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So what does the state have in mind by forbidding homeschooling? Is it really out of concern for the children, that they would be fully educated, becoming capable and compassionate human beings? If that were so, then we and many other parents in this nation should be left alone with the state’s blessing, for we are educating our children. We have been more often tested, and to more satisfaction, than any school in Germany!

But maybe education, in the eyes of the state, is not primarily about learning, but serves some other purpose. It seems as though education is primarily a tool of control by the state.

Yet it was not always this way. Homeschooling was legal in Germany in the early twentieth century — and the history, timing, and meaning of the change is well-documented.

The fundamental assumptions underlying education laws in Germany have not changed since 1938. This date is significant to anyone aware of twentieth-century German history — it is squarely in the midst of the National Socialists (Nazi) period. As the legal scholar Aaron Martin writes:

Compulsory education had been in place since the nineteenth century in Germany, but laws enacted prior to 1938 allowed for the attendance stipulations to be satisfied through private or home schooling. The 1938 Nazi compulsory education law, Reichsschulpflichtgesetz (Reich Compulsory Education Act), had no alternative way of satisfying the compulsory attendance requirement, and thereby outlawed homeschooling. Therefore, the paternal presumption that government can best educate children began under the Third Reich. Today, even after the Nazi influence has subsided, that presumption remains enshrined in German law through the compulsory attendance laws.” (Martin, 2010: 237)

Focusing on a perceived need to unify Germany, Nazi leaders proceeded systematically to attack books, music, films, and radio programs that forwarded any view of the world inconsistent with the Third Reich’s agenda.” (Martin: 226)

This “need to unify Germany” is an eerie foreshadowing of current German law. Today, no “parallel societies” will be allowed. This curious phrase comes from the decision, Konrad versus Germany, which we will turn to shortly.

Germany once prided itself as the “land of poets and thinkers.” It has produced the world’s greatest and most influential philosophers since ancient Greece. In a peculiar development, however, modern German society has grown both cognitive and fearful. To appease this fear, independent thinking is no longer allowed in Germany — at least, not by the citizens, and especially not by the parents.

Goethe und Schiller Statuen am Theaterplatz

What would Goethe and Schiller think of forbidding individual philosophical convictions? Hearty approval? Auf keinen Fall!

The general interest of society” requires the state to insist that all children go to state-controlled schools “to avoid the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions.” (Konrad v. Germany, 2006: 4)

Freedom of thought is the grave danger presented by the homeschoolers of Germany. Against this danger, all the powers of the state are arrayed. Evidently, people with sincerely-held convictions are considered dangerous to the established order.

In an earlier decision against Konrad, the Freiburg Administrative Court noted this “fact” in 2001: “The Basic Law [of Germany] granted the parents both freedom of religion and the right to educate their children with regard to religious and philosophical convictions.” (Konrad: 2)

In Germany then, we learn from the final decision of the Federal Constitutional Court that you can have religious and philosophical convictions — that right is guaranteed, in fact — but you cannot practice them. It is like having money you cannot spend, or having words you cannot say, or believing in a God you cannot obey.

Freedom of thought is evidently the great enemy of the German state. What else could be meant by the words “separate philosophical convictions” than the fruit of independent thinking? Individuals who do not conform, who choose “the path less travelled,” are thought to make society insecure — so insecure that the state lifts its iron fist to crush them. This does not speak well either of Germany’s laws or its society.

What then is the basis of a secure society? We learn this important fact in another stop along the way to the final decision in Konrad: the Baden Wurttemberg Administrative Court of Appeal decision in 2002. Our “Kafkaesque” narrator puts it this way:

“The court stressed that the decisive point was not whether or not home education was equally effective as primary school education, but that compulsory school attendance require children from all backgrounds in society to gather together. Parents could not obtain an exemption from compulsory school attendance for their children if they disagreed with the content of particular parts of the syllabus, even if their disagreement was religiously motivated. The applicant parents could not be permitted to keep their children away from school and the influences of other children. Schools represented society, and it was in the children’s interest to become part of that society. The parents’ right to education did not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience.” (Konrad: 3)

scales-of-justice-tipped

In the scales of German justice, “the influences of other children” outweigh the fundamental human rights of parents, as well as their deeply held religious convictions. A more anti-parent judicial decision could scarcely be imagined.

