When I criticised the film on Youtube advertising the so-called Walk to Freedom, I was accused of nit-picking for objecting to the use of Hitler’s image to promote this dubious cause. The difficulties with this campaign though run a good deal deeper than just trying to confuse the issue by showing film of a German dictator!
We are told in the film several times that ‘many’ families have fled Sweden because of the new law. Jonas Himmelstrand, President of ROHUS, tells me that the number is actually ‘more than a dozen’. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, ‘many’. There is a question mark over how many of these families have ’fled’ and how many have simply decided to move to the largely Swedish speaking Aland islands in the Gulf of Bothnia. A community of Swedish home educators has grown up there and it is within easy reach by ferry of Stockholm. This is not exactly ’fleeing the country’!
The film also falls into that fatal error of championing the rights of parents, as opposed to those of children. The European Convention of Human Rights is cited in support of this notion. This really is deceitful, suggesting that that the rights of these parents are being trampled over in defiance of the convention. This matter was comprehensively dealt with at the Court of Human Rights in 2006. In September that year, the European Court held that:
Schools represent society, and it is in the children’s interest to become part of that society. The parents’ right to education does not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience.
The court went on to state that schools were part of society and that parents’ rights did not allow them to remove them from society by taking them out of school. I do not wish to debate whether the European Court was right to hold this view, merely that they have done so and that no Swedish home educator has any chance of getting anywhere with this line of argument, based upon the Convention of Human Rights.
I do not wish to say any more about this film, other than that it is a misleading piece of propaganda. The Swedish law is intended to ensure that any child taught at home is educated to at least as high a standard as he would be, were he to be attending school. This is a tricky proposition for many parents and explains why some have been unable to gain the necessary permission. Those who have not been given permission are often the type of parent who does not believe in teaching or formal education and it is these who are likely to fall foul of the new regulations. People like Jenny Lantz, who wants her children to learn by themselves and is opposed to imposing a plan of education on her three children. This clashes with the Swedish law, that requires the education provided to be as adequate as that in schools and also that it be supervised.
In short, Sweden is tightening up on particular types of home education because they feel that some home educators are not properly equipping their children for a place in society. They feel that some of these children are being shortchanged educationally. Some families have been given permission to home educate, but these are ones who are working hard to ensure that their children are learning at least as much as they would do in school.