Change The World With Love, Not A Battle Axe: Alaina Gillogly’s Story

Homeschoolers U

College has taught me a lot about life. I’ve learned that people can be who you think they are or completely different. That it’s possible to pick a bone with anybody.  That one of the greatest joys comes from making a new friend. That decisions have consequences, even if you’d like to believe differently. That it hurts more than you’d imagine to have a bad reputation. That there’s a greater plan, even if you can’t see it.

But more than anything, I’ve learned that finding out who you are is a process.

You don’t just wake up one day and realize, “Yep, I think I’m finally the person I was always meant to be.” (Or if you do, I still have yet to). No, I began finding out who I really was by realizing first who I wasn’t.

That all started at Patrick Henry College.

Now, it’s not my intention to sound cynical, because my story is just that: a story. These are my experiences, the bad and the good. This isn’t a tale of a girl who was smothered by her parents or harassed or anything dramatic like that. But, even though I attended PHC for one year and transferred over a year ago, the experiences I had there are still fresh in my mind. They aren’t as extreme as other students’, but they are mine nonetheless. Some experiences were inspirational, edifying, and encouraging, but many left me bitter, angry, and confused.

It took every day of my time away from PHC to realize and accept that my time there made me stronger. 

When I started my freshman year, I thought I was a pretty typical PHC student: pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-Reagan, pro-Bible, etc. I was 17 and a recent homeschooled high school grad. Granted, I was (and probably still am) more liberal than most of my former classmates. (For example, I don’t believe it’s immodest for a girl to wear shorts or show her belly. I don’t think it’s wrong to have gay friends, listen to non-Christian music, or date). However, I was sure that little differences in opinion wouldn’t affect my experience greatly. After all, I’d taken several AP classes and attended two teen camps without any problem. I was beyond excited for college and sure that PHC was the school for me. From my impressions, PHC was a big, united, Christian family. It would be a great place to grow academically and spiritually, meet other solid Christians, and learn how to change the culture for Christ. So, I assembled and packed up my new business casual wardrobe and set out for an exceptional college experience.

The first several weeks were just as I had pictured them. Even though my parents and I had fought most of my high school years, the distance helped and we talked regularly. My boyfriend at home of four months and I were confident in our ability to endure the distance. All of us students were starting on a level playing field; everybody seemed to like everybody, nobody was “better” than anybody. That was normal, how college was supposed to be.

Then the glow began to fade.

Classes were still top-notch, but I began getting dress-coded at least three times a week. For those of you who don’t know, PHC students are required to wear business casual attire to class and in buildings between 8am-5pm (approximately). I used a tape measure (and my mom) to make sure I was within the guidelines, so I was positive I wouldn’t have any problems. But almost every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after chapel or in the dining hall, my RA would receive a text from someone who thought I needed to change. It didn’t matter if I was in the middle of lunch or in front of the dining hall; I had to go to my room and change immediately. I had no idea who was watching me and determining that I needed to change. It made me extremely self-conscious and defensive, knowing that people were looking for flaws in my attire and never knowing who it was.

I was discouraged and irritated that people were paying more attention to what I was wearing than where I was: at chapel. 

Apparently expecting the person who had an issue to come talk to me personally was too much to ask. As a result, I did my best to avoid anyone who could possibly dress code me, and stuck to wearing flats instead of heels (unless my skirt was below my knees, I would consistently get dress-coded if I wore heels). And adding to my ire was the more questionable (relative to PHC) outfits of the upperclassmen that flew without a hitch.

Even after a few weeks, I was already seen as one of the more liberal, rebel crowd. Maybe it had something to do with my friend group that consisted of girls and guys. Maybe because I wore makeup and skinny jeans. Maybe because I wasn’t worried about sitting beside a guy in chapel. Someone else said it was because the group I hung out with consisted only of the “attractive” freshman. Flattering, but is appearance all a person’s reputation consists of? All I know is that I didn’t get to know very many people before I was grouped into a crowd.

