of any. For, as Puffendorf very well observes, it is not easy to imagine or allow, that a parent has conferred any considerable benefit upon his child by bringing him into the world, if he afterwards entirely neglects his culture and education, and suffers him to grow up like a mere beast, to lead a life useless to others, and shameful to himself. Yet the municipal laws of most countries seem to be defective in this point, by not constraining the parent to bestow a proper education upon his children.

* * *

The power of parents over their children is derived from the former consideration, their duty: this authority being given them, partly to enable the parent more effectually to perform his duty, and partly as a recompense for his care and trouble in the faithful discharge of it. And upon this score the municipal laws of some nations have given a much larger authority to the parents than others. The ancient Roman laws gave the father a power of life and death over his children; upon this principle, that he who gave had also the power of taking away. But the rigour of these laws was softened by subsequent constitutions; so that we find a father banished by the emperor Hadrian for killing his son, though he had committed a very heinous crime, upon this maxim, that “patria potestas in pietate debet, non in atrocitate, consistere.” But still they maintained to the last a very large and absolute authority: for a son could not acquire any property of his own during the life of his father; but all his acquisitions belonged to the father, or at least the profits of them, for his life.

Notice how both Blackstone and the human rights documents connect the parental power to parental responsibility, placing responsibility first. A failure of the responsibility can certainly lead to a forfeiture of the power, but that failure must be demonstrated before the forfeiture takes place.

Consequently, even though the right to select the education for one’s child is a human right inherent in parenthood, it is not absolute (a point parental rights advocates often miss, and I suspect, the larger point Ryan was trying to make in his original article).

No human right is absolute.

Free speech does not include libel, and it subject to neutral time, place, and manner restrictions. The consensus is that even life itself can be taken under the right circumstances, as demonstrated by the permission of the death penalty and abortion. Likewise, this parental right does not include the right to deprive a child of education (which should be self-evident, since the parental right stems from and is related to the child’s right to an education.).

As with other rights, it can be subjected to reasonable minimal regulation, as well as forfeited under certain circumstances.

But in those instances, the burden of proof is on the state to show why the interference with the parent-child relationship is necessary.

Absent that, the parental right wins.

Pirates, Bible Abiders, and The German Tea Party: What Germans Think

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Pirates, Bible Abiders, and The German Tea Party: What Germans Think, By Jennifer Stahl

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on September 28, 2013 with the title, “German Homeschooling Cases – What do Germans think? What sort of political lobbying is going on?”

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

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

Germany has a completely different tradition:  compulsory education – which was introduced in Prussia almost 300 years ago, and applies to all children from the age of six forwards. Parents who disagree with the curriculum, may establish a private school if need be, as the state requirements for this are quite strict. Those who choose to teach their children at home do so illegally.
Spiegel:  Homeschooling: Bibel-Lehre statt Sexualkunde
[Homeschooling: Teaching the Bible instead of sex education]

 The German laws mandating public-school attendance date back to Germany’s first experiment with democracy in 1919, according to Hans Bruegelmann, an education professor at the University of Siegen.
…previously private education was only available to the elite, and that the public-school mandate was a clear political choice.
“…school is an embryonic democracy and will help to integrate children and young people coming from different backgrounds into the democratic culture,” …
US judge grants German homeschooling family asylum

 “At home, children only experience one segment of society, where they live, learn and grow up. They don’t get to see the broad spectrum, which our young citizens need to be exposed to,” said Bunselmeister-Lohr.
 More Families in Rural Areas Opting for Illegal Home Schooling

 I do not think that Germany should allow homeschooling. We already have a huge problem here with immigrants …especially women and children — being kept at home by their male relatives due to religion and cultures that they have brought with them and therefore those women and children cannot speak basic German and know virtually nothing of their rights or obligations in Germany.
Anti-Americanism, Homeschooling and Happy Housewives

 We are a family from Germany now living in New Zealand because we had to leave our country because of homeschooling…
In Germany we felt …persecuted …as the German government is not interested in Christian education anymore. We did homeschooling in Germany in a bilingual way so the children had no difficulties to move into an English speaking country. They passed the tests at a homeschool cooperated school very well, as well as all other native speakers. ..here in New Zealand …children are far more accepted in the society than in Germany. — Laurien Family, NZ
Readers’ Mixed Feelings About Germany’s Homeschooling Ban

 Parents have to take care that their children attend classes. If the parents fail to push their children to participate in the lessons,they are actively violating compulsory education laws…
Sohn schwänzte Schule: Mutter muss sechs Monate ins Gefängnis
[Son skipped school: mother has six months in jail]

Home-schooling fuels a heated debate in Germany. Families in favour of home-schooling say they are persecuted without cause. Critics point to the extreme religious views of some home-schoolers and question the safety of allowing children be educated without state oversight.
‘We have the power to take your kids away’

 “What I could imagine is for homeschooling to be allowed within narrow parameters, with students being frequently tested by authorities,” said Heinz-Peter Meidinger, head of the Deutsche Philologenverband, an association of German high school teachers. “What I would not welcome is when such students are the rule and not the exception.”
German Parents Wanting to Homeschool Turn to EU Court

Patrick Meinhardt, education speaker for the FDP notes, “I don’t want to start writing up a lot of new rules for homeschooling. I imagine that as long as some state control over the curriculum and teacher training remains, home schooling should not be restricted any more.”
In short, the FDP advocates using the laws on the books for private schools, in order to finally open the door to home-schooling in Germany. The other German parties, however, generally oppose homeschooling more out of…fear that the teachers and their materials will be substandard…
HOMESCHOOLING: VERBOTEN IN GERMANY STILL IN 2009

 Patrick Meinhardt also said: “Parents have a fundamental interest to be able to decide on what sort of education their children have.”
Erstmals Globale Konferenz zur Bildungsfreiheit – Homeschooling bald erlaubt? 
[First Global Conference on Freedom of Education –  Will Homeschooling be allowed soon?]

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

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

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

So, Hausunterricht.org (HA note: run by Jörg Großelümern, board member of HSLDA-affiliate Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit) put together a note for German home educators to say who was the best choice to vote for just prior to the elections. The basics were that none of the available ruling parties with majority in Parliament could be worked with for various reasons.

Instead, we’re referred to vote for the PBC.

