Dobson's Agenda for California Public Schools: 'Get Our Kids Out'
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Mon Apr 24, 2006 at 03:46:21 PM EST
James Dobson says that 'it's time to get our kids out' of California's public schools.
What's really driving some Christian conservative leaders to oppose California's "preschool for all" initiative, Proposition 82, which is on the ballot for June 6, 2006? Here's an open secret about the theocratic agenda of James C. Dobson, Ph.D., the founder of Focus on the Family and figurehead of a conservative Christian political movement: he wants to keep kids out of California's public education system. He'd like to shut the doors of public schools. And if his vision of an America without a public education system comes to pass, our kids won't be able to get better jobs or contribute to America's civil society.

Dobson's agenda is open because he freely talks about it on his radio broadcasts and publications, which, he claims, reach some 200 million people worldwide. Yet it's secret insofar as the mainstream media ignores his statements or refuses to believe that Dobson means what he says.

When Dobson calls on California parents to remove their children from the public education system, he means it. And that's what drives Focus on the Family's California affiliate, and several other groups who plan to abolish public schools, to urge voters to say "No" on Prop. 82.

Dobson first issued his call for parents to remove their kids from California's public schools during his interview of Pat Buchanan, during a Focus on the Family broadcast which aired on March 28, 2002. Here's what Dobson said about California's public schools:
"I've been on the air here with Focus on the Family for 25 years; it's the first time I've said this. But in the State of California and places that have moved in the direction that they've gone with the schools, if I had a child there, I wouldn't put that youngster in the public schools... I think it's time to get our kids out."

Buchanan agreed, saying that children's souls were at risk and "they [public schools] are poisoning that."And a few days later, syndicated conservative radio host Laura Schlessinger endorsed Dobson's call. "I stand with Dr. James Dobson," Schlessinger said. "Take your kids out of public schools."

In the week following Dobson's broadcast, the Alliance for Separation of School and State claimed that the number of signers to its "Proclamation for the Separation of School and State" skyrocketed from an average of five per day to over 100 per day. The Alliance was founded in 1994 with an aim to abolish governmental involvement with schooling, especially the K-12 public education system.

Among the signers of the anti-public education petition was home schooling activist Diane Flynn Keith, founder of -- which, like the California affiliate of Focus on the Family, is now a key member of the "No on 82" coalition. According to Keith, public preschool is "toxic to toddlers."

Another anti-public education member of the "No on 82" coalition is Excellence in Education - a home schooling website run by a husband and wife team who believe that "schooling and education are mutually exclusive."

And why exactly, according to Dobson, is public preschool bad for children? Dobson delivers widely different answers to that question, depending on the tastes of his audience.

Dobson's Hypocritical Stance on Bullying

On April 30, 2002, Dobson again called for an abandonment of California's public schools on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" program. Dobson told conservative host Sean Hannity, "I said let me simply say, not for everybody, but if it were my child in California, where they're teaching homosexual propaganda, starting with kindergarten, 5-year-old children sitting on the floor, hearing about adult perverse behavior, I would get my kid out of there."

Dobson was apparently referring to a California law that includes sexual orientation in a list of illegal grounds for discrimination under state law. In 1999, California banned public schools from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in order to provide new tools to combat bullying and harassment of gay students.

Dobson claims to care about bullying students. In fact, he told CNN's Larry King that that was the real reason he objects to preschools. (Dobson, like other theocratic leaders, will say one thing to his flock and another thing on a national broadcast in the mainstream media.) In an interview on Larry King Live which aired on June 6, 2002, King asked Dobson, "Do you like preschool?"

Dobson replied, "No. I'd much prefer that the child be kept in the safety of his home."

King asked if he meant "like the good old days."

Dobson said, "Yes, because children are brutal to each other. They're really tough on each other."

But King did not follow up with the obvious question: if Dobson is so opposed to brutality in schools, then why did he attack California's 1999 law aimed at preventing the bullying of gay and lesbian students? Nor did King ask Dobson, Since you are opposed to preschool, then why did you and your wife Shirley send your daughter Danae to preschool? To toughen her up?

No, admit it, Dobson: you want to take kids out of America's public education system because in public schools, kids learn life skills like tolerance and values like "equal justice under law." That means no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or ideology. That's what you're afraid kids are learning - tolerance instead of gay-bashing and scapegoating. You're not afraid that public school students will be treated brutally if there's a perception that they're gay, or if they have two Dads or two Moms - you're concerned that they won't get what's coming to them: an old-fashioned bullying, like in the "good old days."

California Family Council's Misleading Bogeyman Ad

The California Family Council (CFC) - Focus on the Family's California affiliate -- is now airing commercials on a Los Angeles Christian talk radio station, attacking a June 6 ballot initiative that would provide voluntary preschool education to all families statewide. The ads are running daily on KKLA (99.5 FM), and the station is airing them during Focus on the Family broadcasts hosted by Dobson. And behind CFC's opposition is a theocratic agenda to keep kids out of the public education system. But CFC is not the only opponent of this initiative which is driven by a desire to keep kids out of California's public schools, because they don't want children introduced to liberal concepts such as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and equal justice under law.

The misleading ad claims, "Proposition 82 would establish state sponsored and state run preschools for all California children, starting at age four." In fact, the initiative would not take away any existing preschools and would not rely solely on state-run schools, but would build on the existing network of public, private, and nonprofit preschool providers. And Prop. 82 would make public preschool available to families currently struggling to afford it. But to theocratic groups like CFC, the idea of state-run schools - the very existence of an American public education system - is a bogeyman.

"This ad is wrong on the facts, and it shows the true colors of the No on 82 campaign, which is composed of fringe groups and groups opposed to public education," said Nathan James, spokesperson for Yes on 82. "While the No on 82 campaign claims to support public schools, they support no new funding for education. In fact, the California Family Council and many of the funders and organizations opposing preschool for all supported Proposition 76 last year, which would have slashed education funding for public schools."