The biggest thing that happened to me occurred when I stayed out once all night. Now, there were a lot of rumors as to what happened, but here’s the truth. My boyfriend of then six months drove down to see me for the first time in two months and we were planning on spending the weekend touring nearby Leesburg, going out to eat, and just have some face-to-face time. Nothing more, nothing less. The first night he was down, we went to where he was staying (since he couldn’t stay on campus), and fell asleep watching a movie. When I woke up at 3:30 a.m., I knew I had already missed curfew and was going to be in trouble if I came back then. So, I messaged my roommates and went back to sleep.

The next morning, I went back to campus to freshen up. Several of my roommates were upset I had stayed out without permission (in order to stay out overnight, you have to be cleared by your RA as well as the RD), and one apparently was appalled because she went to Student Life that evening. She didn’t come to me first, didn’t ask me what happened. Once I found out what she did, I asked her privately why she didn’t talk to me first.

She said she didn’t see the point, because “what was done in the dark should be brought into the light.”

To be completely honest, I think it had a lot to do with my already “rebel” reputation.

Student Life immediately requested I come to the office the following day at 1 p.m. (I guess it wasn’t possible to ask what time worked well for me; I had to be told). I went, and the dean immediately began raining questions down. Knowing it would cause only trouble to mention my boyfriend, I told them I fell asleep off campus with a good friend. When the barrage continued with extremely personal (and outside of PHC, inappropriate) questions, I politely asked if I could keep the details of the experience to myself; if they needed to “punish me” for staying out, they could.

Instead, they called my home phone and left a message on the answering machine, something to the extent of “your daughter is in the office, please call us back as soon as possible.” Then they phoned my mom and listened to the conversation while mouthing the words I was supposed to tell her. When I didn’t comply, they sent an email to my parents and told them I was being difficult and rebellious (I never saw the email, so those are my words, not theirs). After being in the office for over an hour and a half, they told me to come back the following day after they had determined my punishment. I was on the verge of tears and scared of Student Life and my parents, who were extremely upset and threatened to stop helping me pay for my tuition. I have never felt as scared, hopeless, and stressed as I did then. In the end, I was no longer allowed to stay out past 11 p.m. or stay overnight without parental permission.

I was 18.

If that wasn’t enough to deal with along with finals, whoever reported me to Student Life told all her friends who in turn told their friends. In a few days, the campus was abuzz with how badly I had messed up. The roommate who had reported me was praying for “Jesus to save my soul.” Apparently making a mistake condemned me to hell. I got so many condescending stares and cold shoulders–I have not felt that isolated in my life. Some people wouldn’t acknowledge me, others would gossip behind my back.  That didn’t change much for the rest of my time there; I was a “sinner” and didn’t measure up. 

It made me wonder how these people could demonstrate the love of God to the world when they couldn’t even manage to speak to a fellow Christian.

Now, I am not writing any of this to defend myself; I know I broke a PHC rule I had agreed to follow. That was wrong, and I am not complaining about getting caught or punished. I know what it looks like for a girl and guy to be alone all night. It hadn’t even occurred to me I could be a “stumbling block” to nonbelievers, because I truly wasn’t planning on falling asleep or staying out all night. It was an accident and I wholeheartedly accept the blame. Maybe I could have handled the situation differently somehow. But all that aside, I am writing because I see the real problem with this situation was how Student Life and the student body handled it. I felt like my pre-existing reputation as a worldly, liberal student is what turned something small (in the real world) into such a riot. What happened to forgiveness?

No one believed I had simply fallen asleep once they heard I was out all night with a man. No one seemed to understand I had been with a person I love, trust, and who would keep me safe (and who I am currently still dating). I wasn’t doing drugs, sleeping around, committing a crime, drinking (or drinking and driving), nor was I being reckless. I simply fell asleep.

Worse things than that occur on campus and are neatly swept under the rug.

Couples who dated inside PHC stayed off campus frequently together without a hitch. But I wasn’t dating someone from PHC. So, because I was not following the cookie-cutter courtship path most people followed (finding someone at PHC, getting engaged, then getting married), it was a problem.

