Mere Creatures of the State?


This past Thursday, German police forces raided a private home at 8 o’clock in the morning and removed four children from their parents.  According to a report, “The children were taken to unknown locations. Officials ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing their children ‘anytime soon.’” When the mother tried to hug her daughter goodbye, an officer elbowed her out of the way and added, “It’s too late for that.”

The parents’ crime?  They were sitting around a table, homeschooling their kids, ages 7-14.  The full story is horrifying.  German law requires families to send their children to state-sponsored schools, and the Wunderlich family refused to comply.  Is this an outrageous action on the part of the police?  If you think nothing like this could happen here, think again.  The U.S. Department of Justice is working to send a family seeking asylum in Tennessee back to Germany, where they would also face losing their children to the state for the same reason.  The Romeike family fled Germany for the U.S. specifically in order to homeschool their children, but this year the U.S. DOJ filed a brief in the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals, arguing that no one’s rights have been violated and opposing the Romeikes’ political asylum request.  Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but it is the position of the U.S. federal government that citizens have no right to homeschool.

This week also saw the publication in Slate of a story arguing that if you send your children to private school, you are a bad person.  The author of this poorly-argued piece states that she is not an education policy wonk, hasn’t read much, and attended a string of poor schools, from kindergarten through college.  It shows.  This is in the same vein as an ad for MSNBC earlier this year in which Melissa Harris-Perry argued that children belong to communities, not to their parents:

“We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children. “Your kid is yours, and totally your responsibility.” We haven’t had a very collective notion of “These are our children.” So part of it is that we have to break through our kind of private idea that “Kids belong to their parents” or “Kids belong to their families,” and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.   Once it’s everybody’s responsibility, and not just the household’s, then we start making better investments.”

Can students get good educations in American public schools? Of course.  A great number of public school teachers are good and moral influences on their students.  The question is: should students have to get their education there?   In 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court said the answer to that question was no. The state of Oregon, in an effort led by members of the Ku Klux Klan, passed a law requiring every student in state to attend public schools. The Court’s Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary decision states that “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

The history of American education is not one of consistently growing public schooling.  It’s one of a variety of forms of schooling –home schools, private schools, tax-supported public schools, and other variations.  Even today, 2 million students have chosen to attend charter schools.  Another 2 million are homeschooled.  Millions more attend private schools.  This is all to the good; every child is unique and has specific, unique needs.  A story about former senator Phil Gramm captures the reason this is necessary and is in the best interest of children perfectly.  Gramm was on television with a defender of the education establishment. He said to her:

“My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do.”

The woman replied, “No, you don’t.”

Gramm’s response: “Okay: What are their names?”


Categories:Education Subsidiarity

  • Ralph

    As a German, and having been homeschooled (not in Germany), I know that this law was introduced by Hitler himself and and remained state law ever since. It’s not that difficult to understand what the purpose of forcing parents to send their kids to public schools was…

  • Mary Atkinson

    This is how Germany produced Hitler. Obedience must not be blind.
    Policy is not the same as ideology
    A bad policy should be changed.
    The German govt. is there to represent not only public education but a range of schools, which represents the electorate.
    Harm cannot be defined simply by the ideology, which see bad policy…….thinking of Hitler……

  • Ruth

    Well, if they have to go to state schools, the state can greatly influence what children think. Reminds me of a large number of sci-fi books that I used to read. Next they will be burning books. :) After all, “it is best for society if we all think alike.”

  • http://C.V. Lydora

    It’s begining to look as though we are losing all the freedoms we have taken for granted. Where will it end? In Louisiana,Eric Holder is attempting to close the charter schools even though the students are out-performing those in the public school system.

    • Panda Rosa

      The simple fact that charter students are doing better is all the reason needed.

  • Chris

    This administration is hopelessly ignorant of our first amendment right to free exercise of religion.

  • Ron

    It appears that the actions of the US DOJ were not in reference to home schooling but rather in reference to the fact that this family had not experienced a loss of rights in Germany and therefore could not claim political asylum. Is that accurate?

    • redwingfanjan

      I heard the DOJ had said that home schooling was not a good enough reason for seeking asylum in the USA. My question is why would it not be if that right was taken away from you in your home country? But we have a socialist mentality in DC. Therein lies the problem.

    • Michelle

      Yes they were saying that technically but if they are saying that no rights were infridged then they are implying that it is not a right of a parent to decide how to raise/educate their child.

    • Slats

      What?? My response to your comment is similar to Michelle’s. They were saying that the parents’ rights were not infringed by forcing their children to attend state-sponsored public schools. Parents have a basic right to inculcate their values into their children and determine what other people are inculcating what values into their children. This is in fact taught by the Catholic Church. If a parent does not agree with the values inculcated by the state-sponsored public school, they have the right to teach the children themselves, or at the very least to send them to a non-state sponsored school. Since the DOJ quite wrongfully doesn’t see the German government’s stripping away parents’ basic rights as a rights violation, that displays an agreement with the German government as to the “harmfulness” of parents exercising their rights to parent their children. The DOJ’s position is toxic, scary, and evil.



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