Friday, April 13, 2012

On Homeschooling in Sweden - a sad story

I’ve been following a debate in the Swedish media that concerns homeschooling (in Swedish), or more precisely the reinforcement of the law that regards homeschooling in Sweden.

Last year, a bill was passed that practically banned homeschooling in Sweden, forcing the 100 or so families that were homeschooling to apply for a special permission to homeschool. Because of the strict application of the law, all but one family were denied, and the homeschooling families either moved to neighboring, more free countries, gave in and sent their kids to school, or ignored the state’s notice and kept homeschooling their children. The ones that stayed have now been sentenced to pay a fine of $50/child per week or day that they keep their children home from school. I know. It’s insane. But just wait, it gets worse.

The current debate that I have been following was started by a couple of representatives for the Swedish liberal party – yes, this gets more and more bizarre. They are asking that not only should families that keep their kids home from public school (because they want to homeschool) have to pay a fine, but social services should also come and take their children away from them should they continue to disobey the law.

These women – these are people with real political power in Sweden - want to ruin a group of children’s lives by snatching them away from their loving family, and place them in foster care in a system that is harsh and nothing anyone should have to go through, JUST TO MAKE A POINT, and receive political attention.

"Ohhh, but these parents are brainwashing their kids. They might be teaching them that evolution is false, or that – gasp – they should worship God in a certain way. These kids might be taught to relate to society in an *inappropriate* way!" It is our duty as righteous Swedes – because we always know what is objectively best for everyone – to make sure all children are given the right world view and values. And if they don’t like these values that we in Sweden maintain, then they shouldn’t live here in the first place. If they want to live here, it should be by our laws and ideas."

This is not an actual quote (you figured that), but - I kid you not – the content of the argument. Especially that last part is so disturbing, my cheeks turn red when I think about it. I always thought of Sweden as an open, liberal, tolerant, and open-minded country, but now, my view unfortunately has had to change. In general, the entire Swedish debate on homeschooling is so filled with prejudices and misconceptions that I wouldn’t even know where to start. Did you know that Sweden and Germany are the only democratic countries in the world that don’t allow homeschooling? (Making them Class B democracies.)

There are many reactions to the Swedish law from all over the world. Here is one in English, with links to other sites and articles.

What do I think? I agree with the Human Rights Act 1998, Article 2 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights – by which, technically, Sweden should be abiding, since when they became a member of the European Union in 1995, the convention was added to the Swedish law - that it ultimately is the parent’s call to decide which educational system is best for their children, "the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions." Maybe we need to suggest a law where social services remove politicians from their position of power if they can’t suggest regulations that follow the law.

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