HSLDA Gave This Man Their Prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award Just 4 Years Ago

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Every year the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) puts on the National Leader’s Conference, where the biggest names and leaders in homeschooling come together to network and hear educational and inspirational talks from both HSLDA’s staff as well as outside speakers invited by HSLDA. During the conference, HSLDA gives an annual award: the Lifetime Achievement Award. According to HSLDA, this honor is bestowed upon “a leader who has demonstrated valuable leadership to the homeschool community, inspired and motivated others to effective action, overcome hardships and obstacles to succeed, demonstrated a servant’s heart while exhibiting the qualities listed above, and maintained a clear witness concerning Jesus Christ and the Gospel.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award was dubbed “the Gregg Harris Award,” named after homeschool leader Gregg Harris. It was first bestowed upon its namesake in 2007. In 2008 it was given to Brian Ray  “in recognition of his pioneering work in the field of homeschool research.” In 2009, HSLDA awarded it to James Dobson. According to Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, “HSLDA presented Dr. Dobson with its Lifetime Achievement Award during its annual National Leaders Conference here in Colorado Springs.”

Which brings us to 2010, a mere 4 years ago.

Who did HSLDA bestow the “Gregg Harris” Lifetime Achievement Award on at the 2010 National Leader’s Conference?

HSLDA does not have the answer to this question on their website. However, the event page for the conference is still available. You can view it here. First, some background: HSLDA’s 2010 National Leader’s Conference was held September 22-25, 2010, at the Westin North Shore in Chicago (Wheeling, Illinois to be precise). Invited to speak at the conference attended by state and national homeschool leaders were Dr. Henry Morris (from the Institute for Creation Research) and Erwin Lutzer (from Moody Church and Worldview Weekend). HSLDA’s Michael Farris gave the plenary session.

But there was one particularly significant speaker I have yet to mention. On the afternoon of the last day, the conference attendees are divided into two groups: ladies and men. The ladies attended a “Ladies Tea,” and the men attended a “Men’s Huddle.” And who did HSLDA invite to led the “Men’s Huddles” at their conference for homeschool leaders? Bill Gothard, of course:

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HSLDA invited Bill Gothard just 4 years ago to teach state and national homeschool leaders at the 2010 National Leader’s Conference.

But that is not all.

Gothard was not simply invited to speak. He was also chosen by HSLDA to receive their Lifetime Achievement Award at that same conference. According to Kiri Kincell, a conference attendee, “During [Saturday] evening, the Greg Harris [sic] award (named after it’s first recipient) was awarded to Bill Gothard for his huge contributions to the early homeschooling movement.”

Just a reminder: this was in 2010, just 4 years ago.

This fact has not gone unnoticed. An anonymous commentator on a blog criticizing Michael Farris’s recent “Line in the Sand” article pointed to the 2010 conference:

As a former board member of a state home schooling organization, I clearly remember HSLDA, during their national conference for home schooling leaders that was held just 4 years ago in Chicago giving a lifetime home schooling achievement award to none other than Bill Gothard. HSLDA gives this award annually to those that they judge to have made significant contributions to the home schooling movement. This award has gone to men like Greg Harris and the now deceased and former HSLDA attorney, Chris Klicka. HSLDA even had Gothard conduct a Sat afternoon session at their conference that was geared toward fathers and sons…just 4 years ago!

You can read the full comment here.

Let’s put this into perspective:

HSLDA’s Michael Farris just released a blistering white paper condemning Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips. In that paper, Farris declares that Gothard’s teachings “usurp the role of God,” “threaten the freedom and integrity of the homeschooling movement,” are “dangerous,” and have “harmed” “families, children, women, and even fathers.” He also admits that he and the HSLDA board have believed this for years, which is why HSLDA “did not directly promote their teachings.”

So. Let’s get this straight: HSLDA believes that Bill Gothard as a teacher is anti-biblical, freedom-threatening, dangerous, and harmful — and has believed this for years — and despite all that, invited Bill Gothard to be the teacher of state and national homeschool leaders just 4 years ago?

And then gave Bill Gothard the highest honor they could?

And then had the gall to publicly lie to all of our faces and say they “did not directly promote their teachings”?

I mean,

Either Farris and HSLDA have suddenly contracted temporary amnesia or there’s a troubling lack of both sincerity and transparency to this “line in the sand.”

FAQs About Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out

What is Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out’s (HARO) vision and mission?

Our vision statement is “Renewing and transforming homeschooling from within.” Our mission is to advocate for the wellbeing of homeschool students and improve homeschooling communities through awareness, peer support, and resource development.

Is HARO anti-homeschooling?

No. The HARO board does not stand against homeschooling as an educational method. We believe that homeschooling is a powerful, useful tool. It represents a democratic approach to educational progress, innovation, and creativity. It allows a child’s learning environment to be tailored to individual and personal needs. When homeschooling is done responsibly, it can be amazing. What we oppose is irresponsible homeschooling, where the educational method is used to create or hide abuse, isolation, and neglect.

Does HARO have any particular religious or political agenda?

No. While the majority of HARO’s board members are outspoken Christians, the board is committed to intersectionality and ecumenicity in its advocacy. We are not interested in championing any particular doctrine other than the well-being of homeschool students and graduates.

What is HARO’s position on homeschool oversight (i.e., government regulation of homeschooling)?

HARO does not advocate for or against public policy. HARO advocates for awareness and education, peer support, and resource development from within homeschooling.

What is the relationship between HARO and Homeschoolers Anonymous (HA)?

As a part of HARO, HA’s mission is to improve homeschooling for future generations through awareness and education, peer-support networks, and resource development. HA specifically implements the awareness and education aspect of HARO’s mission. The HARO board believes that knowledge is power. To that end we publish personal stories and testimonies about homeschooling experiences, historical and sociological studies of the modern homeschooling movement, and analyses of the ideologies and leaders that have shaped homeschooling in the U.S.

What is the relationship between HARO and the individual stories on HA?

The views and opinions expressed by HA’s individual contributors do not necessarily reflect those of HA as a platform or HARO as an organization.

Is HARO’s HA project named after Alcoholics Anonymous?

No. You can view our full answer here.

Is HARO’s HA project “doing anyone any good”?

That is a question for others to answer. Here is feedback we have received from homeschool alumni and parents who say yes.

What is the relationship between HARO and CRHE?

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) is an entirely distinct organization from HARO. While CRHE and HARO have one board member in common, CRHE takes positions on policy measures whereas HARO and HA do not.

Did CRHE arise out of the HA/HARO community?

No. Plans to create CRHE predate the HA/HARO community and were created by individuals distinct from the HA/HARO leadership.

Where is HARO at in the incorporation process?

HARO is a registered non-profit corporation in the State of California. We are still in the exploratory stages of the 501c(3) process.

Who staffs HARO?

HA and HARO are both run entirely by volunteers, who have collectively volunteered thousands of hours since March 2013.

Is there any evidence for how common child abuse, mental illness, or self-injury is among homeschool families?

Due to the absence of required registration or notification of homeschoolers, there are frankly no reliable statistics on homeschooling families in general. However, the stories that have been told on Homeschoolers Anonymous indicate that many people have experienced abuse within homeschooling. HARO wants every homeschooled student to have an excellent and, most importantly, safe homeschooling experience. So the fact that these things occur in our community at all is something we think everyone invested in the future of homeschooling should be concerned about.

Isn’t HARO’s position on LGBT* students and alumni anti-Christian?

Our LGBT* friends and peers have been hurt by a system that consistently marginalizes, ignores, or abuses them. HARO unequivocally supports these individuals. Given that Jesus consistently identified with and demonstrated compassion towards the marginalized, ignored, and abused, we believe our principles are consistent with Christian values.

Would HARO’s board members ever think about homeschooling their (future) children?

If and when we have children, we would all put our children’s wellbeing first and foremost and equally consider homeschooling, private schooling, or public schooling (or even a combination thereof) to see what best suits each individual child.

I have a question about your recent survey, the 2014 Survey of Adult Alumni of the Modern Christian Homeschool Movement. Do you have a FAQs page for it?

Yes, you can view it here.

Michael Farris Recommends Child Training Manual That Promotes Beating Dogs and Spanking Infants

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By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

At the end of Michael Farris, Sr.’s recent white paper, he recommended James Dobson’s The New Strong-Willed Child (2003).

Unlike the works of the Ezzos, the Pearls, and Bill Gothard, this Dobson volume was not a foundational piece of my childhood. So I decided it was time to give it a read-through. Saving Victoria Strong has reviewed the beginning of the book in great detail here. This critique is not intended to be comprehensive, rather a cursory look at Dobson’s child-reading philosophies.

I have to admit: I expected better content considering Michael Farris ended his essay by recommending this. I was shocked by the dehumanizing themes of control and projection of power as well as the animal-like dominance by fathers. “Love and control” were Dobson’s guiding principles. Yet there was a disturbing amount of violence justified throughout the volume. Dobson seemed to model his training methods after a wolf-pack and a wolf-pack’s “Alpha Male.”

dobsonThe introduction set up the book with an analogy about Dobson beating obedience into his “confirmed revolutionary” dachshund. Dobson admitted that “Siggie” wasn’t “vicious or mean,” but Dobson nonetheless demanded absolute obedience from the animal. One night, when Siggie obstinately refused to retire to his doggy-bed, Dobson knew the “only way to make Siggie obey was to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else worked.” He “turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me ‘reason’ with ‘ol Sig.”

While the dog angrily stood its ground, Dobson began beating it with his belt (trigger warning for animal cruelty):

“I gave him a firm swat across the rear end, and he tried to bite the belt. I popped him again and he tried to bite me.”

“What developed next is impossible to describe. The tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling. I am still embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene. Inch by inch I moved him toward the family room and his bed. As a final desperate maneuver, Siggie jumped on the couch and backed into the corner for one last snarling stand. I eventually got him into his bed, but only because I outweighed him two hundred to twelve” (3).

In order to avoid any confusion between people and animals, Dobson explained exactly what he means:

“Just as surely as a dog will occasionally challenge the authority of his leaders, a child is inclined to do the same thing, only more so. This is no minor observation, for it represents a characteristic of human nature that has escaped the awareness of many experts who write books on the subject of discipline.”

Unconcerned by the way he dehumanized children, Dobson offered a quick counter, “perhaps I seem to be humanizing the behavior of a dog, but I think not.”

You read that right: just as he had to have a pitched battle, beating his tiny dog with a belt, you should be prepared to control and exert your dominance over your “strong-willed” children.

Dobson followed his dog-beating story with sage advice on the “Hierarchy of Strength and Courage,” which sounds curiously like something Ron Swanson would invent in an episode of Parks and Recreation. Apparently, the only way for children to sort out their relative social position is to fight:

“Whenever a youngster movies into a new neighborhood or a new school district, he usually has to fight (either verbally or physically) to establish himself in the hierarchy of strength. This respect for power and courage also makes children want to know how tough their leaders are… I can guarantee that sooner or later, one of the children under your authority will clench his little fist an take you on. Like Siggie at bedtime, he will say with his manner: ‘I don’t think you are tough enough to make me obey.’ You had better be prepared to prove him wrong in that moment, or the challenge will happen again and again” (4).

