Using the United Nations to fight homeschooling in your country

Not a literal quote from minister Arie Slob ..

Under the leadership of minister Arie Slob, member of an explicitly christian party, the Dutch cabinet launched a frontal attack on homeschooling. A closer look at the lines along which this attack is taking place is also very instructive for other dossiers.

The most concrete part of the bill, which provides for “additional regulations to the exemption as referred to in Article 5, under b, of the Compulsory Education Act 1969”, is the expansion of the School Inspectorate with a new department.

Here I will not discuss the bill itself, but rather the accompanying Explanatory Memorandum (Dutch abbreviation: MvT). In the first section below, I substantiate why I do that. From the section Giant Cat on, I will mainly discuss the remarkable way in which this bill has been placed in an international context. Hence the title of this article. This is followed by sections about Types of objections, Religion versus philosophy of life, and I close with a section Insane bureaucracy or even gaslighting?

The chasm

Politics is not society. In politics, it should be much more about priorities than, for example, opinions, intentions or the news of the day. In politics one should start with (prioritising) evaluations of social developments and of the effect of government measures. Then the (prioritisation of) the problems that governments can tackle. Then for problems that can be avoided. And only then for the realisation of more or less pious wishes and ideals. Pious wishes that can sometimes be found in programs of political parties, sometimes not.

In the paragraphs above I am talking about politics in general. The main political divide in Dutch society is formed by the existence of different judgments about these paragraphs. A large majority of voters who have ever thought about politics agree, a large majority of those elected disagree; Or at least don’t act like it. Possibly this chasm is worst in the Netherlands but it is important in a huge part of the world, especially the ‘western’ world. 

Whether they perform in a T-shirt with the inscription of an American gym or rarely take off their jacket, whether they wear pearl necklaces around their neck or a flower in their hair: most Dutch politicians all too often come across as hippies. They are fond of expressing intentions, ideals and desirability, often supplemented by implicit insinuations towards other politicians. sometimes even explicit ones.

Politicians who would like to transcend that hippie thinking, would be wise to judge (for example) this legislative proposal, in the context of the foregoing.

Such an approach would lead to questions such as these:

  1. How has the “issue” of homeschooling seemingly taken priority over that of the ‘home sitters?
  2. What evaluation does this proposal stem from?
  3. What problem(s) has/have been identified in that evaluation?
  4. What future problems could possibly be avoided if this proposal were adopted and the proposed concrete measures entered into force?
  5. Who actually contributed the wishes, ideals and intentions that form the basis of this bill and how did those people or organisations manage to win over the hearts and minds of Dutch politicians and civil servants?

1. ‘Home sitters’: the ‘perfect’ mirror image

The bill and MvT do not mention home sitters at all. In a ministerial letter from January this year [2020], it was stated that almost 5000 children currently stay home because schools cannot offer them what they need. (Source In Dutch). In the words of the Ministry, these are “children with additional support needs”. These children receive education and upbringing only from their own parents. These parents are, as it were, begging the government to organise suitable education for their child.

Superficially, these home sitters are in a similar situation as the home schooled children. However, not superficially, their situation is exactly the opposite. The parents of homeschooled children worry a lot less about the upbringing and enjoy their children’s eagerness to learn. This concerns approximately 1000 children …

2. & 3. The evaluation of homeschooling

The MvT does not refer to any evaluation. When – in my role as a grandfather – I started to orient myself a bit on homeschooling a few years ago, I did read an official government evaluation of it first. I was quite surprised. On average, home-schooled children clearly performed above average! Not surprising: their parents also turned out to be above average educated.

4) Future problems?

Just like it doesn’t with current problems in home schooling, the bill nor the MvT do explicitly mention possible future problems. There are, however, disturbing hints.
For example, when it comes to a certain professionalisation of home-schooling parents. The tenor of point 4.2 seems to be: homeschooling parents are not really allowed to work together. The MvT:

When this education is also given to young people from outside their own family, a situation arises that resembles a classroom.

