Brace yourselves, y’all. I have a new topic to discuss today!
I am a proud graduate of Longwood College, now known as Longwood University. It’s a medium sized liberal arts college in the dead center of Virginia. When I was a student there, it was smaller than it is now. In fact, I know I would be shocked by the huge changes to the campus since I attended in the early 90s. Not only has the campus changed significantly, but apparently, so has the curriculum. Longwood is offering what I think are some very exciting and innovative courses.
Longwood is the kind of school where students are nurtured and encouraged to try new things by professors who really care. I graduated from Longwood in 1994, and 28 years later, there are still people there who remember me when I was a student. I also have so many real friends from my years at Longwood. It’s at Longwood that I started developing my gift for music, and was allowed– and even strongly encouraged and recruited– to study music, just because I have a knack for it. The faculty at Longwood is, by and large, first rate. And while it was not my first choice college, it turned out to be an excellent choice for me. My four years at Longwood truly changed my life for the better.
Naturally, because I am such a booster, I follow Longwood on social media. And this morning, I noticed a post about a new and exciting course that is being offered this spring. Longwood now offers a Civitae Core Curriculum, which did not exist during my college years. Back when I was a student, we called the core curriculum “general ed”. But things have clearly changed, and now freshmen can take a course called Citizen 110– Music Identity and Social Change. This class, which is taught by Honors faculty member, Dr. Kevin Schattenkirk-Harbaugh, will explore how music can inspire people to take action. It will look at artists such as Billie Holliday, George Michael, Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, and others, to see how music motivates people to take interest and action in the world.
Now… as a music lover who took many music electives at Longwood to supplement my major in English, I know that this class would intrigue me. I haven’t taken a close look at Longwood’s Civitae Core Curriculum, but my guess is that this class is just one choice of several that students can take to fulfill their degree requirements. Based on the class description, I can state with certainty that I would have wanted to take this class myself. It sounds exciting and interesting. And based on the Facebook comments I’ve seen so far, I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who would be interested in taking this course.
Still, there’s a critic in every crowd, and this post was no exception. A woman, who apparently isn’t even a Longwood alum, wrote this:
Activism? This is what parents are paying for?
Another commenter wrote:
The history of activism inspired by music. A unique and interesting examination of how music has inspired some…
And the original commenter responded with:
I get that. But to what purpose? To incite more activism?
I couldn’t help but get the idea that the poster thinks activism is a “bad” thing. And while I usually try not to respond to people on social media, and had already passed my self-imposed one comment per day quota, I felt compelled to leave a response. This is mainly because the person’s comment irked me on many levels, but also because I know I would have LOVED a class like this in the early 1990s:
No. To teach students about how music inspires people to take action. What’s wrong with that? A lot of positive changes have come out of activism. Aside from that, not everyone who takes that course will eventually wind up taking to the streets.
Not all college students are having college paid for by their parents, either. When I went to Longwood, I knew a number of people who were older students and paying for their own education. Or they were in school on scholarship. As legal adults, Longwood students should be trusted to choose electives that interest them. If the course turns out to be inappropriate or unpopular, that will be reflected eventually.
I don’t know this poster at all, but her comment really troubles me. From the implied assumption that all students in college get their tuition paid for by their parents, to the idea that teaching adults about how music inspires action could potentially be damaging, I feel personally affronted by this person’s comment. However, I am not sorry she posted, because her comment did lead me to do some thinking and writing about something besides my current pet topics. I do enjoy reflecting on my time at Longwood, and all of the things I learned there, as well as the many good times I had when I was a student there.
When I was a Longwood student, Virginia was a more conservative state. There was a Confederate statute that stood just off campus. I remember watching many drunken fraternity brothers climbing it at night. While there were some innovative classes offered during that time period, I don’t remember ever seeing a course with such a provocative title on offer at Longwood during my era. I think this new class is a sign that my alma mater is evolving, and I think that’s a really good thing.
Longwood has a long, storied reputation as a school where great teachers are trained. It makes sense to me that new courses with exciting subject matter would be offered. My only hope is that this class allows for constructive discussion from many different perspectives. I hope and expect that the professor who teaches it will allow students to explore the topic from all angles. There will be some students in that class who are conservative, and not politically correct in their opinions. There will also be some students who will take a much more liberal view. I hope that all sides will have a voice, and it won’t be a course in which opinions are taught as fact.
BUT– after my own seven years’ experience as a university student at two different schools, I have found that course quality often has a lot to do with who is doing the teaching. Having spent four years at Longwood, I have every expectation that this class will be taught in a way that encourages reflection and broad thought. It sounds like it will be a treat to take this course. I truly wish I could take it myself, and it’s exciting to me that it’s being offered now. I wish I had a son or daughter I could have sent to Longwood. I have to be contented in seeing some of my old friends’ children deciding to attend college there.
Below is a screenshot of a description of this class:
One of the great things about getting a liberal arts education is having the opportunity to broaden one’s perspectives. When I got to Longwood in 1990, my world view was mostly shaped by spending ten years living in a very rural part of Virginia. Although I had the benefit of living in England and the multicultural D.C. area when I was very young, when I was growing up, I was mostly surrounded by white, southern, Christian, conservative people. My upbringing really showed when I got to Longwood, and in fact, after I graduated, I still had some limited views that could have used some informing.
