Is the concrete starting to crumble?

It’s nine years ago now that the politically and ideologically motivated fight against homeschooling in Germany seemed to have achieved a decisive breakthrough: The German’s Highest Court turned down a constitutional appeal by homeschooling parents – most probably out of reason of state. deutsche Version

But recently serious voices in the judicial professional literature have been raised, openly criticising such a setting the course. To allege homeschoolers posed a kind of ‘danger’ hasn’t been proven, they say, the constitutional court hasn’t sounded out criticical legal questions at all.

True, the deciding chamber had formulated a far-reaching explanation. This had been designed – it seems – to put forced schooling up in concrete once and for all. As a matter of fact, by making use of a xenophobic clichee, the German High Court declared that minorities would have to be ‘integrated’ and zero-tolerance to be used against homeschoolers. Consequently German school authorities have notoriously been claiming that forced schooling was protecting the general public from ‘ideologically motivated parallel societies’.

It was as if they had been waiting for word from Karlsruhe (seat of the High Court). State servants in offices and court rooms up and down the country diligently copied that decision as grounds for their reasoning. Eventually even the last legal adviser in the most remote school authorities’ office was able to score off homeschooling parents who were insisting on their constitutional rights. Until this very day the ministries of education have been asserting self-confidently that all legal questions about the constitutionality of forced schooling have been settled.

A recent publication at a renown publishing house for law literature, however, shows that the concrete is starting to crumble:  “Homeschooling – Threat or Proof of Value of the Liberal Constitutional State?” Publisher Franz Reimer, a law professor from Gießen University, calls the catchword “parallel society” a mere fighting phrase. It mistakes that basic rights are expressly designed to protect minorities. Astrid Wallrabenstein, law professor at the Goethe-University in Frankfurt/Main is of the same opinion. In her estimate the basic statement by the Constitutional Court concerning the “potential threat of homeschooling” is “unsecured and rather disputable”. She arrives at the conclusion that the decision to turn down an appeal by homeschooling parents in 2003 didn’t meet the core problem. The Constitutional Court is drawing upon “vague and unproven images of public school on the one hand and homeschooling on the other”. To her the court had “risked a somewhat unclean maneuver”.

No factual basis whatsover is underlying the resolution by the constitutional court: This is criticised by sociologist Thomas Spiegler, too, when observing that “in the debate about homeschooling again and again empirical relationships are put forward that remain without substantial proof or fall short of current scientific standards.” According to Spiegler in aforesaid publication, as there is no data “it could well be that [the above resolution] is a misjudgement.” Our state, concludes Franz Reimer about the ignorance towards legal questions as regards the constitution, “is blinding itself – it’s insulating itself against fact-finding.”

A whole lot of families have experienced the results of this running amok against homeschoolers in the last couple of years. Threatened by horrendous fines and the removal of parental custody because of their attitude towards forced schooling, they haven’t been able to stay in their homeland any longer. Having to escape abroad – with all the hardship such a step entails – has been the result for them. At what time the concrete front in German ministries and state offices will give way to a more reasonable stance over the promising plant of homeschooling, isn’t predictable. However, hope buds in the face of such a publication.

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