Most Californians favor Proposition 82, the "preschool for all" initiative championed by actor, film director, and children's advocate Rob Reiner. Supporters say the initiative represents a worthwhile investment in voluntary, high-quality preschool education for every four-year-old in California, because better-educated kids get better jobs. Kids who attend kindergarten do better in school. And, according to a recent poll cited by Prop. 82 supporters, the vast majority of kindergarten teachers (96 percent) believe that it is important for children to attend preschool before kindergarten.

But public support for the initiative is slipping, according to a Field poll released on April 19, 2006. The poll shows that 52 percent of likely voters support Prop. 82, while 39 percent are opposed. While the initiative still leads by a margin of 13 percent, its support has slipped since February, when it enjoyed a lead of 21 percentage points. The poll's margin of error is 4.1 percent.

Opposition to the initiative is led by a broad-based coalition of groups, many of whom favor the goal of universal and voluntary preschool education, but question the fairness or adequacy of the funding mechanism. Prop. 82 would raise the money from rich people, such as Reiner, by levying a 1.7% income tax on individuals who earn $400,000 or more, or couples who earn at least $800,000. In its first year, the tax would raise an estimated $2.4 billion. Although the initiative would have no cost for 99.4 percent of California taxpayers, many Chambers of Commerce are up in arms over the proposed tax on the wealthiest 0.6 percent of California's citizens. (Nevertheless, supporters note that business leaders from across California and three of the state's largest chambers of commerce have endorsed Prop. 82.)

So while it's fair to say that most Californians support the goal of providing high-quality, preschool education for all families who want it for their kids, there are disagreements on how to get there. Clearly, most Californians are committed to strengthening the public school system so that our children can learn how to weigh competing ideas, and so that our children can grow up to get better jobs and contribute to America's civil society, which is based on principles of free speech, freedom of conscience, and equal justice under law.

I've been on the air here with Focus on the Family for 25 years; it's the first time I've said this. But in the State of California and places that have moved in the direction that they've gone with the schools, if I had a child there, I wouldn't put that youngster in the public schools... I think it's time to get our kids outHowever, Dobson has a different vision - one based on enforced ignorance, cultural isolation, and Christian supremacy. Dobson's commitment is to weaken California's public school system so that children can be indoctrinated in Christian fundamentalist ideology, and so that they can grow up under the yoke of a theocratic society, which censors speech, legislates morality, and teaches religious ideology in place of science, doctrine in place of civic discourse.

All Americans benefit when our children are taught to evaluate competing ideas and consider multiple perspectives through our public school system. It's not clear who, if anyone, would benefit from Dobson's theocratic vision of a society without public schools, because that is not a society that could compete in the global marketplace. A theocratic society would squander America's legacies as a diverse, multicultural, and innovative society which drives scientific advancement.

In service of Dobson's theocratic vision, the CFC opposes the ballot initiative calling for universal preschool education, and also opposes any curricula that would teach tolerance of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. In particular, Dobson and CFC do not want children hearing about any positive gay role models.

In his radio broadcast of April 21, 2006, Dobson urged California parents to "rise up" against any curriculum that would teach tolerance of all people, regardless of their ideology or sexual orientation, or that would include any mention of positive contributions to American society by gay, lesbian, or transsexual citizens.

"If the parents of children in California put up with that, then they're farther gone than I think they are," said Dobson.

On the other hand, if Americans put up with Dobson's theocratic vision of an America without a public education system, then our kids and our country will be farther gone from the dream of a country founded on freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and a recognition that all people, regardless of their background, culture, creed, or sexual orientation, stand equal before the law.

That is why, as Rev. Bruce Prescott has pointed out on Talk to Action, it is particularly timely that the Baptist Center for Ethics has just issued a Pastoral Letter Affirming Public Schools.

The pastoral letter urges "a halt to the demonization of public schools," and calls Christians to "recommit themselves to public education, not as a means toward converting school children, but because it is the right thing to do." And why is that so? "We believe public school children are God's children who deserve the nurture of a good society, the prospect for a good education and the equal opportunity for a good life." Yes, that's it: a society that nurtures all children - including gay and lesbian children, including children who have two Dads or two Moms, including children who are atheists, or seekers, or devout followers of myriad religions.

And that is why the pastoral letter calls for a recommitment, not only to a strong public education system, but to the principle of separation of church and state. The struggle to improve America's public school system is not a struggle between believers and non-believers; it is a joint enterprise for the common good. Standing up for public education is the right thing to do, regardless of your culture or creed. I believe that as a Christian and a patriot. What do you believe?

However you answer that question, remember that the question itself, and the honest public discourse that it invites, are possible only in an educated society founded on freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and equal justice under law.

I attended kindergarten, and public schools from K-12. The quality of the education could have been better, but could certainly have been worse. In public schools, I was introduced to a mix of people from many cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds. I would not have traded my public school experience for finer instruction at a whitebread, homogenous private school.

I learned that there's inherent value in getting an education alongside a mix of people who are jostling elbows in the marketplace of ideas. That's why, when it came time to choose a law school, I chose New York University School of Law, because among the top law schools, it had a higher percentage of women and minority students and faculty. And the experience of living in New York City, with all its diversity, is an education in itself.

by jhutson on Mon Apr 24, 2006 at 03:57:08 PM EST

is part of the picture here. I don't see a conservative Protestant move to provide free parochial education to substantial numbers of inner-city poor minority kids, though a few middle-class minority children may get slots. In this, the conservative Protestant schools movement differs from traditional Catholic schools, though even they have dropped a lot of inner-city schools for lack of financial support and free teachers (nuns). My impression is that the current conservative Protestant promotion of private schools and defunding of public schools is aimed at sustaining middle-class Christian advantage and creating/expanding a class of peons. Not so different from the "desegregation academies" set up during the Civil Rights struggle. Rather Calvinistic (ie, spiritual worthiness is indicated by temporal wealth) as well as racist.

by NancyP on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 11:39:35 AM EST

I'm not entirely surprised to see Dobson use "but they don't tolerate bullying" as an excuse, seeing as the initial chapter of "The Strong-Willed Child" featured him describing literally beating the hell out of the family dog--as a lesson on how children's wills should be broken.

