P. J. Oh. Master s Thesis in Educational Leadership Fall Term 2016 Department of Education University of Jyväskylä - PDF

Homeschooling, freedom of conscience, and the school as republican sanctuary: An analysis of arguments representing polar conceptions of the secular state and religious neutrality P. J. Oh Master s Thesis

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Homeschooling, freedom of conscience, and the school as republican sanctuary: An analysis of arguments representing polar conceptions of the secular state and religious neutrality P. J. Oh Master s Thesis in Educational Leadership Fall Term 2016 Department of Education University of Jyväskylä 2 ABSTRACT Oh, Paul Homeschooling, freedom of conscience, and the school as republican sanctuary: An analysis of arguments representing polar conceptions of the secular state and religious neutrality. Master's Thesis in Educational Leadership. University of Jyväskylä. Department of Education. This paper examines how stances and understandings pertaining to whether home education is civically legitimate within liberal democratic contexts can depend on how one conceives normative roles of the secular state and the religious neutrality that is commonly associated with it. For the purposes of this paper, home education is understood as a manifestation of an educational philosophy ideologically based on a given conception of the good. Two polar conceptions of secularism, republican and liberal-pluralist, are explored. Republican secularists declare that religious expressions do not belong in the public sphere and justify this exclusion by promoting religious neutrality as an end in itself. But liberal-pluralists claim that religious neutrality is only the means to ensure protection of freedom of conscience and religion, which are moral principles. Each conception is associated with its own stance on whether exemptions or accommodations on account of religious beliefs have special legal standing and thereby warranted. The indeterminate nature of religion and allegedly biased exclusion of secular beliefs, cited by some when denying religious exemptions, can be overcome by understanding all religious and conscientious beliefs as having equal standing as conceptions of the good. Analysis of court documents from the Uwe Romeike et al asylum case are guided by these understandings, and relationships among themes are explored. In summary, any stance regarding home education may depend on one s view of secularism, particularly in relation to whether one views religious neutrality as a means to ensure protection of freedom of conscience or an end in itself. Keywords: homeschooling, education policy, freedom of conscience, value pluralism, diversity, secularism, human rights, nation-building 3 CONTENTS 1 INTRODUCTION BACKGROUND AND SIGNIFICANCE Home education as a social movement Significance, particularly for educational leaders Some objections to the parental right to direct their children s education Background on the home education situation in Germany Reasoning behind home education Ideological consideration 1: Home education as a form of civil disobedience Ideological consideration 2: Home education as value-rational action Summary of key points in this section SECULARISM: ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS AND VARIATIONS Moral pluralism as an essential component of liberal democratic societies Protection of freedom of conscience is an essential characteristic of secularism What religious liberty is (and what it is not) Secularism comes in two tensile strengths Summary of key points in this section RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS AND ACCOMMODATIONS Accommodations compensate and correct for unintended biases of general norms Opposition to the accommodations and exemptions based on religious beliefs The significance of the impact of religious beliefs on one s moral identity Are religious beliefs worthy of special consideration? Summary of key points in this section SUBJECTS AND FRAMEWORKS OF ANALYSES The Research Topic/Subject and Approach/The Context of the Study Research Methods Documents analysed Provenance of documents Data Analysis Reliability of the study... 74 5.5 Ethical considerations FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION Analyses Analysis 1: Themes pertaining to conceptions of the good Analysis 2: Themes constituting reasons of conscience or religion Analysis 3: Themes pertaining to moral identity Analysis 4: Themes constituting value-rational action Analysis 5: Themes related to civil disobedience Analysis 6: Themes related to conceptions of secularism Analysis 7: Themes pertaining to justifications for state policies and actions pertaining to home education Analysis 8: Themes related to appeals to ideals of tolerance, pluralism and civic integration Analysis 9: Does the state see itself as having a perfectionist or protectionist role? Summary of key findings and discussion Generalisability and limitations Applicability of research results CONCLUDING REMARKS Religion versus moral identity The distinction between religion and moral identity, and an analogy to illustrate Each person is an autonomous moral agent capable of formulating religious beliefs apart from religious institutions The essential role of dialogue in ethical leadership Are some republican secularists exploiting the indeterminate distinction between public and private spheres? Does the hierarchy of the republican sanctuary want to give us new guardians? Do they want to be our guardians? Secularism is itself religious, some say Tolerance, pluralism, and integration on whose and what (understanding of the) terms? A summary of the aims, rationale and concepts explored in this paper Challenges for further research REFERENCES APPENDIX A: Descriptions of the court documents 5 6 1 INTRODUCTION Many populations worldwide live in societies experiencing increasing diversity. In addition to domestic causes, there are many global factors contributing to this increasing diversity, such as the increase in the number of refugees as a result of conflict, poverty, or political persecution. Not only is there more diversity, but the diversity itself is more diverse. There are many sorts of diversity, besides the traditional forms identified by ethnic, religious, and ideological differences. Many of these other forms of diversity are linked with personal beliefs, attitudes and orientations of thought that often do not coincide with the aforementioned traditional categories. Thus some observers talk about a diversity within diversity (Sinagatullin, 2003, pp. 5 6) 1. Along with this increasing diversity is a proportional need for policy makers and other leaders to formulate and implement policies to accommodate and otherwise handle it. There are many sorts of challenges that diversity presents for leaders in the public sphere. These challenges are often complex and multidimensional in nature. Some manifestations of diversity may be considered threats to the pursuit of civic integration, which many states prioritise. Additionally, such challenges can be viewed as dilemmas. Sometimes the solution results in a political compromise between competing interests, such as those of the individual versus those of the state. In many cases, an examination of the assumptions, argumentation, and conclusions of each position may yield a new understanding of the problem, yielding a solution that would have been difficult if such a moral dilemma hadn t yet been understood in this light. 