Wow! But the creators of the MvT occasionally showed some empathy and allowed [!] joint excursions… Just below that is an implicit insinuation towards the parents:

… not intended to provide space for world travel or a travelling existence, for example.

Did the creator of this sentence just before think about the adventures of that famous sailing girl and not to that even more famous ‘shame on you’ girl from Sweden? 
In addition to suspicions, there are (subtle) threats. How about the tone of this passage, under the heading “A Conversation Between the Parents, the Youth Concerned, and the City”:

Prior to the exemption taking effect, a meeting will take place between the parents and the young person involved [note: this mainly concerns young children, not young people. Young people are people from the age of 16]. A municipality may already require the parents to provide further explanation and does not have to be satisfied with mere written information. The conversation facilitates this explanation and is a proportional means to that end. This bill ensures that this conversation always takes place. In addition, municipalities can raise topics that are relevant to them [!], for example within the framework of the Youth Act. The meeting will enable the municipality to obtain further information about this. The municipality is responsible for youth care and also considers the exemption in that context, because it can lead to a young person disappearing from view.

I read here a threat of calling in ‘Youth Care’. That’s because I often hear about the fact that it functions not so good. Am I exaggerating? Barely. Unfortunately. Why else mention Youth Care at all? Parents who (want to) homeschool are treated as suspects.
I think a sentence like this just stinks: 

Parents who appeal to the exemption and organise education at home take on a great responsibility.

5) The actual initiators

So, the reason was therefore not the identification of problems or worrying developments.
But what was the reason?
Fortunately, the MvT is fairly open about this. Against the background of the above-mentioned failure with regard to home sitters, the MvT starts quite remarkably:

…the government sees it as its task to ensure that every child is not denied the right to education and to provide guarantees for education of sufficient quality for all young people.

I have underlined “right to education” to remind you that speaking about these kinds of rights leaves such enormous scope for posturing about intentions, ideals, and desirability. In effect, parents are not required to prepare their children for successful participation in society, but to imitate the educational process. [1]
Subsequently, without being explicitly named as such, it is indicated that there is a tenor that should indeed be suppressed: home-schooling parents who would abuse the possibility of exemption from ‘compulsory education’. This abuse represents the assessment of the available education on grounds other than strictly religious. As if “religion or belief” are precisely defined terms! Then follows this next suggestion:

Due to the lack of the obligation to provide education [Here meaning: by the parents!] in case of exemption and the lack of government supervision of the quality thereof, the right to education for these young people is not legally guaranteed.

Giant cat

And then follows this:

In its report ‘Article 23 of the Constitution in a social perspective’ from 2012 [!] the (Dutch) Education Council states that everyone has the right to education, because this ensues from international law. The Education Council notes that international law does not force the legislator to choose home education as a regular option…

This insuing comes back on page 11. However, there another cat of colossal proportions escapes its bag:

In 2015, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child pointed to the lack of monitoring of the quality of Dutch homeschooling and recommended …

A note refers to the substantiation of this: note number 16). When you follow that note and continue reading and digging, your lower jaw falls on your shoes. 

The first astonishing thing I came across during my digging was that this committee turned out to be affiliated with the UN refugee organisation UNHCR.
Seriously. Please check it!

Thuisonderwijs
CRC_CommitteeMembers

Here is the link to the intended report and when you look at what that ‘refworld.com’ in that link stands for, you suddenly come across ‘refugees’…

I read that they ‘work with reliable partners‘. Like ‘Amnesty International’ …. And such as the ‘International Commission of Jurists’ and all kinds of other NGOs (whether heavily subsidised or not). Prominently on the front page of that legal committee we find a BlackLivesMatter text and an anti-Shell text …

Where available, I reviewed the CVs of the 18 members of these “persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights.” [1] And I understood where that laudatory qualification came from. Five of the 18 come from European countries and six from African ones…
The nine largest countries of the world (by population) do not provide members! In fact, several members come from really tiny countries. Almost all members of the committee are lawyers.

