Friday, August 03, 2007

J K Rowling and Compulsory Schooling

Now that I have outed myself as a Harry Potter fan, and demonstrated that it is not anti-Christian, I suggest that homeschoolers should read, at least, page 173 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Here is what I wrote to J K Rowling about it :

Dear Ms Rowling

I have just finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (bought it Saturday morning, my 13 year old son read it first and finished it Sunday after an all-nighter and I read it Sunday and yesterday – my children were sorely neglected yesterday, but don’t feel guilty.)

In all the magnificence of the book, there was one paragraph which really jumped out at me. It was the paragraph on page 173 where Lupin tells Harry, Ron and Hermione that attendance at Hogwarts is now compulsory (except for Muggle-borns, who are forbidden from attending). You did your research very well, Ms Rowling. You are obviously aware of the Reichsschulgesetz passed in Germany in 1938 which not only banned private schools and home education but also introduced “Schulzwang” (enforced school attendance). Jewish children were forbidden under this law from attending school.

Back to the world of Harry Potter – imagine that after the downfall of Voldemort and his evil regime, the Ministry for Magic decided that all his statutes should be done away with – except for the above one making school attendance not only compulsory, but in future enforcing it with the harshest measures possible – fining wizards to the tune of half their gold if their children did not attend Hogwarts, or removing their legal custody over their children or (in the case of one young witch who failed the subjects Potions and Ancient Runes and whose parents had decided to remove her from Hogwarts and let her learn at her own pace rather than having her relegated, unwillingly and unfairly, to becoming a squib) having Dolores Umbridge declaring, after interviewing the girl for an hour, that she was suffering from a mental illness and sending her to St Mungo’s psychiatric ward. Imagine sentencing parents to a term in Azkhaban to force them to send their children to Hogwarts.

The reasons for these actions would, of course, be very well-meaning. In order to prevent another Voldemort from coming to power, it would now be necessary for all children, by means of attendance (now compulsory from the age of 6) at Hogwarts and wizarding primary schools, to learn how to live in society and to become responsible citizens, developing tolerance for other points of view.

Another strong motivation for this would be that the Ministry has a legitimate interest in countering parallel societies. Imagine if people like the Lovegoods were able to educate their children at home – it is necessary for the good of society and for the welfare of the children that such minorities are not allowed to indoctrinate their offspring into believing their strange world-views. And of course, even more dangerous is the minority of wizarding families who might use the opportunity to home educate their children to indoctrinate them with the pure-blood, anti-muggle propaganda. The Ministry for Magic might declare that mandatory school attendance is not an infringement of the parents’ right to educate their children, but merely a complement to this right – the Ministry and the parents both perform an equal role in bringing up young witches and wizards.

Even witches and wizards briefly visiting Britain, and coming from countries where home education is allowed in the wizarding world (as it is in all other countries) would be forced to send their children to Hogwarts. Distance learning programmes from their own country would be declared invalid in Britan. Of course, in the meantime, there would be Ministry-approved distance learning programmes for young British wizards to use while they are living in another country, so that they do not have to attend a foreign-language school. Equally possible would be for these expatriate young witches and wizards to come back to England to write their OWLs and NEWTs, as home educated students whilst officially living overseas.

Ms Rowling, if you find this schizophrenic state of affairs abhorrent, then I would encourage you, the next time you are talking to German media or if you happen to visit Germany, to highlight this state of affairs, which exists in Germany today. German home educators (who cover a broad spectrum from religiously motivated home educators to people who, as a last desperate measure, remove their autistic / underchallenged / overchallenged / bullied / severely depressed, etc. children from school, even though they are aware of the legal consequences) are severely harassed by the authorities. Many German home educators have already gone into exile, rather than face having their children removed from them.


Anonymous said...

Wow! That's scary. When this idiotic law-inforced school education system was introduced?
what is especially scary is that psychiatry officials are now trying to control parenting issues and even control the future of society...

Dana said...

I read that recently...quite interesting. I fear I'm more of the odd person who doesn't care that much. I never got it. I read the first three when the accusations of occultic literature came out, and figured the people must not have actually read it.

I don't quite get the Christian themes, either. Unless I'm missing something, I don't think that was really ever Rowling's intent. I don't know. I don't follow it all that closely, but then I don't get into fiction that much anyway. : )

scatty said...

Anonymous, before the 2nd World War, there was compulsory schooling in the then Weimar Republic, but it was not strictly enforced and many well-known Germans, such as Konrad Adenauer, the first post-war German Chancellor, was tutored at home. Ironically, as Mayor of Cologne, he was one of the few who stood up to the Third Reich (he was forced to go into hiding).
After the 2nd World War, the various German states introduced compulsory school attendance into their laws and some of them enforce it by making it criminally punishable not to send your children to school

scatty said...

Dana, I didn't get the Christian themes either till they were pointed out to me. I read a quote from C S Lewis, that his Narnia books were not intended to be a Christian metaphor either - some images came into his mind, such as a faun carrying a parcel and the whole thing just took off from there. I must say that, much as I disagree with the very fundamentalist type of Christians who won't read any fiction that is not biblically based, at least they are being consistent.

quatrepattes said...

This is fascinating, what are the Christian overtones of Harry Potter then? Am I missing something here, Scatty, or have you already written a separate post about it?

and what does a faun carrying a parcel signify then?

quatrepattes said...

So, sorry to be asking more questions, but how come you live in Germany Scatty and are able to homeschool?

scatty said...

Well, the faun carrying the parcel wasn't a Christian image, but that was the image that got him started off with the story. The Christian imagery has to do with Aslan giving himself up for the sake of the others and the resurrection theme, which also comes up in Harry Potter. The Christian references in the Harry Potter books are too numerous for me to list here but they are discussed in this blog post

scatty said...

Well, we were able to do it unnoticed for a while, then when we got found out, we were tolerated for a year, while we applied for an exemption and then, when pressure was put on us, the kids and I moved part-time to Ireland, becoming officially resident there. We recently bought a house in Ireland, which is our home there. We come and go between Ireland and Germany. At the moment I'm back in Germany because I had a petition before the EU Parliament which came up before the Petitions Committee yesterday.