(Which, actually, I’d never heard of. I feel slightly embarrassed by this fact.) (HA note: PBC is “The Party of Bible-abiding Christians,” or “Partei Bibeltreuer Christen, PBC),” a conservative evangelical minor political party in Germany.) They flat out said the CDU/CSU (“Christian Democratic Union of Germany” / “Christian Social Union of Bavaria”) were not workable.

For what it is worth, I didn’t even see the PBC being given a listing when votes were counted. Maybe they were listed under the all-encompassing “other”. I’m not certain.

A German home-schooling page on Facebook went another direction, suggesting the Alternative für Deutschland party.

Below is a screen capture from a German pro-homeschooling group, pushing for its supporters to vote for the AfD — Alternative für Deutschland — in this year’s election:

“Tomorrow is election day in Germany. The Alternative für Deutschland is the only party we can trust to give us any hope of a legal decision on homeschooling in Germany. In terms of training and education, we can expect them not to mindlessly parrot the sick collectivist consensus (on the legality of home education).”

A screen capture from a German pro-homeschooling group, pushing for its supporters to vote for the AfD — Alternative für Deutschland — in this year's election.
A screen capture from a German pro-homeschooling group, pushing for its supporters to vote for the AfD — Alternative für Deutschland — in this year’s election.

Now, I had been following some of the news on the AfD.

I had noted that they are quite similar to The Tea Party in the US, with the exception of being an actual political party, rather than a movement.

Apparently, I was not the only one who noticed this, as it was being discussed in almost every German newspaper that I perused. There were some other things that stood out to me, that caused the recommendation above, to cause me to have quite raised eyebrows and wide eyes. My hope was that they would not make the 5% threshold to get into Parliament, not because of their policy towards home-schooling, but due to their other political aims and leanings.

(For those who absolutely must know, I cannot vote in any of these elections. I can only express much interest and research as much as I like about these things.)

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

Who reduces the AFD on their right-wing populism ignores the real ideological threat posed by that party…

The paleolibertarian calls for the submission of all areas of life to the market ideology. Social authorities such as the family and the church are there to protect the individual from the state, which is the enemy of paleolibertarian. The EU opposition of the AFD fits seamlessly into the philosophical ideas of fundamentalists. Anyone who wants to reduce the state to a minimum, of course, also rejects any form of a strong central government.
 Die Gefahr der neuen Partei ist nicht der Rechtspopulismus – Die deutsche Tea Party
[The danger of the new party is not the right-wing populism – The German Tea Party]

 Behind the scenes, a power struggle is raging between a liberal wing, to which many former members are from the FDP, and a conservative part, where the boundaries are quite fluently leaning towards right-wing populism. Questions over of whether gay marriage is right, whether the nuclear power making a comeback or whether individuals should have a right to “homeschooling.”..
Alternative für Deutschland – Wie die Wähler die AfD zur Protestpartei machen [The Alternative for Germany – How the voters make the AFD into protest party]

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

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

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

All of this really leaves me scratching my head.

The more I find out about the people willing to suffer heavy fines or jail and what political parties they’re pushing, the more I feel like I’ve fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole.

I Love Homeschooling, But Homeschooling Is Not A Human Right

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I Love Homeschooling, But Homeschooling Is Not A Human Right, By R.L. Stollar

*****

Let’s get a few things out of the way first.

First, I generally enjoyed being homeschooled from K-12. Homeschooling is no panacea, but it was a generally positive experience for me personally. Second, I am all about human rights. Since studying human rights theories in high school and college for academic debate, I have desired to understand human rights, understand how to promote them, and defend others when their rights are being attacked.

Third and finally, I am not a fan of Germany’s almost-ban on homeschooling. (“Almost-ban” because Germany does, in fact, allow homeschooling for families of sick children or families that travel significantly.) As an American and a former homeschooler, it rubs me the wrong way.

But.

But Germany’s almost-ban on homeschooling is not a violation of the fundamental, human right to homeschool. Because there is no such human right. It does not exist.

There is no fundamental, human right to homeschool, peoples.

Now before you raise the pitchforks, throw the stones, and shout “Kill the beast!,” hear me out. And while you hear me out, re-read the three things I started with. When I say there is no fundamental, human right to homeschool, I say that as (1) a fan of homeschooling, (2) a human rights advocate, and (3) a critic of their almost-ban on homeschooling.

So put down those pitchforks and stones and save “Kill the beast” for a Disney movie and let’s talk about some basic human rights theory.

Defining Human Rights

Human rights are things — usually freedoms — that are guaranteed to you simply because you are a human. 

These rights assume that every human being — whether male, female, adult, child, gay, straight, black, white, and so forth — is a moral and rational being who deserves dignity and respect. Because of this, these rights are universal. Whether or not the government that you live under chooses to respect these rights, you still have them. They are indivisible.

There have been many articulations of rights people have — ranging from the Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights. Each of these articulations have dealt with different types of rights — natural, civil, and so forth. The concept of human rights arose after World War II and the Holocaust. When the United Nations was created in 1945, governments wanted to create a contract between each other to avoid similar international horrors in the future. The result of this was the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. It delineated thirty fundamental rights that people everywhere should be guaranteed.

You can read a simplified version of the thirty rights from the UDHR here, or the full text of the UDHR here. What you will observe in the declaration are universal concepts of ethics: no slavery, no torture, no unfair detainment, the right to privacy, freedom to move, freedom of expression, right to education, and so forth.

Classifying Human Rights

Now you might wonder, What qualifies a right to be a “human” right?

This is a highly debatable matter, and people everywhere — including human rights theorists — disagree on this all the time. But most people agree with either one of the following two key frameworks:

(1) International, high priority, and require robust justification

Human rights are both international and high-priority norms that require robust justifications that apply everywhere and support their high priority. They need to be so international and so high-priority so that they can actually be justified as binding on every nation everywhere in relationship to every single human being. They need to transcend cultural diversity and national sovereignty.

This is why in most human rights treaties and declarations you see abstract and universal concepts rather than precise particulars. We can all — theoretically — agree that freedom of speech is a human right. But what about the freedom to make porn? That is a very specific freedom that will not hold up against the standard of cultural diversity and national sovereignty. The more specific you get in defining a human right, the less binding it is.

(2) Universal, indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated

The four main standards for what are human rights are (1) universality (applies to all human beings), (2) indivisibility (inherent to human beings qua human beings), (3) interdependency (each right depends on the others), and (4) interrelatedness (each right enhances the other rights). Put together, this means that “all rights are equally important and necessary in creating a strong and healthy society.”

