I thought these were liberal and progressive people?
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) does not protect European citizens against Hitler’s laws. On 11 September the Strasburg-based court ruled that the (German) State may deny parents the right to homeschool their children. The EU Court’s decision [pdf] states that the right to education “by its very nature calls for regulation by the State.”
German parents are currently being prosecuted on the basis of a Nazi bill of 1938 which banned homeschooling. The court denied a request from the Konrad family to rule that Germany’s ban on homeschooling violates their human rights to educate their own children according to their own religious beliefs. Fritz and Marianna Konrad filed the human rights complaint in November 2003 arguing that Germany’s compulsory school attendance severely endangers their children’s religious upbringing, and promotes teaching inconsistent with their Christian faith, especially the State’s mandate of sexual education (what sex education in Europe is can be seen here).
The Konrads had appealed under Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights which states, “No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
The European Court, however, agreed with the finding of German courts that “Schools represented society, and it was in the children’s interest to become part of that society. The parents’ right to education did not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience.”
The ruling also states that “Not only the acquisition of knowledge, but also the integration into and first experience with society are important goals in primary school education. The German courts found that those objectives cannot be equally met by home education even if it allowed children to acquire the same standard of knowledge as provided for by primary school education. The [European] Court [of Human Rights] considers this presumption as not being erroneous […] The [German] Federal Constitutional Court stressed the general interest of society to avoid the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions and the importance of integrating minorities into society. The Court regards this as being in accordance with its own case-law on the importance of pluralism for democracy.”
The Court’s arguments resemble those which Ayaan Hirsi Ali used last year when she proposed to abolish article 23 of the Dutch Constitution, which guarantees freedom of education. She said that all children should be sent to state schools because “freedom of education hinders integration.” The former Dutch politician, who has meanwhile emigrated to the United States where she now works for the American Enterprise Institute, proposed to close down confessional schools because, apart from religious Christians, Muslim immigrants, too, had begun to establish their own confessional schools. According to Hirsi Ali the state should educate children “in order to ensure that they learn tolerance.”
The problem with entrusting the education of children to the state is, of course, that instead of parents “indoctrinating” their children with their own ideological and philosophical beliefs, they will be indoctrinated with those of the state – which is exactly why Hitler banned homeschooling in Germany in 1938.