2 The nature of dilemmas is such that decisions related to them are usually inadequate when they are merely based on a rigid understanding and application of norms 1 This diversity within diversity will be described in section 2. 2 In the field of law, it is common for such decisions to be guided by the history of legal precedents that are relevant to the one at hand. Such an examination of legal precedents must be appreciative of, and account for, the historical context in which such decisions were made. The rationale for such past decisions must also be critically analysed in order to determine the degree to which these decisions should be brought to bear on the current dilemma. 7 without a historical understanding of the reasoning behind such norms. Dilemmas demand thorough deliberation on the historical context, assumptions, and justifications for past decisions that are pertinent to the dilemma now under consideration. The resolution of a moral or ethical dilemma may require a weighing of the often conflicting values imbuing the dilemma; a value-judgement based on such an evaluation; and a justification for why some values should be prioritised above others. One of the most challenging forms of diversity, from a public policy and public management perspective, is religious diversity, which may be understood as one kind of ideological diversity. There is a wide range of religious and ideological diversity expressed within a given society, and there are a range of responses to them. For instance, the wearing of a burkah may elicit a very different public reaction in comparison to the wearing of a hijab. Some forms of religious expression that are not perceived to be harmful to others are generally considered to be deserving of legal protection. Thus there appears to be widespread support for the legal protection for the practice of wearing headscarves in some countries. Other manifestations of diversity may be considered harmful by people who have different or conflicting values. For instance, in countries such as Germany, there are groups that seek to establish legal enclaves where sharia law is enforced. Human rights and gender rights advocates, particularly in liberal democratic states, may denounce such practices. In short, when religious practices and other religious expressions take place in the public arena, tension or conflict may arise with those who have different belief systems and values. The general public and the state s various governance bodies may react with apprehension or animosity toward people having different belief systems. Their reactions may be due to their assumptions about what is fundamentally at the core of a liberal democratic state that promotes religious neutrality. While some people may believe that religious expressions should be confined to a person s private life, there are some religious belief systems 3 that would make such 3 As one definition of religion is a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects ( religion, n.d.), this definition can be more broadly understood 8 confinement very difficult. Some belief systems govern all of life, both private and public 4. Many of those who adhere to such belief systems may feel that practicing their religion even in public is integral to their moral identity as, say, a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh. For those who adhere to such all-encompassing belief systems, the very distinction between private and public may not be one that impacts on their observance of what they believe. They may even regard the living of life itself to be tantamount to religious practice. Naturally, the all-encompassing nature of such a belief system may have profound implications for the way one views the nature, mission, and role(s) of education. People who believe that their belief system governs the totality of life may feel that educational objectives and content must align with their religious convictions. In cases where the implicit values promoted in schools are deemed irreconcilable with their own, such people may be faced with an important decision. One possible decision may be to withdraw one s child from school and to educate this child at home instead. But can such a decision be justified by an appeal to any known principles of the liberal democratic states where such a choice is often made? On the other hand, can opinions opposing home education be based on other principles that are associated with these same political traditions? Alternatively, can the differences in opinion hinge on different normative assumptions about the mission and role of the secular state? Can even different definitions on certain key tenets of secularism account for the different positions? This research work examines how any particular stance on whether home to include those systems of belief that are not commonly associated with any particular establishment of religion. It is this broader meaning that I am using here and such a definition may apply even to secularism though of course it cannot be denied that many such systems of belief are often not regarded as religious in nature. 