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Monday, April 21, 2014

Vision Forum.....

was a name of a well-known Evangelical Christian ministry and adjoining store founded by Doug Philips and based in San Antonio, Texas. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association publicized it, as did quite a few other popular homeschooling resource centers. As a Catholic homeschooling student, I have received catalogs from them through the HLDA and always had mixed emotions about their philosophy on life and the merchandise they sold for a variety of reasons.

      Now, just recently, the brand name has been completely liquidated as the result of an “emotional” extramarital affair on the part of Doug Philips. Having a wife and eight children and projecting the “perfect” family image just made this revelation more of a blow to Philips’ followers and employees, who were actually the ones who made the final decision to shut down shop before things could get any worse. Needless to say, reactions on the whole have been diverse, and often quite nasty as opposed to an appropriate attitude of Christian forgiveness. Sadly, homeschooling, religion, and stay-at-home moms in general are going to be getting the worst of the flack. But here, for what they’re worth, are a few of my thoughts on the subject.

    Some of the themes put forward by Vision Forum I agreed with, such as the importance of faith and family, remembering Christian history and heritage, and making homeschooling a feasible opportunity for more people. However, I disagree with some of their most strongly-held views, especially the belief in a patriarchal society and the submissiveness of women. This goes so far as to discourage girls from going to college and pursuing a career,  insisting that true “Biblical womanhood” is fulfilled through the roles of wife and mother alone.

    I am a great believer in the importance of sanctity of marriage and family, for both men and women. I also believe that men should, if possible, be the main bread-winners for their families so that women can focus more on raising any children they might have. But circumstances often prevent this from being practical in today’s economy, and it is often necessary for both adults in a household to pursue jobs. Also, many girls would feel totally unfulfilled if they did not exercise their academic gifts in a college setting and pursue the career of their interest. It would be not only ridiculous but selfish for their parents to hinder them.

    On the other hand, I don’t think girls should be forced out of the home or made to feel stupid or lazy should they decide to pass on college and focus more exclusively on home economics. Their homes can be centers of learning, culture, virtue, and a practical and artistic intelligence that equals the benefits of scholastic pursuits. The demeaning of women as sexy objects or ambitious money-makers will always pale in comparison with an honest appreciation of them as soul mates and gifted individuals, whether they find their calling as stay-at-home moms or teachers educating students or doctors caring for their patients or military administrators helping defend their nation or an artist bringing beauty to the world, or what have you.

    Young men should be taught to be gentlemen, but never silky cads. In other words, by all means open a door and pull up a chair for a lady, but do it to honor her place in the fairer sex, not to demean her as somehow inferior or obtuse. Treat her as an equal, not as an alien! A friendship has got to be on equal footing in order to work out right. A marriage all the more so. Vision Forum’s insinuation that a wife is pretty much there only to “bless her husband’s vision” instead of it being a two-way street is just plain wrong. This doesn’t mean we have the exact same roles. He may be considered more of the “head” of the household, while she would fill in the “heart”. But I’d like to see one of those body parts dare to order the other to be “submissive”.

     In the Vision Forum catalog, the girls’ section was always a lot smaller than the boys’ and included only the frilliest of items. Personally, I am a blouse-and-skirt girl who is dedicated to the concept of modesty in dress. I love dressing up in old-fashioned outfits. But even in my youth, while I was certainly not a tom-boy, I wasn’t particularly prissy in a baby-doll fashion either. I’d much rather play with my stuffed animals and send them on epic adventures or reenact some battle involving Robin Hood. So the point is girls should not be treated as stereotypically tame and frowned upon if they have any sense of adventure in their blood.

     By contrast, the boys’ section of the catalog is loaded with guts and gusto. Too much, as a matter of fact. Exactly what mother in her right mind would entrust her 7 or 8 year old son with a real tomahawk? What about knives or air pistols? It’s beyond me why the boy-themed pages are almost exclusively stocked with killer weapons learning to hunt as a family. I am not against owning firearms, per se, as a legitimate means of self-defense. But young children need not identify with them as play toys. Furthermore, boys should not be expected to have some sort of “killer instinct” by birth. I would not want my family to learn the “thrill of the hunt” nor to take pleasure it taking the life of another living creature.

    “Manliness” is fine and dandy in and of itself, but it should not be put on steroids. There’s nothing more annoying than a young man trying to be super-macho in a cheesy manner. Frankly, if he can’t be sensitive and compassionate in addition to manifesting his inner warrior instinct, he’s lost me completely. True manhood (or womanhood, for that matter) is not something to be worn on our sleeves or flaunted about. It is a quiet strength and gentle nurturing, a humble courage and hearty sense of humor that I find the most appealing. It is doing our daily task to the fullest and loving one another as Children of God. Gender distinction should serve to draw us together, not blind us to one another’s needs or make us cardboard cut-outs of some pre-designed model we are all supposed to fit.

