|By Koyos [Public domain], |
via Wikimedia Commons
Christer and Annie Johansson have won a small but hopeful victory in their quest to regain custody of their nine-year-old son Domenic who was taken from them over 2 years ago in a dramatic raid while the family was seated on an airliner departing the Nordic country. Ruby Harrold-Claesson, the couple’s attorney, reported to HSLDA that the Gotland District Court ruled in favor of the Johanssons, allowing them to retain their parental rights of Domenic.Child Protective Services and Compulsory Attendance Laws
Child protective services have massive powers in many industrialized countries. These services work arm-in-arm with mass coerced schools to create the daycare and job training centers for children, known as schools. (These services have been and still are needed in many countries; achieving the physical infrastructure of mass schooling is not easy.) Child protective services are designed to protect children from abusive and neglectful families. But compulsory attendance laws have helped ensure that child protective services play a big part in helping enforce school attendance and many people now link these two together. Many homeschoolers have battled child protective services that were unaware or uniformd about homeschooling. And so Sweden's nascent homeschooling movement is also battling child protective services who have jumped into this case with assumptions that have proved wrong.
The rapid extension of formal schooling was the way states confronted the massive loss of agricultural work and the growth of industrialization. In a very short time, these laws have been widely copied and implemented around the world. Compulsory attendance laws are undemocratic, deeply paternalistic and they undermine the relationship between citizens and the state. Compulsory attendance laws may initially accelerate the school habit in nation-states moving toward industrialization but these laws also give schools the ability to ignore families, the strongest natural allies of children, and this undermines the effectiveness of these institutions in the long run. No one can understand the structural issues in mass schooling, especially in the US, without grasping this core fact that structures school funding and social relationships.
Compulsory attendance laws have made state coercion of families into schools a default that needs reset. Far from helping, these laws have limited the ability of many institutions to grow and these laws have preserved many poor-quality services and practices especially in large and diverse nation-states where effective centralized administration that is democratic is challenging at best. These laws create an antagonism between families and the state that is not productive. In fact, families could provide the surest limits to institutional corruption and abstraction if schools could view families as partners.
This is not easy to see in a successful nation-state like Sweden where they have managed to maintain a high collective standard of living. There is lots of support for families in Sweden and families are happier for that support. But mass schooling is quite young and whether it remains coercive or moves toward a more democratic basis is yet to be seen. Even well run nation-states like Sweden will have citizens who want to homeschool. And issues like peer-dependence, bullying and the recent failure of institutional economics: these are problems that may well affect mass schooling in smaller, well-administered nation-states. Even Sweden has had school shootings, something I have termed a sort of virulent social e-coli, we are trying to understand. Historic concerns about religion and fanaticism will only address religious homeschoolers but not the non-religious ones interested in democratic and individualized approaches. Certainly, moving toward a smaller carbon footprint would be easier with an understanding of how schools could serve families and conserve resources as well.
But right now, the Swedes are facing the same conundrum that US child protective services faced when first confronted with families brought up on charges who clearly did not fit the pattern of neglect and abuse. Sweden has been struggling with that in the case of Dominic Johansson. And this judge made the right decision.
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