Pawns in the culture war

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes – Morpheus, The Matrix

In the few days since I wrote my post about what I strongly suspect is HSLDA’s litigation strategy to make homeschooling a fundamental right with no restrictions, not even for abusers, people have been doing some digging and have found information that quite frankly, is incredibly disturbing.

In a nutshell, in 2009 an all male group of homeschool leaders met for a summit at one of Bill Gothard’s ATI training centers to discuss the future of homeschooling. Included among the big names present were Doug Phillips of Vision Forum (and former HSLDA attorney), Brian Ray of NHERI, and Christopher Klicka of HSLDA. Among the topics discussed was a call to abolish child protective services and plans were outlined about how they would go about instituting a Christian theocracy with homeschoolers paving the way. Heather at Becoming Worldly and R.L. Stollar at Homeschooler’s Anonymous both have extremely long and extremely informative posts laying out what exactly happened at the summit, I think it’s important to go read both posts. While I’ve long suspected that there was an agenda based on the bits and pieces of memories I have from things I read and heard from various homeschooling leaders over the years, seeing the road map laid out was chilling.

I’ve snarked about the irony of HSLDA setting me on the path to where I am today by getting me interested in law, I’ve imagined how different my life would have been if I’d been accepted to the HSLDA intern program, I’ve written about HSLDA ignoring child abuse, and I’ve laid out my theory about HSLDA’s litigation strategy, but seeing Doug Phillip’s words presented in black and white in Heather’s post yesterday morning has thrown me for a loop. I’ve suspected for years that the self-appointed leaders in the homeschool movement were using us, but as long as it was just a suspicion I could shove it to the back of my brain and write it off as the conspiracy theory of an over-active imagination. I can’t do that any more, the proof is there.

I feel sick. I feel angry. And even more than that, I feel used.

My siblings and I were the successful homeschoolers. The ones that other parents could point to as the example that homeschooling could work. Other people started homeschooling because of us. My parents directed people to groups like HSLDA as a resource, never knowing that there was a broader agenda. Heck, I directed people to HSLDA. I wasn’t a debater, and I never had anything to do with Joshua Generation, but in my very existence as a successful homeschooler I helped sell homeschooling to other people. 

My very efforts to be normal showed people that homeschoolers didn’t have to be poorly socialized weirdos. People who then got sucked into the system and ended up buying into the messages that I hadn’t bought into and hurting their kids as a result. 

I took NHERI’s (poorly designed, self-selected) survey about homeschool graduates, and in answering truthfully about my positive experience, I became a pawn in the effort to convince the nation that homeschoolers were better, smarter, more successful than our peers. It was a message that sucked more parents into the system where they bought into the extremism and hurt their kids as a result.

Homeschooling can be great, it can be wonderful. When I was diagnosed with ADD, my doctor told me that my parents deciding to homeschool was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me. I’m the quiet kid who just stares out the window for hours and aces tests, not the class disrupter, so homeschooling kept me from falling through the cracks. And yet.

And yet. 

And yet I cannot separate my homeschool experience from the nagging feeling that by providing a safe, normal, successful face to homeschooling I was a pawn in the culture war to turn America into some sort of Christian version of Saudi Arabia. That wasn’t my choice.

There are steps I took during the culture war fights of the ‘90s that I regret, and even though I was still a kid back then and didn’t fully know what I was doing, at least I went into it with some personal agency and I own that and learned from the experience. Being a cog in a homeschooling movement that has as it’s goal creating a Christian theocracy where men are the absolute heads and women only stay home and produce more children for the fight was not something I signed up for. It makes me feel dirty just thinking about it.

What makes me really mad is that in being used as a pawn in somebody else’s culture war, I was used as a pawn to make my own life harder. Not that I realized it at the time, but, I’m gay. It’s not something I chose, any more than I chose my blue eyes or being right handed. It’s just something that is. I don’t have a problem with it, I am what I am, and I wouldn’t change it. Changing would make me a different person. Not to mention that I think it’s kind of bad form to tell God that he screwed up in making you. That said, my life would be easier if there wasn’t a constant push back from culture warriors making it so that we have to fight every step of the way just to be treated as an ordinary citizen. It’s a front in the culture wars that Doug Phillips specifically mentioned at the 2009 summit, and in his vision homeschoolers are leading the fight. And my very existence as a successful homeschool graduate helps legitimize the movement.

Even if I repudiate everything, including homeschooling of any kind, because I was a homeschooler I’m still a pawn. I can’t escape it, not really. If I keep my mouth shut and play the role of the good little homeschooler, then I’m propping up a system that is actively working to destroy America as we know it. But if I speak up, if I tell the truth about my life, if I’m honest about the fact that while on most points I’m still a theologically conservative Christian, I’m also politically liberal, feminist, and gay, then I’m proof of why parents need to shelter their children, keep their daughters from college, and isolate themselves from mainstream culture. I can’t win. 

And so here it is, 6 am. I should be asleep but instead I’m here writing because maybe, just maybe, if I put my feelings down into words the turmoil in my brain will quiet down. I almost wish I had just done what I’ve been doing for the last decade, shoved all the niggling little memories about homeschooling back down, and gone about my business of being the normal girl who got by, on a technicality, with telling everyone I graduated from private school.

I’ve seen how deep the rabbit hole goes and now I wish I’d taken the blue pill.

Published by Kathryn Brightbill

I was born at a very young age.

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