What a model of peace-making and cooperation, Dr. Dobson! His explanation of why children defy and look for boundaries sounds like something straight from the Pearls’ toxic teachings:

“Perhaps this tendency toward self-will is the essence of original sin that has infiltrated the human family. It certainly explains why I place such stress on the proper response to willful defiance during childhood, for that rebellion can plant seeds of personal disaster. The weed that grows from it may become a tangled briar patch during the troubled days of adolescence” (5).

At the end of the introduction, Dobson described another dog they owned. “Mindy,” he wrote “[was the] most beautiful, noble dog I’ve ever owned. She simply had no will of her own, except to do the bidding of her masters. Probably because of the unknown horrors of her puppyhood” (11). Oh, you mean like being chased around the room by a man beating you with a belt because you don’t want to go to your doggy-bed? Dobson did explain that his two dogs fell on opposite ends of the compliant-defiant spectrum (just like a minority of children are compliant), but he seems far too happy that Mindy acted like an abused, traumatized animal.

Clearly, it’s vitally important to discipline all the defiance out of your children so they can grow up to well-adjusted members of society. To make this abundantly clear, Dobson described Franklin Roosevelt as a “strong-willed child” who became a “strong-willed man” (8). There is no value judgment of Roosevelt as a person, or President, so one is left to assume that you should dominate your children, lest they become President of the United States. Dobson made it clear that being strong-willed is not a good quality and must be driven out of children (and dogs).

This is virtually identical to the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl, except the Pearls use Amish horse training as a model.

Dobson wanted a compliant, docile dog (child) that obeys his every command without question. Somehow, that will prepare children for adulthood. To get this result, he advocated parents engage in physical violence and wolf-pack domination to prove how Strong and Courageous they are. The fact that he does not recognize that beating your children and animals can eliminate all their internal desires and wishes is a bad thing should alarm everyone reading him.

I personally owned an abused animal. He was a dog named Freddy. Like Mindy, he was traumatized and we got him from someone who found him on the side of the interstate. I was only five years old when we got Freddy, so I didn’t understand why he acted differently from most dogs. He was deathly afraid of water and loud voices. Looking back, he had all the hallmarks of a traumatized puppy. At times, in my  frustration I lashed out in physical anger. I can remember being confused and somewhat heart-broken by his reactions.

Ironically, around the same time, my parents began reading James Dobson, Michael Pearl, and other Evangelical/fundamentalist homeschooling child abuse advocates. I distinctly remember my early childhood suddenly punctuated by violence against animals – our cat Puddy was an early victim – and Freddy. I was merely modeling the same behavior my parents were using to train me and I saw the impact my cruelty had on my happy dog.

Modern studies of children and spanking show that young children who are spanked are more likely to lash out physically against animals and people.

I learned my lessons and Freddy and I grew to be fast friends over the next decade. Traumatized kids and traumatized animals have a special connection. Unfortunately, part of that is the shared experience of trying to escape the violence of our masters modeled after James Dobson. It disturbs me greatly that Michael Farris thinks this is a good book to recommend, given the giant controversy and deaths associated with the Pearls’ methods.

Even more disturbing: I hoped, somewhere in The  New Strong-Willed Child, I would see Dobson make it clear that spanking infants was a bad idea, but the conclusion to his volume left me almost in tears. A woman, “Mrs. W.W.,” wrote to him complaining about their very young, and very strong-willed child:

“Our third (and last) daughter is “strong-willed!” She is twenty-one months old now, and there have been times I thought she must be abnormal. If she had been my firstborn child there would have been no more in this family. She had colic day and night for six months, then we just quit calling it that. She was simply unhappy all the time. She began walking at eight months and she became a merciless bully with her sisters. She pulled hair, bit, hit, pinched, and pushed with all her might. She yanked out a handful of her sister’s long black hair” (209).

Dobson explained that she “[closed her letter by] advising me to give greater emphasis to the importance of corporeal punishment for this kind of youngster.” His reply consisted of general encouragement and offering hope for the future – nothing of consequence. I can only assume Mrs. W.W. began beating her infant before she was twenty-one months.

Five years later, this mother wrote to Dobson praising his wonderful methods. Mrs. W.W. outlined the two things that improved her daughter: spanking, sometimes creating “an hour of tantrums,” and “allow[ing] her other daughters to fight back with the younger daughter.” Within two days of her older sister “giv[ing] her a good smack on the leg… the attacks ceased.” Mrs. W.W. went on and claimed that “without [the spankings] our Sally would have become at best a holy terror, and at worst, mentally ill. Tell your listeners that discipline does pay off, when administered according to the World of God… I don’t think you went far enough in your book, loving discipline is the key. With perseverance!” (210)

There you have it. I expected, after these letters, James Dobson would offer some sort of “there is a limit to the spankings,” but no. Instead he doubled-down and wrote, “If Mrs. W. reads this revised edition of The New Strong-Willed Child, I want her to know that I had her in mind when I set out to rewrite it.” Because, we must all remember, as Dobson concludes his volume:

“If you fail to understand [your strong-willed child’s] lust for power and independence, you can exhaust your resources and bog down in guilt” (211).

An Open Letter to Thomas Umstattd Jr. and Co.: By Xoxana Sea

Thomas Umstattd Jr. Source: http://www.nanrinella.com/

“In the early days our party line was ‘Homeschooling is perfect. No regulation needed.’ This line of argumentation was good and helpful during our infancy. We needed to sweep internal problems under the rug so we could focus on external threats.”

~ Thomas Umstattd Jr.

Guys, I have been handling all this pretty well up to this point… but this Thomas Umstattd Jr. article has me just… enraged. I can’t take it. To actually admit that the movement was more important than reporting abuse…I mean, I knew it, but to have the huevos to actually say it is unspeakable. It’s not appalling. It’s worse than that. Words, they fail me. I want to write this as an open letter, but I don’t even know how to get it to them.

I want them to look me in the eye, and tell me face-to-face that their movement was more important than my life.

To act like “sure there were problems but we had to get the movement all good, now that we’re solid we can totally fix those” glosses over a couple of tiny details. That was twenty years ago–the time to fix those problems has long passed. The children are grown. There’s no going back.

That was my childhood. I will never get another one.

Now to hear it was all just a charade to shore up a movement…that nobody really believed in patriarchy, they just let a few wackos spout that to their kids because Homeschooling needed to be established! …I would compare it to a slap in the face, but see, a slap in the face was one of the nicest things that ever happened to me as a child.

I never knew anything but patriarchy. I stayed up at night crying and begging god for forgiveness and to please not kill me for the sin of causing men to stumble. In kindergarten.

There is permanent scarring in my brain from living in constant fear. There is permanent scarring in my abdomen. I will never be ok. I will never have a prom. I will never have a first kiss. I will never get to be a child. To learn that it was all just a political operation has stripped what was left of the hellish nightmare I lived in to fake walls, like a movie set, pushed down to reveal that everyone knew but me. I was only something they used.

All the pain and tears and terror and guilt and depression and harm and hate and other agony?

Just a little thing they used to get their political way.

I was a little child. An innocent little child. I could have been happy. There was no reason I shouldn’t have been. There never was any angry god demanding submission. There was never any devil trying to possess me.

These tools were given to narcissistic people with the capacity for evil in order to get them drunk with power; once they were hooked they were told the only way to maintain their power was to support the movement. They would protest anything, make all the calls, show up to state capitols in droves just to keep their precious fix.

At least crack dealers don’t require child abuse as payment.

I don’t know how to express the rage I’m feeling right now. I was used. My nightmare was all just a game to them. And now the patriarchs go on the radio and laugh about it. Because it’s funny. Because me, little four-year-old me, huddled under a blanket in the dark, terrified and hurt and bleeding and sore and begging god to forgive me for things other people had done, is funny to them.

I’m out of words.

I Was Expelled From PHC: Tim Raveling’s Story

Homeschoolers U

I was expelled from PHC in 2009 after writing a paper declaring to the world that I was no longer a Christian.

I left happily, and without looking back.

PHC was small and incredibly insular. There were students there who, like “Esau”, had no idea of what went on off campus, behind closed doors, and to those of us who didn’t quite fit in with the administration’s idea of what PHC students should be. There were students who described the horrific experiences of some of my friends with words like “allegedly,” and who could never imagine any members of the school’s administration ever acting less than saintly.

But that insularity didn’t end with the uber-conservative circles of on-campus students. I arrived in the semester following the so-called “schism,” wherein several professors were booted for being more “liberal arts” than they were “Christian,” and the first good friends I made were students who had gone through that, most of whom were bitter at the school for destroying the educational environment they’d fought so hard to preserve. PHC was central to many of my friends, and when we’d gather off-campus to drink illicit wine they’d often rant for hours about the various ways in which the admin had fucked them over. Even in our anger and betrayal, we still focused inwards, on PHC, on ourselves, on our tiny little community in this great big world.

As for me, though, the most important experiences I had happened in the cracks between my time on campus. I spent one Thanksgiving with a friend of mine, a ribbon dancer in New York City, and her four Kuwaiti friends, where I got stoned for the first time and realized what reggae was for. I spent the next sleeping on the streets in DC and volunteering at a homeless shelter for Thanksgiving dinner. I spent less and less time with fellow students and more and more time with random locals in the Purcellville coffee shop, where I’d draw pictures and people would ask me if PHC was a cult.

When I finally took the trip that changed my life, in the summer of 2009, I came back no longer able to believe in the Christian god, but more, no longer able to care much about the internal drama of this little school that had, when I’d arrived at it, been everything to me. I’d spent the summer in Kurdistan, where the Turkish army had recently burned the farms of a few dozen Kurdish families to the ground, and Damascus, which was at the time still firmly under Assad’s rule, and Athens, where the first riots of the oncoming economic crisis were already in full swing.

So I came back, wrote my paper, burned my bridges, and left.

That was one of the best decisions I ever made.

And yet, the digital age being what it is, I still get ricochets from time to time of PHC drama. Talk to students who are where I was before my trip. Talk to alumni still caught up in the scrabbling, grasping drama of the place. And I feel bad, because guys: it doesn’t have to be this way.

So. You. PHC student. Not the ones who don’t see anything wrong with the place, but you, the ones who do. The ones that are wondering right now if you haven’t made a horrible mistake. If you haven’t wasted the last two years of your life. The ones who are maybe already out, but still revolving around the bitterness of PHC’s betrayal of what it promised you.

It gets better. Whatever PHC’s done to you, know this: it is irrelevant. It is a tiny little outpost of a rotting political movement, and it does not matter. Mike Farris and Graham Walker are obssessed with being the biggest fish in their rapidly stagnating little pond, and once you step out of it, they cannot follow you.

Look up. The world is big and wonderful and scary and there is real shit to be done out here. Sell your stuff. Pack a bag. Hit the road. Do some drugs. Have safe, consensual sex with guys, or girls, or both. Make friends who are pagans and anarchists and communists, friends who have never heard of PHC, friends who are baffled by the very idea of young earth creationism and voting for Rick Santorum.

As for me, I’ll be down in New Orleans, building a communist bookstore. If you’re still at PHC, trying and failing to fit in, feeling stifled and trapped by oversized patriarchal egos, just keep this in mind:

We could always use a few more hands, and bus tickets are cheap.