If a particular right is not as equally important and necessary as other rights in creating a strong and healthy society, then it is not a human right. It can be a civil right or a political good or a privilege, but it is not a human right.

Freedom of Movement Versus Freedom to Move By Horse

Let us look at a particular example: freedom of movement.

Freedom of movement is a human right.

What are some ways in which one could move? You could move by foot, by car, by train, by boat, by plane, by horse, and so many other ways.

Is travel by horse a human right?

No. Freedom of movement is a human right. But movement by horse is not a human right. Protecting the former is an international high priority. Protecting the latter is not. Furthermore, protecting movement by horse would be protecting a particular vehicle for achieving a general right, but not the general right itself.

It is the same with homeschooling.

The right to education and the right to educational freedom are both human rights, according to Article 26 of the UDHR:

Everyone has a right to education… Elementary education shall be compulsory… It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups… Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

What are some ways in which one could educate or be educated? You could be educated by public schools, private schools, home schools, tutors, co-ops, and so many other ways.

Is education by homeschooling a human right?

Like travel by horse, homeschooling is not a human right. But like freedom of movement, educational freedom is.

Furthermore, you must keep in mind that human rights are inherent to individuals as individuals.

You cannot have a human right to another individual.

So while one can argue that homeschooling should be considered a parental right, it cannot be a human right because no individual has human rights to another person. You have the human right of movement, but not the human right to make another person move.

This is the inherent balance contained within Article 26: the right of a child to an education, and the right of a parent to follow his or her conscience regarding their child’s education. These need to be balanced. So if homeschooling has a potential to interfere with the human right to an education (of the child), then it cannot itself be a human right.

One can certainly argue that homeschooling is such an important vehicle for preserving the human right of educational freedom, that banning homeschooling is a violation of educational freedom. But educational freedom is the human right, not homeschooling.

Human Rights Inflation

To say homeschooling is the human right confuses and conflates categories.

But it does more than confuse and conflate. It also inflates. A vital aspect of human rights as international policy is that the list of human rights — as stated in treaties — has currency. In other words, the stated human rights actually mean something. So when one country violates them, other countries are rightly in an uproar. Violate freedom of religion and that is a big deal.

The more “rights” you add to the list of human rights, the less that list means.

It loses currency. Once you start adding things like “right to travel by bus,” “right to travel by car,” “right to travel by donkey,” “right to travel by cat,” it diminishes the impact and value of “right TO freely move from one place to another.”

This is called human rights inflation.

What HSLDA and other likeminded homeschool advocates are pushing for, this adding of homeschooling to the list of human rights, is guilty of that very thing.

They are contributing to human rights inflation. They are not alone, mind you. This is a problem that human rights theorists and politicians and international policy experts have wrestled with for years now. According to Foreign Affairs, there is “a gross inflation in the number of human rights treaties and nonbinding international instruments adopted by international organizations over the last several decades.” This is because “Human rights once enshrined the most basic principles of human freedom and dignity; today, they can include anything.”

Why this is a problem is succinctly expressed by the Spectator:

[When people translate] any and all grievances and demands into the language of ‘rights’, they are causing an inflation of the whole concept… The result is that at some point there will be a collapse of the whole system… If living in a one-bedroom flat is now to suffer a fundamental human-rights abuse, how [does one] get remotely exercised about the gassing of children or the desolation of whole nations?

Please Stop Calling Homeschooling a Human Right

As much as I value homeschooling and dislike Germany’s almost-ban on it, I consider it fundamentally irresponsible to set forth homeschooling as a human right. Just, no. No, no, no. I do not say this because I hate homeschooling. I would say this same thing about any number of other thinkers and advocates who set forth particular vehicles for achieving general rights as actual rights themselves. This does a disservice to rights language and only serves to undermine the vehicles one wants to protect.

If HSLDA and other likeminded homeschool advocates want to champion the actual human right of educational freedom, then by all means — go for it.

HSLDA, champion the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 26.

Champion all aspects of that declaration and all aspects of that Article’s expressed human right, including compulsory education. Champion the child’s right to receive a good education. And also champion the parent’s right to direct what sort of education a child gets. But you cannot pick one part of a human right and then disregard the other parts.

Article 26 is about the right to education and the right to educational freedom. It is not about homeschooling.

Saying otherwise is how you play cultural warrior, not how you play human rights advocate.

I Love All of You, But Hitler Was Not The One Who Made School Compulsory

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I Love All of You, But Hitler Was Not The One Who Made School Compulsory, By Jennifer Stahl

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on May 16, 2013 (and updated on September 22, 2013) with the title, “The German Homeschool Case — The Romeike Family.”

I’m probably not going to earn any brownie points today from any of my readers or family after this post… and I’m sure I know why.

I have been asked repeatedly for my opinions on the Romeike family from Germany that is seeking assistance through the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) for asylum in the USA.

Many people think that because I am a former home-schooler, and especially because I live in Germany (I’ll come home before my children go to school and home-school them, right?) that I will be incensed and defend the family.

However, since the story broke, I have pointed out several inconsistencies, as well as the fact that the Romeike family could pursue legal actions for the laws to change in Germany, take it as high as the highest courts in the EU and even go to another European country that is not restrictive towards homeschoolers rather than lying about Germany on their asylum application.

Many might think I’m overreacting by saying that they lied about Germany — especially since my children’s foray into education is still very fresh and in the non-mandatory stages of compulsory education. Actually, I’ve spent many hours looking into their case (not just today!) and into the German educational system when I entered into it, as well as when I found out that I was pregnant. I’ve asked extensive questions and I’ve been researching all home-school cases friends and families send me that are out of Germany.

Here is the news that the HSLDA is disseminating about the Romeike family right now:

There are four articles I found that sum up every bit of the story very well in a nice tight bow. You can find them hereherehere and here.

You can also find a video in German from a show here that covered the Romeikes’ after they went to the US. This video is shared via the HSLDA, but is originally from a talk show in Germany, which tries to show both sides of the issue.

It bothers me terribly that the main thrust of the case all depends on issues that just throw a monkey wrench in everything. If you want to make a good point, do not invoke Godwin’s law.

I know Wikipedia is not authoritative, but honestly, it’s the best write-up I’ve seen in a very long time (in English) about the German educational system. (see here) I love all of you, but Hitler was not the one who made school compulsory in Germany. Each of the Länder (German states) decided on compulsory education and all had different laws. The goal was that all children, whether poor or rich, had an equal chance at education in a time when many children were removed from school to work at home, or in the fields.

