June 19, 2006
WAR: Creeping Tyranny In Brussels
If you think the teachers' unions are powerful in the U.S., they can still - for now - only dream of doing this:
Yesterday my husband Paul Belien, the editor of this website, was summoned to the police station and interrogated. He was told that the Belgian authorities are of the opinion that, as a homeschooler, he has not adequately educated his children and, hence, is neglecting his duty as a parent, which is a criminal offence. The Ministry of Education has asked the judiciary to press charges and the judiciary told the police to investigate and take down his statement.
Now, if you read the whole thing it's unclear whether this is about a campaign against homeschooling or about a campaign against Brussles-based bloggers who dare to criticize the EUracracy, but neither is a particularly encouraging prospect for fans of civil liberties in Europe. But the subtext is an international movement by the usual suspects to bulldoze local freedom to educate your children as you see fit:
The fact that a growing group of children seems to be escaping from the government's influence clearly bothers the authorities. Three years ago a new school bill was introduced. The new bill refers to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and it obliges homeschooling parents to fill out a questionaire and sign an official "declaration of homeschooling" in which they agree to school their children "respecting the respect [sic] for the fundamental human rights and the cultural values of the child itself and of others."
The declaration does not specify what "respecting the respect for the fundamental human rights and the cultural values of the child itself and of others" means. It states, however, that government inspectors decide about this and adds - and here is the crux of the matter - that if the parents receive two negative reports from the inspectors they will have to send their child to an official government recognized school.
Last month Michael Farris, the chairman of the American Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), warned that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child could make homeschooling illegal in the U.S., even though the US Senate has never ratified this Convention.
According to some activist judges the UN Convention is "customary international law. [...] The fact that virtually every other nation in the world has adopted it has made it part of customary international law, and it means that it should be considered part of American jurisprudence."
Under the Convention severe limitations are placed on parents' right to direct and train their children. Under Article 13 parents could be subject to prosecution for any attempt to prevent their children from interacting with material they deem unacceptable. Under Article 14 children are guaranteed "freedom of thought, conscience and religion" – in other words, children have a legal right to object to all religious training. And under Article 15 the child has a right to "freedom of association."
Michael Farris pointed out that in 1995 "the United Kingdom was deemed out of compliance" with the Convention "because it allowed parents to remove their children from public school sex-education classes without consulting the child." The HSLDA chairman said that, "by the same reasoning, parents would be denied the ability to homeschool their children unless the government first talked with their children and the government decided what was best. Moreover, parents would no longer have the right to bring up their children according to their own philosophical or religious beliefs, as the government, following the guidelines of a UN "committee of experts" would determine what religious teaching, if any, served the child's best interest."
Another reminder, if one was needed, of how the UN's undemocratic, unaccountable influence can end up subverting important freedoms.
International law has always existed as a check on superpowers. In truth, no superpower has ever, nor will they ever, care about international law. You think Queen Victoria would have worried what Belgium really wanted?