Beall Phillips, Wife of Doug Phillips, Accuses HSLDA’s Michael Farris of “Gross Error,” “Bully Pulpit”

Beall Phillips, wife of disgraced homeschool leader Doug Phillips. Photo source: Facebook.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

In a curious turn of events, Beall Phillips — wife of disgraced homeschool leader Doug Phillips, who was accused of sexual assaulting his family’s nanny — has come out swinging against HSLDA’s Michael Farris. Yesterday Farris released his white paper “A Line in the Sand,” where he criticized both Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard, saying, “The philosophies of Gothard and Phillips damage people in multiple ways.” The white paper got the attention of both WORLD Magazine and Shawn Mathis at the Examiner.

Earlier today, however, Beall Phillips left both a public comment on HSLDA’s Facebook page as well as a public status on her own Facebook page accusing Farris of nothing less than lies and misrepresentation. (This is not the first time Beall has gone to bat for her husband. In April of this year she appeared on a local television show with her husband, declaring that, “I think God wanted to draw us together and do something much bigger than us or our family’s story.”) Beall argued there were “gross errors” in Farris’s accusations, such as:

(1) Doug Phillips never taught “that women in general should be subject to men in general,” Beall says, pointing to the fact that, “For about the last 6 years, you and I have sat around the same table for board meetings. Yes, you and I (a woman) were on the same board.”

(2) Despite Michael Farris claiming that patriarchy teaches “Women should not vote,” Beall says, “I have voted as my conscience dictated since I was 18. So do my sons and so will my daughters.”

Here is the full text of Beall’s statement (which, note, is apparently “part one” of a series of statements):

Well, Mike, your article about Doug was, at the very least, in bad taste, and your representation of what Doug and I believe and what we have taught through Vision Forum was rife with gross error.

I have known you for 23 years. I have seen you in many circumstances, some admirable, some not admirable. For about the last 6 years, you and I have sat around the same table for board meetings. Yes, you and I (a woman) were on the same board. You came to Doug’s dad’s funeral in April 2013 with some kind words. Somehow I missed the letter of compassion and concern for my family this year. You have my email address and phone number.

I know, it’s so much faster and easier and cleaner to publish an article and put it on the Internet for how many thousands of people?

How much courage does it take to kick a man who is out of business, out of ministry, and publicly humiliated?

Your caricature of our views would be humorous if it were not so grossly offensive.

Let me help you with a couple of things. I have voted as my conscience dictated since I was 18. So do my sons and so will my daughters. I’m glad for Vickie that she is not under Dennis Rodman’s authority. And I am glad that I am not under your authority. I would choose my husband again any day.

Maybe we can discuss all the other concoctions in your article over coffee sometime. My daughters might want to join us to speak for themselves. If you will sit and listen to them.

Until then, please take my family off your membership list immediately. I do not think you are qualified to represent my children or me in any capacity.

Doug has chosen not to respond, but I will not sit idly by while you use your bully pulpit to malign and misrepresent my husband, my company (yes, I, a woman, was an employee of Vision Forum) my family, and myself.

Please note, this is part one of my response as well.

(You can view a PDF of the statement archived on HA here.)

This conflict — bordering on drama – ironically goes to show the utmost importance of what people like Libby Anne and myself have been saying: Michael Farris does not understand patriarchy and that actually matters. It matters a whole hell of lot.

When someone like Farris constructs straw men of people like Doug Phillips, that helps no one. It obfuscates the real issues and alienates through misrepresentation the people that need to see the damage that their ideas have on people. It also raises the suspicion that Farris is not actually interested in dismantling patriarchy and is more interested in throwing under the bus people who are already down or those against which he already has vendettas.

Straw men do not help homeschool kids or alumni — and they do not help Farris, either, especially when someone like Beall Phillips calls his bluff. In fact, it makes our job of helping homeschool kids and alumni that much harder.

The Day We Fall Silent is The Day We Don’t Care Anymore: Nikki’s Story, Part Four

Homeschoolers U

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Nikki” is a pseudonym specifically chosen by the author.

< Part Three

Part Four

I wanted to close my story by explaining how the PHC administration shuts out alumni, many of whom feel that they share a community with current students and would love to help them.

Remember, there is a division between many current students and the so-called “bitter alumni,” the PHC-coined term for any alumnus who voices criticism of the school. This division is actively encouraged by the administration. Student Life (through the RAs) tells students that alumni criticisms are baseless because they only come from “angry, bitter” people who are seeking to “destroy” the school. Since current students know few alumni and certainly have no idea what kind of people they are (or what alumni faced at PHC, since stories about things like the Schism are also rewritten by the administration when they are passed on to current students, if they are passed on at all), current students have in large part adopted this narrative that was actively spread to them.

The best example of this phenomenon happened last fall, when alumni voiced opposition to Stephen Baskerville’s Faith and Reason lecture, a mandatory, campus-wide lecture that condemned protective orders and domestic violence laws. Over 100 alumni (out of PHC’s roughly 600 total alumni) signed a statement asserting that the lecture “displayed an unacceptable lack of academic rigor” and unacceptably “encourage[d] students to doubt victims of rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and abuse when those individuals come forward with their stories.”

Many current students became extremely hostile to alumni for voicing these criticisms (and began actively defending Baskerville’s lecture), a reaction caused in large part by the message Student Life was disseminating, i.e., that only “bad” alumni had anything negative to say about Baskerville’s lecture.

Alumni who want to invest in the student body thus face an uphill battle.

They must either be the “perfect” alumni who say the right Christianese, smile when they’re supposed to, and wholeheartedly support the administration in public (and thereby become one of the handful of alumni who get invited back by the administration for certain events) or they have to fight through the alumni-bashing and hopefully form connections with students who are willing to question the administration’s approved narrative. I call the first category the “holies.” And please know—some of the holies are fake, saying and doing what they need to publicly and keeping their opinions to themselves, whether out of a fear of social reprisal or because they believe they can do more good that way. But either way, the PHC administration has created an actively anti-alumni atmosphere, and I believe it has done so because it is easier to control the student body when the students do not have the support of and connections with the wider alumni community.

After all, it would be much easier for 19-year-old students to stand up to the administration if they knew there was a strong contingent of alumni also willing to go to bat for them. And it is also easier for the administration to control the narrative provided to students when their memory of the school, collectively, can’t go back further than 4 years.

Despite the administration’s dislike for alumni, we have a lot to offer current students. Therefore, almost three years after I graduated from PHC, I and several other PHC grads tried to start an alumnae organization. Our hope was to provide mentoring to current female students interested in a career. Many of the alumnae who joined the organization did so precisely because they had few female mentors during their time as a student (PHC does not have many female professors). PHC also has few career counseling services, and the alumnae organization was meant to provide needed support to current female students who would like to learn tips on how to write a resume, prepare a cover letter, or find an internship in their field. Additionally, many alumnae had struggled with the PHC-approved narrative that women were to be wives and mothers first, with career a distant and somewhat-frowned-upon second.

Many, many PHC alumnae expressed to me their desire to share with current female students how the limiting rhetoric at PHC does not reflect reality.

There is value and happiness in pursuing one’s career goals, whether as a mother or non-mother, something few PHC women get told while they are students. And finally, some alumnae also wanted to encourage current female students to keep pursuing their ambitions, even when it sometimes feels discouraging at PHC. In the so-called “real world” women are valued for their work and minds much more than inside PHC’s confines—a statement that I expect will shock most of PHC’s current students. Remember, it is a question of degree, as mainstream American society still displays sexist traits as well. But at PHC, you are never allowed to forget your gender. It is constantly brought up in jokes and banter and general commentary, whether inside or outside the classroom. As a woman, you are always different, by which I mean, you are deemed more emotional, motherly, romantic, lady-like, and fragile than the “manly men” of PHC. Traditional femininity isn’t something women get to choose for the fun of it or because it expresses their desires for how they look. It’s both presumed and required. And smart women who don’t fit the mold (in other words, who seek leadership and display traditionally “masculine” qualities) are bad.

That’s why it’s taken 14 years for PHC to even get a female student body president.

I remember one recent grad, who is now at a prestigious grad school, telling me that she loves grad school in part because she never feels that she needs to dumb herself down to be accepted by her male peers, something she had felt the need to do at PHC. I think that statement captures my grad school and general work experience, post-PHC, as well. It’s wonderful to be in an environment where you are not pre-assigned characteristics based on what’s between your legs. Whether they consciously articulate this sentiment or not, many alumni, I think, want to encourage PHC students that there is so much out there for them, if their PHC years are not going as planned or it has not been easy, it’s ok. It really is.

I systematically reached out to dozens of former PHC women to see if they would be interested in this organization, and their reaction was almost universally positive—but note, the positive reaction was nearly universal because the organization was about helping current students. I think it is telling that many alumni had no desire whatsoever to support the administration or even step foot on campus again—there were too many painful memories associated with the school. This is a distinction that I think current students fail to grasp. For many alumni, there is a world of difference between current students needing help getting an internship and the administration that has systematically bullied those students (and alumni) who did not fit its narrowly conceived notion of “a proper Christian.” I expect that there are dozens and dozens of alumni who would not lend a helping hand to the administration but who would pull strings and make phone calls on behalf of a job-seeking student in a heartbeat.

Sadly, the alumnae organization was stonewalled from the beginning.

Dean Corbitt expressed privately to others that she did not think I was fit to lead the organization (information quickly shared with me due to the ever-present PHC grapevine). She threatened to “pull the plug” on our first event, a meet-and-greet between current female students and alumnae, because I had invited too many (and yes, this is her word) “fringers.” I’m not sure what a “fringer” is. I do know that I had invited dozens of women from many different PHC graduation years and cliques, many of whom were former RAs and none of whom had reputations for disciplinary problems during their time at PHC. They were also extremely talented women who had achieved career success in many different areas and would be an asset to students interested in employment in those areas.

But it would seem that it does not take much to become a “fringer” in Dean Corbitt’s book.

Her need to control was also excessive. She was “offended” when I did not send her a Facebook invite to the event—because I assumed a college administrator had no need to oversee the Facebook postings of an alumni-sponsored event—and she personally contacted several of her favorite alumnae to make sure they would come. Apparently, my assurances that these individuals had already RSVPed yes to my invitation was insufficient. During the event, she played favorites excessively, turning her back on well-respected alumnae (who I assume she deemed “fringers”) and engaging in conversation only with those she approved.

Although I was hosting the event and was there for several hours, I did not get as much as a hello from her.

A few months later, she had all of the alumnae organization’s events indefinitely postponed, and I was told I should only speak with current students if I received explicit permission—anything else would be deemed a “refusal to cooperate,” something that seemed to have vaguely ominous repercussions attached to it.

Anytime I offered to provide an event to fit a specific need (resume writing, major-specific counseling, tea time with ladies who have attended graduate school, etc.), Dean Corbitt told me that the school was doing quite well, on its own, providing career counseling services. Later, I would learn that Corbitt was especially angry that I had “allowed” an anonymous contributor to QueerPHC (a blog describing the experiences of queer students at PHC) to attend our events. Obviously, no discussion of the blog’s content had ever occurred during our events. In fact, the blog was barely known at the time. Farris would not threaten to sue it for a few more months yet. It would seem that, were Corbitt to get her way about an alumnae organization at PHC, every attendee must be vetted according to Corbitt’s standards. Of course, that means that any leader of the alumnae organization must know all the gossip Corbitt has accumulated about various alumnae to even be able to apply those standards.