(Dobson is actually somewhat of a liberal on this, as far as dominionist "child training" authors go; most are quite a bit more extreme.)

The point that the real goal in withdrawing kids from public school and correspondence-schooling them ("homeschool" is less an apt term than correspondence-schooling; most dominionist curricula, such as A Beka, Bob Jones University and the like are actually technically run as correspondence schools by dominionist churches or universities, and in fact in some states dominionist "homeschool" associations such as HSLDA have essentially locked out inclusive, non-dominionist homeschooling by this technicality) is to isolate and indoctrinate them is also a very, very valid one.

As I have noted in numerous essays, much of the point of especially hardline dominionism is to essentially recruit people early and keep them in a state of perpetual fear through the use of spiritually abusive methods.  Studies of dominionist homeschool curricula almost uniformly have shown it to be of very poor educational content and almost exclusively in some cases being a tool for indoctrination; I have covered this informally in a two-part  review of A Beka's curriculum (and am working on a similar informal analysis of the book "America's Providential History"); more formally, the subject of dominionist curricula packages as indoctrination has been covered by Dr. Frances Patterson's book Democracy and Intolerance: Christian school curricula, school choice and public policy (which, as an aside, is possibly the most thorough work on the subject) and has also been noted--quite damningly--by the University of California school system who has formally stated three of the most commonly used dominionist "homeschool" curricula are educationally unfit for high school credits for university admission.  (Despite multiple lawsuits, the courts have so far dismissed complaints against the University of California.)

It is probably unsurprising that these curriculum packages are so poor in educational content and so heavy on indoctrination; Pensacola Christian College, the publishers of A Beka, are an unaccredited college that has practices that have been criticised as spiritually abusive and Bob Jones University has had similar criticism re possible spiritual abuse (its only accreditation is through a dominionist accreditation mill).  ACE describes itself on its own website as a "ministry" rather than an educational curriculum.  

by dogemperor on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 12:47:13 PM EST

Randall Terry, founder of the militant, underground Operation Rescue, established a Christian Leadership Institute in Binghamton, New York, in 1995. He announced that the purpose was to raise up "militant, fierce Christian warriors" who would carry out a dominionist agenda. His five goals were abolition of public schools, abolition of prisons, abolition of property taxes, reinstitution of "Biblical slavery," and reinstitution of capital punishment for offenders of "Biblical law" -- including the stoning to death of rebellious teenagers who, according to Terry, should be put to death for slapping or cursing a parent.

Some people, when they hear that Christians are withdrawing from America's public education system, say, "Good riddance." But not me, because I see the costs of this withdrawal and cultural isolation. Part of the cost is the creation of an ideological environment where people bent on violence can train little domestic terrorists.

Domestic terrorists? Yes, the people who firebomb women's clinics, and stalk, kidnap, and shoot doctors, nurses, and security guards at clinics which provide safe, legal abortion.

by jhutson on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 02:38:26 PM EST

That's much of the point I have noted--especially with kids, there is an increasing (and very disturbing) trend towards completely isolating them from non-dominionist contacts, indoctrinating them that the best thing for anyone to do is to be a "God Warrior" (and for women, to be "homeland defense" and breed more God Warriors), punitively punish them in such a way to almost guarantee (between the extreme physical, mental, emotional and spiritual abuse) that the kids will have severe problems with socialisation if not end up frankly sociopathic, continue this isolation in many cases through the college years, and then turn them loose on the world.

With the Assemblies, neopente groups and "fundamentalist Baptist" groups, this has been going on for fifty years or better (and the big push for isolation for a good thirty--first isolation into private school systems and now to correspondence-schooling).  As the years have gone on, the practices have become increasingly coercive, and children raised in these groups increasingly isolated.

This at best is going to result in people being so set in their ways by the time they finally escape that they will have very severe problems adjusting (to given an example, one of the three Phelps children who escaped the household--the one which suffered the most severe attempts at isolation including the Phelps kidnapping her from the home of someone trying to protect her--has such severe socialisation problems that she is effectively unable to hold a job) and the other two survivors have undergone therapy for PTSD among other issues); sites such as Ex-Pentecostals and Wounded Warriors record the stories of the "walking wounded" from these movements even BEFORE the major swings towards isolating kids began in true earnest.  (In most cases, walkaways ended up walking away either as adults having been recruited as teens, or as teens having grown up in dominionist groups.  Walkaways who were raised in those groups who walked away after the age of twenty-five to thirty are exceedingly rare; walkaways raised in coercive religious groups who later walk away are rare as is and it is only through study of larger "Bible-based" coercive groups that the special issues of people raised in abusive groups are starting to be known.)

At worst, as you noted, it can breed domestic terrorism--such as the kind of domestic terrorism Eric Rudolph committed (and whose survivors of his attacks are getting a mere pittance--an average of $50--from damage claims, partly because Rudolph claims to be indigent and a sympathetic government will not follow the precedent set in other cases of terrorism and seize assets of sympathetic organisations).  Very similar patterns of isolation, indoctrination, and abusive childrearing practices are used in madrassas and among the Taleban (in fact, the term "taleban", literally translated, means "learned"--as in "taught in a religious school", specifically the fundamentalist Wahhabist religious schools in western Pakistan) and the results have seen tragic fruit through much of the Islamic and Western world.

