Posts Tagged ‘home schooling’
The journey picks up where we left off, on my becoming an apostate. The first part of the journey – studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and leaving can be read here.
Above: My companions while taught at home
Even now twenty years on I can trace the route of my father’s tears of joy as I told him the news we had left the study of Jehovah’s Witnesses, on one of his weekly visits to see me. For years he had not let on his true feelings: regarding my being taught at home or being so close to baptism, and demanding a blood transfusion if needed. He feared not being allowed to see me or my brother had his displeasure been realised. His amateur dramatics in local Gilbert and Sullivan productions had paid off in his once a week performance as Dad. Shows like Princess Ida which no one could stop me seeing now. It was roughly a year or so after the divorce that mum had accepted the bible study. Timing is, as they say, everything as to what happens in your life. It felt like six years of mine had been wasted.
The biggest loss was a religious community, even though it had enforced every facet of belief on my child self. Our lodger was tolerated by the elders of the congregation because he did not “practise” his homosexuality at our home and used the back door to enter his part of the house. Word play is something he taught me, together with an appreciation for Douglas Adams, which I shall always be grateful for. There was no one else, besides him and my father outside the faith because “bad associations spoil useful habits.” Satan and his minions were considered able to use people outside the faith to get you to leave. Apostates are willing agents of the evil one by this reckoning.
There was no one to talk too about losing my religion. My mother had been concerned I would be the one still committed. However we reacted very differently on leaving. She still believed Jehovah existed, but the Society had failed to represent him. My own view was initially a deist but I had my work cut out learning about other faiths and whether science had answers that scripture did not know, before I could be sure of anything. Our views drifted further in time and my future atheism would distress her. She still read the Society publications, whilst I did not even want them on the book shelf. I had realised how easy it was to believe passionately in something that was not worthy of such devotion.
The congregation did shun, literally not talking or meeting with us, save for contact three months later by a ministerial servant (one down from an elder) seeing how we all were. With glee I happened to be playing the strategy god war game Mega-lo-mania on my newly acquired Mega Drive and thought – here is one game you are not burning. Note that playing card games or chess were not allowed because of the tarot origins of cards and the military aspect of chess. Naturally I bought books to learn card games and taught myself to play chess to fill in the spare time I now had by not attending or preparing for eight hours worth of meetings each week.
Being taught at home meant I had no other children to talk too accept at the Kingdom Hall and study meetings. What was now available to openly explore in the world had exponentially increased while the known population had dramatically declined. This was made harsher because I had no childhood friends to call on having existed mainly in a world of suited men and well dressed women old enough to adopt me. Those people from my childhood no longer existed.
Like the elder who led our local weekly study group who I called Uncle (his idea not mine) who grilled me on my bible knowledge; a challenge I revelled in showing off on. The other elder old enough to be my grandfather who used to take me weekly for swimming and diving – his dives from the top board were legendary in the swimming baths. My mother as a single parent with a younger disabled son could not provide such social outlets. To avoid being lonely I read books – but I was now alone.
My private study on evolution reading Richard Dawkins, and desire to go back to school to obtain qualifications, destroyed the relationship with my mother. With the TV aerial back on the roof (absent for two years because of “evil TV”) she shouted at David Attenborough whenever he said “evolution” on his wildlife documentaries. I was no longer turning to her for advice or counsel, nor able to help with the care of my brother when at secondary school as I had when taught at home. I was hitting the library as somewhere to do homework without the distractions of family life. Plus I finally discovered why Ford Prefect liked parties as I socialised. There was resentment too on my part that she had been so gullible to believe what the Jehovah’s Witnesses said. I mourned a childhood of no celebration and no friends to speak of. My adolescent self was being reborn in a brave new world.