I was stonewalled for so long, I finally decided to confront Corbitt in person and ask her exactly why she disliked me so much, since I had never even spoken with her during my time as a student. I am sharing her response because I think it indicates how little it takes to be marked as a “black sheep” at PHC and how Corbitt uses her personal opinion about you to limit your ability to be involved as an alumnus—even when she cannot point to a single instance of wrongdoing on your part.

In response to my questions, she said I seemed “unhappy” during my time at PHC and that my senior testimony was concerning. Before the conversation was over, she also criticized the fact that I was pro-gay-rights and told me that it was not safe to let me speak to freshmen, who the administration has a duty to protect from dangerous and damaging information that they are not yet ready to handle. Strange—one would think that after being homeschooled, a form of education that is supposed to be vastly superior, PHC freshmen would be prepared to speak to a liberal alumna of their school. I wonder if PHC freshmen appreciate the fact that Corbitt doesn’t think they are capable of maturely wrestling with any information I might provide them that is contrary to the beliefs they currently hold. Is this really a rigorous liberal arts education at its finest?

In any event, I had expected her to deny, deny, deny. I confess, her matter-of-fact response startled me.

My time at PHC was marked by dramatic upheaval in my family, months of military-caused separation from my boyfriend (now husband), and long work days due to the part-time job that ate up my every weekend. Was I happy? Certainly not in the always-smiling image of bubbling Christian joy that I suspect she would have preferred. But I was hard-working, caused no problems, and was extremely competent. I graduated summa cum laude, landed the job that paved the way for entrance to a prestigious grad school a few years later, and became financially independent of my parents during an economic downtown. Despite all that, this woman, who never so much as greeted me in the hallways during my entire time at PHC, thought she knew I was unfit to lead an alumnae organization whose sole goal was to link alumnae with current students because I seemed “unhappy” to her three or more years ago.

And then there is my senior testimony. For those who do not know, seniors have the opportunity to give a 10-minute testimony to the student body during chapel, provided you give an outline of your speech to the administration beforehand. Some are quite well done, some are atrociously boring, but there are a few consistent themes, year after year. The most prominent theme is a call for the student body to be less judgmental. The speakers will either talk about being victims of judgmental students or about learning to become more emphatic themselves. It’s interesting how, no matter how many times students are told to be less judgmental, year after year, without fail, a good number of senior testimonies will still focus on exhorting the student body to stop being so judgmental. It’s also common for one or two students to transfer out each year, usually after freshman year, citing the school’s judgmental attitude as their reason. In any event, although I certainly agreed at the time that judgmental attitudes were prevalent, I decided to take my senior testimony in another, more unique direction. I’ll link to the audio here and let you decide how dangerous it made me. (You can also read the transcript here.)

When I was starting up the alumnae organization, I was told, multiple times by many well-meaning people, that the administration would kill it. I kept hoping that something would change, that this would be the time that someone who wasn’t one of Corbitt’s darlings could actually do something good for the students. So many PHC women were interested in helping out, the organization had a lot of potential. When it became clear that Corbitt would never allow me or an organization I was part of near the students, I stepped down from my post, put the reins of the organization in other hands, and sat back and waited for months and months. Maybe something will happen now. It looks like it might, and I hope it does. I would rather some organization exist to help current students, without my involvement in it, than no organization at all.

But whether the alumnae organization gets off the ground or not, the reality is that PHC’s administration cares more about controlling the information students receive than about letting students form relationships with alumni who might be “bitter,” might no longer adhere to the restrictive statement of faith, and might no longer share the school’s right-wing ideology.

If the only way you can remain on their “good” list is by believing the same things you did when you were 18 and showed up on campus (or at least by never publicly changing your mind on anything), PHC has snubbed its nose at a huge number of its alumni, including many of the former golden children who were the RAs and RDs the administration counted on.

So this is why I’m one of the “bitter alumni.”

I don’t stick to the approved narrative that PHC is a wonderful school full of wonderful people. I’m not going to sing the praises of a school that does not deserve them. I’m not going to pretend that PHC is some kind of citadel of Christian learning, that it respects its students, or that it accepts those alumni who have varied beliefs and experiences.

After being part of the PHC community for 8 years, I know better than that.

I also know better than to expect many current students to understand. It took me years to accumulate the knowledge I now have, let alone to realize that Christian leaders at institutions I was told to respect are often just as fallen, misguided, and dangerous as the “atheists and sinners” I had been warned about all my life. So if you are a current student at PHC, please know that those of us in the “bitter alumni” camp don’t hate you. We actually care very much about you. We criticize the school and its behavior because we see it hurting you, in ways you might not even recognize for years, just as we often did not recognize the school’s behavior as harmful during our time as students.

The day we fall silent is the day we don’t care anymore.

One of the most common themes in the stories PHC students and alumni submitted to HA over the last several weeks is loneliness. If you are a current student and you feel that way, if you want to talk with one of the “bitter alumni” about those gut feelings you have and the doubts you are shoving to the back of your mind, feel free to reach out to me by messaging HA. They know how to get hold of me.

End of series.

CHEC’s Kevin Swanson and Steve Vaughan on the “Little Whiners” and “Benedict Arnolds” of Homeschooling

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Yesterday we were “blessed” with the Generations Radio episode “Homeschool Educational Neglect: Media Rages Against Homeschooling.” In that episode, Kevin Swanson (former CHEC Executive Director and current Director of CHEC’s Generations With Vision program) and Steve Vaughan (CHEC Board Member) responded to Daniel James Devine’s “Homeschool debate” article published by WORLD Magazine on August 25, 2014. Here is Swanson’s own description of the episode:

We are seeing more negative reports on homeschooling than ever before.  Anecdotal evidence is fun, but does it reflect the real story? Kevin Swanson interacts with a World Magazine article that covers homeschool graduate malcontents, and discusses a biblical perspective of educational neglect. Should the state prosecute educational neglect in the case that a father fails to follow through on Deuteronomy 6:7?

Sound like fun?

Well, in case it does not, I saved you the teeth-grinding and transcribed the entire episode here.

Swanson and Vaughan go after WORLD rather mercilessly, accusing them of “cutting down” and creating a “firing squad” against fellow Christians. Furthermore, they insinuate that WORLD is too daft to know how to use a concordance and may have socialists on its staff. This is all curious considering that Swanson had no problem using WORLD to advertise his “Apostate” book just a few months ago. It’s also curious because Swanson and Vaughan neglect the fact that WORLD’s own Editor-in-Chief is the Distinguished Chair of Journalism and Public Policy at Patrick Henry College, the same college at which Michael Farris is Chancellor. They further neglect the fact that WORLD is probably the most go-to news source for conservative Christian homeschoolers. So whatever “bias” WORLD Magazine has, it clearly isn’t against Farris, HSLDA, or homeschooling. That Swanson and Vaughan would immediately jump to that conclusion is indicative of their own paranoia, not anything about WORLD turning an ideological leaf on homeschooling.

If you want to read the entire transcript of the episode, you can do so here. Below are the “highlights” from it. (Be forewarned you might need to steel your mind and stomach for abuse denialism and apologisms and homophobia galore.)

My final comment before I turn you over to the minds of Swanson and Vaughan is this:

Yesterday Michael Farris and HSLDA declared to the world that they are “drawing a line in the sand.” But time and time again they say this and yet it seems like nothing but word gamesit isn’t trueit minimizes or refuses to acknowledge the atrocious and previous lack of lines, or it isn’t enough. And sometimes, like today, when I am so disturbed, heartsick, and saddened by Kevin Swanson’s hatred, cruelty, and antichrist-like behavior towards homeschool alumni, and I see that HSLDA’s “line in the sand” means nothing when it comes to standing up to someone like Swanson — and thenthen I see Swanson promoting his book “Upgrade,” a book that HSLDA’s very own president J. Michael Smith said “should be in the hands of every homeschool family in America”

Then I want to say: You really have built your lines on sand, HSLDA, haven’t you?

I think Libby Anne said it best:

Real leaders speak out against dangerous teachings or leaders when speaking out is still difficult rather than letting others do the heavy lifting and waiting to speak out until speaking out is easy.

And on that note, here are some highlights from Kevin Swanson and Steve Vaughan’s “Homeschool Educational Neglect”:

WORLD Magazine just found “the 25 people” upset and created a “circular firing squad”:

Kevin: They [WORLD] found the 25 people upset with home education…

Steve: …yeah…

Kevin: …that started the little IHateHomeschool.com and then they gave them a nice little publicity piece. And HSLDA, you know, did their faithful thing, they wandered up to the microphone and tried to fight for homeschooling and its reputation but…

Steve: Yeah they got a paragraph in the middle of the article. (laugh)

Kevin: They did. But, but you know what? And I realize that makes news. I realize that the 25 people upset in America make news. But they’re not interviewing the 3.2 million kids who have been homeschooled. That didn’t show up in the magazine. And I don’t see that showing up much in the magazine [WORLD] these days. But you know, here’s the problem with Christian organizations. They turn into circular firing squads.

Steve: Yeah. (laughter)

Steve: You know how that works? Everyone just stands in a big circle. Aim, fire, shoot. And everybody falls.

WORLD Magazine covering abuse and neglect is just “cutting each other down”:

Kevin: What is with WORLD Magazine, guys? I mean, come on. Aren’t we supposed to be one big family? Isn’t there supposed to be a little bit of symbiosis happening in the Kingdom of God? We are overwhelmed, we are outnumbered. The, the other side is gonna kill us when it comes to homeschool freedoms, the freedom to speak against homosexuality. The left is on the rise, baby! Barack Obama is President of the United States, the most pro-infanticide president ever to serve and what are we doing? Cutting each other down? I don’t think so! Try not to do that!

To be real abuse, abuse must be verified by 2 or 3 witnesses; it is the result of the sexual revolution:

Kevin: Let me say from the outset that sexual abuse, physical abuse — that’s verifiable, 2 or 3 witnesses, etc., etc., k? — a court or trial works through the issue and sure enough, someone was sexually abused? — that’s really, really bad.

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: That should not happen.

Steve: Anywhere. (laughter)

Kevin: Anywhere. Thank you! And I think it’s due to the fact that we had this sexual revolution that unleashed itself in the 1950’s and 1960’s. And America and many other nations around the world have become a sexual cesspool in which homosexuality, incest, sexual abuse, all sorts of things are happening.

Spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, and educational neglect are laughing matters to to Kevin Swanson and Steve Vaughan:

Kevin Swanson: When you talk about things like spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, educational neglect — we’re talking about things that are very, very slippery. Very, very hard to get your hands around. Okay? (laughter)  And it’s fun for people to use those terms because, you know, you can just bring accusations against anybody and everybody as you use the slippery terms that are very, very hard to define.

Steve: So yeah, how would you define spiritual abuse?

Kevin: Yeah! Or emotional abuse! What IS that? What exactly is that?

Steve: “Well she spoke harshly to me and used the Bible to let me know I was wrong, so I was spiritually and emotionally abused.”

Kevin: Right, right! Someone came up to a rapist and said, “It’s wrong to rape!” (pretending to be rapist:) “Oh you’re abusing me! You’re abusing me! That’s not very grace-filled! You know, what in the world are you doing? Accusing me of sin? That’s terrible! Oh I’m so abused! I’m so abused!”

Steve: Yeah! “You need to honor your father and mother!” “Oh my!”