Statue Worthy

The CV of the retired ambassador, Mr. Madi, from Egypt, is impressive. He knows English, Arabic and German. He studied German and law. And he was “Member of the Board of Trustees of Sir Magdy Yacoub Heart and Research Foundation in Aswan, Upper Egypt, Since 2014, where heart operations are conducted for underprivileged children free of charge.” A lovely man, no doubt.
He even contributed to the fight against FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and for raising the minimum age of marriage for girls in his country. Such a person is also held in high esteem by me. Really, without sarcasm: this gentleman might definitely deserve a statue. In his own country!

However, most of those CVs turned out to be of questionable quality. That turned out to come with an advantage. Not in one, but in several of them, you can see that the CV was actually just the completion of a form from Geneva: the headquarters of the CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child). In a note from that form, we read about the time load for these experts:

The total number of weeks during which the Committee meets in Geneva therefore amounts to at least 12 weeks per year.

Incidentally, none of these people speak the Dutch language. In fact, the chairman hardly knows the English language. His resume is also in Spanish… 

Mr. Gudbrandsson doesn’t deserve a statue in my opinion.
According to his CV, he only masters the English language. And he is a sociologist … And this text, from the form, is simply copied into it: “Please elaborate on your areas of expertise under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and related experience: ..” Below that, Mr. Gudbrandsson describes his achievements as an ‘activist for good causes‘. For example, he was ”Speaker at the Day of General Discussion on Children without parental care (2005)”
The 76-year-old Mrs. Winter from Austria also deserves a special mention: she is: “Member of the Appeals Chamber of the residual Special Court”. From Sierra Leona!

Somewhere in a luxury conference room in Geneva

No doubt about it: it was really a very international group that ‘convinced’ minister Slob to really take action against homeschooling. But how would their ‘international advice’ have come about in reality?

In the report itself – from 2015 – we read that the conclusions were drawn during the 2024th [!] session. They have previously written a letter to the Netherlands and received a proper reply.

Their membership on that committee is by no means a full-time job, as the accidentally slipped note on those resumes showed. And what part of their time could these fine cosmopolitan-minded people have devoted to formulating this undeniable piece of advice? In those twelve weeks a year, they are faced with the task of formulating advice to 193 countries (the number of UN members) …
About (home) education?
No: about the Rights of the Child.
All rights.
And that is even a much broader field than education as a whole.

We see this nicely illustrated in the report on the Netherlands. There was one sentence about homeschooling. The committee also paid attention to the decentralisation of our Youth Care and there was also one paragraph about a completely different phenomenon; in point 35:

The Committee urges the State party to undertake all measures necessary to end the “Baby Box” initiatives as soon as possible and instead strengthen and promote alternatives, in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies and child abandonment, particularly by improving family planning services, counselling and social support for unplanned pregnancies. The Committee also recommends that the State party consider introducing, as a measure of last resort, the possibility of confidential hospital births.

Please note: they themselves add:

… even though, as stated by the State party, no newborn has been placed in the “baby-boxes” so far.

The committee is also concerned about the unfamiliarity of their activities among Dutch politicians and the general public …. 

You may formulate your own hypotheses about how those people from Egypt, Samoa, Togo, Iceland, Barbados, Bahrain, Bulgaria, etc. came to know about the situation in the Netherlands with their knowledge and wisdom. If you are a member of the House of Representatives, I think you should seriously ask yourself this.

Another literal quote to get an idea of this clown world:

The Committee also invites the State party [read: the Netherlands] to submit an updated core document, not exceeding 42,400 words [sic], in accordance with the requirements for the common core document in the harmonised guidelines on reporting under the international human rights treaties, including guidelines on a common core document and treaty-specific documents, approved at the fifth inter-committee meeting of the human rights treaty bodies in June 2006 (HRI/GEN/2/Rev.6, chap. I) and General Assembly resolution 68/268 ( paragraph 16).