My mind opened up a lot when I joined the Peace Corps and went to live in Armenia for two years. I still cringe a little bit when I think about how sheltered I was when I was in my 20s, not having been exposed to that much of the world. I remember more than a couple of times when I sounded truly idiotic– perhaps even more so than I might today. 😉
Yes, people can choose to take paths that will broaden them at any stage of life, but it would have been great to have had the chance to start the process when I was in college, rather than after I graduated. College is a time for exploration and evolution in a safe place. I think these kinds of courses are crucial for young adults who are coming of age. And they also spice up the usual basic 101 courses that are typically required for freshmen students.
And– by the way– most college students are legal adults, whether or not mom and dad are paying their tuition. Legal adults should be encouraged to take charge of their education, since they will ultimately be the benefactors of it. I know that some parents who pay college tuition bills think they should have a say in what their dollars are paying for. However, I think that’s something that needs to be handled within individual families, not at the level of parents complaining about curriculum offerings. In other words, if you– mom or dad– don’t like what Junior is taking at college, take it up with Junior. Don’t try to take educational opportunities away from everybody by assuming that you, as a parent, should get a say in what courses the university offers when you’re not even a student there. Granted, this one class might not lead a student to a great job, but it might help a student become a person with a heightened awareness and broadened perspective, which could lead them to places they never dreamed of going.
So… count me among those who are cheering about this class, and others like it, that are now being offered at Longwood University. I see nothing wrong with teaching young people about activism, or how certain things– like great songs– can inspire and motivate people to take action, for better or worse. I don’t think the students who are exposed to this course are necessarily going to grab picket signs and stage protests. Some of them might do that someday, but they would probably be the types of people who would have done that, anyway. Rather, I think this class is going to make students aware that they have the power to effect change if they want to– and it doesn’t necessarily have to be for causes that are liberal, conservative, or whatever. It’s just a look at the ways music can inspire and help foster change– for better or worse. I think it sounds like it’s going to be a very stimulating and fun class, and the students are lucky there’s a professor at Longwood who had the vision to create this course. If it turns out to be a flop, that will become clear soon enough.
We shouldn’t be afraid to expose young people to new ideas or exploration of old ideas. We shouldn’t assume that they’ll go astray simply because we encourage them to reach out and learn more about things that might be controversial or against the establishment. I have great faith in the students at Longwood, and I suspect this class will be very successful. Bravo, Dr. Kevin Schattenkirk-Harbaugh! I look forward to hearing more about this course offering.
Merry Christmas, everyone… I just spent ages trying to write a travel blog post about our morning. I am now hungry and cranky, and I’m not so much in the mood to write a long post. However, I did want to post a link to Mama Doctor Jones’ latest video, which shows her reactions to the idiots (sorry, they are) on the school board in Fairbanks, Alaska, who are calling her content “pornographic” and/or “inappropriate”. I watched this video this morning and it really pissed me off… I should have blogged right then and there. But now I’m not in the mood to go off on a rant properly.
Anyway, here’s the video. I recommend watching it if you’re concerned about sex ed in schools. Kids do need it. Parents suck at educating their children about these topics. They do. Stop denying it. And doctors don’t have the time to teach this stuff during appointments. Unfortunately, this is a task that does fall to teachers.
Again, I want to remind people that Mama Doctor Jones HAD NOTHING TO DO with her content being used as supplemental materials in Alaska. That was a decision made by an educator who obviously is a realist and has good sense. These people on the school board are woefully out of touch with reality, and they are insulting the hell out of the students and parents in their community. They are also embarrassing themselves… or, at least they really should be.
I think the folks in Alaska and everywhere else should be grateful to Mama Doctor Jones for providing expert knowledge about how bodies work. And while not every video is appropriate for young people, young people are not as young as they used to be. As Dr. Jones points out, she’s delivered babies gestated by girls as young as 13. Some kids that young are having sex. They absolutely NEED TO KNOW HOW THAT WORKS. Or parents need to do more to prevent their kids from having sex. Or, they need to keep pervy male adults away from their girls.
Kudos to Dr. Danielle Jones for watching this travesty and reacting to it in a civilized way. It really is mind blowing how dreadful this is. These folks don’t like it when agendas are pushed… I say they are promoting their conservative, right-wing, religious agenda on young people who desperately need to know how their bodies work, how to identify abusive versus healthy relationships, and how to avoid diseases and unintended pregnancies.
Yes, it’s best if kids don’t have sex, but that is not a realistic goal. Young people have sex, and their bodies are primed to reproduce. So they should know how all of that works, and they should not have to hope that their parents properly teach them about sex. Because the fact is, a lot of parents don’t or won’t teach their kids about sex… and not every child has parents, anyway! And if people in Alaska think that Dr. Jones is posting anything akin to “porn”, they obviously haven’t seen much of the real stuff.
Maybe this isn’t the best topic for Christmas. I might even be back after I have some food. In any case, if I were Dr. Jones, I think watching that school board meeting would make my head explode. The mind boggles.
Before I get cranked up with today’s post, I want to highly recommend my readers to watch the below video. Reading my rantings about this situation is simple extra credit. Mama Doctor Jones spells it all out pretty plainly, and what she says about this incident is probably enough. Also, if anyone progressive from Fairbanks, Alaska reads this and is offended by my comments, I apologize pre-emptively for lumping all Fairbanks residents in with Joel Davidson and his ilk. However, unlike Mr. Davidson and his grasp of subjects related to sex ed and women’s health, I realize that my opinions about Alaska are mostly formed in ignorance.
