Friday, January 05, 2007

Court Judgement Part 2

In a statement dated 21.03.2006 the Senator for Education and Science rejected the parents’
application to have their children released from the legal obligation to attend school in Bremen: The educational programme of the Clonlara School for children not attending school was not admissible as a means of fulfilling the obligation to attend school. In Germany – as to some extent is the case in other countries – there is not merely an obligation to dispense education, but also for children to attend school. Teaching at home can only be considered in exceptional situations such as where parents are working abroad or for children who cannot be transported on account of handicap or illness (‘Krankenunterricht’, approx. ‘teaching for indisposed persons’). But even in these cases the curriculum prescribed by the state should provide the basis for the teaching. Furthermore it should be borne in mind that learning in school is not merely a matter of increasing one’s fund of knowledge but involves other learning experiences with other people. A learning process is involved which is not concerned only with fact learning, but comprehension in common learning. In this respect teamwork and cooperative working on a common task is important. In this way each child experiences certain limitations, must learn acceptance (tolerance of frustration) and learn to accept others in their differentness (tolerance). These are important prerequisites for being able to take on responsibility for oneself and for others in future.

The plaintiffs appealed against this rejection, amongst other things with the argument that
homeschooling children develop a degree of social maturity above the average and as adults
they display a significantly higher level of involvement in social matters than the average, e.g.
in that they vote more often at elections, do more voluntary work and become more politically
involved. This has (according to the plaintiffs) been scientifically confirmed in large scale studies. On the other hand there is no evidence to suggest that children specifically and exclusively receive furtherance in respect of social skills and team competence in state school classes. On the contrary, it is generally deplored that state schools are increasingly subject to the ‘law of the strongest’ (‘Faustrecht’) and that the children’s social behaviour tends to be determined by the lowest common denominator. Especially children who are used to conflicts being resolved at home through discussion and without resort to violence learn that this approach in no way protects them from brutal attacks from other children who have not learned it themselves.

Their sons’ social behaviour, including their attitude to people from other social and cultural backgrounds, did not improve during their time attending school, but on the contrary it became significantly worse. Since then it is once again of the highest standard. Also, their children are sufficiently confronted with the fact that in the rest of the world and in Bremen things are not as peaceful as they are at home by their exposure to public places, bus journeys, in the choir, from newspapers, radio and television. It is not, however, necessary to force them to be exposed to this violence in their immediate surroundings in order to become aware of this and take it into account.

The appeal was rejected. In his rejection statement of 12.07.2006, which will be referred to
and amplified later, the Senator for Education and Science stated amongst other things that an
exception in respect of school attendance for the plaintiffs’ children did not come into question. The children’s purported or real refusal to go to school could not be accepted as sufficient grounds. Whereas there was considerable doubt as to whether they were not subject to their parents’ formative influence, even an authentic psychologically or psycho-somatically initiated refusal would not represent a reason to release them from the obligation to attend school. State schools are regularly confronted with conspicuous behaviour, sometimes of an extreme nature, on the part of children, including so-called school phobia. State schools are equipped to attend to such children with appropriate pedagogic measures, to stabilise them in their personalities and to integrate them socially. This succeeds so much the better when the parents cooperate with the school.

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