The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

“I'm from the government. I'm here to help.”

The Home School Legal Defense Association's (HSLDA) Chairman and General Counsel, Michael Farris, warns that even though the U.S. has never ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the convention may still be binding on citizens because of activist judges.

According to a new “interpretation” of what is known as “customary international law,” some U.S. judges have ruled that, even though the U.S. Senate and President have never ratified the Convention, it is still binding on American parents. “In the 2002 case of Beharry v. Reno, one federal court said that even though the Convention was never ratified, it still has an ‘impact on American law”,” Farris explained. “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 a parent's right to direct and train their children. As explained in a 1993 Home School Court Report by the HSLDA, under Article 13, parents could be subject to prosecution for any attempt to prevent their children from interacting with material they deemed 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.” “If this measure were to be taken seriously, parents could be prevented from forbidding their child to associate with people deemed to be objectionable companions,” the HSLDA report explained.

International Law Threatens Home Schooling Warns Home School Legal Defense

I found the link to the above article from this article:

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.

It appears that the Belgian authorities are again considering prosecution—the second time in barely two months. This time the claim is not that my husband posted allegedly “racist” texts on this website but that he is failing his children.

My husband, a lawyer by training, and I, a former university lecturer, have homeschooled four of our five children through high school. These four have meanwhile moved on to university. Our youngest child is also being homeschooled, but she has yet to obtain her high school certificate, for which she is currently taking exams. Like her four siblings she takes these exams before the Central Examination Board (CEB), an institution run by the Ministry of Education. The Belgian Constitution, written in 1831, allows parents to homeschool. The CEB exists to enable people who have not attended or who have failed school to obtain an official high school certificate.

Via Instapundit, Brussels Journal Editor Threatened with Prosecution over Homeschooling

And I'm conflicted on this.

On the one hand, I don't think the government should stick its business into the private affairs of families and that a family should educate its kids as it sees fit. And if said family wants to indoctrinate educate their kids as xenophobic racist Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians who believe that credit cards are the Mark of the Beast™ that's their business—let their kids have a hard time dealing with the rest of society.

On the other hand, child abuse is a horrible thing that no kid should suffer through and in that case, the government (or some other authority) is right to step in and move the kids to safety.

But on the gripping hand, what is “child abuse?” Obviously sexual abuse, or constant “corporal punishment” that leaves marks is child abuse. No question there. But can raising a kid as a xenophobic racist Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian be construed as “child abuse?”

And yet on the … um … yet another hand (running out of hands here) the government does have an interest in how kids are raised, if only to ensure domestic tranquility—an uneducated kid grows up as an uneducated adult that, if said uneducated adult doesn't turn to a life of crime, does enact a toll on the rest of society (by say, welfare or chronic homelessness).

Then again, on the … um … fifth limb (heck, why not?), what if my (purely hypothetical) kids want to become homeless beach bums? Isn't that their right? At least here, in the United States, home of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? Heck, what if I want to become a homeless beach bum as part of my “pursuit of happiness”?

But deep down, I don't like this, the government having final say in how kids are educated because deep down, I still believe that the government that governs the best, governs the least.

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