Dr. Jones and her family have recently announced that they are moving to New Zealand. I don’t know how long she, her husband, and their four kids will be living in New Zealand, but their move does mean that she won’t be held to the new law in Texas. In any case, as a fellow American citizen who has also left the United States, I completely understand why Dr. Jones wants to leave, even if only temporarily. I think living abroad is an experience more Americans should experience, if only to shed the ignorant idea that the United States is the “best” country in the world. Or, even if someone still thinks the USA is the best after living abroad, they might realize that other countries are also pretty good places to be.
After I saw Mama Doctor Jones take on the Texas abortion law, I became a fan of her content. I don’t watch all of her videos, but I have seen a lot of them. I am always impressed by how engaging, charismatic, and at ease she is on camera, and how non-threatening she comes across as she explains women’s healthcare. Personally, I find OB-GYNs terrifying, mainly because I had a very traumatic experience with one when I was a young woman. Even though I, myself, have a background in healthcare, I have a really hard time seeing physicians. But, if I had an obviously kind physician like Dr. Jones, I would probably be a lot less reluctant to go to the doctor for screenings.
Suffice to say, I think Dr. Jones is the bomb. If I had children– boys or girls— I would want them to watch her channel. She’s really fascinating, and judging by the comments I have read in the Duggar Family News group, I am not the only one who thinks Mama Doctor Jones is awesome. So, imagine my shock when I happened to see her video about “being canceled”.
Before two days ago, I had never heard of Alaska Watchman. I don’t even know very much about Alaska itself, since I’ve never been there. Former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, gave a lot of us continental Americans a taste of Alaska’s apparently far right-wing culture, and I knew that it was a conservative place with a lot of independent minded people within it. I figured it was a beautiful place, too, albeit too cold for my tastes. Since I don’t know much about Alaska, I went to Alaska Watchman’s About Us page, where I found a description of this periodical:
The Alaska Watchman aims to raise awareness of key issues affecting Alaskans. Coming from a broadly Judeo-Christian perspective, we are committed to the highest standards of journalism and ethical reporting.
Our reports look to inform and equip Alaskans to effectively engage the culture for the common good. Please keep your comments respectful.
Okay then… so right off the bat, it’s obvious that this source is biased, and conservative in nature. That means it should probably be taken about as seriously as people might take my blog. However, in reading Mr. Davidson’s second post about Mama Doctor Jones and her “racy” content, I see that he’s in need of an editor:
“The main problem I have with all of the videos links that were sent is that they create a trust with the name and source with the students,” [April] Smith said. “We are now putting into our children that Momma Dr. Jones is an excellent source of education.”
Hey Joel– on two occasions you spelled “Mama’s” name wrong, and it looks like you’re missing a preposition. So much for those “high standards of journalism”, right? But enough about my grammar snob tendencies. What really annoys me about Joel Davidson’s articles is that they are very obviously slanted, and it doesn’t appear that he’s spent much time actually watching Mama Doctor Jones on YouTube or objectively considering the value of her content. Maybe it’s because he’s a father of eight. Obviously, he already knows something about sex, and it’s clear he doesn’t care too much about women or women’s health. I won’t even get into what he likely thinks about people who are transgender or otherwise not cisgender, as he obviously is.
According to Mr. Davidson’s article from October 21, 2021, a 2016 era state law in Alaska requires all school districts to “get approval from local school boards before they can teach new sex education material to children.” I just did a very quick web search to find the law in question, and the first hit I came upon was not the law, but an article on a site called SIECUS (Sex Ed for Social Change). That site’s profile on Alaska indicates that the local culture is overall very much opposed to teaching contemporary sex education in public schools. In fact, it’s not even a requirement to teach sex ed in Alaska public schools.
Mr. Davidson even mentions that “over the past four years, Fairbanks has lost over 1000 students to other educational options”. School board member, April Smith, claims that the district has lost the trust of many parents and they are taking their children out of the public schools and either homeschooling them, or putting them in private schools. I just want to know– is April Smith really that sure that teaching sex ed is the reason this is happening? Because it sounds like Fairbanks school board members aren’t the brightest stars in the proverbial Alaskan sky. Couldn’t students also be leaving public schools because of other issues, like COVID-19, and the risks associated with that? Isn’t it possible that some parents would like their children to be educated on important things, like how their bodies work?
Anyway, I don’t think Mama Doctor Jones is necessarily as fussed about the antiquated local mores in Fairbanks as she is that Mr. Davidson’s articles are clearly biased, as well as borderline defamatory. He has also written quite a few outright FALSE statements about Mama Doctor Jones’ content, as well as certain subjects she covers. For example, he writes:
A video for middle schoolers and high schoolers features OBGYN Danielle Jones stating that “50% of people have a vagina.” Jones’ video spotlights a young teen showing off her stained underwear and talking about the fact that vaginal discharge is normal. At one point Jones talks about what can happen when inserting a “toy or penis” into the vagina.
Okay… first off, as Dr. Jones points out in her rebuttal, Davidson doesn’t properly address her credentials. He should have written either Danielle Jones, MD, or Dr. Danielle Jones, OB-GYN. She worked very hard to earn a degree in medicine; she is board certified; and she CLEARLY knows a hell of a lot more about medicine than Davidson does. Please show some respect, Joel. Especially if you actually do care about “high standards of journalism”.
