Is Homeschooling a Universal Human Right?

German parents seek asylum in the U.S. for pulling kids out of schools.

In 2008, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike left Germany with their five children and came to the United States asking for refugee status as an oppressed minority. The Romeikes, you see, insist on homeschooling their children, which is illegal under German law. 

"The German Constitutional court has said it's alright for Germany to ban home education because the public has an interest in counteracting, or stamping out, parallel societies," explains Mike Donnelly, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association and a representative for the Romeike family. Donnelly tells Reason's Nick Gillespie that such laws have a long history in Germany, before, during, and after the Nazi regime. 

The family currently resides in the U.S. and is awaiting a verdict from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, hoping to be granted refugee status. If deported back to Germany, they could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and the possible loss of custody of their children. 

Donnelly also talks about America's own history with home schooling, which has only been recognized as a fully legal option over the past 30 years or so.  

About 14 minutes.

Camera by Meredith Bragg and Amanda Winkler. Edited by Winkler.

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Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • robc||

    To live his life in his own way, to call his house his castle, to enjoy the fruits of his own labour, to educate his children as his conscience directs, to save for their prosperity after his death--these are wishes deeply ingrained in civilised man.

    CS Lewis answers it with a yes.

    As do I.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Let the government breed its own kids to raise how it wants. As for mine, they can keep their filthy mitts off.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You know who else outlawed homeschooling?

  • Paul.||

    My mother?

  • albo||

    Heh! Nice one. I'll try the veal.

  • Tonio||

    And tip your waiter; don't be an asshole like Sloopy.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Interesting. They were already granted asylum in a minor league court. Was appealed "by the Obama administration" according to the article. That is really sickening if true.

  • Paul.||

    Going back to our previous discussion about what makes a 'natural right' vs. a government-granted priviledge, I would say "yes".

    In the absence of government, you can home school your children. Government can either recognize and protect that right, or they can take it away from you.

  • John||

    It is an absolute right because the right to family autonomy and autonomy over how one's children are educated is about as fundamental of a right as one can have.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Huh. Gawker wants to abolish the Senate. It's undemocratic, it seems, which is wrong, because democracy is the only possible virtue anything can have ever. The majority is always kind, just, and unoppressive, and majoritarian power should never, ever be checked in any way.

  • John||

    It's undemocratic, it seems, which is wrong, because democracy is the only possible virtue anything can have ever.

    In fairness that is only true right up until Gawker feels the wrong side won an election.

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, because the Republicans have never won an election without buying it. Ever.

  • Paul.||

    Vermont's 625,000 residents have two United States senators, and so do New York's 19 million. That means that a Vermonter has 30 times the voting power in the Senate of a New Yorker just over the state line - the biggest inequality between two adjacent states. The nation's largest gap, between Wyoming and California, is more than double that.

    So, Gawker just figured this out. I'm guessing because they're not getting what they want? That mean, nasty red states are shutting down the will of the enlightened blue states?

    A comment from the article:

    [...]The last four years of TeaParty nonsense have been bad enough with the Senate barely able to contain the worst of it. Without the Senate it would have been an absolute disaster.[...]
  • Virginian||

    The last four years of TeaParty nonsense have been bad enough with the Senate barely able to contain the worst of it.

    What color is the fucking sky in these idiot's world?

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's not like the system was designed to work the way it does or specifically intended to check different power groups--including the voting majority.

    Yes, well, if it's nonsense, then I guess the question is why people voted for it more than for them for the House.

  • R C Dean||

    That means that a Vermonter has 30 times the voting power in the Senate of a New Yorker

    Each has one vote for Senator, and neither can cast a vote in the Senate at all. What's not fair about that?

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, see, it's better that the people in Vermont have no voice at all, being totally overwhelmed and subsumed by people in a few large cities. And that we have no checks on federal power, because the history of unchecked centralized power is so rosy and perfect.

  • albo||

    That's Hamilton Nolan. He's a low-information left-winger. So of course Gawker made him their politics editor.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    If we ever want to live in a well-functioning democracy that actually reflects the will of its citizens, that is.

