Persecuting Home-Schoolers: A Message to the German Government

Posted on February 10, 2010


A most interesting immigration case in which a judge in Tennessee granted political asylum to a German piano teacher and his family may have dented German-American bilateral relations. The family in question home-schooled its children, which is not generally permitted in Germany. The parents’ determination had had repercussions there: massive fines imposed, police intrusion into the home, worried children, and threats of compulsory foster care. Their emigration to the United States was the result.

Crucially for the granting of political asylum, the American judge’s ruling hinged on definition of home-schoolers as a social group suffering persecution. In the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, social groups were, no doubt, included as a way to introduce some needful leeway, since the categories of race, religion, nationality, and political views cannot capture every kind of persecution. The ruling has potentially some interesting consequences from a legal point of view. The dispassionate observer wonders what other categories might be deemed to constitute a social group. Could we see a new wave of migration from Italy to the United States if crucifixes are eventually banned, as threatened, from public schools?

Above all, however, this case once again highlights the role of the family in education and upbringing more generally. This blog has previously argued that children do not belong to the State but rather, first and foremost, to their families and that point must be reiterated here. Contrary to what seems to be the view of the German State, children are not part of the State machinery to be moulded and used for the ends of the nation or the government. Rather, school provision by government should support and enable the human flourishing of students. It cannot and should not dictate it.

German public officials are cited as acting in fear of the creation of ‘parallel societies’ as a result of home-schooling. This amounts (unless, of course, the unspoken and unspeakable sub-text is actually racist) to naked fear of dissenting, non-majority views. The increasing popularity of home-schooling ought to remind the officials in question that they are not qualified, as such elites often imagine they are, to define what their society is or should be. That is within the competence solely of the citizens and families of Germany.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its record, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has supported the arrogant claims of the German government. It is fervently to be hoped – although, regrettably, not really expected – that this extraordinary public event might convince a majority that there is something rotten in the state of the ECHR and in its all-too-often perverse views on freedom, rights, and the role of the State. We can only trust that the signal of so stark a disparity of approach in Europe and America will penetrate the protective armour of elite British civil servants and policymakers and stem their own increasing clamp-down on home-schooling – not to mention the more pernicious consequences of the equality legislation currently making its way through Parliament.