Germany wasn’t really unified until around World War I. Even as the Federal Republic of Germany, each state has its own government, laws and practical application until around World War II.  Compulsory Education was actually put into place by Napoleon and the Prussian Empire.  Some of the best minds about children’s early Education came out of this market in Germany, Austria and Swizerland. (Friedrich FröbelJohann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Rudolf Steiner)

Yes, the Nazis used compulsory education to their own ends. I definitely do not dispute that. The least I expect is a bit of factual reporting. At this point, most of the information that has covered Germany and homeschooling has been full of holes.

School here is completely different. Government here is completely different.  I’m actually finding it very laughable that they are claiming Christian persecution. Germany is in every sense of the word a Christian nation, even if most/many of the actual citizens are not Christians, and the bulk of the Christians are “nominal” at best. (I really hate using that word.) Many are unaffiliated and therefore not even counted due to various reasons of theological difference and not wishing to pay a flat church tax out of their income. (You pay tithes and offerings, we pay church tax [Kirchensteuer])

All public holidays here that are not explicitly listed as Federal holidays, are Christian holidays. (see here) Most of the political parties have a Christian basis and base. (see here)  Many public schools and kindergartens still have religious symbols up. (Crosses, Crucifixes, Mother and Child)

As it stands, if one does not wish to use the public school closes to them, the following options are available:

I can semi understand the concern that the Romeike family may have in regards to sexual education… but at some point someone has to tell all children the facts of life, and about how babies are born, marital relations and that sort of thing. With the hours at school being as few as they are, parents have as much opportunity and much more obligation to disseminate this information than schools do.  I wish I could say all parents feel the same, but they sadly do not.

Depending on one’s school district, what is covered in sex ed will vary from school to school, state to state. Most of the kerfuffle I’ve heard from the US or even the UK in regards to sex education in our schools here, actually center around older initiatives or books that are available in the library, but hardly ever checked out. It makes me wonder what the actual point is of those articles and what is covered in the sexual education. . . if anything much.

I do not understand their apprehension and statements about witchcraft and paganism at school. Neither are at this point recognized religions that have religious coursework in either state, but that could possibly (maybe) change in the future.  For now, you have Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Islamic studies offered. If you are non-religious, you can take a social ethics course instead.

I also do not understand their statements about indoctrination at school. The attitudes here as far as education goes is so far from indoctrination that I find it pitiable that such a statement has been made to American mass media, especially those with a religious bent.  As far as the quality of education, their home state is home to some of the most prestigious universities in Germany.  (I would love to know more, but I live in a neighboring state and am very happy with our educational opportunities.)

There has also been brought up that the family may face fines or prison time for home-schooling. This is only a half truth. If the Romeike family sends their children to school, and  home-school after school hours or on the weekends; they will not be penalized. They also could move anywhere in the EU that home-schooling is still legal while still fighting for legalization here in Germany.

Another argument the Romeike family raises is that their human rights were breached. The current court decisions deny this, and I hope to discuss this further on my blog at some point in the future.

I wish their family no ill will, I only wish to present some facts unavailable to the American public in general.

My home-school experience wasn’t the best, and I know that there are exceptional, awesome home-schoolers out there. I wish all of them the best, but I find cases like these certainly do not help ours, or for us to be better accepted or trusted by society at large. As someone pursuing higher education at the moment, I find it difficult not to speak up.

Grassroots in Education: A History of the Modern Homeschooling Movement in America, Part 1, By Katy-Anne Wilson

Grassroots in Education: A History of the Modern Homeschooling Movement in America, Part 1, By Katy-Anne Wilson

Katy-Anne Wilson describes herself as “mommy to four public children who are or will be sent to public school (so thankful for special education programs).” She is about to graduate college with a degree in writing and sociology. This post was originally published on her blog on August 4, 2012, and is reprinted with her permission.

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In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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Introduction

"The public school system in America originally emerged as a protestant religious initiative in the 1830’s."
“The public school system in America originally emerged as a protestant religious initiative in the 1830’s.”

The story of the modern homeschooling movement in fundamentalist and evangelical Christian circles, who currently dominate this movement and have done so for more than a quarter of a century now, is a story of manipulation. A lot of the modern homeschooling movement happened because of the “culture wars” which started to emerge in the 1920’s. In fact the whole premise of this paper is that the main reason the modern homeschooling movement is as strong and popular as it is currently is because the religious right wanted to gain political and cultural influence in order to “take back America for Christ” and turn the USA into a Christian country. The religious right want to force the American people to live by their ideals and their morals by changing laws in America.

This paper focuses on the fundamentalist and evangelical Christian homeschoolers because 85% – 90% of homeschoolers are fundamentalist or evangelical Christians. (Gaither 2009, p. 341) When the modern homeschooling movement first started there were roughly 10,000-15,000 children who were homeschooled in the USA, but by the mid-80’s the professional estimates are at somewhere between 120,000 and 240,000 (Gaither 2009, p. 341) and now that number is even higher at 1.35 million children in the United States are now homeschooled, (Cooper & Sereau 2007, p. 110) with the majority of these being fundamentalist or evangelical Christians.

The modern homeschooling movement started as a grassroots effort in the 1970’s on the part of secular educational reformers who believed that an institutionalized school setting was not conducive to their children’s education and wanted to educate them through means they considered to be more natural. By the 1980’s, the fundamentalist Christians, the ideological homeschoolers, were beginning to infiltrate the homeschooling movement and by the mid-80’s had completely hijacked the movement from its founders original intentions and had turned it into a political fight against society. (Coleman 2010, unpub.) During the 1970’s the “Christian Right” (fundamentalists and a lot of evangelicals) rose to a position of great political influence. (Dowdy & McNamara 1997, p. 162)

Educational History in the USA

Emergence of the Public School System in America

The public school system in America originally emerged as a protestant religious initiative in the 1830’s and was established by the religious fundamentalists such as the Calvinists, Puritans and the Reformers. (Goldfield et al. 2001, pp. 403 – 404). The Puritans believed that everybody should learn the Bible as well as basic math, reading and writing skills, and they thought that the best way to do this was to develop a public school system. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 403). Klicka (1995, pp. 117-118) claims that the main reasons for wanting the children educated at all were so that children could read the Bible for themselves and if they could read and understand it for themselves then they would obey it. The main goals of the original public school movement were literacy (but only as it pertained to learning to read and obey the Scriptures) and vocational training (which was really either household work, the trade of the child’s parents, or an apprenticeship in another trade). Although colleges have existed in some form in the USA since the 1700’s, the goals of the Colonists did not usually include a college education for their children. (Klicka 1995, pp. 117-118). However the public school system was very loose and unregimented until the 19th century.