My “sinner” label didn’t change for the rest of my time at PHC. But once the spring semester started, I decided I was done worrying about what everyone thought of me.  Call me a rebel, I really don’t care anymore, was my most frequent thought. I did my best to follow dress-code and the other rules and immersed myself in my studies. That semester, my biggest source of stress was the drama.

Oh, the drama. It was like being in junior high school again. It was about who likes who, who said what, who would invite who to the next dance, who was cool, who wasn’t. I couldn’t handle the immaturity of it. I graduated high school to have deep conversations, not speculate about whether Tom likes Jane. More than anything, I didn’t want my personal thoughts repeated to everyone else (which had happened multiple times). So, except for one or two close friends, I distanced myself from those around me. I was lonely, but I didn’t know how else to keep sanity and privacy in a place where everyone wants to know everything about everybody.

Most of what I have said so far has been negative. That is because almost all my strongest memories of PHC are negative. I cried more in that 9 months than I ever have before. I was stressed out, depressed that PHC wasn’t the place I thought it would be, and worried about my credits transferring (I should have known they wouldn’t). I’ve only had two breakdowns in my life, but both happened during those months.

But all that aside, my experience turned out to be invaluable. Remember what I said about PHC showing me who I wasn’t?

I realized that I wasn’t the stereotypical, homeschooled girl I thought.

From seeing what I disliked, realized I valued loyalty, trust, honesty, and acceptance more than I thought. As a result, I try to embody those things more than I would have. I realized that I wanted a college where I can grow, not somewhere I have to tread fearfully. It should be somewhere I can make my own choices, not somewhere they are made for me. That knowledge, coupled with the other things I learned about myself, gave me a lot of confidence. Now, I am at a state university and 100 percent free to be me. It’s a liberating feeling.

And I haven’t said anything about the classes. They were phenomenal. To date, they are the best, the hardest, and the most rewarding classes I have taken. The professors cared wholeheartedly about the students and inspired me with their wisdom. My journalism and U.S. history professors were willing to talk about anything and consistently gave great advice. Two thumbs up for the academic departments.

But the greatest thing PHC gave me is my confidence in my faith. By observing both abrasive and loving Christians, I started seeing what it takes to be a strong, but likable Christian. (Note: Mat. 10:22 is obviously still valid, but that doesn’t mean we should try and antagonize the world into hating us). As a result, I have been able to express my faith in a secular environment without fear. I learned what intolerance looks like, so I try to be tolerant. I know what condescension feels like, so I try to be humble. I know what it’s like to be labeled as a “sinner” and it hurts. 

Instead of changing the world with the battle axe some PHC students wielded, I found that simply loving without judging, caring without condescending, can be the most effective. 

(Note: That’s not to say Christians should love the sins of others, but let a perfect God be the judge, not a fallible human).

Unlike some, my time at PHC did not draw me away from God; instead, the troubles I encountered made me learn so much more about Him, and consequently myself. However, please don’t attend a Christian school so that problems with other Christians make you closer to God. Go somewhere Christians stick together and grow together, where you are fighting a common enemy: sin, not someone else.

The Reluctant Rebel: Gemma’s Story, Part Four

Homeschoolers U

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

< Part Three

Part Four: Junior Year

I started my junior year with a panic attack as my mom and I drove back onto campus.

Of course, I had no idea what I was experiencing at the time—the overwhelming sense of dread or drowning, my heart beating wildly, fighting the sudden urge to flee the car, the campus, the world… By the time we parked, I had composed myself enough to articulate something like “I don’t want to be here anymore” to my concerned mother. Terrified and on the verge of tears, I gritted my teeth, got out of the car, and resumed life as usual.

It was the worst semester yet.

Dean Wilson and the Office of Student Life had retaliated to the loosening of certain rules the previous year by revising the rule book, especially the dress code and the music and movies standards.

The dress code at PHC had always been two-pronged. During normal business hours, students were required to dress in “business casual” outside of their dorms. One purpose of the dress code was to describe the rules for this professional dress code. The other purpose of the dress code was to maintain modesty standards. The burden of this second prong of the dress code fell primarily upon the women (though men sometimes got in trouble for “rebellious” hair styles and such).