Secondly, how AWFUL it is that a woman who is an expert in women’s health actually covers women’s health concerns! Joel, as a father of eight, it appears that you have been sticking your penis somewhere. I don’t know a thing about you, but I gather those eight kids were not adopted. If they weren’t adopted, then you and a female must have engaged in some sort of normal biological activity to make those kids, right? What is wrong with teaching young people how all of that works? Perhaps if more adolescents knew the facts about sex, there might be less of a demand for abortions, or teenagers becoming parents before they’re really ready for the job.
Davidson also clearly likes the new law in Texas. He writes:
Other videos by Jones, which are not part of the Fairbanks curriculum, blast Texas’ new pro-life law banning abortion once a heartbeat is detected. Other videos celebrate transgenderism and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Dr. Danielle Jones correctly “blasts” Texas’ new “pro-life law banning abortion once a heartbeat is detected” because it’s a DANGEROUS, creepy, and unconstitutional law. And if you listen to Dr. Jones explain just WHY that law is so dangerous, and consider that it will negatively affect so many women who legitimately need to be able to safely terminate their pregnancies, you might have more of an understanding why that law is wrong and needs to be struck from the books. Moreover, a woman’s need to have an abortion should be no one else’s business, particularly since no one seems interested in helping to make having and raising children feasible and affordable. There certainly doesn’t seem to be much of an emphasis on preventing pregnancies by making contraception affordable and available, and teaching young people about how babies are made.
As for the rest of that comment… I can’t even. I get that some people can’t wrap their heads around transgenderism and want to mock things they either can’t or won’t try to understand. I just think it’s very sad that so many of them call themselves Christians, but lack the ability to be kind and empathetic, as Christ was. And it’s even sadder that someone who calls himself a journalist and is, in fact, “editor-in-chief” of the Alaska Watchman, is pushing this bullshit and calling it news, when it’s clearly very biased and sometimes outright false information.
I will admit, I’m biased too, but the difference is, I freely state that this is clearly a personal blog, not a newspaper, and I am not a journalist, nor do I play one on TV. People who regularly read my blog– and there aren’t really so many– shouldn’t come here expecting to read news. No one pays to read my content– although apparently, the Alaska Watchman is a “free” paper. I still bet some people expect to read news on the Alaska Watchman, even though it appears to me to be a glorified blog.
Davidson then goes on to write:
A separate video for high schoolers attempts to convince teens that the Plan B (or Morning After Pill) does not cause abortions. The speaker repeatedly emphasizes that this drug “does not cause an abortion.”
According to the product label attached to Plan B, it can, in fact serve as an abortifacient by preventing “attachment of a fertilized egg to the uterus (womb).” Since a “fertilized egg” is in fact the earliest stage of human life, Plan B can kill this life by blocking access to the womb, which is necessary for nutrition and continued development.
As Dr. Jones points out in the above video, if there is no pregnancy, there is no abortion. What Plan B does is prevent pregnancy from happening by preventing a fertilized egg from implantation. It does not terminate an existing pregnancy. Since Plan B does not cause abortion, it cannot legitimately be called an “abortifacient”. And Joel Davidson should NOT be making false statements, especially when he clearly has zero experience or training in medicine or women’s healthcare, nor does he even have the physical body parts that women have. What does Joel Davidson know about the care of a vagina or handling a menstrual period? I don’t even think Mr. Davidson is a very skilled journalist. I certainly would not go to him for his opinions on women’s healthcare!
Having read both of these articles written by Joel Davidson, I’m left with the idea that people in Fairbanks, Alaska are not very bright, although I’m sure that’s not actually the case. He quotes a North Pole woman as saying Mama Doctor Joneses’s content is “basically porn”. I’ve seen some porn in my day, and I want to tell that person that if she thinks Dr. Jones’s content is pornographic, she obviously doesn’t get out much and hasn’t seen anything that is actually pornographic. According to Davidson, she continues with:
“It just does not belong in the school,” she said. “We’re not allowed to talk about religion or church or anything in schools and yet we’re going to bring this disgusting material to our children?”
“Disgusting material”? You mean material that teaches people about how babies are made, how they develop, and how sex– which is among the most basic and normal of acts– can be done without shame, humiliation, or embarrassment? If anything, I would say promoting specific religions and churches in public schools, which are supported by TAXPAYERS of all faiths or lack thereof, is a disgusting thing to do. Particularly since so many people have been abused and damaged by religion. Look at how many people have DIED or been abused due to religious beliefs. You don’t even have to think for very long. Just look at the Holocaust. But I’ll bet they don’t teach much about that in Alaska, either.
As for the allegations of “porn” on Mama Doctor Joneses’ channel, YouTube is pretty strict about what they allow to be posted, particularly on monetized content. For instance, I’ve noticed that a lot of content creators don’t use words or phrases like “porn”, “rape”, or “child sexual abuse”, probably because those words trigger YouTube’s algorithms and affect advertising revenue. So, instead of outright saying “child pornography” or “child sexual abuse” or similar things, content creators say “CP” or “CSAM”. Personally, I think that’s a very stupid practice, since we all know what those things are, and using the letters does not, and really should not, diminish the horror of them.
