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Education

Sweden pursues homeschoolers ... again

Michael F. Haverluck   (OneNewsNow.com) Saturday, December 29, 2012

It makes homes more comfortable with IKEA, driving safer with Volvo, and communication easier with Skype -- but when it comes to homeschooling, the country of Sweden makes parents' life as difficult as possible.

Soon after losing a major legal battle to the Namdar family over the right to homeschool their children for religious reasons, the Swedish government stuck back with an appeal in the Supreme Administrative Court in an attempt to swipe that right away.

Namdars (Swedish homeschooling couple)Because of the political and secular climate within Sweden's public schools, Rabbi Alexander Namdar and his wife Leah (see photo [right], compliments of Lubavitch News Service) decided to home educate their children to ensure that their instruction ran parallel to their Jewish beliefs. Just weeks after an appellate judge's verdict supported the parents' right to homeschool their five children, Swedish government officials challenged the decision.

Earlier this year, the Swedish authorities threatened to fine the Namdar family each day they withheld their children from attending public school in order to instruct them from home. The Namdars then filed suit, challenging the Gothenburg municipality's decision coercing them to abide by the Swedish school law, which declares that homeschooling is only permitted in "exceptional circumstances" and never based on religious or philosophical family viewpoints. When the judge examined the exemplary education the children were receiving at home, it was found that Sweden is obliged to respect familial convictions.

Johanssons (Swedish homeschooling couple)But this latest appeal is no stranger to Swedes. Just a month ago the country's Social Welfare Committee, which kept Swedish homeschooler Domenic Johansson separated from his parents for more than three years, appealed a June decision that upheld the parental rights of his father and mother, Christer and Annie Johansson (left). In 2009, Swedish police seized seven-year-old Domenic after boarding a plane bound from Sweden as the family was minutes from departing to do missionary work in India. Initially, state authorities "permitted" the parents to see Dominic one hour every five weeks, but they haven't seen Dominic since December 2010.

Homeschooling … right or left?

Such authoritarian policies that allow the type of government intervention that usurped the Johanssons' and Namdars' parental rights are not even in line with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, says Annelie Enochson, a member of the Christian Democrat party.

"Many [families] want home schooling for other reasons [than religious motivation]," stated Enochson in an interview with the Swedish newspaper, Metro ― when commenting on the Namdar lawsuit. "Maybe the kids have been bullied or have experienced this form of schooling in other countries that has been successful. Sweden is deviant in this respect compared to other countries."

This view is not shared by the leftist sector of society, which seeks to eradicate homeschooling and anything that does not align with the state's agenda concerning its ultimate control of education and children. In fact, one state sympathizer, Helene Odenjung, who is a member of the Liberal party, sees the Namdar case in a whole new light, believing that one more favorable decision will "open the doors for stricter legislation" over home instruction.

"I welcome the trial," Odenjung told the Metro. "[Yet] it is very unfortunate if the court rules that one may be exempted from tuition and compulsory schooling for religious reasons. Legislation [about homeschooling] has already been tightened, but there is a risk that one cannot maintain the qualified teaching that everyone is entitled to."

Donnelly

Despite the uncertain results of the ongoing litigation, Mike Donnelly, the director of international relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association, sees the value in cases such as the Namdars', which has grabbed worldwide attention. He appreciates political leaders who step up against the long arm of the government to champion parental rights and the integrity of the family unit.

"I commend Ms. Enochson for her statements that recognize the fundamental role of parents and the family in the education and upbringing of children as a natural right," Donnelly proclaims. "The Johansson and Namdar families represent many other Swedish parents who long to be free to educate their children at home."

Homeschooling's Declaration of Independence

Last month, in a concerted international effort to protect the millennia-old practice of homeschooling, hundreds of homeschool leaders gathered at the inaugural Global Home Education Conference in Berlin, Germany, to sign the Berlin Declaration [PDF], which begins:

"We signatories of this declaration presented on November 3, 2012 at the first Global Home Education Conference in Berlin, Germany hereby, Remind all nations that numerous international treaties and declarations recognize the essential, irreplaceable and fundamental role of parents and the family in the education and upbringing of children as a natural right that must be respected and protected by all governments, Affirm home education as a practice where parents and children undertake the activity of education themselves to pursue learning that meets the needs of the family and children, [and] Note that in Article 26 part 3 of the [United Nations'] Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 stating that 'parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children' elevates and indicates the preeminence of the right of parents and the family in relation to the State…"

The Berlin Declaration goes on to lay out five clear action points that are being taken so that governments around the world will observe parental rights in regards to education. Noting that "credible and scientific research indicate[s] that home education is an effective means of educating children to become literate and productive citizens and members of civil society and that there is no evidence at all of harm to children or an increased risk of harm on the basis of home education," it sets out to:

  1. "Condemn the policies of those nations that prohibit the practice of home education and permit the persecution of home educating families through excessive or coercive fines, threats to parental custody and application of criminal sanctions,"
  2. "Urge all members of the international community to take concrete steps to affirm in their law, policy, and civil and criminal procedures that parents have a natural and fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children which includes the right to choose the type of education their child shall receive including home education,"
  3. "Encourage states to consider the growing body of research about home education and take steps to review laws, policies and procedures to make it possible for all parents to participate in this activity,"
  4. "Urge the assistance of human rights bodies, governments, NGOs, elected and appointed government officials and individual citizens to seek greater respect for the fundamental right of parents to choose the kind of education their children receive including home education,"
  5. "Request the global home education community take active steps to communicate this resolution to their governments and to take all steps necessary to recognize the right of families to home education as a non-derogable and fundamental human right regardless of the motivation or methodology of those who chose it,"
  6. "[and] Commit to support freedom, diversity and pluralism in education through formal and informal coordination with the goal of making home education a legitimate educational option in every nation and the right of every family and child."
Farris

HSLDA founder and chairman Michael P. Farris, Esq. contends that this declaration is absolutely essential to upholding the rights that parents have taken for granted for millennia past. He asserts that nations not recognizing global legislation protecting such parental rights concerning education are guilty of great offenses against the family unit.

"Denying parents the right to choose education in conformity with their religious and philosophical convictions, including home education, is an act of a rogue state and bears the same level of shame in international law as the practice of indiscriminate killing, torture, and slavery," Farris contends. "States that deny parents the right to control the education of their children are condemned by international human rights law for an invasion of the highest level of protection - the denial of a non-derogable right."

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