This particular edition of the rulebook had revised the dress code for women on both counts. It clarified certain aspects of the professional, business-casual standards in such a way as to exclude certain modest, but patently unprofessional looks, like denim jumpers. It also re-worded the modesty code in a rather confusing way. There was outrage from the students on both counts. Apparently, some of the more conservative students were upset because they literally did not have enough clothes left to dress themselves according to the professional standard. (I happened to be in favor of the professionalization of the women’s dress code.) This half of the new rules was almost immediately rescinded.

The backlash over the modesty rules, however, prompted a women’s-only chapel to explain and clarify. In this chapel, the female students were informed that the modesty standards were worded in such a way as to give a positive impression to outside inquirers and prospective students. We current students, however, should understand that we needed to hold ourselves to a “higher standard.” This higher standard, apparently, was a little too “high” to codify in the actual rulebook, lest outsiders or prospective students think us too restrictive. Their solution to this dilemma was to install a volunteer “dean of women,” the wife of a member of the college’s Board of Trustees, who could help us with our wardrobes and decide for us what was appropriate, and what was not.

I do not mean this story in any way to besmirch this woman or her family. She was a kind, fair, and well-intentioned person. Most of us women were happy to have a sympathetic female authority figure on campus to talk to, and not just about our wardrobes.

But I want to emphasize the absurdity of a dress code written so vaguely and arcanely that this kind, patient woman had to come to our dorm rooms and endure hours of “fashion show” by exasperated and cynical female students, and to decide (often to our disappointment) which items of our clothing passed her test and which did not.

The movie standards had been updated in response to the advent of laptop computers with DVD players in them. When the college began in 2000, students mostly watched movies in communal lounges, on college-provided televisions equipped with censoring devices for bad language. There may have been explicit standards for movie content—I don’t remember—but the fact that movies had to be watched in public, and that random people routinely walked through the lounges at any time of day or night, meant that most people self-censored effectively.

But once students could watch movies on their laptops in the privacy of their own dorm room, the administration saw a need for explicit rules governing content. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember they were strict enough to exclude Braveheart, and indeed, Braveheart was even mentioned specifically as an example of a movie that failed to meet the content standards.

I will leave you to ponder the irony of a campus full of homeschool graduates forbidden from watching Braveheart.

I don’t remember the details of the music rules either, but it was around this time that iTunes introduced the ability to share music libraries across a shared network. The entire campus was a single network, so suddenly we all had access to each other’s music libraries. This was fantastic for those of us who were audiophiles. Apparently, it was also a great opportunity for pharisaical students to go spying. Most people with potentially offensive music had the good sense either to hide their libraries from the network or, at least, to give them anonymous names. This didn’t stop the pharisees from sending out pompous all-student emails expressing their shock and horror over, for instance, the vaudevillian gruesomeness of Decemberist songs they had stumbled upon over the network. Would Jesus listen to music like this?? As with most other things, the message—explicitly or implicitly—was that those of us who enjoyed such music were insufficiently Christian.

This all took place in the first couple of weeks or so.

The rest of the semester went by in a blur of exhaustion, depression, emotional breakdowns, and 6-8 hours a day translating Greek. I was also taking two courses from a psychopathological Sovietologist who dressed (and thought and taught) like it was still 1985. She trimmed her nails into little triangles, like bird claws, and tapped them ominously on the table during class. On the first day of class, she described how she once woke a student sleeping in her class by slamming a heavy textbook onto the table next to his head.   She held her classes at 8am on purpose, because she knew we were all exhausted and she wanted to… I’m not sure what she wanted, actually.

But she seemed to enjoy torturing her students.

She deliberately withheld information from me that thwarted my ability to make good grades in her class, and then blamed me for not knowing what she decided not to tell me. She called me into her office on various pretexts, only to berate me to the point of tears over my grades. Then, after ruining my chances in her classes, she refused to sign off on my application for a study-abroad opportunity, telling me that, as far as she was concerned, I “had no future in academia.”

I decided to transfer. Up until this point, at least the wonderful professors and classes had been worth enduring all the BS from student life. Now, I had nothing going for me. My panic attacks and emotional breakdowns continued with growing intensity. I couldn’t take it anymore.