(As a side note, at least three major experts in coercive religious groups--interestingly, the same three groups that have expressed grave concerns regarding certain dominionist groups as being potentially coercive--have labeled the Taleban and/or Al Quaida as a coercive religious group and have noted that these groups are probably better understood (and combatted) in light of this.  Rick Ross Institute lists Al Quaida as a coercive religious group, and has also done one of the better jobs of monitoring spiritually abusive dominionist groups including aspects of the anti-abortion movement; FACTnet (which was one of the original groups exposing abuses in Scientology and which has also expressed grave concern regarding coercive practices in fundamentalist movements in general) has noted that the Taleban uses coercive religious practices; Steven Hassan, who has expressed concern regarding multiple dominionist-associated groups (including the Assemblies-linked Youth With A Mission, the neopente group Maranatha (now also known as Morningstar International and Every Nation) and Amway, all of which are listed as coercive religious groups by him), has listed Al Quaida as spiritually abusive and has also noted how the Taleban used coercive religious tactics (in fact, Hassan probably has the largest body of writing on the subject).  In fact, other experts on coercive religious groups have in fact noted Al Quaida as being a de facto spiritually abusive group.  This is important to note, as the more hardcore dominionist groups--particularly those into "spiritual warfare" and "deliverance ministry" and "dominion theology" movements including the "Pensacola Revival" aka "Toronto Revival" movements--have been noted as spiritually abusive; in fact, AmWay's uplines (regarded as a classic "business cult") which are often used as recruitment for dominionist churches are a classic example of this in action, as "dominion theology" (including "name it and claim it" and the political aspects of dominionism) are extremely heavily promoted.)

by dogemperor on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 09:50:03 PM EST

David Berliner actually does a wonderful job in detailing how the spiritual abuse rampant in dominionist movements and the coercive parenting styles promoted in dominionism fit hand in hand with dominionist curricula designed as tools of indoctrination rather than education.  Of note, he quotes from a dominionist author in showing (in a pattern dating all the way back to Jerry Falwell in the 1980's) how the ultimate goal is the total destruction of the public school system, forcing kids to dominionist education:
In addition, advocates among the Christian Right argue that because public schools are inevitably used to promote secular humanism, they are iniquitous and should be abolished completely! Christian Right advocate and educator Robert Thoburn, of the Fairfax (Virginia) Christian School, said: "We believe public schools are immoral ... they breed criminals. They teach [children] they're animals, that they evolved from animals" (quoted in Gehrman, 1987, p. 14). Thoburn's goals are stated clearly in his widely read book The Children Trap (1986):

    I imagine every Christian would agree that we need to remove the humanism from the public schools. There is only one way to accomplish this: to abolish the public schools. We need to get the government out of the education business. According to the Bible, education is a parental responsibility. It is not the place of the government to be running a school system.

And how should Christians proceed to dismantle public education? Thoburn (1986) urges Christians to run for school boards but not to reveal their motives or their strong Christian beliefs:

    Christians should run for the school board. This may sound like strange advice. After all, I have said that Christians should have nothing to do with the public schools. What I meant was that Christians should not allow their children to have anything to do with public schools. This does not mean that we should have nothing to do with them.... Our goal is not to make the schools better.... The goal is to hamper them, so they cannot grow. . . . Our goal as God-fearing, uncompromised ... Christians is to shut down the public schools, not in some revolutionary way, but step by step, school by school, district by district. (p. 159)

How will they shut down the public schools? After election Thoburn recommends that the new board members vote against all taxes, promote larger class sizes, reduce the salaries of teachers, harass teachers and administrators by demanding tighter accounting practices whenever they request reimbursement for anything, keep the board from making any decisions that might improve instruction, keep textbook adoption committees in turmoil, and so forth. Other committed Christians are urged to take all legitimate actions to hamper and discourage public schools, such as arguing against them in public debates and voting no in all school-bond elections.

Thoburn is not alone. Robert Simonds (1985), head of the Citizens for Excellence in Education (CEE), has written How to Elect Christians to Public Office. There he states:

    We need strong board members who know right from wrong. The Bible, being the only true source on right and wrong, should be the guide of board members. Only godly Christians can truly qualify for this critically important position. (p. 4)

A "stealth" strategy for gaining power was recommended by Simonds (1985).2 Simonds advised his Christian candidates to be up-beat and avoid saying things that could sound "kooky" and cause a backlash. He even noted that "the name 'Citizens for Excellence in Education' was adopted because it is a 'friendly' name to a school board. No one is against citizens, or excellence, or education" (pp. 30-31; emphasis in original). With Simonds's book you can also get a Public School Awareness (PSA) kit, which teaches how to organize committees to win school elections. Audiotapes in the kit have Simonds telling his listeners that there is demonic activity going on in the schools and that the schools are persecuting Christians. In fact, in his newsletter he claimed that "it now appears that Christians in America are beginning to share the treatment Jews received in Nazi Germany" (Kaplan, 1994). How effective have these efforts been? The CEE claims that its efforts resulted in the election of 7,153 board members in 1993, and the CEE appears to have had a budget of $710,000 in 1994 (Kaplan, 1994). By January 1995, 1,700 politically active committees had been set up in school districts to elect Christian school board members (Gaddy, Hall, & Marzano, 1996).

The goal of many Christian school board members and their constituents is to hamper the public schools so completely that another 2 or 4 or 6 percent of the parents of public school children will feel compelled to withdraw their children and enroll them in private or religious schools. This strategy rests on the belief that vouchers for private and religious schools will not come about until more parents enroll their children in private schools, thus creating a larger demand for vouchers. These Christian activists believe, and they may be right, that they are near the tipping point on this issue. That is, just a small increase in the percent of parents with children in private school will result in the change they seek--the end of state-run public educational systems. Because their goal is "pure," the Christian Right believes that the destruction of publicly supported education by whatever means is justified. So the first possibly irreconcilable issue between educational psychology and the Christian Right is that many in the Christian Right seek to destroy the public schools, while I believe that most in the educational psychology and broader educational research communities support public education.