(laughter)

Kevin: “I’ve been so abused…” (laughter)

When kids are educationally neglected, it’s really just their own fault for being lazy:

Kevin: when someone says, I could have had a better education than that provided by my mother or by my father, that’s really, really, really hard to prove. How, how, how do you know that? Maybe it was a character problem on YOUR part. Maybe you didn’t obey your parents! Maybe you didn’t study your books like you were told to! And to think that you could have had a better education if you had done it this way versus that way is extremely hard to prove.

Steve: Right!

(laughter)

Kevin: Extremely hard to prove!

Steve: Because you can’t go back and do it that way!

Kevin: You can’t! (laughter) You can’t… and even if you could have, you would have dragged your same old person, with your same old character flaws, with your same old slothfulness issue, into the public school or private school setting or other setting ‚ and you could have done worse…

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: …than you did with your parents — trying to do whatever they could have done with you, even with all of your character issues that you’re dealing with. It’s fun to blame your parents for your OWN lack of character!

Making fun of a homeschool alumna who was regularly beaten and neglected by her parents:

Steve: Here’s the case with the WORLD Magazine article and this gal who wrote this. 31 years old. One of the things she was complaining about was that she still counts on her fingers and has to double-check the tip on her restaurant table.

Kevin: That’s 40% of public school graduates, by the way.

Steve: 31 years old now! She’s 31 years old and she set up a website and started an organization apparently counting on her fingers! And so, you know, give me a break!

Kevin: Yeah.

Steve: If you can do THIS, you can COUNT.

Kevin: And if your parents failed in 18 years, or 12 years, of education, she’s had an additional 13 years!

Steve: Right!

Kevin: So, so…

Steve: GROW UP!

(laughter) (more laughter)

Steve: READ SOME BOOKS!

(laughter)

Steve: THERE ARE BOOKS OUT THERE ON MATH! YOU CAN LEARN HOW TO NOT COUNT ON YOUR FINGERS!

(laughter)…

Kevin: So this little whiner, talking about her bad experience with home education, um, you know she’s had 13 years to learn how to count.

Steve: Right!

Kevin: And to learn how to add. And still hasn’t happened. Sounds to me like there’s something wrong. With HER.

On WORLD Magazine not knowing what a concordance is:

I think WORLD Magazine should think biblically about these things. What does the Bible say about educational neglect? Again, look it up in the concordance! See, people aren’t used to that. Let me explain to you what a concordance is. A concordance is typically found in the back of a Bible. You can find them online. It’s called BibleHub.com. Go there. And… and you look up the word. “Educational neglect.” Look it up in the Bible. You say it’s not there? Yeah. Yeah, exactly! Why? Because it’s not an issue.

On what educational neglect REALLY is and WORLD Magazine maybe having socialist employees:

Educational neglect is the failure to teach God’s Word as you sit in the house, as you walk by the way, as you rise, as you lie down. Okay? So, so, so those are the categories in which we should be thinking, friends. And, now, here’s the next question: How do we prosecute that through the civil magistrate? That’s the next question that comes to the mind of the socialists — whether they work for TIME Magazine or whether or not they working for WORLD Magazine. I don’t know if socialists work there or not.

On educational neglect being a joke:

We’re back on the Generations Radio broadcast talking about homeschool educational neglect. Educational neglect: “when my fa—, when my parents did not get me into Harvard.” (using fake whining voice) “Why didn’t my parents get me into Harvard? What’s wrong with them?” And you know, the point is, the point is, the goal is not to get you into Harvard. The goal is to get you into Heaven.

Basic reading and math ought not be of primary importance to Christian homeschool families:

Kevin: I’m talking about Christian homeschool families. Their values are primarily first and foremost not to get their kid into Harvard or get them a good job.

Steve: Right.

Kevin: That’s not primary. It’s not being sure that the kid can read Plato before he’s 12 years of age…

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: …and get really messed up with the wrong worldview. (laughter) That’s not the goal. See, homeschoolers bring in other values: like relationship building, character building, work, worship. These are important. So it’s not that you can count when you are 31 years of age.

On homeschool alumni being “homeschool whiners” and “traitors”:

These homeschool whiners, let’s get back to what they’re really all about. They’re jettisoning a biblical world and life view. They’re looking for more socialism. They want more governmental controls of education. They want more socialist services sticking their noses into homeschoolers around America. This is their agenda. From what I’ve read. And, and they’re traitors. Traitors to the cause. The cause of what? The cause of freedom! The cause of anybody who wants to fight for freedom against the rising tide of totalitarianism and socialism in America! I am seeing a lot of these guys. They’re bitter…

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: …against the values represented by home education and their parents. And it’s probably due to broken relationships in the home. So they walk away from the home, all embittered against their parents and whatever stinkin’ issues their parents ever stood for. And whatever friends their parents ever hung out with. And they’re just angry, bitter people who are, have it in for home education.

On how to logic:

Steve: They’re [homeschool alumni] blaming the whole homeschooling movement. They’re taking… they’re… they’re actually committing the fallacies of… it’s, it’s a genetic fallacy. It’s a fallacy of generalization, that you take the small bit and you say that must be true of the whole. So, so since Judas was one of Jesus’s disciples and he betrayed Jesus, then ALL of the disciples must—

Kevin: —must be a bunch of nutcases—

Steve: Yeah. And so. So yeah.

Kevin: And yeah. That happens when you go irrational when, when your relationships bust up and you begin to hate everything about whatever your parents were associated with because those relationships went sour.

On the “PatrickHenryGayBlogspot.com” or “whatever that is”:

Kevin: These ex-homeschoolers to which WORLD Magazine is giving credence are pro-homosexual. They’re right there behind the emerging gay movement in Christian colleges. They’re encouraging the PatrickHenryGayBlogspot.com or whatever it is. Uh, don’t go there. I said it wrong on purpose. They’re encouraging the homosexuals showing up at the conservative Christian colleges as well and giving them as much credence as possible. Why? Because they are apostates. They’re embracing everything the Bible doesn’t. They’re embracing socialism, totalitarianism, homosexuality. If it’s ugly, if it’s wicked, if it’s totalitarian, they love it!

Homeschool alumni are “Benedict Arnolds”:

Kevin: These traitors are nothing new in the history of the world, my friends. Um, and they’re making it hard on the rest of us. But that’s what the Benedict Arnolds have always done.

Transcript of Kevin Swanson and Steve Vaughan’s “Homeschool Educational Neglect”

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HA note: The following is a transcript of the Generations Radio episode “Homeschool Educational Neglect: Media Rages Against Homeschooling,” broadcast on August 27, 2014. It features Kevin Swanson (former CHEC Executive Director and current Director of CHEC’s Generations With Vision program) and Steve Vaughan (CHEC Board Member). The program is a response to Daniel James Devine’s “Homeschool debate” article published by WORLD Magazine on August 25, 2014. This transcript was created by HA Community Coordinator R.L. Stollar.

See the context of and “highlights” from the episode here. Content warning for transcript: abuse denialism and apologism and homophobic remarks.

*****

(introduction, not transcribed)

Kevin: Today we’re going to take a look again at homeschooling. Why? Because homeschoolers, generally speaking, like to restore and reintegrate the family — as a family in the 21st century. And homeschoolers tend to like freedom. They’re the ones fighting for freedom. You want to find anybody interested in decreasing the influence of government in our lives in an era where 60% of the GNI is consumed by governments at all levels up from 9% in 1900? You want to find people interested in backing government off from education, backing government off from family-owned economies, backing government off from all areas of life? Homeschoolers at the forefront of fighting tooth and nail for any semblance of freedom left in the 21st century. I’m thankful for home educators. It’s hard to find anybody else fighting the good fight for freedom in the 21st century.

There are a few. There are some. Here and there. But not very many.

Hey you want to look at the Tea Party and you want to find the people who are fighting at the forefront for freedom? Tends to be homeschoolers. Not always. But I tell you what, you want to find pro-lifers out there? Tend to be homeschoolers.

People out there on the front lines of the battle fighting for the right to life — generally speaking, you’re going to find homeschoolers. K? Homeschoolers at the forefront of a battle for restoring family, faith, and freedom in the 21st century. and I’m thankful for them.

Steve: Amen.

Allright, so there’s my little spiel. Now, now, WORLD Magazine. Now I’ve been getting WORLD Magazine since the 1980’s. I used to think that WORLD Magazine was interested in home educators and home educators were some of their primary market. They were the ones buying the magazines.

Steve: Yeah, we did that.

Kevin: Then they got a lot, a lot, a lot of spread to public schools. A lot, a lot, a lot of spread to private Christian schools. And homeschool has kinda taken the back seat, I think. That’s my impression, Steve. Maybe I’m wrong. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong. But the recent piece published in WORLD Magazine on home education was not particularly positive.

Steve: Yeah it was particularly negative. (laughter)

Kevin: You think it was negative? It was more negative than positive.

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: I think so too. You know they found the 25 people upset with home education…

Steve: …yeah…

Kevin: …that started the little IHateHomeschool.com and then they gave them a nice little publicity piece. And HSLDA, you know, did their faithful thing, they wandered up to the microphone and tried to fight for homeschooling and its reputation but…

Steve: Yeah they got a paragraph in the middle of the article. (laugh)

Kevin: They did. But, but you know what? And I realize that makes news. I realize that the 25 people upset in America make news. But they’re not interviewing the 3.2 million kids who have been homeschooled. That didn’t show up in the magazine. And I don’t see that showing up much in the magazine these days. But you know, here’s the problem with Christian organizations. They turn into circular firing squads.

Steve: Yeah. (laughter)

Steve: You know how that works? Everyone just stands in a big circle. Aim, fire, shoot. And everybody falls. What happened? We turn into circular firing squad way too much. And I think it was a couple months ago they kinda had a negative piece on Mike Farris.

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: And they apologized afterwards, thankfully. But what is with WORLD Magazine, guys? I mean, come on. Aren’t we supposed to be one big family? Isn’t there supposed to be a little bit of symbiosis happening in the Kingdom of God? We are overwhelmed, we are outnumbered. The, the other side is gonna kill us when it comes to homeschool freedoms, the freedom to speak against homosexuality. The left is on the rise, baby! Barack Obama is President of the United States, the most pro-infanticide president ever to serve and what are we doing? Cutting each other down? I don’t think so! Try not to do that!

Now we talk a little about homeschooling negligence and homeschooling abuse. Now granted there are abuse cases out there. We know that.

Steve: Oh yeah.

Kevin: And sexual abuse, physical abuse, in the homeschool is as bad as it is anywhere else. And there’s a lot of it out there. Here’s an article from a South Dakota newspaper referring to child sexual abuse there. The estimate is 8% of kids in South Dakota are sexually abused. That’s bad. That’s really bad. That’s really, really, really bad. If we’re close to 1 in 10 kids in South Dakota are sexually abused, that’s really, really bad.

Steve: Now that’s overall, all the families of South Dakota?

Kevin: That’s right, that’s right. And WORLD Magazine, to their credit, did report that 7% of kids complain to some sort of unwanted touching in public schools.

Steve: Right. And that’s nationwide?

Kevin: That’s nationwide. So a lot of the sexual abuse is coming in public schools. But let’s not negate that issue. And HSLDA apparently has said 1.2% of HSLDA members complain of some kind of abuse. Or something like that.

