Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another Threat to Homeschooling Freedom in Europe

Most people are familiar with the persecution of homeschoolers in Germany by now, but did you know that there is also a threat to homeschooling freedom and parental rights in Belgium? I had no idea until I saw an article from the Brussels Journal entitled "Crackdown on Homeschoolers: It’s the UN Wot Done It [sic]".

Paul Belien and Alexandra Colen are homeschoolers living in the Flemish region of Belgium. Their oldest four children are now successfully attending university while their youngest is finishing up high school at home.

In 2003, the Flemish regional parliament decreed that all homeschoolers in the region must sign a document agreeing to raise their children in compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Furthermore, the document states that government inspectors decide whether families comply with the UN’s ideology and if there are two negative reports, the government will force the child to enroll in "an official government recognized school".

Mr. Belien and Dr. Colen refused to sign the document because they feel the UNCRC undermines their parental authority and transfers it to the state. They also objected to bureaucrats deciding on the basis of arbitrary criteria whether parents are in compliance with the imposed philosophy.

The Ministry of Education has asked the judiciary to press charges against Mr. Belien for child neglect, which is a criminal offense. Last week, he was hauled before the police as part of the inquiry process.

The UNCRC is full of very vague language that on the surface seem like things with which basically everyone would agree. However, the problem comes when the U.N. interprets innocuous sounding wording in such a way that clashes with parents' deeply held beliefs.

For example, consider Article 29:

"States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:

(a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;

(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;

(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;

(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;

(e) The development of respect for the natural environment."

Sounds pretty reasonable, right? But how I would personally interpret "human rights", "fundamental freedoms", "tolerance", "equality of sexes", etc. may be extremely different from how the U.N. interprets those.

The U.N. Committee for Human Rights goes on and on about the "right to life" but then explicitly excludes unborn babies from that right and furthermore defines abortion as a "human right". I could provide many other examples but that's a post for another day.

It is absolutely outrageous for the Flemish authorities to require parents to accept the UNCRC as a precondition for homeschooling!


Dana said...

You know what really bothers me about the UNCRC? It is only changing things in countries like Belgium and the UK over things like what you are discussing.

Has it done anything to stop the child sex trade in south east asia? Child slaves in Africa?

I think not.

Like anything else, only nations not guilty of the things they are trying to prevent are going to give two cents about what they signed and attempt to implement it.

Crimson Wife said...

Good point, Dana. It's very reminiscent of the NRA arguments against restrictive gun laws. Criminals aren't going to suddenly become law-abiding just because the laws change; it's only the law-abiding ones who get affected by them...