Possibly uniquely, he links this and the punitive parenting styles designed to break the wills of children:
Adults get frustrated with young people and want to punish them--for disrespect, poor grades, graffiti, to say nothing of more serious offenses. Sometimes the desire to punish children is overwhelming among parents and citizens, despite the fact that almost all of behavioral psychology agrees that using positive reinforcement of alternative behaviors gains greater and longer lasting behavior change than does the use of punishment. Although much evidence can be mustered to support this principle, most Americans still believe there are times when it is right and proper to punish youth. It is the nature of that punishment that I want to discuss because some of the recommendations emanating from the extreme Christian Right include physical punishment. After almost a half century of research, creatively and convincingly carried out by Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura, most of the educational psychology community holds that physical violence against children is harmful. It is very difficult to ever justify scientifically, and most of the educational psychology community condemns it on moral grounds as well. The resolution on corporal punishment passed by the American Psychological Association (1975) sums up what psychologists know and believe, and this is provided in Exhibit 1. But in clear opposition to this resolution, members of the Christian Right claim it is good to physically punish disobedient youth because, they say, pain cleanses and the Bible justifies it.
. . .
The claim for biblical support is sometimes based on the aphorism "spare the rod and spoil the child," which is not biblical, though it often is claimed to be and easily could be (Greven, 1992). The King James edition of the Old Testament includes, among Solomon's proverbs, aphorism with similar sentiments:

    Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with th rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt delive his soul from hell. (23:13-14)

    The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. (29:15)

    Foolishness is bound in the heart of the child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (22:15)

    In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod for the back of him that is void of understanding. (10:13)

    Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. (19:18)

    My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. (3:11-12)

When the New Testament is examined there is no evidence that Jesus ever condoned violence toward children. The only statement in the New Testament that supports physical punishment comes from Hebrews 12, and that is a rehash of the Old Testament's "whom God loveth he correcteth." But in the New Testament God's chosen representative is designated: Acting for Him is the family's father.

The author of The Christian Family (Christenson, 1970), which over the last two decades has sold over one million copies, says, "The scriptural method of discipline is simple and unequivocal: the rod." And he reminds families that "God holds you accountable for the discipline of your children." Another book of advice to Christian parents (Lessin, 1979) says "Spanking is God's idea. He is the one who has commanded parents to spank their children as an expression of love. Spanking is not optional" (p. 30). And Christian pop psychologist James Dobson (1985), in his million-copy best-seller The Strong-Willed Child, interprets the teachings of the Bible this way: "A child learns to yield to the authority of God by first learning to submit to the leadership of his parents" (p. 238).

(In other words, this may be another reason Dobson wants parents to withdraw their kids--not only are public schools increasingly going away from knocking the hell out of kids, there tend not to be mandatory reporters for when "chastisement" gets out of hand.)

Later in the article:

Miller (1990, 1993) makes the point that saving children from evil is just one rationale for physical punishment, but a related goal is to promote obedience from children, a characteristic of a "proper" Christian household. In this view, man should not question God, and children should not question the adult who wears the cloak of divine omnipotence.

This view of family easily leads to child-rearing practices that are at odds with virtually all contemporary theories of the constructivist mind--one that actively seeks to make meaning for oneself The recent revolution in learning theories from behaviorism to cognitivism includes a profound change in the way we view children (see Greeno, Collins, & Resnick, 1996). Contemporary constructivist and situationist views of learning do not begin with an "obedient mind"; rather, they start with a view of the mind as active and socially mediated. The new psychology has changed how learning and instruction are thought about in the different subject matter fields (e.g., De Corte, Greer, & Verschaffel, 1996; Linn, Songer, & Eylon, 1996 ). These various subject matter fields now require of a learner curiosity, agency, and thoughtfulness---characteristics that cannot develop well when obedience is the primary goal of child rearing.

(Again, noting--the goal of education in broadening a child's mind is different than the goal of dominionist correspondence-school programs (and dominionist "child-training" as opposed to non-dominionist childrearing)--the goal with dominionists is that people shall Obey and Not Question.  Interestingly, this also happens to be one of the most universally agreed upon "warning signs" of a spiritually abusive group; the BITE Model in particular discusses this in detail.  Another article from Hassan's site notes how coercive religious groups use these tactics to maintain control.)

Later in the article:

Contrasted with these visions of teaching and learning that have been shaped by educational psychologists is a quote from a nineteenth-century fundamentalist tract on child rearing:

    Just as we must act with humble faith in the higher wisdom and unfathomable love of God, so the child should let his actions be guided by faith in the wisdom of his parents and teachers and should regard this as schooling in obedience toward the Heavenly Father. Anyone who alters these circumstances is flagrantly replacing faith with presumptuous doubt and at the same time overlooking the nature of the child and his need for faith. I do not know how we can continue to speak of obedience once reasons are given. These are meant to convince the child, and, once convinced, he is not obeying us but merely the reasons we have given him. . . . The adult who gives reasons for his orders opens up the field to argument, and thus alters the relationship to his charge. The latter starts to negotiate, thereby placing himself on the same level as the adult; this equality is incompatible with the respect required for successful education. Anyone who believes he can win love only if he is obeyed as a result of explanations is sorely mistaken, for he fails to recognize the nature of the child, and his need to submit to someone stronger than himself. (in Miller, 1990, p. 39)

These strategies for child rearing are at direct odds with contemporary views in educational psychology. But this centuries-oId penchant for obedience over thoughtfulness, for commands rather than explanations, reappears in the child-rearing advice given by many past and current religious counselors, and such guidance has affected American social life and schooling (e.g., McCaslin & Good, 1992). The language used in recommendations to parents is strong--it has to do with breaking the will, and the destruction of the independent intellect during childhood. For example, here are the views of John Robinson, the minister of the Puritans, in Holland, before they left for America:

    Surely there is in all children ... a stubbornness, and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride, which must, in the first place, be broken and beaten down; that so the foundation of their education being laid in humility and tractableness, other virtues may, in their time, be built thereon. (quoted in Greven, 1992, p. 65)

The mother of John Wesley, Susanna, expresses similar thoughts in a letter to her son:

    A child must be conquered. . . . And when the will of a child is totally subdued, and it is brought to revere and stand in awe of the parents, then a great many childish follies ... may be passed by. . . . I insist on the conquering of the will of children betimes, because this is the only strong and rational foundation of a religious education ... [and] when this is thoroughly done, then a child is capable of being governed by the reason and piety of its parents. (quoted in Greven, 1992, p. 66)

Modern advice for child rearing reflects the same themes. The Reverend Jack Hyles, in How to Rear Children (1972), says it this way:

    The parent who spanks the child keeps him from going to hell. . . . A child who is spanked will be taught that there is a holy God Who punishes sin and wrong. Hence he will learn to heed authority and obey the laws and rules. When he hears the Word of God he will obey what he hears and will accept the Gospel as it is preached. (pp. 95- 96)

    The spanking should be administered firmly. It should be painful and it should last until the child's will is broken. It should last until the child is crying, not tears of anger but tears of a broken will. As long as he is stiff, grits his teeth, holds on to his own will, the spanking should continue. (pp. 99-100)

More currently, William Bennett, our former Secretary of Education, in his introduction to Children at Risk (Dobson & Bauer, 1990, p. xvii), says he has "long admired Jim Dobson. Few Americans have done more to get all of us to 'focus on the family'." Dobson, a popular Christian Right psychologist, has sold over two million copies of his 1970 book Dare to Discipline (Gaddy, Hall, & Marzano, 1996). In that book, Bennett's esteemed colleague advises that "pain is a marvelous purifier" and that parents ought to use spankings to control their children's willfulness and rebelliousness (Dobson, 1970). Although claiming to be a psychologist, Dobson has not distinguished well between physical punishment and punishment resulting from response cost or time-out, methods of punishment for children that are more compatible with the beliefs held by most educational psychologists. In another of his books that sold over one million copies, The Strong-Willed Child (1985), Dobson says:

    If punishment doesn't influence human behavior, then why is the issuance of speeding citations by police so effective . . . ? Why, then, do homeowners rush to get their tax payments in the mail to avoid a 6 percent penalty for being late? If punishment has no power then why does a well-deserved spanking often turn a sullen little trouble maker into a sweet and loving angel? (p. 38)

In that same book he writes, "Should a spanking hurt? Yes.... a small amount of pain for a young child goes a long way" (p. 53). And for those parents who cannot think of how to administer pain to a child, he has advice: "There is a muscle, lying snugly against the base of the neck. Anatomy books list it as the trapezious muscle, and when firmly squeezed, it sends little messages to the brain saying, 'This hurts; avoid reoccurrence at all costs' " (p. 138).

This advice to families given by Secretary Bennett's friend stands in sharp contrast to that offered by the American Psycholological Association and professional educational associations. Dobson's interest is in blind obedience. That is his bottom line. Independence of thought must be stopped, even beaten out of the child if necessary. Many other advisors to contemporary Christian parents are in complete agreement on this point. For example, Hyles (1972, cited in Greven, 1992) asserts that

    obedience is the foundation for all character. It is the foundation for the home. It is the foundation for a school. It is the foundation for a country. (p. 145)

    Require strict obedience. This obedience should always be immediate, instant, without question or argument. When the father says do, the son does. He does it well, he does it immediately, and he does it without argument. The parents allow no exceptions to the rules. Hence, obedience is the law of the land and the child should not deem it necessary to have an explanation for the orders he has received from his parents. (p. 144)

Yet another child-rearing specialist, Roy Lessin (1979) says:

    Obedience from children should be unquestioned; it should not be based upon how reasonable a command sounds to a child. A parent's directive does not have to be reasonable to the child in order to be obeyed. (p. 44)

And the best-selling Larry Christenson (1970) says:

    The bible ... does not say, "Children obey your parents when they are right." It says: "Obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right"--even if they are wrong! (See Ephesians 6:1.) The child who obeys a "wrong" command will bask in the light of God's approval. In the long run, he will be a happier and better adjusted child than the one who is given freedom to challenge and question the parents' authority. For the obedient child is living according to Divine Order, and therefore, participates in a deep sense of harmony and fitness. (p. 55)

(I have written in part on Lessin in an article regarding "chastening" in the dominionist community; one of the victims of Roy Lessin's "chastenings" has written a poignant letter on the longterm consequences of their tactics.)

(It's also interesting to note that scripture-twisting yet again takes place as well as a bit of dominionist "bible code"; Ephesians 6:1 is "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." and is in a larger context of people told to "chin up" as people who oppress them will karmically "get theirs"--it is of interest here that the author describes himself as an "ambassador in chains", thus showing the context of "things will right themselves in the end".  (Ephesians 6 in general is also possibly one of the chapters of the Bible most commonly scripture-twisted; Ephesians 6:5 has been historically used as a Biblical defense of slavery, for example, and Ephesians 6:11-12 has been used to justify "spiritual warfare" movements including "Third Wave" pentecostalism and dominionism itself.)  Interestingly, Ephesians 6:4 (which commands parents not to drive their children to wrath) is NOT quoted.)  

In fact, often the goal is explicitly coercive:

Nothing can help make the Gablers' opinions about textbooks clearer than Mrs. Gabler's own words:

    Too many of today's textbooks leave students to make up their own minds. Now that is not fair to our children: What some textbooks are doing is giving students ideas, and ideas will never do them as much good as facts. (quoted in Parker, 1981, p. 13)

With the Gablers and others like them on the alert for nontraditional teaching materials and methods, it is not likely that the curriculum of a Christian Right school will be rich in the ways educational psychologists and the new standard-setters in mathematics, science, and social studies might hope a curriculum to be. And that seems to be the case.

The curriculum of many Christian Right schools includes packets of materials from the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) program. In many of these schools the students work on the packets in their own small offices or cubicles. The work consists of low-level cognitive tasks that emphasize simple association and recall activities, as is typical of instruction from workbooks. Despite the reviling of B. F. Skinner by the Christian Right, the materials make heavy use of behavioral objectives, programmed learning, and rewards (Hunter, 1987, cited in Speck & Prideaux, 1993). Students are not supposed to communicate with other students, get up, or turn around without obtaining permission from a supervisor. Students who are having difficulty are expected to raise a small American or Christian flag signaling that they need help. In many of the Christian Right schools interaction between students has been cut off and intellectual activities in groups rarely occur because group work is not valued. Cooperative learning, which invests some power in and attributes some wisdom to the group, is seen to undermine the relationship of subservience of children to adults and to God. Cooperative learning is considered bad learning.

The article continues with a criticism of the ACE curriculum (in similar fashion to my own criticism of A Beka), showing the curricula packages have similar fatal flaws.  In addition, "The Diary of Anne Frank" and much of the works of Shakespeare are completely redacted as being too "sexual" and "Othello" is also banned on grounds of (in a claim straight out of the Jim Crow days) promoting miscegenation (O_o).

In the ACE curriculum, and in most other dominionist curricula, the punitive parenting styles and punitive household arrangements are taught as the ideal:

The ACE social studies curriculum pays homage to capitalism and contains a great many patriotic messages. These themes are often blended with Christianity, communicating the message that this is God's chosen country. An equally important message conveyed by the materials is that women have their place. In one story that is part of the Social Studies ACE packet, a mother says to her son:

    Your father is the head of our home. It is God's plan for the father to be head of his family. I talk to your father about things, but he is the one who decides what we must do. I would do wrong not to obey your father because he is the head of our home. God is pleased when a mother obeys the father in the home. (Speck & Prideaux, 1993, p. 287).

In social studies materials in use at the Center Road Christian Academy of Buffalo, New York, students learned that

    men are often better at math and science because of the way their minds work. . . . To fulfill their duties as protectors and providers, men usually have stronger, heavier muscles. . . . Men usually enjoy work outside the home, while women usually find greater enjoyment working within the home. . . . Some vocations are distinctly for men, while others are distinctly for women. (Gehrman, 1987, p. 16)

Interestingly, and somewhat paradoxically, at the Dade Christian School in Miami, Florida, students must pledge not to "draw, wear, or display in any way the 'peace' symbol" (Gehrman, 1987, p. 16). Other social studies materials vociferously condemn the United Nations and the evil people who are trying to create one world order, subjugating this nation, God's nation, to a greater authority. The United Nations is abhorred because it has as a working premise the tolerance of, and respect for, other religions. That becomes intolerable for some of the Christian Right since there is only one true God and those that do not find him are damned for eternity.

(As an aside, speaking as a survivor of a "spiritual warfare" church, I can describe why the UN and the peace symbol are banned.  In "deliverance ministry" groups it is a popular urban legend that the peace sign is a covert Satanic symbol comprised of an upside-down cross with two broken arms (in fact, the peace symbol derives from the semaphore for N and D in a circle, hence, "total nuclear disarmament"); the UN is often seen as the tool of "one world government" that the Antichrist will establish in premillenial-dispensationalist conspiracy theories (and quite often it is even frankly asserted that the Russians control the UN).)

The goal is to essentially have kids brought up from birth as "God Warriors" so set in their ways as to never be able to break from the dominionist mindset:

After eighteen months of intensive study of a Christian fundamentalist school, the "Bethany Academy" (a pseudonym), noted anthropologist Alan Peshkin (1986, 1987) was in a good position to discuss the kinds of total institutions the theologically pure would have us develop. Educational psychologists and other educational scholars would agree that these are not good places for youth, though the parents of those students and the students themselves would heartily disagree. Peshkin, with obvious compassion and concern for the people he studied, expresses his worries eloquently:

    I am concerned by a group whose beliefs permit no uncertainty, whose members frequent, accordingly, a polarized world where things are either this or that, not this and that. Scriptural truth, as Bethany holds it, rejects negotiation; compromise is unthinkable; purity of doctrine is the scriptural standard. To me, such Truth is awesome, its implications intimidating. (1987, p. 9)

    I feel anything but indifferent to the Bethany Baptist Academies of America because I fear people who believe they know the Truth and are convinced that everyone else should adhere to this same Truth. Their implacable logic is never moderated by the need to be pragmatic, to find compromise, or to see things in terms of degrees. (1987, p. 10)

by dogemperor on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 12:55:55 PM EST

Do any of these people have dogs? Try going to ANY dog training classes and they'll tell you this is NOT the way to discipline and train dogs - never mind children. If you treat a dog this way he'll grow up to bite you; it's no wonder so many kids are so messed up.

This reminds me of the simple reduction to authoritarian vs. anti-authoritarian personality types. Fundamentalist religious types are authoritarian (but which came first?), and treat everyone this way. Beyond any moral or religious issues, I believe this basic description explains most if not all of the human race and its problems.

by joelp on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 05:32:11 PM EST

One only treats a dog like that if one wants it to be mean and--once rescued from its owner or, more likely, seized from its owner after it mauls a kid--being eventually put down due to it being unadoptable.

(I've known people who work in animal rescue, and the cases where dogs were beaten to make them submissive--or even worse, to make them "mean"--are some of the saddest cases, because those dogs tend to turn into either fear-biters or aggression-biters.  An animal which has been neglected is easier to work with; if a dog is treated like dominionists trying to raise "obediant" children or "god warriors" treat their kids, it almost guarantees that most dogs that survive the abuse will either require very ginger handling (and will always be nervous to some extent around people) at best and at worst tend to turn into biters.  This is actually where you get the cases you hear so much about with "pit bulls mauling kids"--too often, people try to either beat a pit bull into submission or they try to beat it to make it "mean" so "it can be a good guard dog".  (Ironically, pits don't have so much problem with "puppy mill" lineages because most people are frankly terrified of them!  Raised properly, with love and discipline (as opposed to beating the hell out of the dog), pit bulls can actually be lovable dogs.)