The public school system was overhauled and reshaped between 1880 and 1920. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 681). The 1920’s were the start of what has been dubbed the “culture wars” (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 777). It was during this time of public school reform that things such as compulsory attendance laws came about, and when kindergarten was started and age appropriate segregated classes were formed. The public schools began to hire professional teachers, and the schools provided students with vocational training. (Goldfield et al. 2001, p. 681).

Although it was fundamentalist Christians who began the public schooling movement, they abandoned it in droves during the 1980’s in order to home school. Secular educational reformers started the modern homeschooling movement which was soon taken over by the Christian fundamentalists and while secular people homeschool, it is not to the same magnitude as the Christian fundamentalists. There are also many Christian fundamentalists who place their children in public schools too but there are many more who home school.

The Modern Homeschooling Movement

When the modern homeschool movement began, it was actually lead by secular educational reformers in the 1970’s (Coleman 2010, unpub.) who believed that schools damage children. The two secular leaders of the modern homeschool movement were John Holt and Raymond Moore. (Gaither 2009, p. 339) In the 1980’s Christian fundamentalists began to join the homeschool movement in large numbers, but for different reasons than the secular crowd. Coleman (2010 unpub.) refers to the secular educational reformers as “Pedagogues” and the religious crowd as “Ideologues”, because some homeschooled for pedagogical reasons and some for ideological reasons. During the 1980’s the Pedagogue crowd and the Ideologue crowd worked together with common goals such as making homeschooling legal in all 50 states of America. (Coleman 2010, unpub.) By the early 1990’s, homeschooling was legal in all 50 states even for parents with no teaching certifications. It was at this time that the Ideologues split off completely from the Pedagogue crowd having completed their goals of making homeschooling legal. The split had been inevitable and had been in progress since about 1985. (Gaither 2009, p. 340)

The Pedagogues simply wanted their children to be able to learn in a natural environment rather than be in institutionalized schooling, because they believed that natural learning was better for their children. Their primary motive was that their children be well-educated. Whereas the primary motive of the Ideologues was to religiously indoctrinate their children in Christian fundamentalism. (Coleman 2010, unpub.) In fact, most religiously motivated homeschoolers believe that they are fighting a culture war and that they must keep their children from being influenced by society, which they usually call “the world”.  The culture wars are very important to fundamentalist Christians, and they believe that they are raising children in order to “take back America for Christ”. (Coleman 2010, unpub.)

To be continued.

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References

Carper, J, & Hunt, T 2007, “Chapter 9: Homeschooling redivivus,” Dissenting tradition in American education pp. 239-264 Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2011.

Coleman, R.E. 2010, Ideologues, pedagogues, pragmatics: a case study of the homeschool community in Delaware County, Indiana, Masters thesis, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.

Cimino, R & Lattin, D 1998, Shopping for Faith: American religion in the new millennium, John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Cooper, B & Sureau, J 2007, “The politics of homeschooling: new developments, new challenges”, Educational Policy, 21, 1, p. 110-131, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2011.

Dowdy, T.E. & McNamara, P.H, 1997 Religion north American style, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Gaither, M 2009, ‘Homeschooling in the USA: past, present and future’, Theory and Research in Education, 7, 3, pp. 331-346, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 August 2011.

Goldfield, Abbott, Anderson, Argersinger, Argersinger, Barney, & Weir 2001, The American journey: a history of the United States, 2nd edition, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Klicka, C.J, 1995 The right choice: the incredible failure of public education and the rising hope of home schooling: an academic historical, practical and legal perspective, Noble publishing associates, Gresham, Oregon.

HSLDA and Child Abuse: The Deregulation of Homeschooling

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HA note: The following series will run each weekday this week. It is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. Part five of the series was originally published on Patheos on April 24, 2013.

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Also in this series: Part One, Introduction | Part Two, HSLDA’s Fight Against Child Abuse Reporting | Part Three, HSLDA’s Stonewalling of Child Abuse Investigations | Part Four, HSLDA’s Defense of Child Abuse | Part Five, HSLDA and the Deregulation of Homeschooling

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5. The Deregulation of Homeschooling

In this series examining the actions of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), we’ve discussed HSLDA’s efforts to minimize child abuse reportingstonewall child abuse investigations, and keep excessive corporal punishment legal. In this post we’re going to change gears and look at HSLDA’s efforts against homeschool regulations, efforts that, in effect, remove compulsory education and legalize educational neglect.

Let me put it like this: HSLDA is against any oversight of homeschooling whatsoever. Without regulation of homeschooling—including even registration with the state education authorities—there is nothing to ensure that parents who remove their children from the public schools (or never send them to begin with) are actually educating their children. But from HSLDA’s perspective, that reality is unimportant. Here is HSLDA’s Christopher Klicka in 2008, explaining the organization’s position:

Mr. Klicka added that the only regulation he found “reasonable” was that families notify authorities of their plans to home school. Other requirements, including record-keeping on childrens’ progress and either standardized testing or year-end portfolios to demonstrate competence, all required in New York State, were currently being challenged in eight active court cases nationally.

In other words, the only regulation HSLDA’s Christopher Klicka—and the organization itself, as we will see—views as acceptable is requiring homeschooled students to give their local schools notice of their intent to homeschool when removing their children.

HSLDA’s basic line is that it is the parents’ responsibility and right to direct the education of their offspring, and that they should therefore not be interfered with. HSLDA does not appear to believe that children have any sort of right to be educated, because the organization opposes any way of ensuring that homeschooling families actually educate their children. In HSLDA’s perfect world, parents would not be required to ensure that their children receive an education—instead, it would be up to their own discretion.

The problem here is very similar to HSLDA’s problem when it comes to child abuse. Both educational neglect and child abuse do take place in HSLDA member families, and they also take place in families that merely use homeschooling as an excuse to educationally neglect and physically abuse their children. (And yes, this does happen.) But the organization appears to be both oblivious to the fact that any of its member families might be guilty of educational neglect or child abuse (because they’re good Christian families!) and not at all bothered by the fact that homeschooling is being used as a tool to enable other families to abuse or neglect their children. If all homeschooling families were like the one I grew up in—if all homeschool parents put the same emphasis and importance on academics that my parents did—HSLDA’s absolutist deregulation stance could perhaps be defended (though not necessarily by me). But not every family is like mine.

