Monday, June 11, 2007

The times they are a-changing

Every two years, the German protestant churches hold a conference to discuss various issues relevant to German Christians. The latest conference, in Cologne, has just come to an end and it was really interesting to see that, for the first time, the issue of homeschooling was included on the programme, in the form of a discussion/debate between Helmut Stücher, founder of a support school for German Christian home educators and Armin Eckerman, a lawyer who has represented several German home educators versus two representatives of provincial and city government and the person responsible for school and education in the protestant church.

Apparently the mayoress of Bonn, who was one of the debaters, stated that she could never home educate her children. That's all very well for you, Ms Dieckmann, but I don't see why that should prevent other people from doing it, if they want to. Often women have told me that they could never have home births, or breastfeed their children, or carry them around in a sling the whole day but as far as I know, none of these practices is legally forbidden in Germany.

The debate was about religiously motivated home education and it seems that the pro-he debaters came across as fearful and narrow-minded. Although they pleaded against the issues in society which they perceive as harmful to the youth, they were unable to put across a positive argument. I think that this is because the issue is not just one of religion. I've said it before and I will restate it here again. If Christian home educators base their arguments for home educating on religious grounds, they are going to look fearful and narrow-minded and are not going to win the sympathy of anyone, least of all their fellow Christians who are sold on Schulpflicht. My plea to all the Stüchers and Eckermanns of this world is : leave the religious argument in the background. Yes it is important, but if you want to win sympathy for your cause, you need to base your argument on the things other people can relate to.

This article, in German, decries the fact that the pro-he speakers were hopelessly outnumbered and that the debate was unfair (their arguments were often ignored by the moderators, the other speakers and by the majority of the audience, who booed their statements). However, the fact that such a discussion was featured at the Kirchentag and took place in front of 80 people is a milestone. It seems that home education is at last becoming one of those burning issues for the German people and the day is coming when politicians and judges will have to stop burying their heads in the sand.