Dr. Danielle Jones makes content about women’s health and sexuality, so of course she’s going to be talking about sex. And the content she creates is factual and useful, but it’s also monetized, so there’s only so much she can say that isn’t “PG-rated”. Her content is certainly not porn. But I’m sure Mr. Davidson and his rightwing nutjob friends are big fans of Donald Trump, who is a big fan of sexually abusing women and has even outright stated it. The hypocrisy is astounding!
As a 49 year old cisgender woman who has not had children, but does have master’s degrees in social work and public health, and has worked in a rural healthcare setting with young people, I applaud Mama Doctor Jones for what she’s doing. I grew up in a rural county in Virginia, with parents who never talked to me about sex. I got my “education” from HBO, the neighborhood pervert who showed me men’s magazines (and voted Republican), and Coach Todd, the former pro football player who taught about health subjects between telling us lurid stories about his days in Vietnam.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVED Coach Todd’s surprisingly hilarious war stories, but they didn’t exactly prepare me for womanhood. I was fortunate enough to have parents who, despite being conservative and not talking to me about sex, were not opposed to letting me read whatever I wanted. So I was allowed to explore topics like sex education and sexual assault on my own, and somehow, I managed to marry my husband without a long history of sexual partners or the consequences that can come from having sex before I was ready. Not that I think having sex outside of marriage is necessarily wrong. The choice to have sex is simply a decision that should be made by mature people who are prepared to make it, and fully understand what results could come as a result of making that decision.
So many young people do not have the luxury of being able to learn what they really need to know. I know, from having been a social worker, that a lot of young people wind up getting pregnant, suffering from sexually transmissible infections, or being victimized in sexual assaults, because they have not been taught what they NEED to know. And if parents can’t or won’t teach their kids, the SCHOOLS must! Ignorance about these issues can and do lead to tragedies. Look at all of the brilliant young people who do not identify as straight who have suffered or even died because they had no one safe to talk to about these issues. Some of those kids who died too young were pointed toward “religion and church” for “help”, only to be told that their sexual orientations were “sinful” and wrong. I, for one, am GLAD Dr. Jones is willing to talk about transgender issues and other topics on YouTube that make people like April Smith and her ilk clutch their pearls. Maybe if more people talked about these topics in a non-judgmental way, there would be less suicide.
As to whether or not the Mama Doctor Jones YouTube channel is appropriate supplemental content for a school sex ed program, that’s a matter of opinion. Davidson may even be correct that Fairbanks educators acted illegally when they pointed to Dr. Jones’ videos as supplemental sex ed materials. However, that’s an issue that should have been discussed without dragging Dr. Danielle Jones and her Mama Doctor Jones channel through the mud. She had nothing to do with her channel being suggested as supplemental sex ed materials for kids, nor was she even aware that it had been recommended until one of her followers pointed it out to her. The fact is, Dr. Jones’ channel is outstanding, and I think it is a marvelous resource for the general public, even if some parents disapprove of the content.
I can tell by Mr. Davidson’s commentary that he’s conservative and pro-life. Well, if you’re pro-life, Mr. Davidson, you should be in favor of teaching young people the facts about sex. You should be for informing young people, so that they don’t fall prey to mental health issues that drive them to suicide. They should be learning how pregnancy works, what causes it, how to avoid getting pregnant until the time is right, and what is or is not normal in their own bodies. Young people are often afraid to talk to their parents about sex, but they badly need that information. And it’s pretty clear to me that a lot of the people in Fairbanks are not doing the job. I’m glad there there are people around like Dr. Danielle Jones and Dr. Jen Gunter (another OB-GYN who also puts out excellent content) to teach young people what educators can’t or won’t, thanks to conservative school boards who are “out to lunch” and think sex ed is akin to porn.
Besides helping young people avoid pregnancy, sex education also helps to prevent sexual assaults. Sexual assaults can lead to unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, abortions, and suicide. Seems to me that pro-lifers should be doing what they can to prevent sexual assaults in the form of teaching young people about sex. According to SIECUS, sexual assault is also a big problem up there in Alaska:
Half of all Alaskan women have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime and Alaska Native women experience sexual and relationship violence at even higher rates. While the Cook Inlet Tribal Council has received funding to adapt the Native Stand curriculum for Alaskan youth, it is not available statewide. Advocates report that ensuring sex education is culturally responsive to the needs of native young people, and includes instruction on healthy relationships and consent, is critical.
If you really care about young people, Joel Davidson, you should be grateful to the qualified physicians who are able and willing to share their expertise with the public. And, in the interest of promoting “excellent journalism”, you should stop spreading your ill-informed opinions about women’s health, a subject about which you clearly know very little. I, for one, applaud the school officials in Alaska who recognize the value of Dr. Jones’ content. Brave to them. And shame on MALES who want to keep women ignorant and subservient. They all obviously need to go back to school– preferably in a school district where high quality sex ed is taught.
ETA: December 30, 2021- Heather Heath has reached out to me in the comments and explained that she was not actually interviewed by the Preacher Boys. My apologies! I often get sucked into videos about fundies and obviously got confused. Anyway, Heather was NOT interviewed by The Preacher Boys, and I still can’t find the video I watched that introduced me to Heather Heath’s story. It might have been Dr. Oz whose video I saw. Heather did tell me that he interviewed her.And now, I’ve seen Dr. Oz’s clip, and I think it was his show that I watched.
