This is one I have been thinking about for days. After reading often at Cindy Kunsman's web site, Under Much Grace the reality that families and congregations of mainstream churches can also be cultish has been tumbling around in the back of my mind. I think in many of these instances, the people involved in cultish behavior- seeking total conformity to the stated ideals/goals- must believe the ideals are so worthwhile and the goals are so noble, that the measures taken to insure conformity are justified. (I would say "extreme measures" but obviously to the group engaged in them there is nothing unreasonable or extreme about it. Only those outside the group find the measures "extreme".)
Milleu Control for the purpose of this blog entry is defined as: the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large...Information from outside sources is often criticized and discounted to discourage acceptance by group members. Under Much Grace
I have a hard time getting past that paragraph.
It so succinctly describes many of the religious home school families and support groups I have been acquainted with during my thirteen years of home schooling. It even describes a few of the secular homes and home school support groups with which I have had personal experience. It is eerie, to say the least.
Good parenting is supposed to limit access to information and communication to some degree. Concerned parents are informed about the developmental stages of children, and familiarize themselves with what is appropriate to discuss with children at what age. We parents all control to some degree with whom our children communicate- what they watch on television, what they read, with whom they play or hang out, even the relatives with whom we allow them to develop close relationships. Many limit access to computers or install search engine filters so that young minds are not exposed to troubling realities they are not yet equipped to process in a healthy way. In this sense, milieu control is a necessary and good thing that allows our children some time to grow before they face all the mess this world has to offer.
In this way, all parents exert milieu control to one extent or another. It is cruel to do otherwise, and although there is great difference of opinion about what/where/when/how exposure to realities outside of the family is appropriate, there is much on which most parents agree. I don't know anyone who thinks it is appropriate to expose young children to porn, for example.
From the earliest days of home schooling being legally recognized, opponents of home schooling have pointed out that the possibility for milieu control is so great that it should be of major concern to society, and by extension, government as the formal institution regulating society. Libertarians like myself counter (rightly in my opinion) that all freedoms hold the potential for misuse, yet freedom itself is so precious and valuable to society that such hazards must be allowed.
Cultish groups had no problem flourishing in the days before home school was legal and popular. I remember the Pentecostal Holiness girls in my public school, as well as the single Jehovah's Witness, who were daily subjected to feeling like outsiders due to their parent's insistence on total behavior control. I even know a young teen girl my son's age, who was forced to wear the same clothes to public school for two years by a domineering mother. She had two sets of the same clothing, and did laundry every night for the day ahead. Of course the other children teased her and thought she was weird. The clothing isolated her even though she went to public school. This same teen was also not allowed to watch television (it was locked up), not allowed to shower more than 3-5 minutes, was not allowed free access to food (pantry and fridge were padlocked) and was spied on via web cam set up in the kitchen so that her working mom could keep control of her at all times.
In those examples, public school served as simply another venue for the cult control to operate, the parents using the shame and ostracization they were able to generate from the group to further dominate their children and/or force them to identify with the cult, be the cult family or religious in nature.
Controlling parents exist in all types of schooling, but it is true that there is more opportunity for total milieu control in a home school. I am asking that any home schoolers who drop by here stop and think seriously about their own families and home school programs. More specifically, I am asking Christian home school parents who might be reading to think long and hard about the appropriateness and the extent of the milieu control they have established in their own family's lives. Seriously. Intently. Prayerfully.
The second part of the definition above "Information from outside sources is often criticized and discounted to discourage acceptance by group members" of course made me think of all the Creation Science Only crowd. I exposed my children to creation science, as well as teaching them all about the modern scientific community's acceptance of evolution. We looked at evolution vs. creation from every angle, not only from the 6 Day Creation model but at all the different beliefs within Christianity as a whole and outside of religion. Not all Christians reject evolution, you know.
That is education: teaching all of the perspectives you can find on a subject, with all the pros and cons of each, and throwing in your own personal perspective for good measure, and owning it as such when you do. Teaching only one point of view, or teaching that all other points of view are invalid, is milieu control. Milieu control is the stuff of cults.
Likewise, when I recently used a religious curriculum for foreign language, it clearly portrayed competing Christian sects in the worst possible light. That isn't education; it's indoctrination. Education would have included the positives associated with other Christian sects as well, and maybe followed up with a concluding argument as to why your sect believes it is preferable. Indoctrination was the goal of that textbook, more so even than acquiring fluency in the foreign language it was written to teach.
And what is the point of indoctrination? Is it not to control so completely the possible thoughts available to the indoctrinated, that they have no real choice about what to believe?
That really concerns me as a believer in Jesus Christ. If salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone, does it not have to be freely chosen faith? Can it still be called faith if you never really had any other choice?
It is a very good thing to ask yourself, as a home schooling parent. Have my children freely chosen faith, or did I take away all the other choices so that this one way is the only way they CAN possibly choose?
Something worth thinking about, at the very least.