It will be one year in June since I ventured down the rabbit hole into the dark ages of Christian home-schooling. As a former educator in America’s public schools, I was curious about this new and rapidly growing phenomenon on how to educate the nation’s young. Knowing I was out of touch, having recently returned to my former State of Colorado from working for nearly eighteen years in what Americans refer to as third-world countries as an international development professional, I decided to attend The Christian Home Educators of Colorado Rocky Mountain Super Conference on the Family. Held in Denver, June 14-16, 2012, I joined over 2,000 parents, and teen-agers being home schooled, in the Rocky Mountain state to see what it was all about.
You see, when I grew up and participated in public education, it was actually illegal not to send one’s children to an accredited school—public or private—or to demonstrate that the person providing one’s child with private tutorship was an accredited teacher and a fully accredited curriculum was being taught. If my parents had not sent me to school, they would have had civil charges pressed against them. It was not only illegal to isolate one’s children from a state-accredited education, it was illegal to treat them harshly or through gross neglect, resulting in physicsl or psychological harm. In my small and rural Nebraska community, isolating a child under the age of sixteen from accredited education would have been considered gross neglect. It was termed child abuse and there were agencies that provided protection for children whose parents were breaking those laws.
Having belatedly become aware that home-schooling is now legal by mandate of the SCOTUS, that it is growing annually, and that over seventy percent of the home-schooled are Christian evangelicals, I wanted to see and listen in first-person. I wanted to know who these people are, and hear what they talk about at their annual conference on home-schooling. After all, these young people are America’s future, and America is my country. These home-schooled children and youth will have a resounding voice on future policy and culture: the social, economic, environmental, and political fabric of the country my grandchildren will inhabit.
The opening address to a full auditorium of happy, smiling, and very white faces was delivered by Kevin Swanson, the founder of Christian Home Educators of Colorado. His Internet-posted bio tells this about Mr. Swanson:
“Homeschooled himself in the 1960′s and 70′s, Kevin Swanson and his wife, Brenda, are now homeschooling their five children. Since graduating from his homeschool and then serving as student body president of a large west coast university, he has gone on to other leadership positions in corporate management, church, and other non-profits. Kevin has 35 years of experience in the homeschooling movement and serves as the Director of Generations with Vision – a ministry he founded to strengthen homeschool families around the country. As a father who wants to leave a godly heritage for his own five children, Kevin’s passion is to strengthen and encourage the homeschooling movement all over the world, and to cast a vision for generations to come. For the last 4 years Kevin has hosted a daily radio program – Generations Radio – the world’s largest homeschooling and Biblical worldview program that reaches families across the US and in over 80 countries.”
- Homeschooling Father of Five
- Director: Generations with Vision
- Radio host: Generations
- Executive Director: Christian Home Educators of Colorado
- Author: Upgrade: The Ten Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child
- Author: The Second Mayflower
- Author: Everything You Need to Know About Homeschool Unit Studies
- Author: Family Bible Study Guide: The Psalms 35 years of experience in the homeschooling movement.
An admitted lover of fiction and film, I found the very realistic performance of the dogmatic, righteous, charismatic power over others portrayed by Robert Duvall in The Apostle to be a great performance, though frightening, and yes, depressing. Experiencing Kevin Swanson’s hour-long warm-up of this audience was proof that reality really is stranger and more frightening than fiction. I quickly became Alice in a land of horror as the King of Spades (no Queens allowed on that stage) shrieked in evangelistic style while frenetically gyrating about to punctuate his delivery of hate and intolerance. On a large stage that he used to the maximum, Swanson burst into fire and brimstone at full decibels. No politically correct subtlety: homosexuality and gay marriage were a blasphemous threat to every facet of America. He heralded instilling in young daughters the desire and goal of getting married early and having many children. Not to be left out, males were to be mentored to also marry young and to be strong and dominant fathers in their authoritarian ‘fear-of-God’ households.
From there, he launched into an assault on those prisons called public schools and universities – not even exempting the religious universities where they teach evolution and do mind-control that destroy youth. According to Swanson, “Even though forty-six percent of Americans still believe as Christians, they’re trying to turn us into Europeans where God is dead and they believe they evolved out of a rock.” Interspersed with proclamations that the country is in serious, serious trouble, and it’s up to Christians to do something now, Swanson ranted through his litany: government funding equals (more) mind control; the day-after pill is responsible for five times the increase in killing of our children; America is exporting disgusting pop-culture centered on lesbian’s obscene sexuality; the State of North Dakota is wrong and dumb to the danger of voting to keep property tax intact; and he expressed disgust over the recent conviction of child abuse of a pastor for teaching parents to discipline their children with rods and wooden spoons. In looking that case up later, I learned that the judge in question determined that two-month old babies shouldn’t get whacked with wooden spoons for crying and a pastor who was teaching his flock to do that should be locked away.