A few weeks ago, I was watching YouTube videos when I came across the Preacher Boys podcast, hosted by Eric Skwarczynski. I have watched the Preacher Boys’ channel a few times. It mostly focuses on videos about fundamentalist Christians and the abuses that come from that belief system. There’s a treasure trove of information about abuse within the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement on the Preacher Boys’ podcasts, so I highly recommend that channel to those who want to learn more about it. I am probably just moderately interested in fundies, so I only watch that channel when the mood strikes or when I am especially bored. I originally thought The Preacher Boys interviewed Heather Heath, but it turns out I’m mistaken.
In any case, I swear I saw an interview done with Heather Grace Heath, who, along with her editor, Lorna Oppedisano, just published the book Lovingly Abused: A true story of overcoming cults, gaslighting, and legal educational neglect. I see on Amazon.com, it first became available on October 21, 2021, so it’s a brand new book. I just looked for the interview I watched about this book, but I can’t find it. Otherwise, I would post it here for your perusal.
Anyway, it’s too bad I can’t find the video I watched, because it did influence me to buy and read Heather’s book. I do think it’s a book worth reading if you’re at all interested in what it’s like to grow up in a religious cult. And since Josh Duggar, a famous Gothardite, is currently on trial, this topic is very timely. As you can see from my recent posts, I’ve been thinking and writing about fundie Christians a lot lately.
As I was reading Heather’s story on the Kindle app, I found myself doing something that I don’t often do. I made a lot notes, mainly so I that I could refer back to certain passages in this review. I also shared some passages with my friends on social media, again so I could easily find them. I’ve read a lot of books about people– especially women– who have left religious cults. I’ve read some very shocking things. It’s not even so much that Heather’s anecdotes are necessarily more shocking than other people’s anecdotes are. It’s just that she has a real knack for describing what she’s gone through in a way that is relatable and compelling. A number of my female friends who are interested in religion– particularly the ex Mormons– were responding to the passages I posted. I suspect Heather might get a few sales from them, too.
So… what is Heather Grace Heath’s story?
Heather Grace Heath is a thirtysomething cisgender woman* from Connecticut who grew up in Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI) homeschool cult. Bill Gothard is an eightysomething American Christian minister whose teachings are very conservative. Gothard founded the Institute in Basic Life Principles. He encourages his followers to have many children and homeschool them. His focus is on teaching children to respect authority, memorize Bible passages, and adhere to strict gender roles. They are to stay under the “umbrella of protection”, pictured below.
Under Gothard’s rules, women are to dress modestly, always wearing dresses or skirts and clothes that emphasize the “countenance” rather than the figure. Men are to aspire to be ministers or missionaries. Both men and women are to get married young, eschewing any beliefs that aren’t Biblical. It doesn’t seem to matter too much whether or not the couples are compatible, only that they are Bible believing Christians who follow Gothard’s strict rules.
*In her book, Heather writes that she doesn’t feel comfortable being called a “woman”. She refers to herself as a “girl” who is cisgendered and uses feminine pronouns. But, for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to refer to her as a woman and hope it doesn’t offend.
Heather explains that her mother grew up in a pretty screwed up family system. Her mother’s mom was the youngest in a very large family and she had a half brother who was also one of her cousins. Heather’s grandmother’s father was abusive. Consequently, Heather’s grandmother married an abusive man, and her mother also grew up in a “fucked up” situation. That was what had led her to Gothard’s cult.
Heather’s paternal grandfather died young. Her paternal grandmother was a first grade teacher who was horrified that Heather and her sister, Hope, were homeschooled. But Heather’s father was all in to Gothard’s teachings. Heather grew up being taught that there were certain things that girls weren’t supposed to do. She was taught that she would remain under her father’s care until she got married. And then she was expected to be a housewife, help meet, and mom to many children.
If this sounds familiar, it should, as this is the very same cult the Duggar family is in. Heather explains that not all people in the ATI belief system are Baptists, but they all subscribe to Bill Gothard’s ideas on how people should live, and children should be raised. In fact, Heather alludes to her mother running into Jim Bob Duggar before he was the stalwart Gothard poster child he is today.
They were at an Advanced Training Institute conference and Jim Bob complimented Heather’s mother on how well “blanket trained” Heather’s little sister was. Heather writes that her mom didn’t actually blanket train her two daughters; Heather’s sister just happened to like playing on her blanket. If you want to know what blanket training is, click here. I shared the passage below on Facebook and at least one person wanted to know what blanket training is, and was horrified when he read up about it.
Heather Grace Heath explains some of the rules of the ATI and how people within it are supposed to behave. Young people growing up in the ATI cult are expected to be involved in certain gender specific activities. The boys go to the ALERT Academy (Air Land Emergency Resource Team), which is a program in which boys are taught rescue and medical techniques in a military style. The Duggar boys all attend ALERT, as it’s considered a rite of passage. Girls attend EXCEL, where they were expected to learn how to be godly women and make crafts. Heather was much more interested in what the boys were doing; she was, and still is, very attracted to medical and rescue work. But, because she was a girl, she was not allowed to attend ALERT. I suspect that might have been the first chink in the armor when it came to her decision to leave the cult.
