I'd like to ask homeschoolers from all over to respond to this appeal from Jan Edel, on behalf of three homeschooling families in the German state of Nord-Rhein Westphalen.
(Update : Jan has put my English translation onto his website, so you can link straight to that or to this blog posting if you want. Please spread the word - we want to inundate these bureacrats with emails. Jan says, "Please mobilise everyone you can to set this in motion in Germany and around the world!"
At the bottom of this posting is a letter icon that you can click on to email this link to other supporters of homeschooling. )
On his website he states, "How on earth can the authorities consider it commensurate to extract penalty payments totalling €18 000 (approx $22 000) from three large families who are educating their children in a manner unforeseen by the current legal framework? In his press conference, the UN Special Reporter for human rights in education, Prof. Dr. Vernor Muñoz Villalobos, declared that the particular selectivity that is a feature of the German education system also closes off some alternative educational forms, such as homeschooling and distance learning.
According to the UN declaration of human rights, parents have the right to determine the form of their children's education. In the case of the homeschooling initiative in Lüdenscheid and the surrounding area, this human right has not been called upon. There are even various particular educational reasons why being in a state school would disadvantage their children. The bureaucrats are harming these families far more than any perceived damage the families are doing to the public interest. Such financial penalties are left purely to the discretion of the school principal. No-one is legally forced to take such insane measures, particularly against one's own conscience.
The fact that there is currently no expanded definition of compulsory schooling in Germany which allows for subsidiary learning organisations or co-operation, should not result in families fleeing to other European countries to live and learn in freedom there, while others are bankrupted in one fell swoop. Imagine having €1000 being debited from your monthly income of €2100 by the educational authorities. These families are not even capable of paying for correspondence or private education or for the special or individual educational needs of their children.
Until now, the state has stolidly ignored the tangible educational benefits of self-organised learning, instead referring monotonously to 'regulations'. It ignores children with individual needs such as dyslexia, giftedness, multilingualism, distinctive physical features, disability, hyperactivity, to name a few. To enable these children to live in the family with their totally ‘normal’ siblings and to enable them to determine their own learning to a large extent, the parents organise and finance private teaching and learning opportunities, making the state curriculum more interesting and appropriate to their children’s abilities and development. Meanwhile, they have discovered that their children display above average development when their individual needs are met. The school principal responsible for levying the penalties has not once met any of these children.
In no other country would these families be attacked like this. The educational route which they have chosen for their children is accepted practically everywhere else. At home in Germany they find themselves justifying themselves against the strangest assumptions and prejudices, many of which are based on German provinciality. This in spite of the fact that all these misgivings have been contradicted by experience and by studies in other countries.
Is it right to treat a few happy families with several children living and learning together without school, just like millions of other children worldwide, as criminals by subjecting them to penalty payments and jail sentences? One does not see such instances in any other country. We can’t allow the world’s greatest exporter to lose it’s child-friendliness to overseas! Familial competence and responsibility is becoming rare and is being discouraged by increasing professional supervision – even in cases where such supervision is needed. If we are to stop the emigration of more families who value education, we need your solidarity and support.”
If you want put your voice to the wave of protest and let those involved in this ridiculous process know what you think, then you can click on the link on Jan Edel’s webpage where it says Beschwerde-Email. Below is the automatic wording of the email translated into English. As I don’t know how much English is understood by those to whom the email is addressed, I would suggest sending the German version and adding your (respectful, moderated) comments to it if you wish.
I have heard that you have levied exorbitant penalties on homeschooling families in your school district. There are no grounds for such extreme measures. They are unjustified in every case and inexcusable in light of German history, even if there were a written law in this case.
Please note that I am hereby registering my vote that I consider the current penalties (and any future ones) against these families to be totally disproprotionate and not in the interest of citizens in general.
I appeal to your conscience, your humanity and your healthy common sense, and ask you to stop this process and reverse the forcible measures that have been taken.