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The French Lesson

21.08.16.The-French-Lesso_20210816-164827_1

France has started to restrict home education. This from a country that most would have called 'free.' You might wonder what threat home education poses to France. The New York Times reported that the new law, "… aims to combat extremist ideas at every level of French society. Among a range of steps, it toughens conditions for home-schooling, tightens rules for associations seeking state subsidies, and gives the authorities new powers to close places of worship seen as condoning hateful or violent ideas."[1] The legislation that was being debated contained 51 articles, of which the home education ban was tucked into the 21st spot. "In the article that prompted the most virulent debate, and over 400 proposed amendments, it places severe limits on home-schooling without banning it, as originally proposed. Educating children at home is viewed by the government as a source of the "separatism" that undermines French values…"[2]

Understanding the threat means we have to understand the language. "Separatism is the advocacy of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group… Groups simply seeking greater autonomy are not separatist as such. [1]"[3] This makes tolerance come to mind, which traditionally was understood to mean being able to co-exist with people who had different cultures, beliefs, thoughts or practices, perhaps agreeing to disagree, and not forcing your position on others. Restated, it is respecting the freedom of people to make choices for themselves. In the western world, this has had the largest latitude possible because infringement on these freedoms was antithetical to its foundational principles, derived from a Judeo/Christian worldview.

Is there an inherent predisposition in a government's perspective on religion that dictates its position and views of education in general and of home education specifically? Well, in France today this connection is indisputable. It is critical to learn that when the language of law is left too broad, it may be argued in one context and applied in other ways when passed. We must be cognizant of this danger and discerning when reading, acting and voting.

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