Steve: Yeah, yeah but I think that’s the state complaining of homeschooling abuse…

Kevin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Steve: …which could be a messy house. It might be that they didn’t have the right to… [cut off]

Kevin: It’s not just sexual abuse. It could be a messy house. It could be a lot of things. Ok, so it’s very possible there’s way, way, way less abuse happening in homeschools than in the rest of the population.

Steve: Yeah but it makes the news when it happens.

Kevin: Yeah. It does. It does. And of course what we’re talking is the minus 3 standard deviations. And it’s ok to refer to some of the abuse cases happening. That’s newsworthy. But we’ve got to keep these things in perspective.

Steve: Right.

Kevin: And by the way the report did not include references to individuals who have been sexually abused in homeschools. As far as I could tell, that was not part of the story. So first of all, let me say from the outset that sexual abuse, physical abuse — that’s verifiable, 2 or 3 witnesses, etc., etc., k? — a court or trial works through the issue and sure enough, someone was sexually abused? — that’s really, really bad.

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: That should not happen.

Steve: Anywhere. (laughter)

Kevin: Anywhere. Thank you! And I think it’s due to the fact that we had this sexual revolution that unleashed itself in the 1950’s and 1960’s. And America and many other nations around the world have become a sexual cesspool in which homosexuality, incest, sexual abuse, all sorts of things are happening.

Steve: Yes.

Kevin: Which is a very very sad thing, a very very bad thing. And may God bring repentance to the nation.

Ok. But when you talk about things like spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, educational neglect — we’re talking about things that are very, very slippery. Very, very hard to get your hands around. Okay? (laughter)  And it’s fun for people to use those terms because, you know, you can just bring accusations against anybody and everybody as you use the slippery terms that are very, very hard to define.

Steve: So yeah, how would you define spiritual abuse?

Kevin: Yeah! Or emotional abuse! What IS that? What exactly is that?

Steve: “Well she spoke harshly to me and used the Bible to let me know I was wrong, so I was spiritually and emotionally abused.”

Kevin: Right, right! Someone came up to a rapist and said, “It’s wrong to rape!” (pretending to be rapist:) “Oh you’re abusing me! You’re abusing me! That’s not very grace-filled! You know, what in the world are you doing? Accusing me of sin? That’s terrible! Oh I’m so abused! I’m so abused!”

Steve: Yeah! “You need to honor your father and mother!” “Oh my!”

(laughter)

Kevin: “I’ve been so abused…” (laughter) “…because this Christian is telling me that I’ve sinned against God and I need to repent.” Ok, so if that’s spiritual abuse… (laughter) …I don’t think the Apostle Paul would agree with you. Put it that way.

But when someone says, I could have had a better education than that provided by my mother or by my father, that’s really, really, really hard to prove. How, how, how do you know that? Maybe it was a character problem on YOUR part. Maybe you didn’t obey your parents! Maybe you didn’t study your books like you were told to! And to think that you could have had a better education if you had done it this way versus that way is extremely hard to prove.

Steve: Right!

(laughter)

Kevin: Extremely hard to prove!

Steve: Because you can’t go back and do it that way!

Kevin: You can’t! (laughter) You can’t… and even if you could have, you would have dragged your same old person, with your same old character flaws, with your same old slothfulness issue, into the public school or private school setting or other setting ‚ and you could have done worse…

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: …than you did with your parents — trying to do whatever they could have done with you, even with all of your character issues that you’re dealing with. It’s fun to blame your parents for your OWN lack of character!

Steve: Oh yeah!

Kevin: It’s fun to do! And I’m sure there are a lot of kids out there who are doing just that! They’re running across the country. Yeah! Their parents pointed out their sin, pointed out Christ. But they still rebelled and they were scoffers and they refused to take the correction their parents gave them. They violated every single principle in the Book of Proverbs. They made a point not to follow through on anything in the Book of Proverbs! Nothing! And at the end of their educational experience at home, they didn’t succeed. They didn’t make it into Harvard.

(laughter)

Steve: Right! But here’s the case with the WORLD Magazine article and this gal who wrote this. 31 years old. One of the things she was complaining about was that she still counts on her fingers and has to double-check the tip on her restaurant table.

Kevin: That’s 40% of public school graduates, by the way.

Steve: 31 years old now! She’s 31 years old and she set up a website and started an organization apparently counting on her fingers! And so, you know, give me a break!

Kevin: Yeah.

Steve: If you can do THIS, you can COUNT.

Kevin: And if your parents failed in 18 years, or 12 years, of education, she’s had an additional 13 years!

Steve: Right!

Kevin: So, so…

Steve: GROW UP!

(laughter) (more laughter)

Steve: READ SOME BOOKS!

(laughter)

Steve: THERE ARE BOOKS OUT THERE ON MATH! YOU CAN LEARN HOW TO NOT COUNT ON YOUR FINGERS!

(laughter)

Kevin: I ran into a family, Steve, a couple of years ago, and these guys had made it through Littleton public schools for 12 years. Okay? They had taken the special needs track as well. Okay, for 12 years, both of them, they got married at 20, 22 years of age and they couldn’t read. Okay? Littleton public schools had spent 100, no, no, excuse me, $347,000 on the education of these kids. They couldn’t read. So they went to church and there were some elderly church people who, you know, took them in and taught them how to read. They were concerned because they went down to the library to get some Dr. Seuss books and he said they couldn’t read the big 27 point font stuff.

Steve: Wow.

Kevin: And they got concerned because they were having kids. Pregnant with the first. So, so they went to some folks in the church and the church folks helped them. They taught them how to read. And so they thought to themselves: Okay, let me get this straight. The Littleton public schools spent $347,000 and they couldn’t teach us how to read. (laughter) They couldn’t pull it off!

Steve: I know there are stats out there about how many seniors can’t even read their diplomas.

Kevin: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s really high. Functional literacy really, really, really high. In fact, college graduates? It’s about 40%.

Steve: Yeah. Isn’t that crazy?

Kevin: College graduates! So this little whiner, talking about her bad experience with home education, um, you know she’s had 13 years to learn how to count.

Steve: Right!

Kevin: And to learn how to add. And still hasn’t happened. Sounds to me like there’s something wrong. With HER.

Steve: Yeah! Or she’s whining without any reason.

Kevin: Yeah! So anyways this couple decided, you know, if the public schools spent $347,000 and couldn’t teach us how to read, why would we send our kids to these schools? That was their logic. And I’ve met this family again — well, it’s been about 10 years — and their kids are doing very well. Very, very well.

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: They’ve got 8 kids. They live in Nebraska. They’re doing very, very well… So anyways, so why are we sending our kids to public schools? And, and ok, there are sort of the minus 3 standard deviations everywhere. Thankfully homeschoolers are averaging somewhere around the 80th percentile for reading and literature and such. So, if they’re at the 80th percentile, my guess is that there’s got to be something like 93% above the functional literacy level. Or 99% above the functional literacy level! Therefore, people like WORLD Magazine are going to have to look HARD and LONG for the 1%!

Steve: Yeah, that’s right.

Kevin: The minus 3 standard deviations on the standard curve! And they found them! Evidently they found them, they interviewed them!

Steve: Yeah! Yeah, and if you take a look at just the overall standardized tests, homeschoolers score consistently in the 60 to 80% percentile average, for public schools 50%. So, so we’re above that, too.

Kevin: The other, psssh, illustration given by the WORLD Magazine article was a young lady whose parents were divorced. And, and here’s one thing that almost every educator understands: that if the family situation is dysfunctional, the marriage is breaking down, there’s divorce in the family — the kids generally are not going to do well in school.

Steve: Right. No matter where they go.

Kevin: No matter where they go! Oh yeah! The reason you’ve got such problems in public schools is not the teachers, generally speaking. It’s the home life. And just taking a kid who is raised in a dysfunctional home — single mom, etc., etc. — putting them in the public schools is not going to fix the problem necessarily. In fact, it generally doesn’t fix the problem. Why? Because they come from dysfunctional home backgrounds. There’s a reason why inner-city schools typically are producing the very worst results. Well, that’s because the family situation for these kids attending these inner-city schools are dysfunctional. And you can’t fix the problem by fixing the schools! And you can’t fix the problem by fixing the education! I’m sorry, you’ve got to fix the family relationships. You have to fix the family. And that should be a no-brainer.

Moreover, I think WORLD Magazine should think biblically about these things. What does the Bible say about educational neglect? Again, look it up in the concordance! See, people aren’t used to that. Let me explain to you what a concordance is. A concordance is typically found in the back of a Bible. You can find them online. It’s called BibleHub.com. Go there. And… and you look up the word. “Educational neglect.” Look it up in the Bible. You say it’s not there? Yeah. Yeah, exactly! Why? Because it’s not an issue. What’s the issue?

Steve: Family.

(laughter)

Kevin: The issue is discipleship neglect.

Steve: Right.

Kevin: The issue is, biblically speaking — if we were thinking biblically — not, not with the psychobabble of the world gives us — but if we’re thinking biblically, educational neglect is the failure to teach God’s Word as you sit in the house, as you walk by the way, as you rise, as you lie down. Okay? So, so, so those are the categories in which we should be thinking, friends.

And, now, here’s the next question: How do we prosecute that through the civil magistrate? That’s the next question that comes to the mind of the socialists — whether they work for TIME Magazine or whether or not they working for WORLD Magazine. I don’t know if socialists work there or not. But, but the question in the minds of a socialist that are in the Christian population and the non-Christian population is: If there is an educational neglect — where a parent refuses to teach their children God’s Word as you sit in the house, as you walk by the way, as you rise, as you lie down — the question in their minds is, should the State prosecute it? My answer is: No.

Steve: No!

Kevin: Thank you! I’m glad that you have a biblical worldview, too!

Steve: Oh yeah!

(laughter)

Kevin: Oh it’s incredible, Steve’s got a biblical worldview, I’ve got a biblical worldview!

(laughter)

Steve: Yeah!

Kevin: Yeah! The State doesn’t prosecute it! So, who prosecutes it? Um, well — where there are church relationships! Where there is somebody who cares! Here’s one thing I’m learning, Steve: the State can’t fix these problems. They can’t fix the family. They can’t fix educational neglect.

Steve: They’re not designed to!

Kevin: They can’t! And it doesn’t matter how many compulsory [unintelligible] laws they pass down, it doesn’t matter how many… uh, their minions they hire… to enter into every single home and double-check and double-check and double-check. It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t fix the inner-city family! It has NEVER fixed the inner-city family! It has never fixed the educational problem in the inner-cities where there is all kinds of dysfunctionality in the families. Friends, the government can’t fix it! Period! Get. That. Down. Straight!

Those of you working for WORLD Magazine and Time Magazine and anywhere else where there’s people trying to be the do-gooders and trying to fix society’s problems: how you fix society’s problems, it doesn’t happen by government. It happens by people who care. Yeah. People who care. People in the church, people in the community, who come side by side and help those families to homeschool and disciple their kids. That’s how it gets fixed.

(commercial break, not transcribed)

Kevin: We’re back on the Generations Radio broadcast talking about homeschool educational neglect. Educational neglect: “when my fa—, when my parents did not get me into Harvard.” (using fake whining voice) “Why didn’t my parents get me into Harvard? What’s wrong with them?” And you know, the point is, the point is, the goal is not to get you into Harvard. The goal is to get you into Heaven.