Swanson went on to lament: Blacks like this system (of public education) because their children get to go to school for free on (white) Christians’ tax dollars. Did I mention—oh, I think I did—that among this early morning audience of 1,500 to 2,000 happy, smiling faces, nodding and chorusing amen there wasn’t one dark skin-tone in the mix – not one.
More fear-mongering untruths tossed from his pulpit included: Social Security has gone into the red and won’t come out because eighty million babies have been aborted. (A-hem… not Amen… Social Security is not in the red, and it could be argued that unwanted babies would add to our nation’s debt rather than saving Social Security.) Mr. Hair-on-End Swanson ended with twenty minutes on the fundamental problem with our nation being: They (secular schools, the mind-controlling government, those single mothers, and any other secular family not fitting into his model) don’t teach the fear of God! He screamed, and I quote, “The very first thing a child should learn in home-schooling is fear of God – make them to get down on their knees and tremble!”
“Amen,” the happy, smiling woman next to me calls out.
Swanson raved on with, “If you ignore God, you’re going to pay,” citing the earthquake shaking our nation’s capital and Hurricane Katrina as examples of God’s wrath on the sinners. “Children must learn that they’re all hell-deserving sinners, and they’re going to burn in hell if they don’t fear God. They (the public schools) support education that is rotten to the core.” (Those really were his words.) He quotes from the curse of Solomon, then asks, “Don’t you think something is happening with all this homosexuality? In the 1960s only six percent of children were without fathers. Now over forty-two percent are without fathers – don’t you see this is where all this homosexuality and lesbianism is coming from? Conservatives are not going to win elections when we lose our daughters – when our daughters become lesbians!”
Reality check: If you’re finding his logic of how A+B=Carrots for the rabbits as confusing as I did, the audience were nodding and clapping.
According to Swanson, home-schooling is therefore about freedom to educate children as Christian fundamentalist parents see fit—educational curriculum standards be damned, (his words) and it is their Christian army agenda for retaking this godless country—America.
When Swanson’s hour is up, and the audience is properly primed for three days of inspiration and education on how and why to be home educators, Swanson presents a seventeen year-old girl who is going to play the piano. His introduction of Karla is the proud proclamation that she wants to marry soon and have lots of children. Karla smiled beauteously—right out of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Next on the docket is Ken Ham, the founder, President/CEO of Answers in Genesis; the guru of Creationism in Six Days. Having visited his website, I was curious to hear him speak. Although less fire and brimstone than Swanson, I wasn’t disappointed in terms of his outlandish animosity to science and the hot social issues of the day. He began by stating how six-day creation has everything to do with our decadent culture, homosexuality, and gay marriage.
Thinking my hearing was impaired from my fall down the rabbit hole, I’m thinking he really couldn’t have said that. But Ham launched full force into how gay marriage is an issue of authority – authority of God over man; how America was founded as a Christian nation; how in England, the Church is dead, and America is headed that way. He asks, “Who decides what’s right or wrong, and who decides what marriage is?” He then proclaims, “God decides.” Adding, “Sin is the ultimate problem and ‘millions of years’ (or the belief in evolution) is the problem at the core of all sin.” Ham spends the next hour lecturing how the world is 6000 years old, explaining his legendary tracing of lineage through the Bible’s featured characters as documentation, and how the world was created in six days because the Hebrew Old Testament said it was; and a day is a day is a day. The reason we should not question this? According to Ham, “The Bible is the written word of God; if you can’t trust these words, you can’t trust anything.”
Ham ends with how, as per Martin Luther, we do not depart from authority of scripture for the sake of the Elders (or logic – in this case, science). He states that if evolution is a fact, then we have to give up the Bible altogether.
By now, I’m thinking this is not such a bad idea.
Kevin Swanson came back on for the next hour of evangelizing while gyrating—certainly one could not accuse him of the sin of slothfulness. His theme this time was how to recapture our boys into the fear-of-God modality to be fathers in their homes as God designed: dominion for the boys, and subservience for the helpmate girls. His course advocated was constant and continued control – never let those boys stray into the secular world without daily immersion into prayer under the supervision of strong Christian mentors. Oh… and child labor is greatly encouraged as good early lessons in life – books, yes, but less so. Too many books leads to dissipation and computer games on-line which keep boys immature into their thirties, when they should be fathering babies, running their own homes, beating children with wooden spoons, and teaching those babies to be God-fearing, trembling, and obedient servants in the retaking of America.
