Gothenburg Breakout: The Consequences of a Recent Court Ruling for Homeschoolers in Sweden
A court ruling in Sweden for the first time points to the legitimacy of homeschooling in that nation and gives hope that educational totalitarianism is on the wane.
The decision by a regional court in Sweden to order the termination of a ruling by an oppressive kommun (municipality) in Göteborg (Gothenburg) to stop preventing a religious Lubavicher Jewish family from homeschooling their four children in the way that they see fit, is a major breakthrough in the homeschooling war that has been waged by the Government against home-educating families since introducing its draconian new law virtually making the practice illegal.
In a recently published article, Swedish Court Corrects National Law, Supports Religious Freedom, Human Rights, author Baila Olidort, with some justification, celebrates this decision as a victory for religious and educational freedom in Sweden. For in taking the stand that the court of appeal has, a clear signal has been sent to the Swedish government that its new Education Law forbidding homeschooling on religious or philosophical grounds blatently contradicts both international and European law, and is therefore illegal in Sweden.
But will the nominally centre-right Reinfeldt régime pay any attention? And does this give any hope to numerous Swedish homeschooling families living abroad in exile, or to those remaining in defiance of the law? It depends, I believe, on several things, not least of which is if the local municipality appeals the decision or not. One thing is certain, though, and it's this: the current impasse between the government and homeschoolers is at an end. The politicians are going to have to pay attention for a change and do something. They're going to have to own up to a monumental blunder and put things right.
Before Swedish homeschoolers get too excited, though, there are some things that need to be carefully noted. Important reasons that the judge overturned the decision to forbid the Nambar family from homeschooling include the fact that:
- 1. Both parents are professional educators; and
- 2. The children are given a "high level of education" as evidenced by the fact that they go on to higher (university) education, get advanced degrees, and become professionals.
Most homeschooling parents are not (like myself and Rabbi Namdar and his wife) professional educators, and one of the core theses of the homeschooling movement is that parents do not need to be professional educators in order to give their children a sound education. Tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of ordinary, non-professional parents the world around educate their children to a standard often higher than that of the professionals at state schools and many of their children go on to higher education and into advanced professions. So one would hope that the reason the judge brought up the professionalism of the Namdar parents was not because of any misguided notion that only professionals are capable of home-educating, which would not be true and would contradict the scientific evidence — but that he was emphasising these things because of the draconian measures of Gothenburg Municipality in heavily fining the diligent parents to force them back into state school because of the municipality's irrational fear born of ignorance (or doctrinaire Marxism) that the children were somehow being deprived of a good education and were being harmed. Neither should a ground for permitting children to be homeschooled be that they must go on into high education and become professionals. To demand that would be to claim that the education of those who do not go into such professions as being inadequate, or worse, be to profess intellectual élitism.
I mention this in case some over-zealous politicians draw the wrong conclusions and 'interpret' this decision to mean that only parents who are professional educators like myself are capable of homeschooling or that children must demonstrate that they in some way have not been 'harmed' intellectually by going into higher education to prove the parents were qualified. I can see how some weasley politicians might try to pull that trick which is why I expose it in advance and in anticipation of them.
At the end of the day, the main reason why Gothenburg Municipality's decision to forbid the Namdars to homeschool was overturned by the Court of Appeal is that said municipalilty was in violation of the family's rights to educate their children accoring to their own religious or philsophical belief system as Chabad-Lubavitcher Jews and their yiddischkeit which they felt would be totally undermined in a secular state school environment.
Another reason that the judge ruled in favour of the Namdars was, apparantly, that they:
- 3. Were following an internationally accredited curriculum with the International Shluchim Online School, even if this was not the same curriculum as that of the state school.
This is most definitely an important factor because it breaks the claim of the state that it has the right to impose its own singular, uniform secular Marxist-humanist curriculum. It is acknowledging, by implication, that other curriculums are valid even if they are religious in orientation provided they comprehensively cover the acknowledged stardard subjects of Swedish, English, Mathematics, Science, Geography, History and those subjects which make up all rounded curriculums. In other words, homeschoolers are not to be forced to follow only one curriculum mandated by the state. Others are valid too, even religious ones.
Therefore a fourth (and ultimately the main) reason this family chose to homeschool, is not only acknowledged by the court but seemingly acknowledged as the primary reason to homeschool:
- 4. Families have the right to give their chidlren an alternative education to that commanded by the state on religious (and therefore by implication, also philosophical) grounds.
The implications of this ruling by the Appelate Court are therefore enormous for homeschooling. It means that a Swedish Court is upholding EU and International Law concerning Home Education on the one hand, and on the other, it is saying that these take precedence over the current national law. It is saying, in effect, that this government's Education Act must be ammended to make it harmonise with the European Convention which states as pertaining to education:
- 1. Everyone has the right to education;
- 2. Education shall be directed towards the full development of the human personality; and
- 3. No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any function which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the state shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions" (Article §2 of Protocol No.1 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, incorporated into Swedish law on 1 January 1995).
It is also upholding the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which states:
"Parents have a priority right to choose the kind of education their children shall receive" (Article §26(3) of the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights, 1948).
The only question that remains now is whether the Swedish government will bow to the law, or whether it will attempt to circumvent it, or place itself above the law altogether. If it does the latter, it will simply be confirming what we have long suspected, namely, that the Swedish government is not a truly Western, libertarian democratic institution that respects the independence of the courts, but is a statist dictatorship.
It is now for Swedish homeschooling parents to challenge the government's illegal law and to demand, where they want it, the right to follow their own curriculums. They should also demand that all intimidation and threats to have their children removed by politicians (like pseudo-liberals Jan Björklund and Lotta Edholm) and Social Services alike, should they continue to homeschool, be removed, and that a written undertaking be given by the government, enshrined in a revised Education Act, that they will not be molested if they return home. And they must demand that Domenic Johansson, the child illegally abducted in 2009 by Social Services in Gotland, be immediately returned to his parents, their passports be restored, and their right to leave Sweden without hindrance as a family be guaranteed if they so choose.
The substance of politician Annalie Enochson's recent motion (2012/13:Ub223) to the Swedish Parliament, that homeschooling be restored, should also adopted and incorporated into the current Education Act, replacing the illegal and internationally disjunctive paragraphs, as quickly as possible. Only in this way can Swedish democracy exonerate itself in the educational sphere and the ugly civil rights breaches of the last few years be repaired.
The decision of the Gothenburg Appeals Court is an important landmark in Swedish democracy and liberty if it is now properly applied nation-wide. If it is challenged or overturned by corrupt anti-democratic politicians pretending to be democrats it will simply prove once and for all that Swedish democracy is a sham and that the political system that Swedes live under is totalitarian one.
Sweden once again stands at a crossroads.
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 (Flikr)/Gumisza