Heather includes some pretty shocking details about her experiences in one of ATI’s training centers. The center she attended at age 17 was in Oklahoma City. She writes that the Oklahoma City center was supposedly one of the less oppressive of the ATI training centers, which was why she chose it. The actual center had once been a hotel, so it was somewhat “nice”, besides being more lenient. Nevertheless, Heather was repeatedly given “heart checks”, which meant she was locked in her room with just water and a Bible. A staff member would be posted outside her door to prevent her escape. This was so she would have time to think about her behavior and examine her heart for the sources of “sinful behavior”.
What’s an example of a behavior that would earn a “heart check”? Heather writes that the girls were all on the eighth floor of the former hotel. Boys were on the third floor. This was done deliberately, so that there would be no reason for boys to pass the girls’ floor or go to a higher level in the building. Heather got a “heart check” because she allowed males to share the elevator with her. She also got a “heart check” when staff members discovered that she had tampons, which were considered “Satan’s fingers”. She was ordered to repent for any enjoyment she got from removing them– (ugh, I can’t even imagine). She got another “heart check” for knowing lyrics to a Broadway song. There are other examples.
As Heather got older, she realized that she was very attracted to the healthcare profession. But working in healthcare went against Bill Gothard’s teachings for girls. Instead, Heather was encouraged to pursue more womanly pursuits– jobs in which she could wear skirts and dresses and be subservient to men. It was pretty clear to me as I read this book that Heather Heath does not have a particularly submissive personality. She’s very bright, naturally assertive (although Gothardites would probably call her rebellious), and courageous. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to overcome cult programming. She also had the misfortune of being homeschooled in a way that left her incredibly underschooled. I was impressed when Heather wrote about the experience of homeschooling her twins last year, because the pandemic required it. She wrote she was shocked by things that she didn’t know that little kids who went to school knew. Not surprisingly, that left her with what seems to be some pretty serious resentment.
The frustration of growing up in the Gothard cult, wanting something the system told her she could never have, left Heather with some pretty serious psychological problems. She also suffered from some “female” physical issues that made her miserable. She did attempt suicide a couple of times, and was at one point, hospitalized. Her father tried to dictate her care. Heather found the courage to tell her medical providers that she would not be able to give them honest answers while her dad was around…
Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the book for me is when Heather writes about her decision to marry her first husband. Heather had sort of come out of the ATI cult stuff at that point, as she was working as an emergency medical technician and had been a “candy striper” at a local hospital. She had a crush on a guy she met when they were both “candy stripers” at a local hospital (though they aren’t called candy stripers anymore), and then they both became EMTs and worked together at an EMS company. Because of her upbringing, Heather had some difficulty being trained as a medic, even though she clearly had the talent and aptitude. She would answer questions with Biblical responses. So she had to overcome that, but she also had this crush on this guy… and she didn’t really know him before she married him at age 24. The marriage lasted a very short time and he decided to divorce her.
Because she was raised in a cult, she was brought up to believe that now, she was doomed to spend the rest of her life alone, or else be labeled an adulterer. To people who follow Gothard, being an adulterer is considered to be just as “sinful” as engaging in homosexuality (not that I, personally, think either is sinful). Still, even though Heather Heath was taught these things, she exhibits a delightful pluckiness in the passage below…
Heather also writes that she briefly considered attending Hyles-Anderson College, in Hammond, Indiana. I have written about Hyles-Anderson a few times in the blog. It’s definitely not a place for women with “pluck” and an independent spirit. She was going to study a nice “feminine” program at the school, because having been homeschooled through ATI, she would have otherwise had a terrible time attending a secular university where accreditation, grades, and test scores matter. Fortunately, officials at Hyles-Anderson had issues with Heather’s choice to work as a medic. They told her she needed to do more “feminine” work where she could be dressed like a lady (wearing skirts and dresses). So Heather wisely decided to withdraw her application…
And when a woman asked Heather to sell her on the idea of homeschooling, wanting to know all of the advantages Heather got from being taught at home through Bill Gothard’s system…
I took a whole lot of notes on this book, which, as I mentioned up post, I don’t do very often. I highlighted many passages, most of which I didn’t include in this review. I could have included them, but I want people to read the book for themselves. The passages in this review aren’t even necessarily the most shocking. They’re just the ones that fit the best.
In spite of her limited education, Heather Grace Heath is obviously very bright, funny, and articulate. Even with the help of an editor, I could definitely hear her authentic voice in this story. I really admired her strength, courage, and resolve to live her life on her own terms. At the same time, there were times when I could see how her education had limited her, and she often describes how she was cheated by not having access to books, qualified teachers, and broader perspectives. She uses a lot of profanity and sometimes comes across as angry, which could turn off some readers, although personally, it didn’t bother me at all. I don’t blame her for being pissed. She had no control over how she was raised, and she did endure some legitimate abuse and educational neglect that have affected her as an adult.
On the other hand, I loved this passage… It demonstrates some of the biting wit and humor Heather has– and sharp wit is a sign of raw intelligence, which it’s clear that Heather has. She clearly doesn’t belong in Bill Gothard’s cult.
It may seem like I have included a lot of passages from the book in this review. But as I mentioned previously, I’ve actually only included a few passages that struck me and fit best. I imagine this book could be quite profound and even triggering to some readers. But I also think a lot of people will find it inspiring and educational. For that reason, I highly recommend Lovingly Abused to anyone who is interested in learning more about about what it’s like to grow up in Bill Gothard’s cult, or even what it’s like to be poorly homeschooled. To be sure, there are many parents who get homeschooling right and do a fantastic job. But there are a lot of other parents who should not be allowed to homeschool their kids. At the very least, there should be much more oversight as to what and how children are taught. I know the conservatives aren’t fans of that idea, since they see it as “government overreach”, but Heather Grace Heath is a living example of why undereducating children is a form of child abuse and neglect.