Leaving the large group sessions in the afternoon for one of the smaller focus sessions, I opted for ‘the Basics of Biblical Principles of Government’ led by Mike Winther, Founder and President of the Institute for Principle Studies (Christian ethics in government and economics whose curriculum is used by homeschool parent educators). In some ways, I found his soft-spoken presentation the most chilling. Based on his hypothesis that ‘the source of anything determines its use’, he cleverly led through discrediting any form of government – oligarchy, monarchy, a republic, or a democracy on the logic that any power that bestows rights has the power to take away those rights. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were manipulated into dangerous tools to restrict and take away rights bestowed within those documents. Why (?): because if they are given by man, they can be taken away by man.
Interspersed within his low-key presentation was that our (American) god is the god of government, or the rule of law. If we evolve biologically, we have to evolve sociologically; e.g., as our courts do in deciding what is right and wrong at a point in time. Therefore, according to Winther, if evolution is true, so is the Darwinian model of survival of the fittest with dominant government ultimately ruling over us. This led to Winther’s key question: ‘if rights come from God, do we vote to over-rule them? The answer is no.’
Winther’s manipulative logic arrived at (you guessed it): we should be governed solely by God’s law. Of course, for any non-Christian fundamentalist who might not want to be shamed, shunted aside, marginalized and dominated over by the Christian fundamentalist version of God’s law these conference leaders were espousing (because they’re female, black or brown, or god-forbid, a homosexual – or merely a secular educated male or female of any race who is quite comfortable with evolution, science, and the rule of law), well . . . God’s law will create a better world order and make you a better person; it’s good for you like castor oil and the whack of a wooden spoon, so just swallow it. (And, as in the days of the Inquisition, if you don’t… well, then you deserve to be imprisoned, tortured, and hung—or burned at the stake.)
As I walked out amongst the smiling faces, many of them youth under the age of eighteen, I decided to skip the last block of sessions of the day. My brain and cellular structure having reached an absorption level of toxic overload, I knew I had to climb out of Alice’s underworld and return to the outside where secular science, and rule of law are still hanging on – if only by a mere thread. For all those who cherish the opportunity to live and evolve in an environment where the freedom of intellectual curiosity and excellence, equality based on equal opportunity—requiring the protection and promotion of rule of law, and yes, government taxation, and tax-supported secular education—regardless of gender, race, religion (or non-religion), or sexual orientation, Christian home-schooling is not only toxic but quite deadly. And from what I’d gleaned from listening to the speakers, it’s abusive to the children they are indoctrinating by force, fear, degradation, and intimidation.
A follow-up Google search showed that statistics on the number of American children being home-schooled is sketchy due to differing State reporting and regulatory requirements and their varying accountability standards for tracking of home-schooled children in regard to each State’s legal requirements. But one fact is indisputable: home-schooling is legal in every State in the Union, thanks in part to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). And according to HSLDA: (based on 2010 census data) and HSLDA’s 2002—2003 numbers of 2.1 million home-schooled children, and using their annual rate of growth of 7 – 15%, (and using a modest average of 10%), by 2010, the number of home schooled children K-12 could be calculated to be four million. This would be 5.7 % of all children at those grade levels in the country.
The primary curriculum being taught to these masses of young people is: 1) total acceptance and belief in the literalism of the Bible, that any form of critical thinking is disbelief and disbelief is a sin and deserving corporeal punishment in the present and eternal punishment by God in the hereafter; 2) that their role in life is rapid reproduction to increase the numbers of the faithful, whom they are also to homeschool; so that 3) within a few short decades, the numbers in this army for God will be able to take over the country, destroy any remaining barriers between Church and State, and transform the United States of America into a country where God’s law is the rightful law of the land. They’re already doing it quite successfully—the Red States’ laws destroying women’s reproductive rights is one example, as is the law of the land allowing children to be homeschooled with literally no curriculum accountability.
There are those who lament how the country has changed and our societal morals have degraded. I would have to agree and add that I yearn for the days when it was illegal to not educate your children in an accredited school—public or private. I would argue that teaching children fear, and that they are born sinners deserving of punishment, is a form of child abuse and should again be punishable by law.
I recently received my mailer reminding me of this year’s 2013 conference. I marked June 13-15 on my calendar.