Acton Institute Powerblog

A Reminder

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

Children are not the property of the state:

A Christian family from Germany have been granted political asylum in the US after facing the threat of prison for home schooling their children.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, who are evangelical Christians, were forced to flee Germany as they wished to educate their five children at home.

Home schooling is still illegal in Germany under laws introduced during the Nazi era.

The German law means that parents who choose to home school their children can face fines or even imprisonment.

Mr Romeike said: “I think it’s important for parents to have the freedom to choose the way their children can be taught”.

Mr Romeike and his wife withdrew their three oldest children from school in 2006 after they encountered problems with violence, bullying and peer pressure.

However, the decision to educate their children at home brought the family into conflict with the German authorities.

Marc Vander Maas


  • I didn’t write my novel ReEnchantment because of the law in Germany prohibiting parents from being the primary educators in their children’s lives but…

    The book’s fast paced and delightful story of an American family’s encounter with “violence, bullying and peer pressure” and the more relevant “no learning in the classroom” was meant to give parents courage to take their kids elsewhere. In the U.S. you can do that and more and more families are making the choice.

    The U.S. public school systems will spend–including Obama “stimulus” money–all told over $600 billion per year on approximately 50 million K-12 kids. If you run the math that’s $12,000 per kid per year.

    Some private schools charge that much but most don’t, and parochial schools average around $3600 per pupil for K-8 instruction. If the phrase “getting taken to the cleaner” comes to mind you’re paying attention.

    More parents need to pay attention to what is and isn’t being taught to their children, but more especially to what they believe and how it is undone by sending the kids to the secular, tradition-ignoring and union managed schools in this country.

    If you still need inspiration, read my book.

  • There’s a great section from the piece I link to on the audacity of the savior state, subtitled: “State Control of Children”

    The ascendancy of the state over civil society, which it ought rather to serve, is virtually guaranteed where the state exercises full control over education—particularly if the goal of education, as one professor boldly asserted in a recent McGill forum, is to release children from the control of their parents. In America, one notes, there have long been advocates of the still more radical idea that children should be regarded as the state’s property, to be educated on a compulsory basis according to state needs and requirements. That is a thesis likely to be advanced with renewed urgency as the implications of our declining birthrate begin to be grasped.

    Nor is it altogether lacking support from the law. In 1840 Justice Paige of Connecticut opined in Mercein v. People that “the moment a child is born it owes allegiance to the government of the country of its birth, and is entitled to the protection of the government.” He further explained that “with the coming of civil society the father’s sovereign power passed to the chief or government of the nation.” While the state, for its own convenience, passes part of this power back to the parents, it maintains sovereignty over the question of what is in the best interests of the child. The Colorado Supreme Court partly endorsed that view in a 1910 child custody case:

    Though nature gives to parents the right to the custody of their own children, and such right is scarcely less sacred than the right to life and liberty, and is manifested in all animal life, yet among mankind the necessity for government has forced the recognition of the rule that the perpetuity of the state is the first consideration, and parental authority itself is subordinate to this supreme power.

    The pattern we have already observed is very much in evidence here. Radical critics such as John Taylor Gatto are not mistaken in pointing out the use of (basically Christian) doctrines of individual destiny, and of subjective rights, to separate children from their natural communities and attach them to artifacts of the state. In Canada we have performed costly exercises of public penance over such strategies in connection with the native residential schools, yet we are now doing something very similar with everyone but natives. The ever more vigorous expansion of public welfare programs, which we have witnessed on both sides of the border, works on exactly the same principle, of course: Citizens are separated from both their natural family units and their religious communities by a cultivated reliance on the state.

    What is more, the normalization of divorce—one of the most significant features of our contraceptive culture—has ever more deeply insinuated the state into the child-rearing process and so into the sphere of the family. The “great and pernicious error” against which Pope Leo XIII warned in Rerum Novarum has thus gradually become the norm; namely, “that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household.”

  • Here’s a bit more context, from Uwe Siemon-Netto:

    I am familiar with this case and empathize with the parents but deeply resent this article’s fortuitous reference to Germany’s Nazi past. Compulsory schooling in Germany, triggered by the Reformation, goes back to the 16th century, at least on some states, and to the mid-19th century in all states. The 1938 Nazi law centralized this legislation because Hitler centralized everything in the country; the term for this was Gleichschaltung. But after WWII authority over education has been returned to the individual states. Parents are free to send their kids to either public or Catholic, Lutheran or evangelical, or other religious and private schools, (all of) which are state-subsidized. Some states uphold Christian values at public schools better than others. But all 16 states require that parents send their kids to public or private schools.

    Political correctness prevents public officials from naming the true reason why they would consider it insane to relax the strict school attendance requirement. Like France, Germany has huge Muslim populations unwilling to integrate. Most of their kids refuse to learn the national language well; the families reject the national culture with horrendous social costs to the entire nation. In Berlin district of Reinickendorf (pop. 360,000), for example, 90 percent of all public school students are of Turkish or Arab descent. Their dropout rate is around 90 percent. What little useful secular stuff they learn they receive from public schools, though. If homeschooling were allowed they’d send their kids to Koran schools, and there would be no way for German educational authorities to monitor their educational progress.

    Most knowledgeable Germans know that this is the true reason for the stubborn refusal of German states (and the Federal Republic) to change their constitutions in this regard. This is not a good state of affairs. But by now I have come to loathe the constant bashing of present-day Germany, which is a very decent country, for its Nazi past. It would be good if the American media started covering foreign affairs again instead of spreading cliches.