But I wanted to transfer to another private, liberal arts school nearby, so I could stay in touch with my friends. My parents didn’t want to pay for that out of pocket, and there was very little scholarship money available for transferees from non-accredited institutions. My only other choices were to attend a state school back home, or find a way to make PHC work.

It was a choice that just didn’t feel like much of a choice. I stayed.

I switched majors to get away from the Soviet psychopath, and moved off campus to get away from the culture and give myself some space to breathe. These changes made life tolerable, for a while.

I don’t want to imply that we never had a good time at school. My friends and I enjoyed some amazing times together and grew so close I couldn’t imagine life without them (a decade later, I still can’t). It’s just that most of the things we enjoyed doing, even if they weren’t technically against the rules, would have been “disapproved” of by the campus monitors.

For example, we all loved music and movies. It was hard to take the new campus media rules as anything but a personal attack. So we took our activities off campus. We watched forbidden movies in various students’ off-campus housing. We went to indie rock shows at the Black Cat and other clubs in the city, losing ourselves in the anonymity of the crowd, away from the eyes of the watchers, pretending to be normal for an hour or two. We wore our hand-stamps to class the next day like a secret sign.

The media was more than just illicit entertainment; it helped us process our experiences and emotions. The lyrics of longing, loss, and defiance by bands like the Mountain Goats and Neutral Milk Hotel became our mantras.

I am gonna make it through this year

If it kills me.

                        – The Mountain Goats

Now we must pack up every piece

Of the life we used to love

Just to keep ourselves

At least enough to carry on

                        – Neutral Milk Hotel

Needless to say, all of us still professed Christianity—a requirement for our continued enrollment, at the least. But the legalism, religious bullying, and anti-intellectualism we encountered at PHC had pushed us away from the evangelicalism of our youth and sent us in search of other expressions of our faith. Most of us found our way into liturgical traditions. Near the end of my junior year, a younger journalism major approached me and a group of my friends about a story he wanted to write. He had noticed a correlation between students like us, who had a deep academic interest in philosophy, history, or literature, and attendance at liturgical churches. He asked us our opinion about that connection, and why we chose to attend Episcopal or Presbyterian churches rather than the evangelical churches that most PHC students went to. He assured us that his story was only for a class assignment, not for publication. We believed him and answered candidly.

His story was published in the campus newspaper. The administration went ballistic.

We were scolded, mocked, accused from on high with the same old charges: snobbery, intellectual elitism, and the unsubtle implication that we were deficient Christians at best, and more likely wolves in sheep’s clothing. The local Presbyterian pastor and Episcopal priest were temporarily banned from campus. Fellow students began making snide comments about “popery” and “vain tradition” in the lunchroom or in class. The author of the article tried to defend himself, and us, and the whole thing blew over by the next fall, but it was one more nail in the coffin. No matter how I tried, I would never be good enough for these people.

Most of my friends graduated that year. Being the “intellectual elitists” that we were, they scattered to various graduate programs across the country. Only a couple remained in DC. But we all stayed in touch, emailing or chatting weekly if not daily.

That summer, I stayed in DC and interned for the federal government. At this point, the physical symptoms of the pressure I was under became undeniable and troublesome. I was exhausted. I would commute to and from work with my boss, and despite my best efforts, I would fall asleep in the car. Sometimes I would fall asleep while he was talking to me. Sometimes I would fall asleep at my desk. Most days, I would get home from work, eat something, and go straight to bed. I was always cold and could never seem to get warm. My hair fell out in handfuls. Everything felt like it was spinning out of control. I stopped doing things I enjoyed in my free time because I didn’t feel strong enough, or energetic enough, or happy enough to enjoy them.

That drowning, panicking feeling was with me daily now.

I turned 21 that summer and celebrated like most 21-year-olds would. But it was hard to enjoy it. Technically, because I was in the DC area and my internship was for credit, I was still subject to the PHC rulebook. My birthday celebration was definitely against the rules. And it’s hard to enjoy normal things like that when there’s always the possibility, no matter how remote, that some talebearer might have gotten lost in Adam’s Morgan that night and seen you walk out of a bar.