Going back to secondary school seven months after leaving the faith helped in so many ways beyond obtaining qualifications. There was bullying to start with as the new kid (though I had been there for two terms four years previous). Being in the school play changed everything – there was a camaraderie and sense of belonging with my own peer group. Plus it helped me to understand why my father had the acting bug. I also became the chess captain when chess had a brief resurgence as Britain’s Nigel Short took on the Russian Thinking Machine that is Gary Kasparov.
Without that lifeline provided by teachers who really did look out for my education and gaining life experiences – I honestly do not know what story I would be writing now. My mind was made up that I would achieve something that nobody in my family had done before – attend university. Something which is a low priority when you think the end of the world is soon to be upon you.
It took me five years to get over instincts that constant mind training at meetings had installed on an impressionable young mind. In adult life I have twice on the off chance met people like myself who grew up in the faith only to leave. They had not met someone else like themselves, and the ability to talk about these things with someone who knew first hand was one I wish my adolescent self had access to.
Social media via the Internet makes talking to such people possible now. I hope people take advantage of it. That is why the apostasy project is so important. However, when you are brought up to consider apostates as capable of being a shining light while working for the dark evil one, none of us should take for granted how difficult it is for someone with doubts to reach out.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
Want to know what a religious field trip for home schooled kids is like?
The problem is what they are teaching is based on their faith, not on what the evidence is. They will not know that most religious people may not have to reject evidence in nature based on a dogma, nor that doing so for religious reasons is not a good way about discerning what is true. What they will not realize is that what is true about the natural world must submit to an interpretation of the bible based on a belief.
What they teach here is about reinforcing the presumed accurate belief system in the children, with the view that they will later on reject what science has to say with regard the age of the earth, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the development of species over time by a natural process that we call evolution.
Remember: if recognising evolution took place leads your kids to deny faith in god, and to agree with same sex marriage and porn, some parents will do anything to prevent that possibility. Including denying them a proper education that may lead them to draw their own conclusions based on the evidence.
Thankfully children grow up, and often put away childish things as an adult. Belief that all things must be controlled by a supreme being and not natural processes is one of them.
Thanks to Alex Mabee for the link.
Regular readers of this blog will know my opposition to Jehovah’s Witness dogma being enforced on a child who would be refused a blood transfusion that may be the best, and possibly in a critical blood loss situation the only, treatment that gives them a chance at survival. The principle derived here is that a parent cannot enforce the consequences of their religious belief on a child who may as an adult choose to reject that religious belief, let alone a life or death situation.
Where do I stand on faith schools then? Well I have to start with the fact that my mother pulled me out of my first year of Secondary School (High School) when I was 11 years old because she firmly believed as a student of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the end of the World was coming – the generation of 1914 would still be alive when the Second Coming would happen as taught by the Society. Also, I wanted to read a book – The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – which was blasphemous because it suggested that an alien race built the earth for mice (for more on that read here). The school curriculum approved it but my mother did not.
So I was pulled out of mainstream education and taught at home for the next three years. This involved studying the bible and reading Watch Tower and Tract Society books such as Live Forever, The Bible God’s Word or Man’s?, Life How Did it Get Here by Evolution or Creation, Revelation and many other works that were pumped out by the Head Quarters. The parents of others were so impressed at what I knew of the bible and teachings that they considered making similar arrangements for their own children.
I must point out that this is the United Kingdom we are talking about here – this is not an outback in the sticks. Throughout the three years an inspector visited twice – and each time he was impressed by my good manners, ability to quote scripture and talk about world events (which I watched intently for signs of the end of the world, though I did not mention that to him).
Thankfully, my intense studying allowed me to read the original publications of Russell and Rutherford – and the full horror of how I had lived my life hit me between the eyes. That this was a man made organisation that had believed in many things which had not come to pass. The internet did not exist then, and the ease by which you can find out about the history and even read the scanned book pages that I actually read in the original volumes makes me marvel that the organisation still barely hangs on. The power of the meme is one to be reckoned with.