Homeschool regulations very drastically from state to state. Ten U.S. states don’t even require that parents register their homeschools with the state education authority, let alone any testing, curriculum, or portfolio requirements. In these states, compulsory education has in practice been repealed. Other states, though, do have oversight of homeschooling. Pennsylvania, for example, has the highest level of regulation of homeschooling, requiring parents to turn in curricular plans at the beginning of the school year (for approval) and submit portfolios of students’ work and written reports of their progress composed by certified teachers at the end of each school year f0r evaluation, along with standardized test scores every third year. This high level of regulation, however, is a bit of an abnormality.

In order to explore HSLDA’s stance on homeschooling regulations, as well as its lobbying power, I am going to use Texas as a case study. Texas is probably the most unregulated state in the country when it comes to homeschooling, and HSLDA has worked hard over the years to keep it this way. As I look over this history, I will quote from HSLDA’s e-alerts, messages it sends out to its member families, often with requests for lobbying action.

A Texas Tale

In Texas, homeschools are counted as individual private schools—and there are no regulations on private schools in Texas. None. While private schools—and thus homeschools—are technically required to teach “reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship,” there is nothing checking up on them to ensure that they do this, no mechanism to catch ones that aren’t, no evaluation requirements, no curriculum requirements, and even no registration requirement. There is, then, absolutely no oversight whatsoever of homeschooling in Texas.

Homeschools didn’t always count as private schools—that particular quirk of Texas law was the result of a 1994 Texas Supreme Court decision: LeeperThe question before the court was whether the private school exemption to the compulsory education law included homeschooled children. Let me quote from the decision’s introduction:

The dispute in this class action centers on whether the private school exemption includes children who are taught at home, in a bona fide manner, a curriculum designed to meet certain basic education goals, including a study of good citizenship.

The court concluded in its decision, then, that the private school exemption did indeed apply to homeschooled children—or at least to homeschooled children who were “taught at home, in a bona fide manner, a curriculum designed to meet certain basic education goals.” There is nothing in the Leeper decision that bars the state educational commission from creating oversight of homeschooling—and in fact, the decision explicitly states that.

Specifically, the TEA [Texas Education Agency] is not precluded from requesting evidence of achievement test results in determining whether children are being taught in a bona fide manner.

Technically, this decision required that those who were given an exemption from the state’s compulsory education law to be educated at home be taught “in a bona fide manner” using “a curriculum designed to meet certain basic educational goals.” However, the Texas legislature never passed laws providing oversight of homeschooling after the decision was handed down, leaving homeschools to be overseen in the same way that private schools are—which means not at all. As a result, these nominal requirements have never been worth more than the paper it’s written on.

Truancy and Registration, 2003

This lack of oversight of homeschooling has created a bit of a problem for Texas over the years. Namely, how are educational officials to know who is homeschooled and who is, well, just a dropout? From the perspective of local superintendents, the two look very much the same: children who have stopped attending school. How is a local school district to deal with truancy when it isn’t sure who is truant and who was homeschooled? In 2003, a state senator attempted to fix this problem with a bill requiring homeschoolers to register with the state’s commissioner of education. HSLDA responded with an e-alert to its members:

February 28, 2003

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

A bill has been introduced in the Texas Legislature that will require all homeschoolers to be registered with the state commissioner of education. HSLDA is completely opposed to any registration or controls on homeschoolers in Texas.

Senator Barrientos introduced the bill, S.B. 586, on February 24. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Education.

We need your calls to Senator Barrientos to urge him to withdraw his bill. There can be no compromise.

ACTION REQUESTED

Please call Senator Barrientos and give him this message:

“Thank you for your concern for public school dropouts. However, registering law-abiding homeschoolers is not the solution. More serious enforcement of the existing truancy laws is all that is necessary. We ask you to withdraw S.B. 586 and keep homeschooling free.”

Senator Barrientos capitol number is 512-463-0114. His fax is 512-463-5949. His e-mail is gonzalo.barrientos@senate.state.tx.us.

Be polite, yet firm that there is no room for compromise.

In this e-alert, HSLDA makes it clear that it opposes any oversight of homeschooling, even something as simple requiring homeschoolers to register with the state educational authority. But what really struck me is that whoever wrote up this e-alert comes across as completely missing the point—the bill requiring homeschoolers to register was proposed so that local school districts could enforce the existing truancy laws, so simply suggesting that these laws need more enforcing makes no sense. Further, asking that homeschoolers register—merely put their names on a list—posed no threat whatsoever to parents’ freedom to homeschool, regardless of what HSLDA implies in this alert.

There’s a little bit left to the e-alert, though, so let me add that:

BACKGROUND

I contacted Senator Barrientos’ office and talked to his aide in charge of the S.B. 586. She explained that their intent is only to help solve the school drop-out problem. They simply “want to protect the sanctity of homeschoolers.”

When informed that that we wanted the immediate withdrawal of the bill, she asked if we would “compromise.”

I explained the history of home schooling Texas and that there was no room for compromise. Homeschoolers are content with the present legal climate and enjoy the freedom they have fought so hard to obtain.

A second call was placed to determine if they would withdraw. The aide said she would recommend that they not withdraw the bill. Officially their position is that they will not withdraw the bill at this time.

We informed her that we inform our membership.

Let Senator Barrientos know homeschoolers want him to withdraw his bill.

Thanks for standing with us for freedom!

Sincerely,

Chris Klicka

HSLDA Senior Counsel

This is how HSLDA operates. No compromise. We will inform our membership. We are standing for freedom. No compromise.

This “we want to protect the sanctity of homeschoolers” bit—which HSLDA quoted the state senator’s aide as saying—is interesting, because I think there is a strong case to be made there. Do homeschoolers really want homeschooling to serve as a shelter for abuse or as a cover for a school dropout problem? Senator Barrientos clearly hoped that requiring homeschoolers to register would ensure that legitimate homeschoolers would be protected while dropouts could more easily be taken to task for their truancy. But HSLDA would have none of that—and no compromise.

Just over a week later, on March 6th, HSLDA sent out another e-alert:

March 6, 2003

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

Thank you for your time and effort spent protecting homeschool freedom! Many of you have responded to our elert of Feb. 28 notifying you of  Senate Bill 586. This bill would require all homeschoolers to be registered with the state commissioner of education and would open the door for further regulations.

