Obama administration takes sour view of home schooling
BY KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON January 13, 2014 6:14PM
Updated: January 14, 2014 12:00AM
Ronald Reagan electrified the world when he demanded that the Berlin Wall be torn down. Barack Obama is helping to build a new one, even as the German government begins rounding up members of a despised religious minority.
The Romeike family was granted asylum in the United States because the German government was intent on wresting away the children and putting the parents in cages for the crime of home schooling their children, which is verboten in Germany, a legacy of the country’s totalitarian past. The Obama administration, which in other notable areas of immigration law has enacted a policy of “discretion” regarding deportations, took the Romeike family to court to have its asylum protections revoked, and succeeded in doing so. The family has appealed to the Supreme Court, which has ordered the Obama administration to respond to the Romeikes’ petition, but the administration has so far refused to do so.
As the Romeikes’ story unfolds, another German family is being held in the country against their will, also for the crime of homeschooling their children — or intending to do so, at least. The Wunderlich family had their children kidnapped by the German government — the agents of which came crashing through their door with battering rams — as retaliation for their homeschooling. They complied with the government’s demands regarding their children’s education and, understandably enough, began the process of relocating to France, where attitudes toward family life are more civilized. The Germans responded by refusing to reinstate their custody of their children, with a judge determining that the desire to home school presents an “endangerment” to the children.
That is the environment into which the Obama administration intends to send the Romeike family.
The institutional Left hates home schooling, hates it with a remarkable intensity, even though home schooling recently has come into vogue with a certain subset of Park Slope-style progressives. Robin West of Georgetown’s law school has written admiringly of the suppression of home schooling and regimes under which “parents who did so were criminals.” She writes that home schoolers are dangerous precisely because of the fact that, far from being docile sheep, home schoolers are as adults more likely to be politically engaged, which Professor West worries might “undermine, limit, or destroy state functions that interfere with family and parental rights.” For good measure, she notes that many home schoolers were enthusiastic about George W. Bush in 2000 — quelle horreur. Many others on the left argue that home schooling should be either banned outright or effectively regulated out of existence.
Home schooling terrifies the left because the left is at its core totalitarian, seeking to bring political discipline to every aspect of life — and control of education is essential to that project. The public school is in miniature what the left believes the world should look like: everybody arranged in orderly rows and moving about on an orderly schedule punctuated by bells, being taught about diversity and climate change by nice union ladies who also lead them to their federally subsidized lunches. If you can say “no” to that, you can say no to any part of the left’s vision. Homeschooling is an existential threat to the privileged position of the institutional left. The schools are the factory in which it manufactures its future clients.
Of course, it doesn’t help that home schooling is associated in the public mind with a particular strain of evangelical Christianity, as in the case of the Romeike family. It is distasteful, but it should not be a surprise that the Obama administration has no objection to the political and religious suppression of such unruly Christians — the Obama administration is doing the same thing to the Little Sisters of the Poor and other Christian groups that it finds inconvenient.
In the case of the Romeike family, a judge already had seen fit to offer them asylum, but the Obama administration wants to hand them over to the Germans. In the case of the Wunderlich family, a fundamental human right — the right to move away, which is enshrined in German law — is being grossly violated. The Germans, of all people, should appreciate that walling in people who want to leave is uncivilized. The Obama administration has an opportunity to make a statement on both cases by dropping its assault on the Romeikes.
Kevin D. Williamson is a roving correspondent for National Review, where this column was posted online.