Judge grants asylum to German home schoolers

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jbuck919
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Judge grants asylum to German home schoolers

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Mar 01, 2010 9:12 am

I take home schooling for granted and have taught students who either started that way or were in school for only part of the day to cover a subject that could not be covered at home (common for math)--including in Germany with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (not subject to German laws, of course).

The New York Times

February 28, 2010
Judge Grants Asylum to German Home Schoolers
By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON

MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — On a quiet street in this little town in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains lives a family of refugees who were granted asylum in the United States because they feared persecution in their home country.

The reason for that fear has rarely, if ever, been the basis of an asylum case. The parents, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, want to home-school their five children, ranging in age from 2 to 12, a practice illegal in their native land, Germany.

Among European countries, Germany is nearly alone in requiring, and enforcing, attendance of children at an officially recognized school. The school can be private or religious, but it must be a school. Exceptions can be made for health reasons but not for principled objections.

But the Romeikes, who are devout Christians, said they wanted their children to learn in a different environment. Mr. Romeike (pronounced ro-MY-kuh), 38, a soft-spoken piano teacher whose young children greet strangers at the front door with a startlingly grown-up politeness, said the unruly behavior of students that was allowed by many teachers had kept his children from learning. The stories in German readers, in which devils, witches and disobedient children are often portrayed as heroes, set bad examples, he said.

“I don’t expect the school to teach about the Bible,” he said, but “part of education should be character-building.”

In Germany, he said, home-schoolers are seen as “fundamentalist religious nuts who don’t want their children to get to know what is going on in the world, who want to protect them from everything.”

“In fact,” he said, sitting on his sofa as his three older children wrote in workbooks at the dining table, “I want my children to learn the truth and to learn about what’s going on in the world so that they can deal with it.”

The reasoning behind the German law, cited by officials and in court cases, is to foster social integration, ensure exposure to people from different backgrounds and prevent what some call “parallel societies.”

“We have had this legal basis ever since the state was founded,” said Thomas Hilsenbeck, a spokesman for the Ministry for Culture, Youth and Sport in the Romeikes’ state, Baden-Württemberg. “This is broadly accepted among the general public.”

The family has been here for some time, having left Germany in 2008. But it was not until Jan. 26 that a federal immigration judge in Memphis granted them political asylum, ruling that they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned.

In a harshly worded decision, the judge, Lawrence O. Burman, denounced the German policy, calling it “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans,” and expressed shock at the heavy fines and other penalties the government has levied on home-schooling parents, including taking custody of their children.

Describing home-schoolers as a distinct group of people who have a “principled opposition to government policy,” he ruled that the Romeikes would face persecution both because of their religious beliefs and because they were “members of a particular social group,” two standards for granting asylum.

“It is definitely new,” said Prof. Philip G. Schrag, the director of Georgetown Law School’s asylum law program, who added that he had never heard of such a case. “What’s novel about the argument is the nature of the social group.”

But, he said, given the severity of the penalties that German home-schoolers potentially face, the judge’s decision “does not seem far outside the margin.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has appealed the decision, Mr. Romeike’s lawyer said Friday. A spokesman for the agency declined to comment, citing the litigation.

The Romeikes had never heard of home schooling when they set out to find an alternative to the local public school in Germany, where their two oldest children — now 11 and 12 — were having trouble with rowdy classmates. The nearby private and religious schools, Mr. Romeike said, were just as bad or even worse.

Then a woman in their church mentioned that some families, though none in the church itself, had taken their children out of school altogether.

“She knew a family, but she didn’t want to mention their name because it wasn’t legal,” Mr. Romeike said.

Months of research followed: the Romeikes read articles, sat in on court cases and talked to other home-schoolers in Germany. Eventually they decided to give it a try. Working with a curriculum from a private Christian correspondence school — one not recognized by the German government — they expected to be punished with moderate fines and otherwise left alone.

But they soon discovered differently, he said, facing fines eventually totaling over $11,000, threats that they would lose custody of their children and, one morning, a visit by the police, who took the children to school in a police van. Those were among the fines and potential penalties that Judge Burman said rose to the level of persecution.