     The idea of raising sons with heroic ideals is great, but the turn-out will no doubt be quite an overview of the realities of human nature. I don’t mean to sound like a cynic, but somehow I have a hard time picturing any of my lads rescuing me from anything! Like, if I was kidnapped and tied to a stake, about to be turned into a hot lunch by a hoard of cannibals, I could picture several methods they may try to use to extricate me from the sticky situation. For example, one might approach a hungry tribesman and say, “Yo, dude, this is like so…not nice! Why don’t you just, like, turn the little lady lose?”

    Another might begin rattling off demographic stats about international cannibals and the varied designs of their primitive cooking utensils. Another might try to distract them with sitcom impersonations. Another might read The Riot Act and tell them to disperse under penalty of indefinite period of incarceration. Some of the others might simply refrain from involving themselves, for fear of getting into a scramble with indigenous peoples and either dirtying their potential political careers or tailored suits. The best of the bunch might throw a wild punch or strike an impressive Judo pose before being pulverized. Hey, it’s the thought that counts.

    Okay, okay, maybe I'd come up with a few better results from them than all that, as I’m sure they'll insist if any of them read this post! But my main point is to burst the bubble of some girls who cannot see past their own vision of practically-perfect-in-every-way “White Knights”. While such paragons may be in short supply, basically decent young guys with quirks and imperfections and a lot of maturing to do are not. They are the ones with whom lasting friendships can be built, who we can share things with, and knock around with, and trust to watch our back (as best they can!), and even argue with before bouncing back and making up. It is through these types of lasting friendships that deep romances are more likely to naturally blossom.

Too be continued......

It's the thought that counts.....sometimes!



  1. Dear Pearl,

    Well and truly said! And I haven't heard "silky" used in reference to a cad in such a long time. Perfect!

    When I was a lad on the farm, my Depression-era parents urged education so that my brothers and I would not have to live in situational poverty. Report cards and notes home from the teacher were fearsome matters.

    When I was an adult the fashion was to fault public schooling, which was accompanied by a failure of people to serve on school boards or even vote, which in turn resulted in the wrong people assuming those democratically elected offices. Catholic schools, went the conventional wisdom, were the only means for educating children.

    And now Catholic schools have suffered from inattentive bishops, weak administration, and complete indifference from parents. The latest fashion is teaching children at home (aka "home-schooling," which of course is a false linguistic construct).

    I have taught numerous teens whose background was teaching at home, and most of them were well prepared. But not all - keeping children isolated (aka "home school") is also the perfect cover for child neglect / abuse.

    I have taught in Catholic and public schools, and in my semi-dotage teach four mornings a week for a nifty little community college. The most prepared students in my classes come from both public schools and some from being taught at home (there are no church schools near). The indicators for success are no surprise:

    1. Parent figures, usually, two, doing their best for their children, not their beer-stimulated egos. These parents know little of drugs, drunkenness, indolence, or the insides of jails. Let's be realistic about that. They do say "no" occasionally, and do not surrender their parental duties to the Orwellian telescreen or to popular culture (sic). Music -- as in playing an instrument, not idling with the headphones turned on to Miley Khardassian - is a very common factor in student success in school and then in life.
    2. Consistent church attendance within a grown-up religion with a history further back than the 501C3 pastor's born-again experience when he was 10.
    3. The individual child's determination not to spend the rest of his or her life muddin' and reproducing.

    In sum, the LABEL (public school, private school, or teaching at home) is not important. After all, Billy Graham attended a public school, Hitler attended a Catholic school, and that unhappy martyr-maker Queen Elizabeth I was taught at home. The difference is in the humans.


  2. As regards the "man is head" thing, there was a movie that once put a very different spin on that: "The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And the neck can turn the head any way she wants." In the movie, a woman used this to console her daughter when the latter was upset that her father wouldn't let her go to college.

    And if you ever are captured by cannibals, I'll unleash my inner Marie and show the boys how it's done. ;)

  3. @Mack: I agree, for the most part, that what people take away from different methods of schooling largely depends on what they as as individuals put into it. That having been said, I really don't think that many home-school-ers are "isolated", or at least not any that I have met directly. However, as for some the Vision Forum followers, they may well have fallen into that category.

    @Emerald: Good neck analogy ;-) But you'd never let me live it down if I had to channel your inner Marie for a rescue! Naw, I'll have to extricate myself by using my inner Anita or one of my other multitudinous brain-children! :-D

  4. I'm going to respectfully disagree a little here, Mack--yes, it ultimately boils down to what we do with the education we receive, but I think the environment in which we learn might contribute to our success as well. Different types of people learn better in different situations--for instance, I was the type of student who just wanted to shut everything and everyone out and get my work done so I could get on with the rest of my day. Considering that, I think homeschooling worked out well for me because I doubt I would have gotten the silence I needed in a public school! However, there might be someone who gets easily bored or distracted on their own, so a public or Catholic school environment might help keep them on track in their studies. That's just my view, anyway.

    And I had to share this, my favorite video on homeschooling (hope your internet connection lets you see this, Pearl!): :)

  5. Here are some posts that you may want to spend some time reading:


    And a post series: