Crackdown on Homeschoolers: It’s the UN Wot Done It
From the desk of Alexandra Colen on Tue, 2006-06-20 21:21
In today’s Belgian newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen Bob Van de Voorde, the spokesman of Frank Vandenbroucke, the minister of Education, says:
“One of the conditions [for homeschooling] is that the homeschoolers must sign a document in which they promise to rear their children along the lines of the UN Convention on Children’s Rights. These parents have not done this. This is why the ministry has started an inquiry.”
The parents Mr Van de Voorde is referring to in the paper are my husband (TBJ editor Paul Belien) and myself. The “inquiry” is a threat to prosecute us.
Homeschooling is a constitutional right in Belgium. We have homeschooled four of our five children through high school. Only the youngest is still being homeschooled because the others are already at university. And yet, as if they have nothing better to do, the Belgian police and judiciary are conducting an “inquiry” into our homeschooling to see whether we “rear our children along the lines of the United Nations Convention on Children’s Rights.”
Until two years ago, we never encountered any problems with the authorities concerning our family’s home education. In fact, compared to neighbouring countries, Belgium was very tolerant of homeschoolers. In 2003, however, the Flemish regional parliament decreed that all homeschoolers are obliged to sign a document in which they promise to rear their children along the lines of the UN Convention. The latter undermines the authority of parents and transfers it to the state.
The document the homeschoolers are made to sign also states that government inspectors decide whether families comply with the UN’s ideology. Furthermore, it contains a clause in which the homeschooling parents agree to send their child to an official government recognized school if the inspectors report negatively about them twice.
We refused to sign this document. Not only do we object to the imposed UN ideology, but we would never put our signature under a document that forces us to send our children to government controlled schools simply because two bureaucrats decide on the basis of arbitrary criteria that we are not in compliance with the imposed philosophy. Last week my husband was questioned by the police. He was informed that, because we refuse to sign, our children are not being schooled or brought up adequately, i.e. along the lines of the UN Convention. Hence, we are committing a criminal offence. The authorities are threatening to prosecute us.
Last Thursday I wrote an article on this website about this affair. Since our case has also been reported in the Belgian newspapers many families have responded with tales of their own. It is becoming clear that the decree of 2003 is being enforced with uncharacteristic speed and rigidity. One family withdrew their youngest son from the technical school where the eldest child had become a drug addict. They used the form supplied by the Ministry of Education to inform the latter of their decision to homeschool and in doing so unwittingly accepted the clauses of the 2003 document, as these are incorporated into the form.
Some months later the inspectors arrived. They said that the boy was using manuals unsuited for his age, even though he was using the same manuals as his peers at school. They were rude to his mother, who is of Polish origin, and claimed that she could not educate her child because of her accent. They said they would return. The parents carried on their education and noticed (as so many homeschooling parents do) that their son was highly motivated and was learning faster and better than he had done at school. Four months after their first visit the inspectors returned. They conceded that they could see improvement, but not enough and that the boy had to return to school.
Two weeks later the police came to their door with an order to send the boy to school or risk a penalty. The boy does not want to go back and there is no way these parents are going to force their child to return to a school rampant with drugs where their other child was ruined. They are now considering emigrating to Poland.
This story is only one of many. One striking aspect of it is the total arbitrariness displayed by the inspecting bureaucrats. Under the Belgian compulsory education law inspectors can visit homeschooling families only to ascertain that children are indeed
receiving an education and not e.g. being forced to work. Homeschoolers who want official certificates can take exams at the ministry of Education's Central Examination Board. If they pass those exams (as our children did), surely that constitutes adequate
proof that educational requirements have been met. What else would be
the use of exams and official certificates? There is nothing else for inspectors to inspect.
The Department of Education has redefined the inspectors’ role, enforcing the family’s conformity with the ideology outlined in article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights
of the Child. Apart from the homeschoolers, no-one has questioned the blatant contradiction between this requirement and the Belgian laws on education, viz. the Constitution and the law on compulsory education. Article 24 of the Belgian Constitution states that “education is free” and that “the state guarantees the parents’ freedom of choice.” The current educational authorities are forcing home educators to relinquish their freedom of choice and adopt the philosophy of article 29 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, both in their homes and in their education.
In doing so the authorities are demanding more of homeschoolers than of the so-called “neutral” schools organised by local and regional authorities. These schools are required by the Constitution (art. 24) to “respect the philosophical, ideological or religious convictions of the parents and the pupils” and “to offer lessons on any of the religions recognized by the state or on non-denominational morality.” Homeschooling families, however, are being denied respect for their or their children’s convictions by the education authorities. Worse still, whilst the state’s own educators are obliged to organize the religious and ideological education which their pupils’ parents request, the state itself is forcing homeschooling parents to educate their children according to an ideology not of their own choosing.
Allowing two bureaucrats to decide on the basis of arbitrary criteria whether or not parents are in compliance with a state imposed philosophy also violates the Belgian Constitution and even human rights in general, as the British Libertarian Alliance pointed out today in a press release relating to our case. In a free society, which Belgium apparently no longer is, citizens do not have to allow two strangers into their homes who come to make judgements about their religious or philosophical beliefs and their children’s attitudes, and then assess the quality of their education on those grounds. The Belgian Constitution specifies that “everyone is entitled to respect for his private and family life” and that “this right is guaranteed by law.” Parents cannot be obliged to sign away this basic constitutional human right.
If the Belgian authorities decide to prosecute us we think we can win in court – at least if the court bases its verdict on the Belgian Constitution. In order to prepare for court cases we have established a Vlaams Centrum voor Huisonderwijs (Flemish Home Education Centre), which can be contacted here. There is, unfortunately, always the possibility that activist judges will rule that the UN Convention overrules the Belgian Constitution. If this is the case, the consequences are far-reaching. Not only for us. In effect it would mean that the laws, and even the Constitution, of our lands are no longer decided by the people of the land, but by the UN, i.e. the international club of states that includes members such as North Korea, China, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Iran,...
Perhaps this explains why our case has attracted worldwide attention. Yesterday Rudolf Schmidheiny, President of the Swiss Home Educators Association, wrote to Sean Gabb of the British Libertarian Alliance, saying that our case sounds very familiar to him:
For over fifteen years we have been struggeling here in Switzerland and the situation is getting worse. The whole battle is about the non-declared statist ideology. Whoever has a different opinion than the states’ bureaucrats is publicly denounced as intolerant, reactionary, traditionalist or whatever, while the bureaucrats force their illogical, misleading and hidden socialist views. Unfortunately the press is mostly on their side.
We have been led to the question, how the state would justify and reason for its authority over children. Of course we know of the UN’s Children’s Rights. Within the 54 articles you will find “the state” mentioned at least 45 times. The UN’s Children’s Rights are not Children’s Rights but an instrument to “free the parents of their rights and duties towards their children”. This is the logical consequence of the antiauthoritarian movement. But “antiauthoritarian” is just a cover. Authority (moral authority) will not be removed but exchanged. The parents’ authority is being replaced by the state’s authority, as the “Belien case” and many others (in Germany, Switzerland, Holland etc.) prove.
I am convinced that the only unshakable legal ground is the state-preceding parental right, given to each parent by nature through the birth of their child. It is the parents’ responsibility to take care of the baby as a human being, not the state’s.
Since Adolf Hitler prohibited homeschooling in 1938, Germany is the worst place for homeschoolers in Europe. Many parents have already been fined, and even sent to jail. Last March a court in Hamburg sentenced a German father of six to a prison sentence of one week for homeschooling his children, while the children were forcibly sent to school by the police, who pick them up each morning. The father, a conservative Christian, had previously been sentenced to a fine of 1,500 euro, but this did not persuade him to stop homeschooling. The court did not imprison the mother, but said it would not hesitate to do so if the parents continue violating the law. The bill prohibiting homeschooling is one of the very few Nazi laws that are still on the books in Germany. Today other countries, such as Belgium, seem intent on copying Germany’s Nazi system, whilst invoking the UN Convention.