Part Five >

Christian Homeschool Dads Lust After 17-Year-Old Girl, Get Her Kicked Out of Prom

Clare on the way to homeschool prom. Photo source:
Clare on the way to homeschool prom. Photo source:

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

A 17-year-old homeschool girl, wearing code-appropriate clothing to her homeschool prom, got slut-shamed and kicked out because some middle-aged homeschool dads couldn’t stop ogling her from a balcony.

Hännah Ettinger at Wine and Marble reports today that her sister Clare was recently attending the Richmond Homeschool Prom. The prom has a specific dress code, which you can view here (click image for full-size version):

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 9


Clare was excited for this evening. She searched over 6 stores for the perfect dress, eventually finding it at Macy’s. She spent her own money on the dress — money she had been saving up from tip money from work. Not only was it “gorgeous, silver, and sparkly,” it was carefully vetted: “Like a good little homeschooler,” Clare writes, “I made sure that the dress was fingertip length on me; I even tried it on with my shoes, just to be sure.”

Unfortunately for Clare, the night of her much-anticipated homeschool prom didn’t go as planned. She didn’t expect — and understandably so! — that there would be “dads on the balcony above the dance floor, ogling and talking amongst themselves.” These dads were ogling to the point that Clare and her friends felt “grossed out.”

As it turns out, these dads couldn’t be bothered to exercise self-control to keep their eyes and minds off of Clare’s 17-year-old homeschool body. They told one of the prom assistants that Clare’s “dancing was too provocative,” even though Clare hadn’t been dancing, and that she “was going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts.” The prom assistant then tried to make a different excuse, saying Clare’s outfit wasn’t up to dress code — even though Clare immediately proved it was. After being challenged, the prom assistant called security and refused to let Clare speak to a higher-up.

Security then kicked Clare and her friends out of their own prom, and all because — as Clare puts it — “I was told that the way I dressed and moved my body was causing men to think inappropriately about me, implying that it is my responsibility to control other people’s thoughts and drives.”

Clare’s closing remarks are spot-on:

“Enough with the slut shaming. Please. Goddamn I’m not responsible for some perverted 45 year old dad lusting after me because I have a sparkly dress on and a big ass for a teenager. And if you think I am, then maybe you’re part of the problem.”

Be sure to read Clare’s entire post at Wine and Marble here.

Also: visit Richmond Homeschool Prom’s Facebook page here. Tell them that, maybe next they should be more concerned about grown men creeping on underage homeschool girls than homeschool girls just trying to enjoy their hard-earned prom celebration.

UPDATE, 7:45 pm Pacific Time:

The Richmond Homeschool Prom’s Facebook page has deleted a bunch of comments from people protesting their treatment of Clare. Here are two pages of comments they deleted.

UPDATE, 8:45 pm Pacific Time:

The Richmond Homeschool Prom appears to have deleted their Facebook page entirely.

UPDATE, May 13, 1:25 pm Pacific Time:

Hännah Ettinger has posted an update on Clare on Wine and Marble. View it here.

Teenagers Taking Over the World: Kierstyn King’s Thoughts

Teenagers Taking Over the World: Kierstyn King’s Thoughts

Kierstyn King blogs at Bridging the Gap.

NCFCA and TeenPact were ideologically very similar to me — in some ways, almost extensions of each other. That could be because I was in NCFCA before TeenPact and a lot of the things I learned in NCFCA, TeenPact also tried to teach and hone.

I was 13 when I started NCFCA, and I stopped shortly after I was 15. I was in a debate club in SW FL (region 8!) and I never made it out of the preliminaries. I participated in persuasive, extemporaneous, oratorical, and occasionally impromptu speech, and Team Policy debate. My team was one of the few girl/girl teams.

Because I never got far, I didn’t experience as much craziness from mothers in other clubs. I remember ballots that had me in tears – one tournament I did an oratorical speech, which was Patrick Henry’s speech, and one of the judges wrote down (among other things) that my voice was too girly (because the ankle length skirt didn’t give it away?). This bothered me because it was like the judge wasn’t even listening, and wrote down something that I could not modify or fix, that was completely ridiculous and missing the point.

