Thursday, 3 February 2011

Another interesting American case

Here is another case about Christian home education in the USA. Just so that British readers can understand waht is going on here, there have been a number of cases where seemingly devout Christians have adopted or fostered children, home educated them and then subsequently the children have died or there have been allegations of abuse. Often this abuse centres around the practice of spanking; for which some Christians apparently find Biblical justification. This case seems to fit the pattern here, featuring as it does the death of a foster child and mention of spanking.


  1. _Please_ check your sources when using reports from the US. WorldNetDaily is a publication so extreme it is even rejected by large sections of the US religious right as overboard. Today's front page, for example, is filled with conspiracy theories suggesting that President Obama is a 'manchurian candidate' under control of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. My fave insane headline, though, is one linked from this story: "Is Obama Devotee of Monkey-God Idol?"

    The WorldNutDaily opposes _all_ removals of children by social services, even in cases with abundant evidence of abuse. Scroll down the front page and you'll find two more articles about similar 'injustices' involving state-school students.

    When you strip out the 'homeschooling panic' angle on this article, this is a straight-up case of (strongly) suspected child abuse, based on the one of the family's adopted daughters being brought in to the hospital with broken bones, evidence of malnutrition, and 'medical neglect" after another child in their care had died under seemingly suspicious circumstances previously. That's not spanking, that's abuse, probably by parents who also practice restrictive religiously-motivated diets and/or faith healing. Another case of the HSLDA turning a case with a marginal connection to home education into one of their causes.

  2. If there is a point to be missed, one can always depend upon at least one home educator coming on here to miss it in spectacular style! I am of course perfectly aware that both the family featured in this news item and also the people running the website are completely mad. As somebody who educated his own child at home for largely religious reasons, I am hardly likely to believe that either home educators or Christians are more likely to kill foster children than anybody else. Nevertheless, there has been a stream of such stories in the American mainstream press in recent years and this has given ordinary people the impression that there is a problem and that something needs to be done. It was this which I was driving at; not that Christian home educators have a propensity to hit their children or kill them more often than atheist parents who send their kids to school. I am sorry if anybody apart from the person who commented abve should have got the wrong end of the stick here.

  3. I think it's you that are looking at the US media through a biased lens. The bulk of US stories on home ed in _mainstream_ media are positive. They generally have to do with home ed kids who win spelling bees, create a girl scout troop or a baseball team, etc. The best-known Christian HS family in the US - the Duggars - have their own television show which presents a relentlessly positive view of structured Christian home ed to its many viewers (It airs in the UK as well).

    Even the recent (awful) us news broadcast about "radical unschooling" was quickly followed by an interview with one of the consultants from Growing Without Schooling.

    The the only place where there is a 'flood' of war-on-home-ed stories is in publications of the HSLDA and their allies. The HSLDA fundraises on parents' panic, so it's no surprise that they want to tun every custody dispute or abuse case into a threat-to-home-ed story.

    Also worth noting that most US states have much more regulation on home ed than the UK - many require some sort of testing, portfolio evaluation, coverage of mandatory subjects etc., and at least one state requires a short certification course if the teaching parent doesnt have at least some university education. This hasn't stopped home ed from growing. The situation of home ed in the states (regulation that is generally managable, if bothersome, and a generally cautiously positive response from 'regular' families other than teachers-union members) should probably reassure, not panic, people here.

  4. I was really talking about cases such as this;

    You are right in saying that there are many positive news items about home education in the States. There are also a number of high profile cases like this which involve, as I said, physical discipline, home education, Christians and the death of adopted or fostered children.

  5. Yes - this is a well-known case involving the bizarre teachings of the Pearls, of "train up a child" infamy. They are unquestionably advocates of child abuse, and their book is widely distributed via churches in the US to families considering Christian home education.

    Luckily, the tide is turning against the Pearls slowly but surely. Incidentally, they are _against_ spanking, arguing that children should be hit with objects rather than by parents' hands. That's how this child apparently died.

    This religious blogger has a good rundown of the responses to the Pearls from various quarters. I don't know much about this blog itself, but the rundown seems to be quite comprehensive.

  6. Another set of ideas (popular with, but hardly exclusive to Christian homeschoolers) that might have contributed to the malnutrition of the child in the original story.

  7. You and Mike ought to set up a joint blog really and duke it out there.

  8. 'You and Mike ought to set up a joint blog really and duke it out there.'

    Yes, it's an interesting idea. The only problem is that he has banned me from his list and I have no moderation here. This means that he has a free range coming here and saying stuff, but I can't respond on his site.

  9. I don't think Mike visits your blog, from what he's said to me.