More than 30 school-type groups in BW undermine compulsory education. Initiators often belong to the “lateral thinker” environment and see the Corona measures as a danger to children.
At the foot of a slope near Kirchheim unter Teck (Esslingen district), the children’s voices come from an overgrown vegetable garden. All you can see behind the flowers is a party tent and a children’s bicycle is propped up in front of the entrance gate. About a dozen children and teens meet here every morning, while their peers sit in nearby schools. They are children whose parents think: keeping your distance, wearing masks and regularly tested harm their children. And that is why some of these children were not allowed to attend regular school for months.
On a course of confrontation with school politics
“Learn in the open air” is the name of the concept implemented in Kirchheim by a former Waldorf teacher who owns the site. The woman does not want to give an interview and she refers to the initiator of “outdoor learning”: Matthias Lebschy. You have been running two kindergartens in Esslingen for years. Crown politics took him to the streets, including during the “Querdendenken-711” demonstrations in Stuttgart. In the spring of 2021, Lebschy will undertake a confrontation course with school politics. Under the name “Learn in the open air” he founded groups for children and young people who had been harmed or even traumatized by the measures of the Crown.
When schools reopen after the lockdown, many of these children are no longer attended, including her own. Lebschy knows that, by violating compulsory schooling, he invokes the duty of care of the state. But in an interview with the SWR, he tries to present the problem in reverse: the crown measurements themselves could be a threat to the well-being of children. And there is a danger that the structures for the protection of children and young people do not recognize this fact. “Child welfare considerations are always individual considerations,” says the nurse trained in nursing education. In this sense, there is a need for discretion for teachers, rectors and school authority employees as to whether a child is at risk from daily testing and wearing a face mask.
In Baden-Württemberg, parents close to the “lateral thinkers” are networking to take action against the crown measures in schools. According to an SWR survey, more than every tenth parental council has experienced hostility.
Look for “alternatives to preserve freedom”
Matthias Lebschy refers to a decision of the Federal Constitutional Court of November 19, 2021, according to which “the state ultimately does not accept great dangers to life and limb because of this. [dürfe]because it has not contributed sufficiently to the fact that more freedom-safeguarding alternatives have been sought to ward off these dangers.
The Ministry of Culture of Baden-Württemberg, however, interprets the decision very differently. Because the search order for alternatives refers to the most radical measure of all, namely the temporary closure of schools. The Ministry of Education complied with the request to search for alternatives, “using an electronic reporting system to record and monitor the infection rate in schools on a daily basis from 22 March 2021. The numbers of infection thus determined were made available to the public and delivered to Science numerical material for verifying the effectiveness of infection control measures existing in schools. “
“Learn in the open air”: a different way of acquiring knowledge
While politicians stick to their goal of keeping schools open, but controlling the incidence of contagion through the obligation to wear masks and many quick tests, Matthias Lebschy’s approach points in a completely different direction: “In a school according to my wishes, the children would decide for themselves what they should bring. I can show what I can do by myself. ” So it is a fundamentally different way of gaining knowledge: resistance to crown measurements takes a back seat to this statement.
opposition to compulsory education
With his ideas, Matthias Lebschy meets other activists with similar goals. He enrolled one of his daughters in an association: “Gaudium in Vita” – the joy of living. The association wants to research how free learning without grades and without coercion affects children.
In December 2021, the association claims to write to all 16 ministries of education in the federal states. Under the title “Research Project on Self-Determined Learning”, the authors explain that they are “addressing the hitherto under-studied area of self-determined learning using the example of free students outside a mainstream school.” In all of Germany 555 children and young people would have participated, in Baden-Württemberg 69. The association asks that the school authorities be informed of its “basic research and instructed to refrain from regulatory measures regarding alleged violations of the obligation school after the submission of the confirmation of participation “, finally there is the freedom of research.
