Does the Wunderlich family (father Dirk and his four children pictured by mother Petra) look like a threat to the German state? Yet on Thursday of last week, armed German authorities (armed!) forcibly removed these four children from their home and parents. Why? Because the parents home school their children, something which Germany, which requires all children to attend state approved schools, outlaws. The origins of this law, we are not surprised to learn, go back to 1938 and Hitler's desire to have all German children under the tutelage of the state. We can understand why Hitler would deny the calling of parents to educate their children, but what has contemporary, democratic, human rights respecting Germany to fear from upholding this calling in law as long as the educational needs of the children are seen to be met?
This case is emphatically not a matter of the children in question being neglected or even educationally deficient (the reality is probably the opposite, since studies repeatedly show that home schooled children outperform their school educated peers). It is an example of the brute enforcement of an unjust, totalitarian law behind which lies the un-Christian philosophical view that children "belong" to the state. How disappointing that this view could prevail in the land that gave us Luther.
The family in question did not provoke the authorities; they had tried to re-settle in neighbouring countries but economic necessity drove them back to their homeland. Incidentally, the Obama government is presently seeking to deport another German homeschooling family who sought refuge in the USA. One wonders if these families would be granted refugee status in Australia?
Whether one personally adopts the home education philosophy or not, the vocation and right of parents to determine the nature of their children's education is surely fundamental. The role of government is not to over-ride this vocation and right, but to facilitate its proper exercise to the end that the educational needs of home schooled children are effectively met.
Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, the parents in question, plead for help - one can easily imagine their distress. You may wish to consider contacting the German embassy in your country to express your concern for them and their children and your disappointment at the German authorities' actions. Here are the Australian contact details:
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
119 Empire Circuit
Yarralumla ACT 2600
Ph: (02) 6270 1911
Fax: (02) 6270 1951
It is estimated that there are 400 families in Germany who home school.