Saturday, September 15, 2007

The thin end of the wedge

Most Germans, even the majority of those who identify with the principles of family life that home educators embody, perceive us as the lunatic fringe. Although these people are also often stay-at-home mothers (and sometimes fathers) who are closely involved with their children, they cannot identify with those of us who would choose to avoid the school system. They think of school as necessary for their children's social and educational development and feel that the lack of educational freedom in Germany is not their problem. Until recently, most German schoolchildren only spent half the day in school, with their afternoons free for interaction with their parents (if their parents are available).

Well, they'd better think again. What is happening in Germany is only the thin end of a very broad wedge. The issue of freedom in education is becoming one which will touch more Germans, not just those "crazy homeschoolers". What were just the isolated voices of a few socialists, calling for compulsory schooling to become a full day affair for all except infants, is swelling to a choir singing its praises, from all sides of the political spectrum.

In July, Ingrid Sehrbrock, a member of the conservative CDU party, was quoted as saying that it should be compulsory for all children to be in daycare from the age of two years. She restated this position in a letter to a home educating mother, stating: "If I am to take the demand..., that everyone must have a chance, seriously, then it means to me that parents should be obliged to enable their children to attend preschool from the third year of life". She goes on to declare that, " France, all children attend the mandatory Ecole Maternelle free of charge from the age of three."

My friend replied to Frau Sehrbrock that she is mistaken - neither school nor preschool is compulsory in France, which has compulsory education, as opposed to compulsory schooling. She still hasn't received a reply to this. One hopes that Frau Sehrbrock is busy checking her sources.

Christian Pfeiffer is concerned about the increase in crime levels among young people. That's understandable, I suppose, him being a criminologist and all that. He points to the link between the increase in violent video games and violent crime and has come up with the perfect solution. To reduce the time that children spend in front of the computer and watching TV, they should be obliged to attend school all day. He supports this assertion by stating that it is already compulsory for children to attend all-day school in many other countries. Perhaps Christian Pfeiffer has been sharing the same sources as Ingrid Sehrbrock. He also thinks that compulsory preschool would be a good idea.

As you can see, educational freedom is not just an issue that affects home educating families. We home educators are like canaries in a coal mine. The manner in which a government treats home educators is an indicator of its respect for families and its attitude to educational freedom in general.


jennifer in OR said...

Great post; I agree, "educational freedom" is so closely related to freedom in general. Thinking of you all today.


Cory said...

Wonderful posts...I love learning how home education works for people in different countries.

As far as the claim that crime rates are higher from children not being in school...I wonder how he explains what is going on here in America?