The bill states: “A home-schooled child is exempt under Subsection (a)(1) only if the child’s parent or guardian provides to the commissioner written acknowledgment on a form adopted by the commissioner that the parent or guardian accepts complete responsibility for adequately teaching the child based on a curriculum designed to meet basic education goals.”

Texas homeschoolers enjoy the greatest liberty to homeschool of virtually all the states. Senator Gonzalo Barrientos (the sponsor of S.B. 586) is offering to amend the bill, but no amendment would be satisfactory since it would involve some limit on the freedom of homeschoolers. Unlike many other states, homeschoolers in Texas have the clear blessing and protection of a landmark Texas Supreme Court case. There is no need to compromise.

HSLDA’s Texas Legislative Counsel Tom Sanders visited Senator Barrientos’ office and he learned that the senator has received over 1,000 calls and 1,000 emails from homeschoolers expressing their opposition to the bill. We encourage you to continue to contact Senator Barrientos.

While no action has been taken on the bill so far, we want to make sure to send the message that Texas homeschoolers are opposed to any change in the law.

For Christ and liberty,

Chris Klicka

HSLDA Senior Counsel

This e-alert notes that the registration form homeschoolers would have to fill out would include a commitment that “the parent or guardian accepts complete responsibility for adequately teaching the child based on a curriculum designed to meet basic education goals.” One would think that’s the sort of commitment HSLDA would support, as it places no stipulations and creates no enforcement mechanism, but merely states that the responsibility for educating the child now lays with the parent, and that the parent is willing to take on that responsibility. But no. No amendment. No compromise. Nothing that will place any limit whatsoever on the “freedom of homeschoolers.”

It’s also worth noting that the Leeper decision already stated that homeschool parents must do those things, essentially word for word. So why was HSLDA so worried about having homeschool parents sign a piece of paper saying that they would do so? HSLDA expounded on its opposition as follows:

HSLDA opposes the bill as it requires parents to send written confirmation to the commissioner that the parent will “adequately teach the child based on curriculum designed to meet basic education goals.” This opens the door for further regulation to determine what is adequate instruction and who determines adequacy. It would require additional legislation to determine the “basic education goals” for homeschoolers.

This is a pattern I’ve noticed—HSLDA inevitably interprets any law that effects homeschooling in any way as a potential Trojan Horse, opening the floodgates that will (somehow) result in a de facto ban on homeschooling. Still, in this case it makes especially little sense, because Leeper itself, which HSLDA cites here as its freedom charter for Texas homeschoolers, already opened the door to regulation when it used words like “in a bona fide manner” and “curriculum designed to meet certain basic education goals,” wording almost identical to that that this bill would require homeschool parents to affirm. But then, if the HSLDA didn’t react in this way to every little law, it wouldn’t have material to frighten homeschoolers into buying their legal insurance.

Several months after this update, HSLDA offered its members a final update:

June 10, 2003

Dear Texas Members and Friends,

Thank you for all of your hard work this legislative season! Because of your calls, letters, and email, we have been able to accomplish several major victories for homeschoolers in Texas. Tom Sanders, HSLDA’s Legislative Counsel, was in Austin nearly every week during the legislative session, lobbying on your behalf to make these
successes a reality.

Homeschoolers killed S.B. 586, the homeschool registration bill. Our consistent message was “no compromise,” and the sponsor got that message from your calls (over a thousand as estimated by a staffer).

Those thousands of phone calls and thousands of emails? This is how HSLDA gets its work done. And time and again, time and time and again, HSLDA succeeds. In fact, it succeeds in getting its way on essentially every homeschool bill it touches.

Truancy and Notification, 2010-2011

Texas schools’ problems with confusing homeschooling and truancy continued for the remainder of the decade, until someone finally blew the whistle in 2010. As reported in the Chronicle:

In an attempt to ensure that public school districts aren’t disguising high school dropouts, the Texas Education Agency is conducting an audit of students who withdrew under the auspice of home schooling.

TEA officials wouldn’t reveal details of the audit — other than to say that the state is contacting a random sampling of families to validate that they intended to home-school when they left middle or high school.

More than 22,620 Texas secondary students were listed as withdrawing to home-school in 2008 — raising a red flag among some experts and educators who worry that Texas’ lax regulations are encouraging abuse in the hands-off home-schooling category. The 2008 figures reflect a 24 percent jump from the prior year and roughly triple the number of high school home-schooling withdrawals from a decade ago.

“They looked at the numbers and data a little more closely and decided to go a little more in-depth,” TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said.

If parents who withdrew their children to homeschool were required to register with the state, we wouldn’t have a problem with public schools recording dropouts as students leaving to homeschool in an effort to cook their books, and if there were at least some educational oversight we wouldn’t have a problem with dropouts claiming they’re homeschooling in an effort to avoid truancy laws. But don’t bother mentioning any of that to HSLDA!

Here is an update on the situation a year later in the Chronicle:

A new documentation requirement will make it harder for students to leave the public school system under the guise of home schooling, closing a loophole in Texas’ dropout statistics.

Starting this school year, a parent must submit a signed statement saying that a withdrawing student intends to study at home, regardless of the child’s age. Documentation requirements also are being stiffened for students who say they’re leaving to enroll in a private school in Texas or a school outside Texas. In either of these circumstances, a student is not counted as a dropout.

This change in policy took place without need for a law—it was a change in the school system’s paperwork. In fact, this change didn’t actually require homeschoolers to notify school districts of their intent to homeschool when withdrawing their children—something that still isn’t required in Texas even today. Instead, the change meant that if the schools wanted to list a student as having left to be homeschooled in official school documents counting the number and flow of children, the administration would have to get a signed statement of intent to homeschool. And if the parent didn’t want to give that—and they didn’t have to—the administration would be out of luck.

HSLDA sent an e-alert to its members in response to this change:

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Education Agency has now implemented its new policy to combat public school attendance fraud by requiring public schools to more fully document whether a withdrawing student intends to homeschool.

Last year, HSLDA alerted Texas homeschoolers that the TEA conducted an audit of public schools and found that some schools in Texas had been classifying dropouts as homeschoolers in order to keep drop-out numbers low. To combat this problem, the TEA is now requiring that when a student is withdrawing from public school, the school must have a signed statement from the parent saying that the student intends to study at home before it can classify them as “withdrawing to homeschool.”

