It is something of a pastime for political pundits to unfavorably compare America to Sweden. Whether it’s healthcare or parental leave or early childhood education, America is often made out to be backward-minded and inept. Certainly, there are things we could learn from Sweden, but it turns out that freedom-loving America might have something to teach Sweden too.
Gabriela Maya is a Texan transplant to Sweden. In her op-ed in the Houston Chronicle, Maya praises Sweden’s generous social policies but she argues that Sweden should follow Texas’ lead in learning to trust parents to make good decisions for their families.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have looked to Sweden for ideas on how to respond as a society. Unlike in America, Sweden did not implement compulsory stay at home orders. Maya writes that
with no lockdown restrictions in place and only a few and relatively mild guidelines from the authorities, Swedes are free to soak in the sun at outdoor cafes and parks, or to fill shopping malls, get haircuts and go to the gym, as long as they don’t gather in groups larger than 50.
The Swedish government trusts its citizens to use common-sense to navigate risks and protect each other. It is this approach that leads Maya to observe that “Swedes are suddenly a model for freedom-loving Texans.”
Homeschooling in Sweden?
So far so good. “But there’s a catch”, writes Maya. “Unlike in Texas, authorities have kept elementary and middle schools open, and worried parents are now facing legal repercussions if they insist on keeping children home.” Homeschooling is not legal in Sweden, and even in response to a highly contagious and deadly virus, the Swedish government refuses to trust parents. Maya underscores the irony: “We can choose if we want our eyebrows plucked, but we can’t choose to protect our families from an all-pervasive danger by keeping our children home.”
Maya writes that “Texas gave me the freedom to choose whether my kids learned at school or at home.“ And she adds that she feels “a great longing for the freedom and responsibility I was granted as a parent in Texas.” I like this pairing of freedom and responsibility, and I think that societies flourish when both are emphasized in equal measure. In my own life, I have advocated for policies in both the private and public sectors that are rooted in both freedom and responsibility.
In 2012, I traveled to Berlin to participate in the first International Congress on Home Education in Germany. As a participant, I signed the historic Berlin Declaration calling for all international governments to recognize “the essential, irreplaceable and fundamental role of parents and the family in the education and upbringing of children as a natural right that must be respected and protected by all governments.” I believe the words of the Declaration so deeply because I watched my own father Steve Demme advocate for homeschooling here in the United States in the early 80s, and also because I know how much homeschooling has benefited my brothers and me, as well as countless other students.
It shouldn’t surprise you that as much as I’m a fan of homeschooling, I am more of a fan of trusting parents to make the best education choices for their children. This trust of parents animates our vision here at Demme Learning. We are in the business of building stronger families and we sell excellent educational products to achieve that goal.
To learn more about our vision for empowering parents in education, check out these videos from our past #TrustParents conferences: