Is This a Discussion?: Sarah Jones Says No

conversation

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As we all try to make homeschooling better, are we having an open discussion?

Sarah Jones says no, Lana Hope says yes.

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sarah Jones’ blog Anthony B. Susan.  It was originally published on December 7, 2013.

This post began life as a pensive reflection on my life as a homeschool apostate. I’ll be blunt: I’m too angry to write that post. I spend so much time trying to separate myself from extremism and militancy that’s personally frustrating to be so stymied by anger now. But that is where I find myself.

I am furious with homeschool parents who, for days, have been telling me that I’m just bitter: a barely competent child whose rage can be invalidated and debased as ‘lashing out.’

I am weary of Christian patriarchs like Chris Jeub who feel obligated to repeatedly insert themselves into the narrative emerging from our stories of homeschool abuse. This week, Jeub hastened to assure his fellow homeschoolers that we “apostates” haven’t really abandoned the faith; that we’re just asking questions. In doing so, he reduced our entire movement to a monolith more palatable to his fundamentalist audience. It didn’t matter that many of us, like myself, have abandoned the faith and are happy for it. But we’re here, patriarchs, and we’re not going anywhere, so you might as well admit we exist.

Jeub’s post is so distressing to me because I see it as a ploy to retain some control of the narrative we’ve tried to produce. Let me be very clear: this story is not about Chris Jeub. It’s not about any patriarch, for that matter. It is about us. Don’t you dare re-center this around yourselves.

It is time for you to sit down and pass the mike. The guinea pigs are talking.

You had your chance to run your social experiment. Now the results are in and patriarchs, it doesn’t look good for you. You deliberately created a cultural hierarchy that enshrined your place of privilege as divine right. The people you’ve oppressed for decades are trying to speak, and every time we make a sound you drown us out.

I am not looking for a conversation. I think the time for conversation has passed, if it ever existed at all. If you’re not willing to discard Christian patriarchy completely, to acknowledge the horrifying damage it has wreaked on those rendered powerless by it, then you are not my conversation partner: you are the enemy in my fight for liberation. If you are not willing to stop viewing your children as property to be controlled, there is no discussion to be had.

Moreover: I think it actually endangers the fight against Christian patriarchy to view its proponents as conversation partners. They actively perpetuate oppression, and I don’t see it as my responsibility to train them in the ways of allyship. Their voices have been so dominant for so long that I believe it will be impossible to make ourselves heard as long as they’re still speaking. There have been calls for conversation. But conversation is only really possible if both partners are operating as equals; those of us who left Christian patriarchy aren’t yet equal to those who perpetuate it.

Some day, yes, that might change. But in order for that change to occur, Christian patriarchs are going to have to recognize that it’s not their turn to speak.

They’re going to have to cede power.

10 thoughts on “Is This a Discussion?: Sarah Jones Says No

  1. Lana Martin December 8, 2013 / 2:07 am

    I feel similarly. I feel as though my abusive, neglectful homeschool experience was a social experiment gone awry; one which any responsible parent would have refused to take part in. As such, I tend to view “bad” homeschool parents as abusers, people not worth conversing with. These people took my childhood away and tried to destroy me as a person. Literally. What do I have to say to these people? Nothing. Except that my life only continues to improve since escaping and moving on.

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  2. Sheldon December 8, 2013 / 12:08 pm

    “You deliberately created a cultural hierarchy that enshrined your place of privilege as divine right. ”

    The way that fundie parents often feel that god has granted them absolute power over their children has reminded me before of the pre Enlightenment theory of “Divine Right of Kings”. Both are/were inherently a self serving, abusive power structure.

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  3. DoaHF December 8, 2013 / 1:25 pm

    Some interesting thoughts, Sarah, especially the point about equals.
    I would love to reconcile with my family. But until my father sees me as anything but a rebellious child, I cannot even have a conversation with him that does not hurt and alienate me even more.
    I think it is definitely true that until everyone else stops talking us down and saying we are inferior we cannot have a discussion.
    We are entering this stage sideways and in protest because we have been banned from it for so long.

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    • Julie Anne December 8, 2013 / 9:22 pm

      DoaHF: I’m so sorry to hear about your relationship with your father. So many share a similar story. It’s not right. Something may wake him up from his lethargy – – – or maybe not. You are in such a difficult situation and it breaks my heart to read so many of you going through this garbage.

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  4. Ricker December 9, 2013 / 5:53 am

    Great post; I’m glad you’re pointing out that the people in power try to spin the narrative.

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  5. FloraPoste December 10, 2013 / 10:14 am

    I posted this on Sarah’s blog:

    Chris Jeub erases not only you and other non-theist homeschoolers, but also the daughter he threw out of his home for “rebellion”, and the other daughter who moved to the other side of the globe and converted to Islam. His mother, on her blog, was able to congratulate this beloved granddaughter on her marriage to a non-christian, but as far as Chris is concerned, she might as well not exist.
    Chris Jeub is like one of the corporate bigwigs who, no longer able to deny, dupe, and divide the public about some environmental or social abuse, suddenly switches tack and pretends to care about the problem. Leave it to us, we’ll take care of it, we don’t need no nasty regulations!

    The only conversation I need to have with Chris Jeub is to ask him what specific measures and institutional oversight he would recommend to provide checks and balances to the absolute power parents have in some states of the US to isolate and abuse their homeschooled children.

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  6. Daniel December 10, 2013 / 10:15 am

    Unaccountable power in all its forms is a beast we have to slay. We who survived the religious enabling of abusive psychopaths who would have had us taught from Bob Jones and baseball bats got an early lesson, and some of us are not going to stand for another round of the patriarchy’s rules.

    I am one whom some thought was a sure to be a pastor when the religious right had me; I am glad to be a male feminist agnostic-atheist and sometimes activist instead.

    Thank you, Sarah. Know that you’re already more powerful than them for being able to speak a direct truth, because deep inside, they know they’re propping up a weak and wobbly lie.

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  7. Maud Everlie (@MagnificentMaud) December 10, 2013 / 7:08 pm

    Thank you for writing this, Sarah. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I tried to articulate my own thoughts on this (http://maudthemagnificent.blogspot.com/2013/12/no-more-wolves-please.html) but you said it much better than I did.

    I do hope that some parents and leaders will change, but it is not MY job to make that happen. I did the hard work of leaving and digging for the truth. It’s their job to do the same and earn trust back. The people who expect me to extend that trust before it has been earned are not on my side. Talking =/= earning trust. Acting and listening in ways that promote the voices of the marginalized and do not reinterpret them = earning trust.

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