Steve: Amen!

(laughter)

Kevin: Mike Smith gives that talk. Heaven, not Harvard!

Steve: Right.

Kevin: Um, the goal is to teach as you sit in the house, as you walk by the way, as you rise, as you lie down. And teach what? The Word of God. The goal is biblical discipleship in the Word of God because the Word of God is the core in the education program of a child. And I understand there are secularists who may listen to the program and don’t believe that. I understand. That’s a different worldview, a humanist worldview. I don’t. I have a biblical worldview.

Steve: Yeah! And so, really, when they talk about spiritual abuse, spiritual abuse REALLY is not following Deuteronomy 6.

Kevin: Yeah, it’s not teaching the Word of God as you sit in the house.

Steve: Right! And that’s what’s really going on. They’re thinking that when you DO do that, that’s spiritual abuse.

Kevin: And, and, and the problem is Huffington Post would not agree with you.

Steve: Yeah, that’s right!

(laughter)

Kevin: Or Patheos.com. Or Apostate.com or wherever. Um, here’s the other thing I think we ought to draw into this: Homeschooling families are not like public school families. They have different values. Generally speaking. Now, some share values, but I’m talking about Christian homeschool families. Their values are primarily first and foremost not to get their kid into Harvard or get them a good job.

Steve: Right.

Kevin: That’s not primary. It’s not being sure that the kid can read Plato before he’s 12 years of age…

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: …and get really messed up with the wrong worldview. (laughter) That’s not the goal. See, homeschoolers bring in other values: like relationship building, character building, work, worship. These are important. So it’s not that you can count when you are 31 years of age. Now hopefully that’s a by-product…

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: …of other things that have been happening. But homeschool families are focused on other priorities. And that’s a shocker to the world out there.

Steve: Yeah. Yeah, there’s a — do you remember the dad and the daughter who, like, split the city and went out into the wilderness and lived in a tent for a while?

Kevin: Yeah, right, right, right.

Steve: And she ended up, you know, they were so afraid that she was horribly abused and didn’t know anything. And she scored way high.

Kevin: She scored as a 12th grader, a high school graduate, at 12 years of age. And they’d been woods-schooling for 4 years. I remember that story. Um, but again, the goal is not to be sure that your child is hitting the 97th percentile in math or reading.

Steve: Yeah!

Kevin: That’s not the goal. That’s not the goal.

Steve: Jesus said something about that. “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose your soul?”

Kevin: Yeah. Well, what socialists are doing — and I’ve seen this more and more, Steve, and I’m concerned about WORLD Magazine and I hope that they don’t go this direction — but what the socialists are doing is they’re looking for the minus 3 sigma cases and using it as the PR case against home education…

Steve: Right.

Kevin: …in America. I’ve seen this a hundred times if I’ve seen it once. I… And… And, you know, that’s what they do. That’s what they do. Never mind the fact that homeschoolers are registering, averaging, at the 87th percentile, and Dr. Ray’s study looked at other teaching— other testing services beyond Bob Jones. I think he was looking at a broader slice of the population than the Rudner study in the 1990’s. So I think Dr. Ray nailed it with the Ray study that came out about 3, 4 years ago. And the overall core average was running somewhere around 87 percent. And remember the Rudner study of the 1990’s was running somewhere around the 83rd percentile point.

So, so, you know, the bad guys are gonna come after us one way or another. I’m just hoping the good guys would understand a biblical perspective on issues like this and fight for freedom. A little faith! A little courage to get out there and shove this back in the faces of the socialists and the homeschool whiners that — by the way, these homeschool whiners, let’s get back to what they’re really all about. They’re jettisoning a biblical world and life view. They’re looking for more socialism. They want more governmental controls of education. They want more socialist services sticking their noses into homeschoolers around America. This is their agenda. From what I’ve read. And, and they’re traitors. Traitors to the cause. The cause of what? The cause of freedom! The cause of anybody who wants to fight for freedom against the rising tide of totalitarianism and socialism in America! I am seeing a lot of these guys. They’re bitter…

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: …against the values represented by home education and their parents. And it’s probably due to broken relationships in the home. So they walk away from the home, all embittered against their parents and whatever stinkin’ issues their parents ever stood for. And whatever friends their parents ever hung out with. And they’re just angry, bitter people who are, have it in for home education. Now, not everybody. But there’s a handful out there that are making some noise. And as far as I am concerned I’m not giving their websites any credence whatsoever.

Steve: Right. And what they need to do is put the blame where the blame actually is supposed to be. They’re blaming the whole homeschooling movement. They’re taking… they’re… they’re actually committing the fallacies of… it’s, it’s a genetic fallacy. It’s a fallacy of generalization, that you take the small bit and you say that must be true of the whole. So, so since Judas was one of Jesus’s disciples and he betrayed Jesus, then ALL of the disciples must—

Kevin: —must be a bunch of nutcases—

Steve: Yeah. And so. So yeah.

Kevin: And yeah. That happens when you go irrational when, when your relationships bust up and you begin to hate everything about whatever your parents were associated with because those relationships went sour. Moreover, these ex-homeschoolers to which WORLD Magazine is giving credence are pro-homosexual. They’re right there behind the emerging gay movement in Christian colleges. They’re encouraging the PatrickHenryGayBlogspot.com or whatever it is. Uh, don’t go there. I said it wrong on purpose. They’re encouraging the homosexuals showing up at the conservative Christian colleges as well and giving them as much credence as possible. Why? Because they are apostates. They’re embracing everything the Bible doesn’t. They’re embracing socialism, totalitarianism, homosexuality. If it’s ugly, if it’s wicked, if it’s totalitarian, they love it! Why? Because they’re turning away from the values they were raised with.

And guess what? This has happened since Day One. Think about Demus. Think about Alexander the Coppersmith. Think about Judas. I mean, these people have existed since the beginning of the Christian Church. And these traitors are nothing new in the history of the world, my friends. Um, and they’re making it hard on the rest of us. But that’s what the Benedict Arnolds have always done.

Steve: And that’s nothing new either.

Kevin: Yeah, exactly. So, now, now, let’s get back to home education. Are there problems with home education? Yes. Yes. There are problems. And, and, and we need to be the first to confess the weaknesses. Where there are weaknesses, confess them. And, and their slothfulness is an issue. Now again, is it any different, public schools versus private schools versus homeschools? I doubt it. Slothfulness with young men? Yeah. It’s a huge problem.

Steve: Yeah.

Kevin: Huge problem. Lack of discipleship for young men because they’re stuck, tied to their mothers’ apron strings until they’re 18 years of age? Yeah, that’s dysfunction. I’ve seen that. Yeah, I’ve seen single moms out there who may have these co-dependent relationships with kids and they won’t do any schooling at all with them. It’s just this weird little co-dependency. They won’t let them go to the public schools, won’t let them go to private schools, and they won’t even homeschool them because they’re just sitting there in the house in this sort of weird, co-dependent relationship. It’s all self-centered. Self-centered, self-centered. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, you see, you see issues — sin issues — in people’s lives everywhere.

Steve: Right.

Kevin: And as you see those things, I think the church, the local church, needs to address them.

Steve: Yeah! See, really, this is a, not only a family problem, but it’s also a church discipline issue as well. And that’s a whole different show.

Kevin: It is, yeah.

Steve: But it is. I mean, you know, there’s a book Jay Adams wrote that I just really liked about church discipline. And it’s not, you know, most people think of church discipline as a way to kick people out of church. But really, church discipline is a right that everybody has in the church. A well-disciplined church is gonna turn out well-disciplined families, which will have an effect on the community at large.

Kevin: Well, Steve, to close off the program, my hope is that homeschool leaders get a little chutzpah to ‘em and fight the good fight, engage the battle of ideas, come back to a distinctively biblical world and life view and be more self-consistent to it. Stop being so wishy-washy and… And those leaders who are discouraged, I think they’ve been beaten up by an increasingly hostile media to homeschooling. And, and we can expect that.

Hey, you know, homeschooling is making an impact. Of course the enemy’s upset. Of course the media, the academy, the political world is going to note and they’re gonna come after us and they’re gonna do their best to discourage us. But, man alive, get a little faith! You know, dig in for the long haul! Be self-consistent to your world and life view and encourage the next generation of homeschoolers — who, hopefully, should be more self-consistent — and, and, and more committed to the vision of home education than the previous generation.

That’s why I wrote my book “Upgrade: The 10 Secrets to the Best Education For Your Child.” And hopefully this will give vision to tens of thousands of people listening to the program, especially to our kids and grandkids who need a vision for educating their kids — a distinctively biblical vision because education is a point at which we have seen massive apostasy from the Christian faith. This is the catalyst to apostasy. So if you want to see a restoration of the good things of life, it’s gotta happen in the education of the next generation.

The bad guys understand it. Now it’s time for the good guys to figure it out. And that’s why I wrote my book “Upgrade: The 10 Secrets to the Best Education For Your Child.” Also, “Keep the Faith: Volume One” deals with the historical Christian perspective of education based on 2,000 years of the greatest Christians who have ever written anything on Christian education. You need to get these books. Get these resources. And empower the next generation to be even more faithful than we were.

The vision for home education, for family-based education? You’ll find it in my book “Upgrade: The 10 Secrets to the Best Education For Your Child” and our website, KevinSwanson.com.

(end transcript)

The Day We Fall Silent is The Day We Don’t Care Anymore: Nikki’s Story, Part Three

Homeschoolers U

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Nikki” is a pseudonym specifically chosen by the author.

< Part Two

Part Three

After freshman year, I got pretty distracted. I started dating my husband.

He headed off to bootcamp shortly after we got together and wouldn’t live near me again for the next two years. I took up 18 credit hour semesters, a waitressing job, moot court, and mock trial. My biggest problems stemmed from my parents, who did everything possible—including blackmail and false imprisonment—to try and put my freed mind back under their control. Why? I had told them that I and I alone would choose who I would marry.

Despite the debacle that was my family situation, I wasn’t one of the “problem” kids. I never once got called in to Student Life for the “talk” so many of my peers received. Neither RD paid any attention to me, as far as I could tell. My RA chided me once, during my entire time at PHC, to tell me that I couldn’t come back at 6 in the morning during one of my (now) husband’s rare visits. (Yes, I ignored her.) I was never dress-coded (a fact that I now realize is remarkable). I didn’t go out drinking, go to clubs in DC, or hang out with those who did.

I was, all in all, an extremely boring person.

But I stilled witnessed controversy after controversy, saw first-hand PHC’s sexist culture, and sat under professors who pushed a right-wing agenda rather than the elite academics I had been promised. I’ll describe some of these events here.

One of my best friends was sexually assaulted freshman year. Her story, and how Dean Corbitt blamed her for the assault, was covered by Kiera Feldman in the New Republic this past spring. Current students like to claim the New Republic article is a hit piece. I lived through those events. I remember the perpetrator stalking my friend in the weeks after the attack, while the administration took no action to protect her and threatened her with expulsion for reaching out to the other students for help.

Freshman year Michael Farris, the school’s founder and chancellor, started a group called Tyndale’s Ploughmen. It was explicitly labeled “leadership training” for would-be politicians. Participants got to meet political leaders of the Religious Right in order to receive instruction and advice from them. I applied.

