#DefendTheDuggars (Sort of)

I’ve said it before on social media and I’ll say it again here. The mocking of Duggar children is not something I can get behind. Criticize the Duggar parents for what they’re doing to their children, criticize Jim Bob, Michelle, and Josh for their anti-LGBT activism, that’s fair game. Mocking the kids isn’t. Kids like the Duggars, who aren’t being given a real education (you don’t get a real education from ATI Wisdom Booklets), who aren’t allowed college, and who aren’t even allowed a single private conversation with someone of the opposite sex until they’re married, are the ones I’m trying to help.  TLC may put a pretty face on it, but make no mistake, the Duggars are part of a high-control, authoritarian cult. ATI creates an alternate reality, complete with their own version of history and science, and a theology that seems, on the surface, to be orthodox Christianity but is anything but. ATI even redefines language, Scientology-style. This is but one small example of the way that ATI indoctrinates its members, but check out their definitions of the character qualities that Bill Gothard decided were important. I’ve included a few of those character qualities below. Notice how most of those definitions are nothing like the dictionary definitions of those words? When I was a kid some ATI friends gave us the “Character Clues“ game, which was supposed to teach you those traits by having you match traits to definitions. Apart from being the world’s most boring game, we gave up on it quickly because the whole thing was redefining words. We could give up on the game because learning Gothard-approved definitions of words was dull, but for people who are part of the ATI cult, learning an entirely new vocabulary is a step in the cult indoctrination process.[…]

Read more

Malala and Me

I sat here crying as I watched Malala Yousafzai talk about wanting to get an education and follow her dreams. She talks about how she decided to speak up against the Taliban because she didn’t want to be locked away in her house with no education, forced to marry at 13 or 14, and I can’t help but cry because it hits too close to home. I know what it feels like to fight for an education in a culture that thinks girls shouldn’t get one. That believes girls should be married off young with no skills and little education beyond primary school. I know what it feels like to want more and to feel the weight of everyone around you writing off your dreams as a silly fantasy. No, I didn’t have the Taliban forcing me home, and like Malala, my parents made sure that I had an education and encouraged me to follow my dreams. Who sent me to college, and who didn’t think that I had to marry off young and become the property of my husband. I was lucky though. There are so many girls stuck in the conservative Christian homeschool culture who aren’t so lucky. The stay-at-home daughter movement popularized by Doug Phillips and Vision Forum teaches that the proper place for a daughter is at home under her father’s authority until she’s given to the husband that her father has selected for her. Stay-at-home daughters are often given limited education, and dreaming of a life away from her father or husband, an education and a career, is unthinkable.  I remember going to hear popular homeschool speaker Little Bear Wheeler speak when I was in middle school, hearing from him that girls should be left as malleable clay to be shaped by their husband to best[…]

Read more

Yesterday was my last class ever as a student. I thought it was fitting to post this photo from one of my first days of school. Back then I wanted to be an astronaut, I dreamed of being the first person on Mars. Funny how the dream seemed so much more attainable in the ’80s than it does now, and not just because 5 year old me liked visiting NASA better than Disney. It wasn’t that long after this picture was taken that the lightbulb went off in my head and I started reading everything I could get my hands on. I especially loved reading books about things like black holes, the idea that there were things out there that were so dense that nothing could escape blew my mind. My nerdery started early. I look at this picture with me sitting there, pencil poised, wearing my birthstone ring that had been a bribe to get me to stop sucking my thumb and I think about how little me had no idea where the years to follow would take me. And yeah, I never got to go to Mars, but I did get to visit places that as a child of the Cold War I never dreamed I would ever get to see. I may not have gotten to make history in as the first person on Mars like my 5 year old self dreamed of, but I got to play a tiny role in a landmark Supreme Court case and high school me would be proud of that. I don’t know how the next chapter in my life is going to unfold but here’s to the future.

Read more

How bad homeschool research and statistics hurt homeschoolers

When I was in college, I was one of the participants who answered the NHERI/HSLDA/Brian Ray survey of homeschooling graduates. I don’t remember how I got the survey, probably via email forward from my mom, but what I do remember is sending an email to my family after taking it in which I said something about how I wouldn’t believe a thing from the eventual study results. Aside from the fact that an email forwarded among homeschool groups asking people to take an internet survey is a lousy way of getting a representative sample (especially when we’re talking more than a decade ago, when we were nowhere as close to ubiquitous computing as we are now and computer access was still largely along socioeconomic lines), the survey itself was rife with methodological problems. My memory is of a survey where I could tell exactly what answer they were looking to find, based on both the questions asked and the possible answers given for those questions. It was a survey that, even as a college student who had a positive experience and didn’t have the criticisms of the system that I do now, was so bad that I wondered why anyone would design it the way they did unless the goal was not usable data but a certain set of predetermined results. If I got anything out of being homeschooled for twelve years by a math teacher, it’s a healthy appreciation for numbers. Numbers explain the world, or at least they can explain the world if they’re used correctly. Without good numbers, you might as well be stumbling around in the dark bumping your shins into the furniture. Bad numbers are even worse than no numbers; they’re like spreading Legos on the carpet while stumbling around in the dark with bare[…]

Read more