I even noted on a thread regarding abusive parenting techniques on Dark Christianity (in which the mention was made of Dobson documenting knocking the hell out of his pet Dachshund for the crime of wanting to sleep on a comfortable spot and not going to his dog crate on Dobson's command) that Dobson's technique of "persuasion" is probably the one thing dog trainers recommend almost uniformly never, ever to do.  (For that matter, in quite a few areas of the country, Dobson's behaviour would actually be seen as criminal animal abuse.  Many dogs are seen being taken to shelters--and their owners hauled to jail--on Animal Planet's numerous "animal cops" type shows for less than what Dobson did to his pooch.)  Dog trainers agree almost to a one that beating a dog will only cause "fear aggression", a problem that is almost incurable once it sets in--again, as evidenced on the various "animal cops" shows, most animals like this that end up in shelters end up being put down because they are too scarred to ever be among people safely.

Very interestingly, many experts on spousal and child abuse are increasingly stating that an early warning sign of abusive behaviour towards humans is abuse of animals.  This well could be provable in Dobson's case:

(from Dark Christianity article)

Here's a quote from Dobson's "Complete Marriage and Family Reference Guide" you may find of interest:

"If children cry for longer than five minutes, "the child is merely complaining...I would require him to stop the protest crying, usually by offering him a little more of whatever caused the original tears."

(In other words, he advocates beating children for crying about being spanked.)

In "Dare to Discipline", Dobson advocates giving Vulcan death-grips to children who demand bedtime stories and such:

You see, the parent should have some means of making the child want to cooperate, other than simply obeying because he was told to do so. For those who can think of no such device, I will suggest one: there is a muscle, lying snugly against the base of the neck. Anatomy books list it as the trapezius muscle, and when firmly squeezed, it sends little messengers to the brain saying, "This hurts; avoid recurrence at all costs"...Let's return to the bedtime issue between Henry and his Mom...If he didn't move immediately, the shoulder muscle could have been squeezed.

In "The Strong-Willed Child" (the same book where he documents literally beating the hell out of a small dog), he advocates spanking babies for crying because they need their diapers changed:

Should a spanking hurt? Yes, or else it will have no influence. A swat on the behind through three layers of wet diapers simply conveys no urgent message.

(Erm, if baby is wet, baby is probably crying because he's wet, and baby needs to be changed lest baby get a rash (especially with cloth nappies); I've never been much around infants, I tend to actively avoid infants, but even I know that much about kidlets. :P)

(from Dobson's "Challenges In The Family Years: Understanding Early Adolescents" as quoted in the following post, and available in fuller context via Dobson's own page)
I strongly recommend that parents of strong-willed and rebellious females, especially, quietly keep track of the particulars of their daughters' menstrual cycles. Not only should you record when their periods begin and end each month, but also make a comment or two each day about moods. I think you will see that the emotional blowups that tear the family apart are cyclical in nature. Premenstrual tension at that age can produce a flurry of skirmishes every 28 days.

If you know they are coming, you can retreat to the storm cellar when the wind begins to blow. You can also use this record to teach your girls about premenstrual syndrome and how to cope with it. Unfortunately, many parents never seem to notice the regularity and predictability of severe conflict with their daughters. Again, I recommend that you watch the calendar. It will tell you so much about your girls.

(Yes, he's encouraging flat out belittling young teens for being premenstrual and encourages parents to blame any disputes, etc. between them and their teen on the teen's monthly visit from Aunt Flo.  Having actually been subjected to this, among many other dominionist parenting techniques (including myself and my sister being "chastened" till we cried), I can vouch that this is counterproductive to healthy family relations at best: "Mom, you're being just a bit unreasonable..."  "You're just saying that because you're on the rag!  You're always bitchy when you're on the rag!"  (And it's often just a step from there to the rants of "Demons of rebellion, I command you to LEAVE this child in the name of JEEE-ZUS", having Wesson oil smeared on one's head, and the ranting in tongues and later cursing of the kid for "backsliding" and "opening doorways for Satan in your life".  Trust me.  I know all too darned well on this.)

(Interestingly, the comments for the LJ article mention Destiny Church, a dominionist neopente church in New Zealand that is widely regarded as spiritually abusive (and also notes that "Destiny" in New Zealand is essentially a dominionist codeword for churches involved in "Third Wave" pentecostalism, much as "World Harvest" or "World Prayer Center" or "Revival" or "Renewal" are dominionist "brand names" here in the States--in this case, their "Destiny" being to set up a worldwide dominionist takeover and rule of the world by dominionist "God Warriors").  It also notes how they are also reaching out to minority populations in some of the same ways that World Harvest Church in Ohio is doing--to be able to pull the "race card" on any criticism of the group.)

by dogemperor on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 10:37:48 PM EST

The question that what's motivating some Christian conventional leaders to compete with California's preschool for all initiative, Proposition 82, which is known as on the election for June 6, 2006? Here's an undisclosed about the theocratic agenda of James C. Dobson, Ph.D., who is the initiator of Focus on the Family and figurehead of a traditional Christian political movement: he desires to keep kids out of California's public education system. Users can go for buy a research paper at for better assistance. He would like to close the doors of public schools. And in case his vision of an America without a public education system comes true then our kids won't be capable to get better jobs or donate to America's civil society. Dobson's schedule is open because he easily talks about it on his radio transmissions and periodicals, which, he states, reach some 200 million people global. Hitherto it's top-secret insofar as the conventional media disregards his declarations or declines to trust that Dobson means what he says.

by sarwarmonaf on Mon Jan 28, 2019 at 05:22:07 AM EST

I found that article very valuable for me. wikipedia

by sarwarmonaf on Thu Apr 18, 2019 at 06:00:38 AM EST

What's actually motivating some Christian traditional leaders to compete with California's "preschool for all" initiative, Proposition 82, which is known as on the vote for June 6, 2006? I guess is good. Here's an exposed undisclosed about the theocratic program of James C. Dobson, Ph.D., the creator of Focus on the Family and figurehead of a conservative Christian political campaign.

by sarwarmonaf on Mon Apr 22, 2019 at 07:06:55 AM EST

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