4 The earth is the LORD S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. (Psalm 24:1, NASB) 9 education 5 is morally just can depend largely on one s ideas about what a secular state should be and how a secular state should function. As the majority of home educators have been found to be professing evangelical Christians 6, religious and other ideological considerations have often largely shaped their decision to educate at home. Additionally, such notions about what constitutes the core principles of secularism may impact on how one views the place of religion and conscience in a state that propounds the importance of being neutral toward religion. In fact, the very manner in which religious neutrality is implemented may be indicative of the sorts of notions one has. For the purposes of this thesis, home education is understood here as an implementation of an educational philosophy ideologically based on a given conception of the good. Each such conception of the good is only one among the numerous possible conceptions of same that exist. Moreover, each conception of the good is shaped by one s beliefs, whether religious, conscientious, or secular in nature. In the present paper, I consider arguments either in support of or against the notion that home-schooling is an educational approach worthy of equal state protection. I interpret such arguments by employing two perspectives pertaining to the normative role of the secular state in relation to religion: a republican conception and a liberal-pluralist one 7 (Maclure & Taylor, 2011). It is thus necessary to explain the central philosophy and the underlying rationale characterising each conception, and to discuss the practical implications for 5 I prefer the phrase home education. Unlike homeschooling, there is no implication that the school is the model for home education. Home education is the term that seems to be favoured by some researchers such as Spiegler (2003, 2010). However, as homeschooling (or home-schooling (hyphenated) or home schooling (with a space between the words)) seems to be the most popular lingo, especially in North America, the title of this paper has used this term. It is important to note that all the above terms can be used interchangeably, as they all refer to the same practice, which will be defined more precisely in Section 2, titled Background and Significance. Those who direct the home education will be most often referred to as home educators, which is a term I prefer over the term home-schoolers. 6 as I will explain in my discussion about the motives and ideological reasons for home education, which is in Section 2 7 I am aware that there is a debate between liberals about whether liberalism necessarily follows from value pluralism (cf. Crowder, 1998, 2002, 2015; Galston, 2009; Thunder, 2009; Weinstock, 1997; Gray, 1998; Talisse, 2005). Nevertheless, for the purposes of this paper, the author has chosen to adopt the perspective of Maclure and Taylor (2011), at least as the author has understood it, that a liberal-pluralist position is one that is ontologically defensible. 10 each respective position. Simply stated, the republican conception typically emphasises the primacy of the state while the liberal-pluralist tradition typically emphasises the notion that it is the citizenry who collectively authorises the state to exist and act as a guarantor and protector of human rights, which are often said to be natural and inalienable 8 rights. The present thesis is based on an inductively drawn 9 proposition: that such differences in priorities, emphases, and assumptions between the aforementioned conceptions of secularism might be somewhat mirrored in the respective arguments of supporters and opponents of home education. Perhaps such differences would be highlighted especially on the question of whether home education has moral legitimacy under civil and human rights traditions, as espoused in the academic literature. In order to test this prediction, I have decided to perform an empirical analysis of a single case of a German home educating family named the Romeike family. This will be done by analysing the content of court documents that emerged from a petition for political asylum in the USA. The petition was made on account of the fear that they would, were they to return to Germany, once again face persecution for continuing to practice home education while defying laws mandating compulsory school attendance. This thesis is focused on the question of how the philosophical debate pertaining to freedom of conscience can illumine the debate about home education. This thesis will be limited to the following: 1) an analysis of the above mentioned arguments to see whether and how they have any points of similarity with the two concepts of secularism; and 2) whether the pre-defined characteristics comprising moral identity, conceptions of the good, and other matters related to freedom of conscience can be identified in the case under examination. Thus, a detailed discussion about implementations of home education is beyond the scope of this study. 8 See Wolterstorff s (2012, pp ) assertion that there are two criteria that provide suitable and sufficient grounding for human dignity and human rights: 1) the ineradicability condition and 2) the uniqueness condition 9 based on some background reading on issues pertaining to home-schooling 11 I now present an outline of the present study. Before I perform the empirical analysis of the Romeike family asylum case, it is necessary to introduce some of the important past research on home education and to develop a few frameworks. In the next section, I introduce some background literature on home education, with a focus on the prevalent motivations home educators have. This discussion is intended to help the reader understand the prevalent reasons behind the choice to do home education. It is also meant to help the reader understand how these reasons tend to differ between American and German home educators. This is significant, especially in light of the fact that home education is prohibited in Germany while legal in all states of the USA. The observations of a researcher named Spiegler (2009, 2010) are particularly valuable in that he provides a few detailed frameworks for a few of the analyses I will later perform on the content found in the Romeike asylum case documents. These frameworks, namely civil disobedience and value-rational action, are strongly linked with themes that I explore in sections 3 and 4. In section 3, I discuss secularism s most essential moral foundations. I mention that value pluralism and religious neutrality are considered to be integral to secularism, and I mention the reasons why this is so, according to several authors. I proceed to compare and contrast the rationale and emphases unique each of the two main conceptions of secularism: republican and liberalpluralist. I discuss the philosophical differences between these two orientations. I mention how they tend to differ on how they tend to regard freedom of conscience. In section 4, I discuss how exemptions from norms of general application, on account of religious beliefs, are regarded by proponents of each conception of secularism. The discussion pertaining to how proponents of either the republican or liberal-pluralist conceptions of secularism view requests for accommodation is relevant to our discussion of home educators. This debate about the moral justification for such requests seems to be similar to that pertaining to the justification for home education. There are several reasons for this, includ- 12 ing the following: 1) the v
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