I mention this because from talking to people that went to Church of England or Roman Catholic schools the experience was very different. Education did not suffer – evolution was for example taught, as was languages and science (things that suffered under my home tuition which was actually me being self taught). That faith schools have on average supposedly higher grades is one reason the Labour Government has been a supporter of them. Schools of a religious character are in demand by parents.
My concern though is that segregation of any kind is wrong. To divide people on sectarian grounds is not the way to have a community that understands the differences that make up the whole. Also I am concerned that religious education – which I think vital – is not one that is properly a part of the curriculum. It has to be taught, but there are no standards on how it is taught as it is not included in the National Curriculum.
Religious prayer for children is actually a legal requirement on schools in England. However parents can opt for children not to attend Religious Education lessons. For me I find it odd that the State should legally require a religious function to be carried out by a school – such as school prayer – but say that learning about other faiths is not compulsory.
The main contention is that it seems that parents are reinforcing their religious belief on children. On this score I have to make clear that I am not suggesting that religious parents to do not take their children to church, or tell them about their faith. But the faith most people have is based on where they are born and who their parents are – it is factors that have nothing to do with the choice a child makes. My contention is that children should be aware of other faiths, and be brought up to be capable of independent thought and critical analysis.
That is not because I want all children to become atheists when they grow up. But I want them to have the choice, with the best information at their disposal and the faculties to understand what they believe. To genuinely believe something is to appreciate and understand something – most tenants of faith are beyond the comprehension of a minor and even many adults have difficulty expressing certain aspects of dogma. As such they are children of faith parents – they have yet to reach an age where they have made an informed choice.
To put in perspective no one would say of Socialist parents that their child is a socialist child. There is no school of Socialist character where children in addition to learning the National Curriculum learn about the great traditions of the Labour Party, the leaders and policy through the ages. A mention is made of other political parties and philosophy but the school reflects the foundation of a mainstream political philosophy.
We would be aghast at children going to such a school, let alone one existing. Children are too young to choose such political ideology. Partisan politics is something kept out of the classroom. Yet we treat religion very differently. While the principle – a religious school or an ideological school – are similar the main difference is one of history. The Church of England was the provider of education before the State was. It should be noted that ideological education really developed more in higher education (think of the founding of the London School of Economics) with universities having a left or right wing reputation. Even then that campus distinction is not so marked now compared to the hey day of the 1960s unless you come across a particular lecturer that makes their feelings clear.
The other is should we allow all faiths to have their schools? For example suppose that the Jehovah’s Witnesses could start their own secondary school – would it have been alright for me to have gone there instead? The National Curriculum would have been taught up to standard so the school stayed open, but there would have been extra religious classes. I wonder if there would have been one entitled “The ever changing date of Armageddon in religious thought”?
The issue for me is that religion is for the private sphere not the public sphere. State education should not be financing religious establishments, and schools should be centres of learning not of a religious character. A school should be made up of students not selected on the basis of who their parents are. Religious education is one that should be taught as an appreciation of culture, literature and differences in thought among people – without this differences cannot be appreciated.
As such I would not want to see any more faith schools opened. I am concerned that because faith schools receive tax payers money and then additional money from their Church means there is not a level playing field of resources for State schools. I wonder if faith schools are chosen because they are on average better resourced and are considered in higher regard rather than because of the religious devotion of their parents (who according to the media are prepared to go to church and read up on the faith to pass the interview for selection – even move to the right catchment area).
We have been left in this country with an anachronism in the education system. Either we allow all faiths to provide education if they can do so allowing society to become further segregated. We would not allow this on racial lines, political lines, social class lines. We do for religion. It is time we seriously considered that if we do not take this issue seriously we will end up with more faith schools that make our nation even less tolerant and more divided.
And the elephant in the room is even more accepted despite the damage wrought in it’s name.
The links below are to a debate about faith and religion in schools as on The Big Debate which Richard Dawkins took part in with others on the panel: