I am dismayed that some people who pride themselves on being pro-choice stand for choice when it comes to the decision of a parent to terminate a young human’s life, but would deny choice to the parents who wish to choose how their living child is educated.
“Keep the government out of my womb! Keep the government out of the bedroom!” But when their home-schooling neighbor says, “Keep the government out of my child’s classroom and out of our home,” some pro-choice advocates would deny that choice and call for the police to invade, an act that may traumatize a family for years.
See the newly published story from Germany, “Police Seized My Clients’ Children Because They Homeschooled. Last Week a Court Ruled It Was OK.” Thirty-three police officers and seven social workers showed up one morning at the Wunderlich home and threatened to bash in the door with a battering ram if they weren’t allowed in. They then came in and carried away the children as they screamed for help. The ruthless iron fist of big government compassion had struck another blow for progress. But it was a case that never should have been pursued.
Prior to the children’s removal, the Wunderlichs met with an official
from the Youth Welfare Office who reported positively about their
homeschooling situation: “We had the impression that all children were
developing according to their age. On the part of the Youth Welfare
Office there is currently no need for action.”
But the schooling authority disagreed. In a response we have now
obtained, this official—who had not visited the home and had not met
with the children—wrote, “I am certainly of the opinion that there is a
danger to the children, because they are systematically withdrawn from
all social aspects of society and live in a so-called parallel society.”
That is raw ideology, not concern for the children. And that’s what is really at issue in this case.
The people who have consistently shown the most concern for these
children through proceedings are the parents, who have fought for
justice ever since their children were seized. From the beginning, they
chose to live a more frugal life so they could be at home with their
children as they grew up.
In its decision last week, the European Court of Human Rights has
undermined its claim to being the “conscience of Europe” and pitted
parents against children. The court was set up to adjudicate disputes
between individuals and the state, and yet it misframes this case as one
in which the courts must mediate between parent and child:
“[International law] requires that a fair balance must be struck between
the interests of the child and those of the parent.”
The overt assumptions here—that parents do not have their children’s
best interests at heart and that the state knows better—should trouble
any parent, whether your children are educated at home or at school.
Parallel societies and unlimited choices are applauded when it comes to various lifestyles and cultures, but when a religious Christian family wants to decide how to educate their children,
heaven Big Brother help us!
The Wunderlich story resonates with painful experiences in many regions, including some
in the U.S., where local and state governments have
occasionally trampled upon parental rights, denying them of choice when
it comes to education for their kids. Fortunately, organized efforts
from many parents have increased awareness of the legitimacy of home
schooling and school choice in many communities, but many threats remain.
Some of the smartest young people I know are home schooled, honestly, and I applaud parents who make the huge sacrifice to personally work to give their kids the best they can provide. We didn’t home school, but instead my wife chose to launch a highly successful charter school that has opened wonderful opportunities and choice for hundreds of students and families in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin, including some of our own children.
But whether a home school effort or charter school in the end is successful or not does not justify the right of parents to decide how their children are educated. Those rights are part of being parents and need to be respected, not mocked or undermined by the many tactics used by those who insist that every child must be kept under the control of a teacher’s union or bureaucrats. These tactics include, for example, current attempts at legislation to impose stricter standards on home schools than public schools face, or accusing children of truancy who have met all legal requirements in their state for suitable education, and turning paperwork disputes into unwarranted charges of “neglect” that escalate to police charging into a home. Harassment from various officials around the US and around the world has been a long-standing challenge in home schooling. Europe’s dramatic rejection of parental rights makes this worse for millions.
The freedom to worship is ultimately the freedom to choose what to believe, which includes the freedom to teach our children what we believe. If religious parents cannot choose to teach their own children or to choose who teaches them, personal liberty including religious liberty is infringed.
This is anathema to the populists in nominally democratic nations who want ever more power to control our lives and compel us to see the world their way in the name of “compelling” interests. Real freedom must be grounded in the respect of individuals, and individual families unfettered by the will of bureaucrats who always think they know what’s better for all of us. They not only always think they know better than we do how our money should be spent, but also how our children should be raised. Even if they were geniuses that really know better, as long as the US Constitution has any meaning, they still do not and should not have any right to impose their will on us. As an American citizen who loves the liberties protected in the Constitution, I must stand for limited government and expanded individual liberty for my nation, and hope that our efforts toward that end will help protect religious liberty for all of us.