Lately in the former homeschooler circles that I am in there on Twitter, there's been a lot of debate going on about whether parents in the fundamentalist home school culture can change (for now on, I'll abbreviate it in this post as FHS culture), and whether we should continue dialogue with FHS culture parents online (here's one of the debates that went on recently).
The dispute has been coming up because in October Ryan Stollar of Homeschoolers Anonymous published a guest post from fundamentalist blogger/TLC reality show star Chris Jeub. Ever since then, Chris Jeub has been trying to have conversations with many of us on Twitter. It seems like he is sincerely curious as to why many of us left the culture, but he can't quite understand us, or why he left.
The conversation started on Twitter, and has made it's way to Homeschoolers Anonymous. I'll present both sides of the debate before giving my thoughts:
There can't be any dialogue with fundamentalist parents until they decide to change:
Sarah Jones, of the blog Anthony B. Susan and activist for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is one the side of of not continuing the dialogue, here's a few of her arguments from Twitter:
(Link 1 and Link 2 for the last two tweets)
Here's more from a blog post she wrote on the issue that was re published at Homeschoolers Anonymous:
I am not looking for a conversation. I think the time for conversation has passed, if it ever existed at all. If you’re not willing to discard Christian patriarchy completely, to acknowledge the horrifying damage it has wreaked on those rendered powerless by it, then you are not my conversation partner: you are the enemy in my fight for liberation. If you are not willing to stop viewing your children as property to be controlled, there is no discussion to be had.The people with opposing views:
Lana Hope, universalist Christian and missionary, and blogger at Wide Open Ground.
Julie Anne Smith, former fundamentalist homeschooling mother (the only prominent former FHS culture parent that I know of that speaks out publicly), blogger at Spiritual Sounding Board. She is most well known because of her former church, who tried to sue her for defamation for a bad Google review (she won, thankfully, and the church got far more bad press from it).
The conversation on Twitter:
Here's highlights from Lana Hope's take on this issue, from her blog post, re published on Homeschoolers Anonymous:
I’ve heard some people say homeschool parents and leaders need to shut up and listen. Well, they do need to listen. This is so, so true. But I want to converse.
I want a conversation.
I’ll tell you a secret. I don’t have a clue who I am. I don’t have a dang clue. And I’m not interested in regrounding myself. I’m not interested in building a new dominant narrative where I can understand my life. All I want is a conversation.
Maybe I’m being unrealistic. But I’m hopeful. Because as the dominant narrative crumbles, it’s going to force people to talk.
I guess we are faced with the frightening choice Homi Bhabha faced. What are we going to do with history? Are we going to set the dominant narrative aside, or are we going to fight and spill blood for whose narrative wins?
You know why I’m scared? I’m scared because I’m afraid it’s going to get internet bloody. I’m scared that I will be standing on the front lines, computer screen against computer screen, fighting against the people I used to eat lunch with.
The homeschool apostates are here. We have stories I beg you, please listen. Listen, talk to me, because I don’t want to stop our dinner conversations.My side on the issue:
This is what I said in response on Twitter (and no, I will not make apologies on the blog for calling her a sociopath, any regular reader of this blog will understand why):
I lean primarily towards keeping up the dialogue.
Some fundamentalist parents can not be changed, there is no hope for them, but many of them, if we can find a way to get through to them, they can change.
Let me explain. There are primarily two groups of parents in FHS culture (and within the broader fundamentalist culture).
Parents who were sold a false bill of goods, they thought that the fundamentalist way of life truly was the godly way to raise their children, that if they didn't stray from this path that they would end up with a happy family, and perfect Christian kids. Can they often be abusive? Sure, but they truly don't know any other way, especially if they are second generation fundamentalists.
These people can be helped if we can only find a way to get into their minds, get them to listen, to hear our stories, how it destroyed us in so many ways. If we can get to them, and show them not only how destructive it is, but that it is also horribly counter productive to their goals in creating happy Christian kids, then we can get parents to leave the system, and it will collapse under it's own weight.
The Power Hungry/Sociopathic Personalities:
I don't think they make up the majority of parents in fundamentalism/FHS culture, but they are the worst people in this culture, the unredeemable, and usually those found in the top leadership of the FHS culture, like the leadership of *ahem* a certain powerful FHS group that fights every attempt at regulating homeschooling, and called a man who kept his children in cages a "hero" (I wish I was making that up.)
These people are dangerous abusers, they know they are abusers, and they don't care. They were drawn into the culture because it was and still is, a perfect safe haven for abusers, a culture with no accountability, and thinks that god granted absolute authority to them to raise them how they please, no matter awful their methods are. People like my mother, HSLDA leadership, and people like Micheal and Debi Pearl of "To Train Up a Child" infamy.
These people can not be helped, they can not be convinced to change, and won't stop until they are forced to. There can be no dialogue with them.
However, I don't think people like Chris Jeub, and my dad and my sister fall into the second group. They are in the first group, The Deceived/Misguided. The very fact that Chris Jeub is trying to talk to former FHS bloggers, the Homeschool Apostates if you will (I love that term), shows a willingness on his part to at least try to figure us out. His curiosity is showing that there are cracks in the armor, most FHS parents wouldn't even begin to try to understand us, we are the black sheep, the outcasts they want nothing to do with.
Maybe I'm being a little too hopeful, but somehow, I think that it could be possible to change the Chris Jeubs of this world, and create a few more people like Julie Anne Smith....