Sunday, September 1, 2013

they took the children away...

Have you read this article about a German homeschooling family having their kids taken away?

What did you think?

A few thoughts.

1. Yes. A team of 20 social workers, armed police officers, and special agents "storming" a homeschooling family’s residence and taking the children without even letting the parents say goodbye does seem heavy handed. If it happened like that, it is concerning.

2. It is in a country's best interests that its children are educated. Different countries will have different rules aimed to ensure that every child is educated. In Queensland, parents must send their children to school or register them in an alternate approved program. Failure to do this will result in the parents being warned and then fined $750 the first time and then $1500 each time after that. A family with 3 school age children could be fined over $15K per week! This is a significant sum of money and shows how seriously our government takes educating our children. In the last few years, the requirements for homeschooling have been tightened and parents really have to show that their children are being educated at home - unfortunately, some families who claimed to be 'homeschooling' were really 'non-schooling'. Germany does not allow homeschooling but has several different types of schools that children can attend - religious and non-religious.

3. Australians and (even more so) Americans find it hard to understand a culture where the government regulates many matters in everyday life. We think, "Why shouldn't I be able to educate my child however I please?" But this is not the European way! Heck, there are even laws about what you can call your child in Germany - each baby's name has to be given official approval before it can be used! In France, the names that you give your pets have to be approved! In Europe, having a rule that your children must go to school is not out of place.

4. As Christians, we are called to follow the laws of our country as far as we can without being disobedient to the scriptures. I assume that the family in the article thought that sending their children to school would have been an act of disobedience. Of course, I think that they were wrong in this, but I hope that they had been reasonable in their interactions with the authorities and tried to negotiate as much as they could - for instance, agreeing to send their children to school but removing them for science or whatever.

5. Isn't this pretty much what white Australians did to Aboriginal children, not just once, but for decades and decades?

6. Hasn't this happened before? Oh no. That was in an Amish romance I read. The family solved the problem by moving to Mexico.

7. I think John Piper's question, "What will you do when they come for your children" is unhelpful and alarmist.


  1. Yes, I saw JP's comment and link on Twitter this morning...
    I know home schooling is an incredibly emotive topic (my nieces are home schooled) but if it's illegal in your country, and the consequence of breaking the law is having your kids taken from you, then to me it seems like such a huge risk over something that's relatively trivial. Homeschooling Vs losing your kids - it's kind of a no brainer isn't it?

  2. I think it's outrageous that the kids were taken away. Fines, perhaps, but there are many ways to penalise people for breaking the law that doesn't equate homeschooling with child abuse. I think this is a genuinely serious civil rights issue and Germans should be protesting their heads off. But I don't think it's a consequence of secularism and I don't think it's a matter of concern for Americans or Australians in our own contexts. I'd consider writing a letter to the EU, though.

  3. Also, I think the comparison to the stolen generation is a little unclear. It's evidence that more highly Christian societies - and in many cases Christian people and organisations - can participate in child removal for even more specious reasons. But the context - where it wasn't what you did but who you were that justified removal - is different.

  4. I can't seem to find anything about this on German news sites..

    Why didn't they just move across the border to France? I mean, literally just across the border.. they could still 'live' in Germany if they're in one of those border towns..

    1. Findo - I'm also suspicious. The only places I can find reports on this are Homeschooling websites. If it happened as it says, wouldn't it be reported elsewhere? And yes. They could have moved across the border.

      Katrina - Yes. No brainer to me too.

      Jo - I know the context is quite different here and with the stolen generations. But, as Christians I don't think it's good enough for us to be huffing and puffing about what 'they' are doing if we're not also huffing and puffing (and thinking seriously about how we can try to repair the damage done) about what 'we' did.

  5. Oh yes, I totally agree with that, Simone!

  6. Also, I don't know if the lack of coverage means much. Kids get taken away from their parents every day in Australia and it wouldn't usually make the news.

    North American Christians were actively involved in removing First Nations children from their parents too - hence the apologies from churches and state institutions in Canada and (to a lesser degree) the US. It's what modern states do - try to control children.

    1. searching for the parents' names on news literally brings up no hits. I'd expect at least some mention in one of the local newspapers, particularly if a swat team was used.. but I admit that perhaps there is a mention somewhere without their names, I just don't know what the search term would be.

  7. I'm a homeschool mum but I agree with Katrina. It's a no brainer. Of course I'd rather send them to school than have them taken off me. That said, if the reports are accurate, it does seem a pretty heavy handed approach by the German government. If I were in that situation I'd send them to school, but I would be trying my best to encourage the powers that be to consider allowing homeschooling as an option. In Queensland we have to jump through a few hoops if we do it legally, but it's reasonable. In my experience, the vast majority of homeschool families are doing a great job so I wonder sometimes at why the government wants to fine them. I've only seen two cases (non-registered) where I've felt that the kids were getting a sub-standard education and would have been better off in school. I don't have stats, but I'm figuring that as a percentage the amount of kids in day school who are failing would be higher than the amount of homeschool kids who aren't getting a great education. The government would do better to concentrate their efforts on kids who are enrolled at day school but just don't turn up. There are a lot of those in my area.

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