Working for educational freedom in Germany
For anyone who is following the situation with the homeschooled girl in Germany who was taken into custody and put into a mental institution, here is an excellent article put out by Netzwerk-Bildungsfreiheit, a German homeschool advocacy group. I have been impressed with the activities of this organization, from the little contact I have had with them (including someone who sits on the board of directors and two others who work with the organization).

The Network was spontaneously created in February 2006 in preparation for a visit from UN officials (in English!) in response to the accusation of human rights violations in the German education system. They have sought to bring together homeschooling groups across the country to support a common goal: educational freedom. They provide support to homeschooling families, contact members of the media so that the issue remains public and attempt to work with politicians in hopes of being able to eventually liberalize Germany's school attendance laws.

In fact, the organization is currently putting together an international colloquium to promote homeschooling to which they are inviting homeschoolers, politicians and journalists. Many of you may recognize the featured speaker from the US: Dr. Pat Montgomery of the Clonlara School. Actually, you might also notice that neither HSLDA nor Schuz (the legal organization they helped set up in Germany) are featured speakers (they may fall under and others, I don't know). And neither organization appears on the list of organizations supporting the Network. I bring this up for one reason only: HSLDA is not the monolithic power overseas that some may think. So far as I know, HSLDA has not yet even mentioned this colloquium.

I mention this for one reason only: the requests that the Network has made for international assistance are separate and apart from HSLDA. I'm not a particular advocate of overwhelming anyone other than my own legislature or my own national government with letters regarding homeschool laws. But the situation in Germany is a little different than in countries (or states) where homeschooling is legal and there is an existing support structure and acceptance of the practice. Every avenue for a resolution beneficial to German homeschoolers has been exhausted. Cases have been taken to court; letters have been written to politicians; positive stories about homeschooling have been shared with the media. There is only one course left, and that is the same course that Dr. Martin Luther King and other leaders of our civil rights movement took: assert rights in a peaceful but highly public manner.

Germany is a very liberal democracy. While homeschooling does not "fit in" with most Germans' views on education (remember that it didn't here 20 years ago, either), there is something else which Germans detest. They are very lax to put anyone in jail, let alone mothers. They do not like separating families any more than anyone else. And images of children being forcibly escorted to school, families separated and mothers imprisoned will inevitably weigh heavily on Germany's national conscience.

And for anyone who is curious, yes, I think that some of this is possible here. Not because we are subject to international law, or the UN is going to take over our political system, or any other fear which is continually projected on those who bring it up. The threat to homeschooling in America is very domestic, and follows the same line of reasoning based on the interests of the state, the necessity of socialization and the value of an educated workforce with a shared worldview.

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