The Fifth Inter-Committee [!!] Meeting of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies …
Please let this sentence sink in and then recite this one (!) sentence to somebody else.
Restrain your tendency to bang your heads on your desk. It can eventually lead to brain damage.

Direct effect

The MvT also refers to another international, somewhat less clownish event: the ECHR. (The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. Several long articles about this not so European court can be found on OldDutchPainter.works: see the tag ECHR in the footer of every page of the website). One last quote from the MvT. From page 12:

Article 2, First Protocol, ECHR is the only one of the education law laid down in the treaties to have direct effect. 17)  (…) All in all, the contracting states have a fairly wide margin of discretion when it comes to whether they want to allow home education and how they want to regulate it. 18)

Authorization from the international legal activists for the nation states to allow parents to educate at home… After all, (parents of) children fall under the authority of national states and national states fall under the authority of international cooperation bodies with a high proportion of lawyers who all too often turn out to be legal activists in practice.

Types of objections

In no fewer than four places in the MvT, it is emphasised that parents may only educate their children at home on the basis of one specific type of objections’:

Regards to the organisation of education or compulsory education as such are not valid grounds for an exemption.

No matter how poorly the relevant school in your area functions: if they practise the same religion or philosophy of life as you yourself, your children should go to that school.
In fact, on page 15, it appears that if you have agreed in the past that a specific school in your area thought along the same lines as you, you should continue to send your children to that school, regardless of the quality or the exact religion/philosophy of life of it. Even stronger: it does not even have to be the same school if another school in the area uses the same label!

How does the direction of a school change? Not in theory or in the logo but in practice? In practice this means – for example! – that children who first attend a moderately fundamentalist Mohammedan school must remain there if that school is taken over by slightly less moderate us-versus-them thinkers.

The members of parliament are therefore confronted with this key question: what is your interpretation of your duties? Are you legislators or are you servants of intentions, ideals, desirability and regulations – increasingly legally formulated in a European or UN context?

What is a religion or philosophy of life?

If you absolutely do not want to send children to a Christian or Mohammedan school, they can simply go to public education. That is the view that Slob adheres to, even if he says it in slightly different words. (Hence my drawing accompanying this article). Anyone who is not a Christian, Jew, Mohammedan, Buddhist or something like that, is considered to belong to the same group. Those people do not have a god, but an ‘own, individual belief in life’: that is even more difficult to comprehend for people like Slob. 

And that brings us back to the school inspection. Does this government service really deserve so much trust that we can quickly set up a new department for it? And how strict is this department going through the way of monitoring ‘core goals’ against wrongthink by parents? For example, will excursions to the dominantly mohammedan neighbourhoods in the big cities become compulsory for home-schooled children from rural areas that are still dominantly christian and atheïst?

Irony?

In all seriousness: I do not really consider the latter as a great and immediate danger. I put it this way partly because very recently I came across an atheistic Harvard professor of the most bigoted kind in a completely different context. This lady came up with a strong plea against homeschooling a few months ago. She was saddened by the growth of homeschooling in the USA. She saw in it strongholds of Christian Trump supporters.

Thuisonderwijs

The online version of this Gazette in its text had already highlighted the above words for me. Writing about Hotbeds of Christianity and gun geeks, so to speak. How fortunate for the explicitly christian politician Slob that the US is in no way comparable to the Netherlands …

Insane bureaucracy or even gaslighting?

Part of the Dutch lawmaking process can be a so called internet consultation. On the Facebook page of an organisation of Homeschoolers a parent mentioned that her child reacted with her own contribution to it. The ministry reacted that her contribution was not taken into consideration because she was under 16 years old…
Another parent reaction with superior understatement: according to that international treaty on childrens’ rights, the child had the right to be heard …

NOTES:

  1. It reminds of introducing that nasty narrative of ‘right to health care’ in connection with SARS_CoV_2 to be weighed against freedom-restricting measures.

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