I had a lot of notes about my performance as opposed to content, though I don’t have any of my ballots to go back to. I remember being frustrated with most of them, because they were so unhelpful and had nothing to do with being a better debater, just, looking or preforming better. There were so many useless comments that I think actually a lot of us stopped reading them. Helpful commentary was so rare that when I found one, I was thrilled. Actually, I think I put it somewhere special at the time.

I wore clothes that were too big, too old, and I felt like a dark little blob in order to maintain professionalism and adhere to the dress code. I always wore skirts because it was easier that way, and because my clothes were larger than they needed to be, I flew under the radar for mothers enforcing dress codes.

There were rumors about why my partner and I didn’t make it to regionals one year: like maybe the judges voted for the boy/boy team because they were boys even though we had done better. I don’t know if it’s founded (though I wouldn’t be surprised) because my parents and the other parents didn’t get along (and my parents like to make things up).

I loved meeting people at NCFCA, and learning how to argue without feeling personally affronted, or personally offending other people. I learned how to think there, and my club itself, was fantastic. After my parents split the club, I was still able to maintain friendships and I realized that this is how life should work. I learned to value tact.

My parents made my experience in NCFCA horrible. They “learned” how to debate, held real life to NCFCA rules and decided that they disagreed with how the other parents were running the club and essentially split it in half. It was miserable as parents pitted against parents and all of us kids were stuck in the middle, powerless.

The club my parents started, was the club that holds the most similarities to TeenPact. Because, it was in the club my parents made, where gender roles were enforced. I “co-lead” the debate team/club with one of the boys. I had to essentially go along with whatever he wanted and let him make all the calls even though he was less motivated. My parents went to great lengths to insure “male headship”. Much like the girl talks at TeenPact.

They had extremely conservative by-laws. Girls who were more liberal, though never directly stated, were seen as trouble – which I think is why they made sure that only the girls they trusted were in leadership positions with/under boys. In hopes that the more liberal girls would follow the example and become less “loud”.

My mom taught (under male authority) in a very…task-master-like way (she made any speech and debate event/meeting miserable, even in the old club – it became so bad my first year that I told her dad needed to pick me up instead, because he wouldn’t berate me the entire way home). When she was starting the new club she essentially told me that I wasn’t good enough, that I was failing, and she was going to fix it (because she obviously wasn’t being hard enough on me?).

After a summer full of her “training” (which felt more like bootcamp) she started teaching the club itself, in a very similar way: very critical, and perfectionistic. I don’t know how the other parents felt, I think that the best thing my parents did for that club was move 3 months after they founded it.

In November, we moved to Atlanta-ish, and I joined a club close to me. I met my first best friend there, and was involved for the rest of the season – I was almost 15. When the season ended in the spring (when I was 15) my parents took me aside and told me “you’re not getting better at this, you’re not going anywhere, it’s obvious that this isn’t meant for you.” I was devastated, because this cut off my only social outlet in a place that I hated living. Which is besides the point, but it hurt so much that I feel it’s worth mentioning.

Really, the biggest comparisons that can be made between NCFCA and TeenPact are that their goals and values are the same. Their goal is to create thinkers to think the way they want them to think. They lure parents like mine, to indoctrinate people to think the way they want them to think. They want to create articulate teenagers to take over the world, they want simultaneously, for women to learn that their place is under men, and never above. That women need to hide their shape, still, and yet remain professional – in their skirts, unless you’re just doing speech, then slacks are permitted. But if you’re taking on (potentially) men in debate? Skirts-only for you, missy! I think this is a subtle way of enforcing the women-are-less idea that pervades so much of this subculture.

The thing that neither of these organizations count on, is their former students actually doing what they were taught to do – think for themselves.

TeenPacters Speak Up: Part Seven, It’s All About Standards

TeenPacters Speak Up: A Series by Between Black and White

HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Between Black and White. Part Seven was originally published on May 23, 2013.