Mr. Romeike began looking to other countries, but his inability to speak anything other than German or English limited his options. Then, at a conference for home-schoolers in 2007, he saw Mike Donnelly, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association, a Virginia-based advocacy organization

Long before the Romeikes had begun their fight, lawyers at the association had been discussing the situation in Germany. They had tried litigating cases one by one, usually unsuccessfully.

In 2006, after the European Court of Human Rights declined to hear a petition by home-schooling parents that had failed in German courts, lawyers at the association decided to add a political line of attack to the legal one, both to raise awareness of the German policies and to find some broader solution to the issue.

At a brainstorming session, one of the lawyers, Jim Mason, came up with the idea of petitioning for political asylum.

“I don’t know German law or German courts,” Mr. Mason said, “but I do know American courts.”

Another German home-schooling family had already moved to Morristown, so the Romeikes sold many of their belongings, including their grand piano, and came here too. The court battle lasted over a year, and while the Romeikes’ lawyers said they had expected to succeed, they were surprised by the vigor of the judge’s opinion. So was the German government.

“We’re all surprised because we consider the German educational system as very excellent,” said Lutz Hermann Görgens, the German consul general in Atlanta. He defended Germany’s policy on the grounds of fostering the ability “to peacefully interact with different values and different religions.”

Mr. Romeike said he would like to return to Germany if the laws became more amenable to home schooling. There is still hope, he said, though the political landscape does not look too promising right now.

In the meantime, he added, “it’s a good learning experience.”

Victor Homola contributed reporting from Berlin.

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Re: Judge grants asylum to German home schoolers

Post by Ralph » Mon Mar 01, 2010 9:57 am

I posted this story last night to my Church and State seminar and we'll be discussing it on Thursday evening. It's a very unusual ruling. I hope Germany does not mobilize and rattle a saber in response.
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Re: Judge grants asylum to German home schoolers

Post by NancyElla » Tue Mar 02, 2010 1:14 pm

Ralph wrote:I posted this story last night to my Church and State seminar and we'll be discussing it on Thursday evening. It's a very unusual ruling. I hope Germany does not mobilize and rattle a saber in response.
I agree that it seems an unusual definition of fear of persecution--gee, the kids will have to go to school. Any officially recognized school of the parents' choice, but school. Judicial activism, perhaps?
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Re: Judge grants asylum to German home schoolers

Post by Jean » Wed Mar 03, 2010 1:24 am

I don't know much about political asylum. I did have a general notion that it was reserved for cases where a person's life was in jeopardy because of a particular belief or act. I just don't see why the US should intervene in this case. I think the court stepped way over the line.

Then again, I am not a supporter of home schooling and can think oof very few circumstances under which it would be preferable to alternatives.
Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population. - Albert Einstein

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Re: Judge grants asylum to German home schoolers

Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:11 am

Jean wrote:Then again, I am not a supporter of home schooling and can think oof very few circumstances under which it would be preferable to alternatives.
Do you know anything about the relative academic success vis public schooled children?
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Re: Judge grants asylum to German home schoolers

Post by Ralph » Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:34 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Jean wrote:Then again, I am not a supporter of home schooling and can think oof very few circumstances under which it would be preferable to alternatives.
Do you know anything about the relative academic success vis public schooled children?
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Many home schooled kids do well on SATs and adjust to college without a problem. I have a few as law students every year and they are competitive with others although just by getting accepted they were in a selective cohort.
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Re: Judge grants asylum to German home schoolers

Post by Madame » Thu Mar 04, 2010 4:29 pm

There are more and more home-schooled kids in this area, and there is a great support network for them, which includes certified teachers. They are not isolated by any means. I ran into a large group of them at a restaurant one evening, and they were delightful. Loud, laughing, clearly having a good time. They all wore T-shirts covered with names from Greek mythology, and it was so much fun talking with them about it. They knew their stuff. And they were so well behaved.

If that's the direction of home schooling, I'm all fer it. I wish it had been there for my own kids.

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Re: Judge grants asylum to German home schoolers

Post by Jean » Sat Mar 06, 2010 8:42 pm

As discussed in another thread, there are different kinds or intelligent and different kinds of knowledge. Even if a homeschooled child learns everything she needs to academically, she will have missed out on some important opportunities for socialization. I know homeschool programs provide many opportunities for the children to socialize, but it doesn't provide the life-lessons for:
- how to manage with peers that one doesn't get along with,
- diverse teaching styles,
- daily feedback from peers and a broad range of adults, etc.