At my interview, Farris asked if my parents would be okay with me having a career, explaining that he would not want me to participate in anything my parents would find unsuitable for a girl.

I was too young and naïve to realize how inappropriate that question was, as if a 19-year-old woman’s participation in a school-sponsored program should be limited by her parents’ religious beliefs. A few weeks later, I discovered that I was the only woman among a dozen or more men who had made it into the program. We got to meet with individuals like Donald Hodel (Reagan’s Secretary of Energy and a huge supporter of PHC), Steve Largent (former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma who sponsored Farris’s first parental rights bill back in the ‘90s), John Ashcroft (George W. Bush’s Attorney General), and a large Republican donor who fed us on gold-rimmed plates and showed off his collection of Confederate relics.

It’s hard to put into words what it was like to be the only female student on these trips.

My gender was somehow always a topic of conversation. I couldn’t just be. I was surrounded by male students who I considered my friends but who would not let me forget for a moment that I was different. Even Farris joined in on it, in a way that was both flattering (he was the chancellor of the school) and disconcerting.

I could only hear him tell me that my boyfriend had made a good choice because I was the same height as Mrs. Farris so many times, without starting to feel uncomfortable about it all.

Sophomore year, my roommate was locked in the j-lab with Walker (PHC President), Sillars (journalism professor), and Veith (PHC provost), along with most of the journalism students. For over an hour, Walker interrogated the students, did not allow any of them to leave, and threatened them all with expulsion. At one point, he even said that he would sue them for slander. Their crime? One journalism student had found this L.A. Times article about Dr. John Warwick Mongtomery, at that point a recently hired theology professor at the school, and shared it with a few friends. The news article described Montgomery as a bigamist and a wife batterer.

My favorite professor, Travis Moger, left under mysterious circumstances not too long after—the fourth professor to leave in a year (and yes, these departures were in addition to those who had left in the Schism of 2006, which others have described; it was a huge turnover for the tiny school, and those four were some of the best teachers remaining at the school). A vocal critic of the administration, Moger had supposedly confronted Walker about this blatant bullying of the journalism students. I recite that statement with a bit of hesitation, however. You see, no one knew for sure why he suddenly left. We were all warned to keep quiet because Walker had threatened to revoke Moger’s severance pay if people “talked.”

We mourned Moger’s leaving by watching Dead Poets Society, a fitting tribute to a professor who had challenged us to question the approved narrative and to seek out our own truth.

Many PHC students, past and current, like to claim that PHC provides a rigorous, liberal arts education. Maybe it once did, before the Schism. But it did not during my time there. There were a few outstanding classes, taught by Moger, King, and Smith, all professors who left a year or two after the Schism amid whispered murmurs about the lack of academic freedom.

But the majority of my coursework was mired by an ever-present fear of “liberal academia.”

Trumpeting the Christian conservative message was key to most of my professors; everything in class had to be tied, in one way or another, to their theme that Christianity was best, liberals are dangerous, and atheists are sinister. I’ll provide one example of how this type of thinking played out in class. Dr. Darrel Cox teaches theology at PHC and has since 2006. I had the displeasure of taking three classes with him: Theology I, Theology II, and Principles of Biblical Reasoning, all of which are mandatory courses. He was a poor lecturer, rarely covering the material in anything resembling a direct fashion and often wasting the entire class time with spurious stories or jokes about why St. Augustine was wrong about sex.

As you can imagine, it’s decidedly uncomfortable, as a freshman living in the midst of a slut-shaming purity culture, to hear a father of 7 discuss the beauties of his sex life in almost every class session.

His classes were also agonizingly simplistic.

I well recall that one question on a midterm required us to draw a picture of an iceberg. Another question required us to remember that he frequently used the term “mouseness” in class. At first, a few of us fought back when he said something particularly outrageous. After awhile, some realized that he was docking their grades. We compared exams when they were returned and realized that some outspoken students had given the same answer as quiet or favored students but hadn’t receive credit for it. If you need good grades to get into grad school, constantly fighting back doesn’t seem worth it anymore. So when, at the end of the semester in Principles of Biblical Reasoning, he assigned John Glubb’s “Fate of Empires,” I don’t remember anyone even protesting. In most classrooms today, Glubb’s work would be presented as an interesting but unfortunate piece describing the xenophobic and sexist beliefs of British colonial thought. Cox presented it as accurate and useful.

The text we were given is available here. To give you an idea of its content, here are a few quotes:

Grubb argues that immigrants destroy empires (from page 15):

Second- or third-generation foreign immigrants may appear outwardly to be entirely assimilated, but they often constitute a weakness in two directions. First, their basic human nature often differs from that of the original imperial stock. If the earlier imperial race was stubborn and slow-moving, the immigrants might come from more emotional races, thereby introducing cracks and schisms into the national policies, even if all were equally loyal.

Second, while the nation is still affluent, all the diverse races may appear equally loyal. But in an acute emergency, the immigrants will often be less willing to sacrifice their lives and their property than will be the original descendants of the founder race.

Grubb claims that giving women rights is a sign of the end of an empire (from page 17):

An increase in the influence of women in public life has often been associated with national decline. The later Romans complained that, although Rome ruled the world, women ruled Rome. In the tenth century, a similar tendency was observable in the Arab Empire, the women demanding admission to the professions hitherto monopolized by men. ‘What,’ wrote the contemporary historian, Ibn Bessam, ‘have the professions of clerk, tax-collector or preacher to do with women? These occupations have always been limited to men alone.’ Many women practiced law, while others obtained posts as university professors. There was an agitation for the appointment of female judges, which, however, does not appear to have succeeded.

Soon after this period, government and public order collapsed, and foreign invaders overran the country. . . .

When I first read these contemporary descriptions of tenth-century Baghdad, I could scarcely believe my eyes. I told myself that this must be a joke! The descriptions might have been taken out of The Times today. The resemblance of all the details was especially breathtaking—the break-up of the empire, the abandonment of sexual morality, the ‘pop’ singers with their guitars, the entry of women into the professions, the five-day work week.

What does anything in this reading have to do with Principles of Biblical Reasoning, the subject of the class? To this day, I don’t entirely know. Whatever it was, Cox’s treatment of the subject was not worthy of the terms “ivy league,” “liberal arts,” or “rigorous.” Students can say what they want about how “hard” their schoolwork is, but PHC doesn’t challenge them by presenting fair and well-argued examples of liberal arguments. PHC doesn’t even let them listen to liberal speakers on campus—the administration has yet to host one, in the school’s 14 years of existence. What PHC does do is allow professors like Cox, who routinely engages in outrageous personal attacks on former students via social media, to wax on about the wonders of John Glubb without a single countervailing voice on the faculty.

A few years after this episode, Eden Troupe (PHC’s student-run theater club) decided to put on The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s celebrated play about the Salem witch trials. A school that prides itself on being “God’s Harvard” should embrace academic freedom; it should certainly encourage its students to perform a classic piece from the canon of American theater. But it seems that PHC’s administration, under the leadership of Graham Walker, cares more about preserving a pristine Christian image than providing a well-rounded liberal arts education.

The administration tried to kill the project.

They called the play a direct attack on the school, and several school officials refused to come see it performed—at a campus where the president, provost, and other administrative officials routinely go to all of Eden Troupe’s performances. In the end, Eden Troupe could not even perform the play on campus. They had to contract with a local public school to use its facilities.

To outsiders, it probably seems strange that The Crucible would elicit this reaction. After all, there is no dispute that the Salem witch trials did happen, and the play is a fictionalized but realistic depiction of those events. There’s also neither nudity nor profanity in the piece.

But the Puritans are idolized at PHC.

Dr. Stephen Baskerville (who you may remember delivered the shocking Faith and Reason last year that denounced domestic violence laws) spent weeks describing their god-fearing, pro-family virtues in his Freedoms Foundations class (which I took in 2007-2008). Dr. Robert Spinney, a favorite history professor at the school, has his US History I students write a book report on Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were by Ryken Leland. Current or recent students who have taken his (mandatory) class say that re-imaging the Puritans is one of Spinney’s “pet projects.” His goal is to make Puritans seem less legalistic—or not legalistic at all. (Redefining legalism is another project of his, as is, for those who are noting the patriarchal assumptions of even the best members of the PHC faculty, advocating for strict modesty standards, as seen here and here). The PHC faculty routinely holds the Puritans up as an example of a community that rightfully obeyed God’s directed order when designing their own polity. Depicting the Puritans in a negative light, as The Crucible rightfully does, contradicts PHC’s own goal to produce Christian leaders who will use Puritan (or Puritan-like) theology and political theory to reform the United States.

That’s why the play, despite being an American classic, is an attack on the school.

I realize this post has been a hodge-podge of many aspects of my time at PHC. So many different events contributed to my disaffection with the school, it’s difficult to synthesize them. A single post, or even a series of posts, can’t begin to describe them all. Still, I’d like to close with a final example from my senior year.

Every year, the student body president gives a speech to the incoming freshmen class. In fall 2009, the student body president included this quote from Tony Campolo in his challenge to the class:

I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 45,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 45,000 kids died last night.

President Walker’s reaction was swift and severe—and, ironically, only proved the aptness of the quote. In an effort to keep a semblance of student control over student government, the student senate brokered a compromise with Walker with the help of a professor. If the student senate passed a resolution calling for the student body president to resign, the student senate could sit on the resignation for 30 days, vote it down, and then Walker would be placated. The student senate then passed the resolution, many senators voting this way only because of the compromise. The student body president then refused to resign.

Walker responded by prohibiting him from exercising his duties as student body president and issued this memo.

Quite the uproar ensued.

In the days that followed, Walker agreed to host a town hall where students could ask him questions about his behavior. I, with many others, attended. I remember asking him, point blank, why Dr. Montgomery (you’ll remember him as the bigamist from the L.A. Times article) could call a student an “inconsiderate wench” in front of his whole class and never have to offer so much as a sorry for it (an incident from sophomore year), but our student body president couldn’t quote a famous preacher. Walker dismissed the comparison. Before the evening was over, he had publicly claimed he had the power to unilaterally remove any student from student government or a campus club, or impose any other penalty listed in the student handbook if, in his belief, the student’s behavior had harmed “the integrity of the college,” a power he also claimed to have in the aforementioned memo.

Looking back, I’m primarily struck by the pettiness of it all.

Here’s a school that claims to be creating the next generation of great Christian leaders, but the administration wastes time and political capital to crack down on the public use of a Tony Campolo quote.

The same administration that ignored a pig’s head on a stake outside my dorm window freshman year thinks that publicly saying “shit” is a danger to the integrity of the school.

Is it any surprise that so many alumni hold Walker and those who support him in so little esteem? Walker and company are so busy policing the minutiae of student conduct, according to a behavioral code that turns the hierarchy of what matters and what doesn’t on its head, that things like protecting students from sexual assault and providing a rigorous liberal arts education get pushed to the side.

I’m pretty sure that by the time I stood up in Nash Auditorium and asked Walker about his double standard, I was already lumped in with the “bitter” upperclassmen. The younger classes wanted us to sit down and shut up, just as the younger students today want the same from PHCs critics. It’s as if they think we want PHC to be a failure, a giant lie.

But I’m not one of the bitter alumni because I revel in cynicism.

I’m a bitter alumna because I watched what happened at PHC day after day for four years and slowly realized that the shiny promise we had all been offered was an illusion.

Part Four >