This Washington Post article about the homeschooling culture in America is a real eye-opener. It reveals generations of families living an explicit blueprint for furtherance of a patriarchal, backward, religious culture. I didn’t realize the homeschool culture had these roots, though I recognize a lot of the brainwashing they put their children through.
This story of Aaron and Christina and how they lost faith in the all-or-nothing patriarchal system is uplifting and scary. For every couple like them, there are probably dozens who don’t escape the brainwashing. And it all started because they questioned the dogma of punishment – they just didn’t think they could beat their children the way they had been beaten. From the article:
Now, on the threshold of parenthood — Christina would become pregnant within two weeks of their wedding on Sept. 29, 2012 — the couple’s reservations about “chastisement” could no longer be ignored. As a wedding gift, they said, Aaron’s brother and sister-in-law had given them “To Train Up a Child,” by the popular Christian home-schooling authors Michael and Debi Pearl.
The Pearls advocate hitting children with tree branches, belts and other “instruments of love” to instill obedience, and recommend that toddlers who take slowly to potty training be washed outdoors with cold water from a garden hose. Their book advocates “training sessions” in which infants, as soon as they are old enough to crawl, are placed near a desired object and repeatedly struck with a switch if they disobey commands not to touch it.
The Pearls have defended their methods, saying they are not meant to encourage brutality and, when properly applied, reduce the frequency with which parents must later discipline their kids.
Aaron and Christina did not follow the Pearls’ advice when their first child, Ezra, was born. Nor did they take on authoritarian roles with their second, Aimee, or third, Oliver. All were home-schooled, albeit in less isolation than their parents: Christina joined co-ops with other Christian mothers in Northern Virginia.
“When it came time for me to hit my kids, that was the first independent thought I remember having: ‘This can’t be right. I think I’ll just skip this part.’”— Aaron Beall
After that first independent thought, they began to question other parts of the rigid dogma. They’ve ended up happy and still religious, just not on the same closed-minded track as their parents.
For me that first independent thought was the realization that I had been taught that most of humanity, currently and all throughout the past, would be consigned to burn in hell forever because they didn’t explicitly “accept Jesus”. Even if they had never heard the name. I questioned that with my pastor, who told me that my college education (I was a freshman) was eroding my faith and that I should take care, lest I join those unfortunates in hell. I just couldn’t accept that – it’s an evil, crazy notion – and from that beginning I questioned everything about religion.
This article really spoke to me. I got a strong dose of religious dogma three times a week (Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening) for at least 15 years. Plus the dreaded revivals, taking us to long shouty church services every night for a solid week. I know my parents meant well, but when I look back at those thousands of hours (average 5 hours/week x 52 weeks x 15 years = 3900 hours, as a low estimate) spent in useless religion propaganda sessions, I’m sad for that part of my past. So much could have been accomplished with that time.