Brussels Journal Editor Threatened with Prosecution over Homeschooling, 15 June 2006
Hitler’s Ghost Haunts German Parents, 1 August 2005
Submitted by JM on Sun, 2006-11-26 20:36.
Your example is great for parents who had not the ability to do homeschooling for several reasons.
What we did was teaching our children all we wanted them to know, to discover by themselves - they have seen much more museums, natural reserves, and so on, than any in their school - and telling them to give to the teacher the "correct" answer he wants, so they can get their degree. And as soon as the exam' is over, to forget all the errors.
It's amazing - now, disastrous - to see the amount of errors teached in our schools. I have a brother in university, in master of informatics, he told me of crucial errors present in syllabi of teachers, that they were forced to reproduce to get their degree. The culture of death is doubled by a culture of error. The light shineth in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it..... Because the light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil. For every one that doth evil hateth the light and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved
should your last child be forced to go out of homeschooling, you have the possibility to have it in the so-called "catholic" school system. In fact, since years, it's no longer depending of the RCC, it's only the name that remains. Generally, the level is better for morality, lower for scientific studies, lower for equipment, and requiring much more participation of parents (financially too). But the political police is not so much present.
A Better Children's Rights Bill
Submitted by TykesOnTrikes on Thu, 2006-06-29 16:44.
Foobarista and all, the U.S. doesn't auto-reject the U.N.'s Convention On Children's Rights, they simply use a different method to achieve the goal of developing the international citizen of the New World Order and worker-consumer in the global economy of the future. That method is public schooling.
What used to be a K-12 program is now a P-16 program -- indoctrination of students in preschool through college with the same agenda as the U.N.'s.
We, at TykesOnTrikes.com, are attempting to resist universal preschool. We have developed The Preschoolers' Bill of Rights -- a much better protector of children's rights than that lame U.N. document. You can read it yourself at:
Meanwhile, Alexandra and Paul, you have our support -- keep fighting the good fight.
Get out now
Submitted by Lemuel Calhoon on Thu, 2006-06-22 04:31.
Two things. One, this is about shutting you up. Leave now or the methods will progress from legal intimidation to beatings by gangs of "youths".
Two, if you stay there your kids will live in an Islamofascist "Forth Reich", which is where Europe is heading.
Sadly it is too late for the Europe to change course. Don't let your descendants be caught in the hell that's coming.
Unable to defend themselves
Submitted by SergeAStrom on Tue, 2006-07-04 02:36.
Lemuel, Do you really think the people of Europe will be unable or unwilling to halt the destruction of their cultures?
The problem is...
Submitted by Foobarista on Wed, 2006-06-21 20:20.
The UN blurb, while nice and fuzzy to Western ears, is so vague that it could be interpreted in all manner of ways. Since this is a "UNism", think how a Chinese or Cuban bureaucrat would interpret it...
Among other things, the "civilizations different from ... own" is an invitation to PC crapola; refuse to celebrate Islamists, and you could be in violation here.
The "cultural identity" and "national values" part is the national values of the bureaucrat and the bureaucracy; if you refuse to teach about gay sex and how it is a crucial part of the national identity, you may be found in violation of this part.
All of this stuff is a massive opening for bureaucrats with an agenda to drive their agenda through, seemingly with the blessing of that beacon of the hopes of humanity: the UN...
In general: beware of UN Kool-aid - it is far more dangerous than it looks. (And this is part of the reason I'm glad the US Senate pretty much auto-rejects this crap.)
In this case, nothing *is* better than something.
Submitted by spraynasal on Wed, 2006-06-21 22:53.
Arguments which try to destroy the validity of a treaty like the Rights of the Child are bread and butter for people who want to prohibit homeschooling and make homeschoolers look like irresponsible parents. And the black and white opposition "state school" versus "homeschooling" ignores the very fact that many international schools are absolutely private and receive no fund from any state.
