reb•e•lu•tion (reb’el lu shen) n. a teenage rebellion against the low expectations of an ungodly culture.


Persecution in Germany: An Interview with Hans Guenther

Agent Tim (a.k.a. Tim Sweetman) and I recently had the opportunity to “sit down” with American expatriate, and good friend, Hans Guenther.

Hans lives in Germany with his parents and siblings. His father, Rich Guenther, is the director of School Instruction at Home, the German equivalent of HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense). Serving his parents as a secretary in their endeavors to legalize homeschooling, Hans graciously consented to the interview, giving us an inside look at the current situation for homeschoolers in Germany.

Agent Tim, a highly recommended fellow blogger, has been following the developments in Germany on his blog, where further information can be found here.

The Rebelution (TR): To begin, would you be able to share with us a brief history of your family's involvement in the homeschool movement in Germany?
Hans Guenther (HG): My parents, Richard and Ingrid Guenther, were early homeschool pioneers in Oregon, and saw the need for legalizing home education in Germany. Together with HSLDA’s senior council, Christopher Klicka, and several other attorneys, they founded the legal organization Schulunterricht zu Hause e.V. (Schuzh) [School Instruction at Home]. The organization was formed to provide legal help for homeschool families in Germany. My parents’ involvement with Schuzh has since become a family ministry. We have been serving the German homeschool community for over ten years.
TR: Would you be able to give us a brief introduction to the current political situation in Germany and Europe? Are there any distinctive features of the German government that are relevant to our topic?
HG: Germany is a constitutional democracy similar to the United States. Something most people fail to recognize is the fact that East Germany and Russia had good constitutions throughout their socialistic regimes. However, in order for a constitution to be effective, the courts of the land must uphold it. When the courts fail to uphold the constitution, the people lose their rights. Germany is often said to have a post-democratic statism, a government that manages its citizens. The interests of society override individual rights. Since Germany is the most influential country of the European Union, the development in Germany is very significant and dangerous for the rest of Europe.

On a side note, we have an election coming up here in Germany this month (Sept. 18) and both parties are socially more liberal than the American Democratic party. Openly. The only party that is socially conservative gets less than 1% of the vote.
Agent Tim (AT): Quoting from an interview I did with a German last month “According to our Basic Law the State is the guardian overlooking the parents’ performance in their upbringing and education of their children and especially over the whole schoolsystem. This includes that also the State has a constitutional duty for the education of children. So the State can interfere with the parents’ right to education.” What’s your opinion of this statement?
HG: That is a [Court] interpretation. According to the German Constitution, the parents have the right to choose the education of their children. While the State has the duty to oversee the school system, it is unconstitutional for the state to determine the education of the children against the educational goals of the parents. The Constitution ensures that the parents have the primary duty to educate their children. Unfortunately, Germany’s Constitutional Court interprets the obligation of the state to include mandatory school attendance.
TR: What are some of the primary reasons why Christian parents are so adamant in educating their children independent of the government school system?
HG: Christian homeschool parents became aware of the immoral social contents and new teaching methods in the schools. Others see that the schools cannot fulfill the academic needs of their children. The teachers insist on their own methods and agenda including immorality and occultism, opposing the educational goals of Christian parents. Mobbing and violence in the schools is also a great concern.

[Note from The Rebelution: Further information on the shocking state of the government schools can be found here and here.]
AT: I know that, according to law, it’s illegal to homeschool. What steps would we take to change the law, and even the constitution? Is it possible?
HG: As I said, the Constitution or federal law does not need to be changed. All school laws are left up to the individual states. While all 16 states have adopted mandatory school attendance laws, most of them have a clear exemption clause. The officials may legally grant exemption should an important enough reason be given. The problem is that the authorities refuse to grant this exemption. Religious reasons are not an acceptable argument, even though the Constitution guarantees a freedom of religion and conscience.
TR: How bad is the persecution against homeschoolers in Germany today?
HG: Generally speaking, the government first applies financial pressure by issuing tremendous fines of up to hundreds of thousands of euros [Note: 1 euro = $1.24]. The next step often taken is taking the child by police force to school. Most families comply or leave the country before this takes place. In some cases, the state takes the custody of the children away from the parents, forcing the child to live in a foster home. In such instances, the state typically refuses to inform the parents of their child’s whereabouts. The authorities argue, and judges affirm, that a child cannot develop properly apart from public school attendance.
AT: Is there really a feeling of animosity towards homeschoolers in Germany? Or is it just “concern for the kids”?
HG: There is a strong animosity towards Christian convictions in general. The society here is extremely secular. According to most Germans, homeschooling parents misuse the custody of their children by denying them school attendance. There is a fear of religious parents keeping their children at home in order to indoctrinate them. The idea is to integrate all children into society and society’s standards. Most Germans believe that, apart from the school system, a child cannot develop properly and will not fit into today’s society.
TR: What are the Christians in Germany doing? Are they protesting the government's treatment of home educators?
HG: Good question. What we have in Germany is a collapse of traditional family values, even in Christian circles. Even though many Christians are dissatisfied with the school system, they are afraid their children would not be qualified for life without school. There are only 75 Christian schools in all of Germany, all of which use state curriculum and fulfill the state’s educational goals. So there is no real alternative to public school. On a large scale, Christians are closing their eyes to reality. However, Schuzh has been successful in persuading many major publications to publish positive articles on homeschooling. Christians learning about the government’s unreasonable actions taken against homeschoolers, as is happening now in Paderborn, are slowly beginning to show sympathy to the cause.
AT: Would you say that the actions by the government are “control of society”?
HG: The government is enforcing integration. In their own words, multiculturalism is over, now everyone must integrate into the society. The government defines the societal values.
TR: Now, is the situation with homeschoolers in Germany receiving much media attention in Germany or the United States?
HG: Schuzh constantly receives requests from major TV stations, newspapers and magazines. We supply them as much as we can. Most homeschool families wish to remain underground. Germany’s top TV show invited a very well versed homeschool mother. The national press, which has been surprisingly open-minded, is eager to explore the issue. Local press, agitated by the government, tends to slander Christian homeschoolers.
AT: As for media coverage… [Assuming it is anti-homeschoolers.] What can we do to change that? What’s our action plan?
HG: As I said, the national media coverage has been relatively neutral or even positive. We continue to work with them. Our main problem has been government interference with the media.
TR: What are the most important steps that concerned, Christian young people in the United States can take to support your efforts to legalize homeschooling in Germany?
HG: Other than through prayer, I really am not sure what to tell you. American homeschoolers need to continue to be an example for the rest of the world and strive for excellence. Through you, we have the statistics. For example, Dr. Brian Ray’s study, Homeschooling Grows Up, has been very effective in raising interest in and arguing our case. Through you, we have proof that homeschooling works. You must continue to lead the way.

[Continue to Hans Guenther's guest post, Visual Onslaught: A Diversion of Focus.]