Federal states reject the research project
The rejection of these concerns by a number of federal states promptly followed, to which the organizers of the self-proclaimed research project reacted with a reinterpretation of the legal situation: “In our view, compulsory education is the duty of the state. ensure a school system accessible to all children and young people for whom it is [der Staat] has supervision. The above wording does not in any way mean that children and young people are obliged to take advantage of it and go to school. “
This alternative interpretation of the term “compulsory schooling” is not legally tenable. But the authors are obviously serious. SWR research shows that behind the association “Gaudium in Vita”, which is officially registered in Austria, there is actually a married couple from Lower Saxony.
With Thor Steinar’s T-shirt in front of the school hostel
The couple lives with their children in a former school hostel. According to their own statements, their children do not go to school. Photos in the community newspaper show the man standing in front of his property. He is wearing a Thor Steinar shirt. The clothing brand is considered by the agents of constitutional protection a “typical identifying feature of the scene” of right-wing extremists. His wife and mother have been politically active for years, initially in the resistance against 5G radio antennas.
However, her membership of Germany’s Ecological Party, ÖDP, ended in a scandal because she refused to support the decision to demarcate the AfD and other right-wing parties. In 2021 she was expelled from the ÖDP. She was also involved in the local “Querdenker” scene, singing in a band that performed at demonstrations. At the end of February, you moderated an event in which “lateral thinker” Bodo Schiffmann approved the war of aggression against Ukraine.
Schetinin pedagogy: discipline, obedience and military exercises
On their farm, the family offers space for educational seminars with controversial content. For example, an “International Academy of School, Sport and Culture” in Weilheim, Bavaria, introduces the pedagogy of Mikhail Petrovich Schetinin. He had founded a model school based on his ideas of him in Tekos in southern Russia, which is much discussed in the German critical scholastic scene.
Consequently, girls and boys should grow up separately, with discipline and obedience at the center. Apparently military exercises and weapons training are part of it. Critics accuse the concept of nationalism and brainwashing methods: in Russia, the model school was closed by the authorities. In his book of the same name, Matthias Pöhlmann, an expert on sectarian and ideological issues at the Evangelical Church in Bavaria, assigns the Schetinin movement to “right-wing esotericism”.
In the environment of neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers
“Gaudium in Vita” will be presented online in January 2022 as part of the so-called “Congress on school trauma”. The interview is conducted by a woman who contributed to the organization of the congress. SWR research shows that this woman has been around neo-Nazis for years, for example with supporters of Holocaust denier Ursula Haverbeck.
Worldview officer Matthias Pöhlmann confirmed to the SWR that the “pandemic period” had given a revival to many right-wing conspiracy theories.
Neither the congress co-organizer nor the couple behind “Gaudium in Vita” respond to interview requests.
More than 30 school-type groups in the country
The so-called Freilerner scene received new support through “lateral thinkers” and through resistance to crown measures in schools. Theresa Schopper (Greens) from Baden-Württemberg, Minister of Education, also sees this danger. In principle, we are open to independent schools. 24 applications for the foundation of schools are currently in the regional councils. Most of them do not present problems, but the ministry sees indications for three questions that there are contacts with the “enemy crown milieu”.
The Göppingen school authority and the regional council are examining whether a so-called school for free students has been established illegally in Essingen (Ostalbkreis). It is said to be on a former farm.
BW Minister of Culture: The scene of the “lateral thinkers” is becoming more radical
Schopper confirms to SWR: “We have observed that the scene of ‘lateral thinkers’ has undergone a certain degree of radicalization here. And that radicalization has also been attempted by the right to hijack it a bit. But we have high obstacles, until we can create a school here. And we also have a great consensus that schools are not politically indoctrinated. “
According to the Ministry of Education, sanctions were imposed at national level in 80 cases of violation of compulsory education. That doesn’t sound like much, but SWR research in chat groups and on the internet indicates that more than 30 school-type groups are active in Baden-Württemberg, pursuing obvious goals far beyond the pandemic.
Matthias Lebschy claims that he only became aware of the questionable political background of the “Gaudium in Vita” association through our investigation. He is surprised and disappointed. Matthias Lebschy left unanswered the question of whether he was canceling the recording of his daughter from “Gaudium in Vita”.