Anyway, Mrs Colen writes that she admits that public education officials have the right to check via exams the academic performance of homeschooled children. Educational progress needs to be evaluated, at least periodically, so homeschooled children are able to go to universities and becoming successful professionals. ...So at some point, they join educational mainstream. as a teacher working in private schools, I could have a favorable opinion of parents and children who choose homeschooling as a free, responsible and efficient way of in-depth preparation for life. But if it appears that the homeschooling training is ineffective and prejudice the children, then, sorry, but in some cases the parents may be forced to send the kids to school...The key of a successful solution to this kind of conflict is to find a form of "neutral authority" to assess the performance of the homeschooling, acceptable by both parties: parents and academic authorities. To develop an expertise in such a field would be a very interesting outcome to this conflict.
Homeschooling in Belgium
Submitted by Paul Belien on Thu, 2006-06-22 06:48.
@Spraynasal: Reading your comment I think there is a misunderstanding regarding Belgian law. Public officials do not have the right to check via exams the academic performance of homeschooled children. As the Colen article (above) says:
"Under the Belgian compulsory education law inspectors can visit homeschooling families only to ascertain that children are indeed receiving an education and not e.g. being forced to work. Homeschoolers who want official certificates can take exams at the ministry of Education's Central Examination Board."
The second sentence of the quotation is a conditional: If they want an official certificate they can take exams. If they do not want or need an official certificate there is no obligation to take exams. Until 2003 the only thing inspectors could ascertain was whether the children were receiving an education, but the parents had (and have) the right to decide what the content of the education is. Since 2003 the inspectors have been given a second task: to ascertain whether homeschooling families educate their children according to the UN Convention. These inspections have become totally arbitrary, with inspectors commenting on the manuels parents use, the accent of parents, etc.
Submitted by spraynasal on Thu, 2006-06-22 21:43.
Do you mean that you consider the obtention of official certificate as "an option"? Then you want to allow parents to raise children without providing them with degrees?
I can admit homeschooling as a particular way to get the required degrees but not as a way to leave parents exclusively in charge of defining the education of their children. Because, if there is no possible control, why couldn't a parent say that forced child labour is a form of education?
Maybe a homeschooling system with some periodic official examinations, without arbitrary inspections, could provide solutions to conflicts like these. But if the communication between parents and authorities is basically conflictive, with no agreement on any type of control, the homeschooling parents won't have it their way.
Submitted by dchamil on Wed, 2006-06-21 15:01.
Any successful home schooling is an implied criticism of state-run schooling. That's why the state wants to stamp out home schooling.
Tell me 3 good reasons
Submitted by Earl g on Wed, 2006-06-21 12:55.
why Poland would accept a family the Belgian's will claim are fleeing legal prosecution?
More likely than not, even by moving to Poland, Poland would be compelled by their accession into the EU to extradite for trial or if trial in absentia, by conviction.
Submitted by Flanders Fields on Wed, 2006-06-21 11:03.
Your children are not going to grow up to be the little robots that the state wishes them to be - unless they persuade you to capitulate or steal your children and place them into the indoctrination program that they choose. The levels and extent of differences between what the state chooses them to learn and what you want them to learn may be somewhat minimal at this time, but once they have established their power I suspect the serious indoctrination will proceed for everyones children.
I suspect that the initial objective will be, as in the US, to dumb down the children to a level whereby they can be easily controlled and manipulated by a bureacracy of elitists. That is why home schooling has become so popular there. The home schooled children are far exceeding the education levels of the children in public school.
Article 29 of the Right of the Child treaty
Submitted by spraynasal on Wed, 2006-06-21 10:54.
(c) The development of respect for the child's
parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national
values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or
she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own.
I am wondering if this is this part of the treaty that you consider ideology and not acceptable.
There are two lines in your argumentation: One against intrusive and arbitrary bureaucrats ( I tend to agree with you on this one) and one against the convention on the right of the child (which seems to me very dangerous, because I don't like to replace something with..nothing)