At Miller-McCune, Michael Scott Moore reports on a German family that was granted asylum by a federal immigration judge in Tennessee, who found they “were at risk of persecution by German authorities because they wanted to home-school their kids.” The family was represented by the Home School Legal Defense Association, which took on the case “in the name of homeschoolers around the world.”Although the organization argues that the “Western nation should uphold basic human rights, which include allowing parents to raise and educate their own children,” Moore seeks to contextualize Germany’s schooling policy in light of these claims:

The basis for current policy on public schooling, according to Brügelmann, is a Germany-wide law from the Weimar Republic in 1919. The intent at the time was to democratize education and make sure all kids could participate in the German democratic experiment. “It was about integrating children into the new democracy,” Brügelmann says, “but there was also this idea that all children had a right to education.”

The Home School Legal Defense Association might argue that German public schools have drifted from the intent of Martin Luther’s letter because the schools are no longer Christian. What the group can’t argue seriously is that German laws against home schooling are modern totalitarian ideas.

The justifications in Germany for the laws haven’t changed much since 1919, according to Brügelmann—they still involve integrating and socializing kids and ensuring the right to an education.

In that sense the laws are an example of Europe’s odd habit of forcing people to conform to certain democratic standards. These laws are counterintuitive to Americans—and to me they seem flat wrong. But the requirement to attend school in Germany rests on the same rhetoric as proposed laws in France against full Muslim veils. “The wearing of the full veil,” declared a French parliamentary committee early this year, recommending a new dress code for women in public buildings, “is a challenge to our republic.”

Europeans believe in creating a clear civic space, where differences fall away to let citizens interact, without veils or prejudice or undue privilege, under democratic laws. Whether Europe lives up to these ideals is another question, but these arguments for conformity in European public life are no different from arguments in America for making English the official language.

“We have one language here,” Teddy Roosevelt once said, as official English activists in America will remind you, “and that is the English language, and we intend to see that the crucible [of immigration] turns our people out as Americans.”

Germans—harsh as it may sound—believe the same about their schools.

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