So the stability and security of German society rests not on the quality of education, not on its moral nature, not on the children’s relationship with their parents, but rather on this unshakable foundation: the common peer-group experience of children in state-controlled schools.

Peer pressure, then, with all that it does in the souls of young people, is the absolutely necessary factor in children’s lives without which the existence of modern Germany would be threatened.

So the German state defines what is “in the children’s interest,” and upholds it with all force.

The Shadow of the Past…

A few years ago, parents of the Community in Klosterzimmern faced charges for not sending their children to public school. The judge explained the facts this way: “In Germany, the children belong to the state.” This was the basis of the guilty verdict. And this is the shadow of the past that lies so heavily still upon Germany.

That judge may or may not be shocked to hear that a famous (or infamous) leader of Germany said the same thing some seventy years ago:

HitlerWithYouth(Girls)2

Your child belongs to us already… What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.

(Shirer, 1959:343)

Which is not to say that this leader, Adolf Hitler, did not stand in the same line of absolute authority as another ruler before him. Consider this astounding statement by Kaiser Wilhelm II to a company of young recruits:

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Kaiser Wilhelm II (note headgear)

 

If your Emperor commands you to do so you must fire on your father and mother. There is only one Master in the Reich, and that is I. I shall tolerate no other.

(Tuchman, 1962: 240)

Today’s lawmakers do not demand quite so much, but just that, as Hitler wished, each new generation would stand progressively more in “the new camp… this new community,” which community is, of course, of their design. But we must turn to Hegel, one of Germany’s great “thinkers,” to understand the role the state sees itself as playing. While not nearly as well known as Marx, in some ways Hegel’s influence as a philosopher is more far-reaching, encompassing views of government on both sides of the Communist/free-world divide. Hegel revealed the “true identity” of the state:

Georg_Wilhelm_Friedrich_Hegel00

George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

 

All the worth which the human being possesses, all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the State… The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth.

We must… worship the State as the manifestation of the Divine on earth.

(Hegel, 1929: 388-389, 447)

Who can oppose the will of God? Who can oppose the Source of human worth? All along, we have thought our spiritual reality came from our Creator, the One we read about in the Bible, but the modern state has claimed to be that source itself, and has passed laws as though it were. This is the world we live in. God help us!

The world has already seen too many terrible examples of what happens when the state sees itself as the source of human progress, using their formidable powers of social control accordingly. If the Federal Republic of Germany could only understand the value of independent thinking, and families raising their children in a way different than the mainstream modern society, it would actually be stronger, not weaker.

References:

Aaron Martin’s quote:  “Homeschooling in Germany and the United States,” Arizona Journal of International & Comparative Law (Vol. 27, No. 1, 2010, p. 225-282), p. 237.

Third Reich’s agenda quote: Ibid, p. 226. Martin’s source is The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1959), p. 334.

Separate philosophical convictions quote: Konrad v. Germany, App. No. 35504/03, 4 (Eur. Ct. H.R. Sep. 11, 2006)

Basic law grants freedom of religion quote: Ibid, p. 2.

Quote of Baden Wurttemberg court: Ibid, p. 3.

Definition of Kafkaesque: real-life occurrences and situations that are incomprehensibly complex, bizarre, or illogical.

Adolf Hitler’s quote: W.L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1959), p. 343.

Kaiser Wilhelm’s quote: Barbara W. Tuchman, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War: 1890-1914 (New York: Macmillan Co, 1962), p 240.

Hegel’s divine idea quote: Hegel, Philosophy of History in Jacob Loewenberg (ed.), Hegel: Selections (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1929), pp. 388-89.

Hegels’ worship the State quote: Ibid, p. 447.