It has been personal expereince working with young adults that were home schooled that they lack practical problem solving skills and interpersonal skills.

The good homeschool programs also require a lot from the parents. I suspect that many parents do not adhere to the program and that their children frequently wind up excelling at what comes easily and not tackling obtacles.

Another consideration is that positive change in our society is dependent upon each generation making their own decisions. It's how we progress culturally. That ability comes from being exposed not only to ones family, but to others early on. It is a lifetime of experiences outside the home that equips a person and an integral part of that exeperince is being educated outside the womb of the family.

As for there being kids that have thrived being homeschooled? There will always be a subset of kids that learn and excel no matter what the circumstances are. They tend to be self-driven over-achievers.

In general, for the average child, I do not think homeschooling is advisable or desirable.
Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population. - Albert Einstein

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Re: Judge grants asylum to German home schoolers

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Mar 06, 2010 8:57 pm

Jean wrote:In general, for the average child, I do not think homeschooling is advisable or desirable.
I'll believe that when the stats start showing the same level of social misfits and the grossly ignorant produced by the baby-sitting outfits we call "public schools."
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Re: Judge grants asylum to German home schoolers

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Mar 06, 2010 9:33 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Jean wrote:In general, for the average child, I do not think homeschooling is advisable or desirable.
I'll believe that when the stats start showing the same level of social misfits and the grossly ignorant produced by the baby-sitting outfits we call "public schools."
In the first place, "social misfit" is not necessarily a term of opprobrium. In the second, any system that works with many millions of children--as home schooling does not--is going to see noticeable numbers of anti-social and/or poorly educated people fall through the cracks. While I do not minimize the problems of public education in the United States, they are not uniform throughout all schools, in most places not blighted by underclass pathologies those schools do in fact both educate and socialize the great majority of kids who attend them, and in general it would be a mistake to say that public education in the US "produces" failures as though this were some perverse outcome of a defective process.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Re: Judge grants asylum to German home schoolers

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Mar 06, 2010 10:46 pm

jbuck919 wrote: In the second, any system that works with many millions of children--as home schooling does not--
Precisely. One of the things the public school system has to deal with is indiffernt parents who exercise little or no discipline over their progeny. That is definitely not the case with homeschooled. And as long as the education is as good or better than they can get in public schools, and they are making a lot of arrangements to get the kids socialized, and the kids have not to date turned into right-wing militias that I suspect lies behind a lot of the angst about them from the usual sources, society only benefits.
is going to see noticeable numbers of anti-social and/or poorly educated people fall through the cracks.


Darlin', they ain't fallin' thru the cracks: they are being systematically promoted and graduated. Naturally I wouldn't recommend home-schooling for crack addicted women on welfare without a father figure in the house for the kids.
While I do not minimize the problems of public education in the United States, they are not uniform throughout all schools, in most places not blighted by underclass pathologies those schools do in fact both educate and socialize the great majority of kids who attend them,


I grant you that but they are performing to increasingly lower expectations and measures that are dumbed down or otherwise prostituted to eliminate the concept of "failure" and substitute learning for social experimentation to produce equality and social justice.
and in general it would be a mistake to say that public education in the US "produces" failures as though this were some perverse outcome of a defective process.
Guess it would depend on what outcomes one expects. Our university system is one of the best in the world; people flock here from all over the globe to take advantage of it. Our K-12 education, on the other hand, is one of the laughing stocks of the world and routinely cited for producing graduates that require susbstantial remedial work at the college level, time that should be spent on college-level subjects to prepare them for a profession or at least to earn a living. This is true regardless of whether they come from traditionally disadvantaged classes (they are increasingly from the middle class), can't read above the 8th gade level or write a complete sentence or calculate percentages, and simply can't function in the modern world. That doesn't even consider what enormous voids of historical and civics education the kids are when they get their high school diplomas. Businesses in many areas are working with schools to ensure that they have more than functional illiterates to hire and educate. It's been 27 years since A Nation At Risk was published. I doubt we are any closer to resolving the issues reported on there. If anything, we're bigger, have more people at the margins than we did then and less money, which never really was the answer anyway.
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