    You got me, Hamilton. I have no desire to live in a "well-functioning" (whatever that qualifier means) democracy. I prefer a republic in which my natural rights are respected, regardless of the will of the majority.

  • ||

    Basically this put Hamilton in the same majoritarian camp as...wait for it...Robert Bork!

    Don't tell him though, his head might explode.

  • Sam Grove||

    I'd like to see that, on youtube.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Mrs. Beeton and 4 more
    I hate the concept of states more than I hate the Senate, actually. Different laws, different rights, in the same country? DUMB. Fuck states.

    Awesome. Gawker truly is a singularity of stupidity from which no rational though can escape.

  • Paul.||

    from which no rational though can escape.

    Joez lore?

  • ||

    It's so perfectly named, too, because any time I see anything that their mongoloid contributors write, I actually gawk at the stupidity.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I thought that was where the name came from, actually.

  • R C Dean||

    Different laws, different rights, in the same country? DUMB. Fuck states.

    Another christfag pissed about gay marriage?

  • pmains||

    This is such a beautiful example of question begging. In her infinite wisdom, the arguments advanced in favor of a federal system of government by the founding fathers are so laughably and self-evidently wrong that no rationale or evidence is needed to explain why they are wrong.

  • robc||

    The senate is currently screwed up. Get rid of the 17th amendment and that helps a lot.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, exactly. Making it even less democratic, which was the whole fucking point. Checks and balances!

  • Marshall Gill||

    Get rid of the 17th amendment

    Even though we have not reached Peak Retard, we are close enough that few understand the idea behind this. I have attempted to explain it to many intelligent people who give me a blank look when I am finished.

  • Pro Libertate||

    If people don't get the Senate and why it's not purely democratic (and was even less so to begin with), they aren't going to get much about the separation of powers, checks and balances, or limited government.

    In any event, I don't really care if it's one guy oppressing me or the majority of the country. It's the oppression I want to avoid.

  • James Sinclair||

    My Representative, Steve Southerland (who I'm not a fan of, but I guess there are worse), was once asked about the 17th Amendment at a forum, and he responded that maybe we'd be better off if it was repealed. He wasn't even all that emphatic about it, if I remember correctly.

    Naturally, his opponent last fall ran ads saying in that ominous tone they all use that "Steve Southerland wants to take away your right to vote for Senators." As if, (a) it's an utterly indefensible position, and (b) Southerland has any intention of actually trying to make it happen. Ugh.

  • tarran||

    Interestingly that laughably childish and incoherently drafted manifesto known as the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights"

    Article 26.

    (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
    (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
    (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

    You know, at least the telephone hygienists of Golgafrincham performed a useful service; it puts them one leg up on UN diplomats and their staff. Judging by their work product, UN diplomats are so stupid that the average four year old could think rings around them.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Elementary education shall be compulsory.

    So if education is a right, but people must compelled to exercise this right, then you must take away their freedoms in order to protect their right should they, or their legal guardians, refuse?

    Education...shall further the activities of the United Nations...

    Kind of says all you need to know.

  • R C Dean||

    Yeah, anyone whose "Declaration of Rights" includes the word "compulsory" is deeply confused, at best.

  • Way Of The Crane||

    "Is Homeschooling a Universal Human Right?"

    Yes. Being forced to pay for the education indoctrination of everyone else's children, however, is considered a privilege.

  • Jordan||

    Unless all children belong to the state - which Tony believes - then, yes, homeschooling is a human right.

  • califernian||

    your body belongs to the state. This much we know to be true.

    your brain is part of your body is it not?

    hence, the state owns your brain, and thus your children's brains and thus you have no right to any say whatsoever with regard to anything about your children's education.


  • Josua||

    Ja, natürlich.

    Basic testing of math, reading, and writing might be reasonable, but no further requirements.

    The most important thing is to get rid of government-run schools.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    You know who else banned homeschooling in 1938?

    Wait, seriously? That's like cheating!

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