Part Seven: It’s All About Standards, by Alessandra

As a national organisation, TeenPact felt it necessary to maintain certain public standards. Whether their slogan was “Turning Students Into Statesmen” or “Changing Lives to Change the World,” one of the end goals of these standards was to set TeenPacters apart from the rest of the world. What they failed to grasp, however, was the concept of equality in standards across the board.

In addition to their routine at the statehouse, TeenPact turned its attention toward the courtroom with its alumni class, TeenPact Judicial. Associated previously with Regent University and Alliance Defense Fund, it now opens its doors at Liberty University. I attended the program – geared toward educating teens about the legal system in a “law school boot camp” style – twice, whilst it was divided into East and West. I first attended TPJ East at Regent, and the following year I attended TPJ West with the ADF.

The concept of “TPA” prevailed at each, but also brought with it new and different standards, with no clear explanations. Take the dress code: professional dress was required for the state classes, and pants or slacks, even as part of a suit, were expressly prohibited for the ladies. At Judicial, however, pantsuits and dress slacks were considered perfectly acceptable attire. I even asked a staffer about this during my first Judicial experience, and was told that “[T]hese were the rules.” No further explanation was offered, and when I attempted to press the issue, I was rewarded with the cold shoulder.

The response provoked questions and doubts as I attended my state class afterward, and had to give up the pants in the name of professional dress.  Even at fifteen, I could not grasp how TeenPact reconciled itself between one standard and another. With the answers I received to my questions, I doubted whether TeenPact knew how to reconcile the differences. Curiosity begs the questions of how and why such a discrepancy occurred, and was allowed to continue. Even so, the dress code was not the only area claiming a double standard.

My second trip to TeenPact Judicial, this time in Arizona, proved more difficult. TeenPact itself almost didn’t let me attend that class, as the boy I was courting at the time was also going to attend. TeenPact was fond of talking about how they loved SR’s – Special Relationships (what they called courtship or dating) – but how they did not want or allow “purple” at events. Pink and blue – girls and boys – were acceptable, but could not mix. To ensure that all acted in accordance with TPA standards, guys and girls had to be in groups in order to associate with one another. I found this problematic at every event I attended, simply because I got along better with the men.

Certain people at events such as National Convention were able to get away with breaking those rules, at least to the untrained eye. Those of us on a lower totem in the TeenPact hierarchy were required to ensure that we had at least three or four people in our group, and never an even split of guys and girls. One did not need to be in a relationship – or even heading in that direction – to risk the scrutiny of the TeenPact staff. As for anyone who was in a relationship, TeenPact always knew about it, and increased their observation of the couple in question whilst at events.

In my case, it took several conversations with a variety of staff members, including a couple we already knew, and multiple promises that we would not act like we were in an SR for the entirety of the event, in order for them to relent and allow me to go. Once there, I spent the entire week being watched like a hawk. For several meals, I refused to eat at the same table as he, lest I get into trouble. Yet, in between all the sessions on legal matters, the staff pounded the idea that all godly men and women should marry and have babies to save the nation.

Looking back, I wonder at what we were supposed to take away. SRs had no place in TeenPact, aside from Mr. Echols – the founder – telling us he was happy to officiate our weddings, but, in the meantime, any semblance of “purple” was not considered TPA. After this talk, usually from the program director of whichever event, the group would be divided by sex. The girls were told how it was their fault if the boys stumbled and lusted after them. Whispers told us those who pushed the line were in need of a change of heart and lots of prayer. We were brought back together and learned how it was important to go forth and multiply.

After all, if we all trusted God to choose the size of our families, we would soon overrun the liberals by sheer numbers. We would, of course, send our children to TeenPact, as well, and then they, too, would follow in our footsteps. Taking back America was well within our grasp. It was practically sinful to turn your back on it.

Whether it concerned how a woman clothed the lower portion of her body, or what she did with the lower portion of her body, TeenPact was fond of making rules. Despite their reassurances that they were put in place to protect us, and inspire us to a godlier standard of living, those creating the rules couldn’t seem to agree on what exactly that standard was. In the end, it didn’t matter what you did or what you wore, as long as a staffer slapped “TPA” across it.

To be continued.