Texas law does not require parents who choose to teach their children at home to file any sort of notice of intent. Thus, the TEA cannot mandate parents to file any such form. However, HSLDA always recommends that parents who withdraw their children from public school inform the school of their intention, lest the sudden absence of the child create grounds for concern. Members can find a sample withdrawal letter on the members-only section of our website. This letter should serve as the parent’s signed statement required by the TEA’s new policy.

Should you encounter any school district that tries to force  homeschooling parents to sign any statements regarding the enrollment  of their children, please contact HSLDA immediately for assistance.

Sincerely,

Darren Jones, Esq.

HSLDA Staff Attorney

It is absolutely true that HSLDA encourages new homeschoolers to notify their intent to homeschool when removing their children from a public school (notify, notregister) and it appears from the quote with which I began this post that HSLDA would be okay with requiring parents to give this notification. But that’s it. Nothing more than bare, basic notification.

Conclusion

HSLDA is opposed to any oversight of homeschooling whatsoever, and if you read the organization’s literature, it’s as though they don’t realize the practical results of their deregulation efforts. In a state like Texas, a parent may remove her children from the public school and, whether or not she notifies the school district of her decision to homeschool, keep her children at home and teach them absolutely nothing. After all, how is anyone to know? How is anyone to ensure that education is taking place?

In effect, it appears that HSLDA’s goal is to—in practice if not in name—make compulsory education a thing of the past, allowing parents to opt their children out of formal schooling for any reason and without any requirement that they actually educate their children. I understand where they are coming from—they believe in the supremacy of parents’ rights and parents’ total control over their children’s upbringing—I just strongly disagree with it. Their policies also, in effect, legalizes educational neglect. And indeed, in an article on compulsory education laws HSLDA stops short of openly coming out against them but nevertheless takes a very critical view of their very existence.

And again, this isn’t hypothetical—it impacts real people and real lives. In 2011, Stephen L. Endress conducted a survey of public school administrators in Iowa and Illinois as part of his dissertation project. While his response rate was low, he found that his several hundred respondents reported that they believed that, on average, 25% of those who left their schools stating intent to homeschool were actually doing so specifically to avoid truancy laws. And when homeschooling regulations are low or nonexistent, there’s nothing to stop people from doing that. This, quite simply, is the result of HSLDA’s advocacy.

And yes, I would definitely say policies HSLDA’s policies — and the state of deregulation it has contributed to — damages “the sanctity of homeschooling.”

End of series.

HSLDA and Child Abuse: A Series

HA note: The following series will run each weekday this week. It is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. Part one of the series was originally published on Patheos on April 17, 2013.

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Also in this series: Part One, Introduction | Part Two, HSLDA’s Fight Against Child Abuse Reporting | Part Three, HSLDA’s Stonewalling of Child Abuse Investigations | Part Four, HSLDA’s Defense of Child Abuse | Part Five, HSLDA and the Deregulation of Homeschooling

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1. Introduction

As a homeschooled child, Michael Farris, the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), was my hero. It was HSLDA, I believed, that had given my parents the right to homeschool, and that continued to protect our rights against government encroachment. This made what I have learned about the organization upon adulthood that much harder to absorb and fully comprehend. Put simply, HSLDA is doing everything it can to keep people from reporting child abuse and to inhibit child abuse investigations, has opposed laws against child abuse, and is working to undo compulsory education laws altogether, effectively decriminalizing educational neglect.

HSLDA was in 1983, ostensibly to protect families’ right to homeschool. In practice, however many of its cases today deal not with homeschooling but with child abuse allegations. If you read through HSLDA’s Court Report, you will find story after story of HSLDA defending homeschooling parents against child abuse allegations. Homeschooling is today legal in every U.S. state, and HSLDA has gone far, far beyond its original mandate. In fact, it appears that HSLDA is today more preoccupied with sheltering child abuse than it is with protecting the legality of homeschooling.

Let me offer the Stumbo case as an example. In September of 1999, a neighbor saw the Stumbo’s two-year-old naked and unattended in the family’s driveway and registered an anonymous tip with Child Protective Services. After receiving the tip, a CPS worker appeared on the Stumbo’s porch and asked to interview the children to ensure that there was no abuse taking place. On HSLDA’s advice, the Stumbos refused to grant the CPS worker any access whatsoever to their children. The CPS worker then went to a judge and got a court order to interview the children. In spite of the fact that the case had nothing to do with homeschooling, HSLDA appealed the order and eventually won; the court found that there was too little evidence of abuse to justify a court order. HSLDA had hoped the court would find that interviewing a family’s children would count as seizure under the fourth amendment, but was disappointed as the case was decided more narrowly.

I remember reading about the Stumbo case in Home School Court Report when I was kid. It was played up as this grand scary thing, as though the kids were about to be removed from their parents for no reason whatsoever. At the time I wasn’t aware of the legal background surrounding the case—including the reality that there was never an attempt to remove the children from their parents and that the case primarily involved not homeschooling but rather the proper procedures for child abuse investigations. Whether or not the CPS took the proper actions in the Stumbo case isn’t the issue. The issue is that HSLDA has moved beyond defending the legality of homeschooling and into the world of litigating against child abuse investigations—sometimes with rather disastrous implications for abused children.

And HSLDA isn’t shy about this shift, either. For example, this statement was included in a paper from the 2000s on how to deal with CPS investigations:

HSLDA is beginning to work with states to reform the child welfare laws to guarantee more freedom for parents and better protection for their parental rights. HSLDA will be sending out Alerts to its members in various states where such legislation is drafted and submitted as a bill.

“Child welfare laws” means laws dealing with child abuse and Child Protective Services investigations. “Better protection for … parental rights” means protection against accusations of child abuse and CPS investigations. This has nothing to do with homeschooling and everything to do with protecting parents’ absolute control over their children, and absolute freedom from state interference, no matter what that means for the well-being of the children themselves.

From what I have learned in the time since my teenage years spent pouring over each month’s Home School Court Report, it appears that there are four primary ways that HSLDA is complicit in aiding and abetting child abuse and educational neglect: (1) They work to minimize the reporting of child abuse; (2) They seek to stall the investigation of child abuse; (3) They defend the legality of excessive corporal punishment; and (4) They oppose any homeschooling regulation whatsoever, even when it is merely intended to ensure that learning is actually taking place. This post introduces a series addressing these issues and revealing HSLDA’s troubling relationship with child abuse and educational neglect.

To be continued.