Friday, July 5, 2013

Germany's elimination of cultural pluralism in education: coming to America?

It is not so much the fact that home schooling is illegal in Germany, or even that home schooling is illegal in Germany based on a Nazi-era law (1938), but the rational for its illegality that is troubling:

In 2003, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court, its highest court, reaffirmed the government’s authority to compel attendance in state- run schools and held that the state’s interest in ensuring access to adequate education outweighed the parents’ interest in choosing how to educate their children.
Oddly the German court defended its decision as strengthening cultural plurality:
The general public has a justified interest in counteracting the development of religiously or philosophically motivated ‘parallel societies’ and in integrating minorities in this area. Integration does not only require that the majority of the population does not exclude religious or ideological minorities, but, in fact, that these minorities do not segregate themselves and that they do not close themselves off to a dialogue with dissenters and people of other beliefs. Dialogue with such minorities is an enrichment for an open pluralistic society. The learning and practicing of this in the sense of experienced tolerance is an important lesson right from the elementary school stage. The presence of a broad spectrum of convictions in a classroom can sustainably develop the ability of all pupils in being tolerant and exercising the dialogue that is a basic requirement of democratic decision-making process.”
This is a part of a larger issue; there are advocates (almost entirely representatives of governments, not people) in the UN for outlawing home schooling in general, just as there are those (both in the UN and the US) determined to protect the practice:

Moreover, there is a movement to end homeschooling in United Nations member countries on the theory that a child’s right to educa- tion may be vindicated only by compulsory education in traditional schools outside the home. By the same token, there is also a movement to recognize the right of parents to choose the appropriate form of schooling for their children. The issue has also concerned U.S. policymakers; the Georgia and Tennessee state legislatures have passed resolutions expressing disapproval of the German compulsory education laws.
And it is interesting to note that the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an accurate representation of these countervailing ideas.  Compare items 1 and 3 in Article 26:

Article 26.
  • (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.

As an American I fall directly into the category of believing that the parents' "prior right" to choose their child's education should be determinative.

I therefore find it remarkably disturbing that the Obama administration seems hell-bent on denying political asylum to a family of German home schoolers who have seen their children rounded up by police and "escorted" involuntarily to public schools.

We have not seen the last of this argument:

In February 2008 the Second Dis- trict Court of Appeals in Los Angeles handed down a surprising decision upholding the constitutionality of a state statute prohibiting ho- meschooling for children between the ages of six and eighteen unless their parents possess teaching credentials. Within six months, how- ever, the same court reversed, holding that as long as parents declare their home to be a private school, they may teach their children even without teaching credentials.
 The fact that the original decision was made is more significant than the subsequent reversal.

Stay tuned.


delacrat said...


Somehow I get the sense that the myriad educational controversies like Race to the Top, Charter vs. Public, Common Core, STEM, NCLB, and now home schooling, all function to miss the point about education in general. There's an endless stream of noise suggesting our present economic quagmire is because Our-Failing-Schools are not preparing the upcoming generations.

It's the schools, not the financial sphere's housing, student loan and credit bubbles or manufacturing sector's job off-shoring.

It's schools "failure" to implement the latest fad that explains why:

"There are plenty of literate entry-level folks around. I meet DSU graduates managing fast-food restaurants and car rental offices and the like all the time." - Steve Newton, Jun 23, 2013

Steven H. Newton said...

I hate to say this, but as tired as I am today, I am (seriously) not sure enough of your point to even be able to respond.

Delaware Watch said...

I think the German school system has a point. Chances are that these children will be adult citizens in a nation much longer than they will be dependent individuals--dependant on their parents. Therefore, society does have an interest in conveying to(educating) these children the values that will enable them to be pluralistic and tolerant members of society for the majority of their lives.

What I find astonishing is how many libertarians feel they can consistently hold that the state has a right to compel children to undergo some form of education but not the right to determine what form(s) that education should take. If parental rights are sovereign in these matters, then parents should have the right to not have their children be educated at all. But I suppose that these libertarians don't want to embrace that absurd consequence.

tom said...

I'm curious. Where do you encounter these astonishing numbers of "libertarians" with such beliefs.

Do they identify themselves as libertarians, or is that merely a tag the you apply to them because your understanding (or lack thereof) of their beliefs confuses and offends you?