And… just as an aside, reading Lovingly Abused even gave me some insight into the Duggar family and the situation Anna Duggar is in right now. Anyone who wonders why Anna Keller Duggar hasn’t divorced her clearly deviant husband, Josh Duggar, yet, might have more understanding after reading Lovingly Abused. I didn’t get the sense that Heather Heath’s experiences were nearly as intense as the Duggar kids’ experiences in ATI have been.
While those of us who weren’t raised in a religious cult might think it’s obvious that Anna should leave Josh’s ass, it’s not such a cut and dried thing if you’re in a cult and have been taught that divorce is a pathway to Hell. Even though Anna has grounds for a divorce, it’s still an extremely difficult decision to make, as it makes her significantly less attractive to other men in the cult who are looking for godly helpmeets. Anna probably figures that if she divorces Josh, she will be alone. On the other hand, it’s many people’s fervent hope that Anna will be alone anyway, when a jury of his peers soon delivers a “guilty” verdict. But we shall see… sadly, it could turn out that he walks.
Anyway, below is a link to Amazon for those who want to read this book. If you purchase through the link, I will get a small commission from Amazon. Either way, I hope this review encourages some readers, and I hope someone else will interview Heather and leave up the video. She’s got a lot of important things to say.
And here’s a video by a lady on YouTube who also read the book. Sounds like she was as “triggered” as I was.
Yesterday, I read about how a top administrator in the Southlake district had controversial comments about what kinds of books teachers would have in their classroom libraries. Gina Peddy, the Carroll school district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, was secretly recorded during a training session last week. According to NBC news:
“Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979,” Peddy said in the recording, referring to a new Texas law that requires teachers to present multiple perspectives when discussing “widely debated and currently controversial” issues. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust,” Peddy continued, “that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”
WHAT? That was, I think, a brain dead comment if there ever was one. How do you share an opposing view of the Holocaust? I’d like to think Peddy simply misspoke, as we all sometimes do. I would hope she had a brain fart, perhaps brought on by the state of things in Texas today. It was certainly a thoughtless comment, though, and it doesn’t make me think too highly of the quality of education in Texas. Is it any wonder that so many teachers are leaving the profession when they not only have to deal with the whole COVID-19 situation, but they also have to contend with these kinds of intrusions on their teaching methods?
I read that this whole thing began when a fourth grade student brought home a book called “This Book Is Anti-Racist” by Tiffany Jewell. The girl’s mother objected to the book’s content and complained to her daughter’s teacher. When the teacher did not respond in a way that satisfied the parent, the battle over what kinds of books are appropriate intensified. Local officials investigated the mother’s complaints about the teacher and declined to intervene, but the Carroll school board overturned the decision and voted 3-2 to formally reprimand the teacher. That decision, of course, made other teachers feel threatened, since they figured the board would side against them if other parents decided to complain about books in their classroom libraries.
Evidently, there’s a huge controversy about what is being taught in Texas schools. Some Southlake parents have been fighting against new inclusion and diversity programs at Carroll for over a year. They are opposed to lessons about racism, history (that paints white people in a negative light), or LGBTQ issues. Some of the parents have incorrectly identified the “progressive” lessons as promoting “critical race theory”. That’s how the new law, Texas House Bill number 3979, came to fruition.
Texas House Bill number 3979 is supposed to encourage teachers to present multiple viewpoints of controversial topics. I’m sure the law was intended to address the concern that some people have that their children will be fed a political agenda that doesn’t align with their preferred views… or that white children will somehow be made to feel guilty for the fact that they’re white. Personally, I can understand why some parents worry about that. I happen to agree that no one should feel ashamed of who they are, particularly when it comes to things they can’t change. That includes so-called “privileged” people.
However… there are some subjects that are sacred. The Holocaust is one of those topics where there is no “other view”. There have been people who have denied that the Holocaust happened, or they try to present it in a way that is sympathetic to the Nazi movement. Make no mistake about it. The Holocaust was absolutely horrifying; it’s real; and it didn’t happen all that long ago. Now, more than ever, we must be aware of the danger that can come from turning a blind eye to what happened in Europe during the 1930s and 40s. It was less than 100 years ago… and frankly, whenever I see Donald Trump rally a crowd, I’m reminded a lot of how Hitler came to power.
When a teacher asked Gina Peddy how one might oppose the Holocaust, Peddy’s response was “Believe me. That’s come up.” Wow… REALLY?
There was a time when I considered becoming a school teacher. I went to a college that is very well known for producing outstanding teachers. Many of my friends are teachers. But honestly, after reading about some of the crazy stuff teachers have to deal with nowadays, I am kind of glad that notion went by the wayside. It seems like back in my day, parents trusted and respected teachers more than they do now. I have seen what goes in to making teachers, and what they have to do to be qualified to teach. They don’t get paid a lot in many places, even though their value is immeasurable and they are vital to human development.
I am pretty appalled that someone in the education system in Texas suggested that teachers should present opposing views to the Holocaust, even if that comment was made due to a massive brain fart. It really is embarrassing. And I can see why teachers are so concerned. One elementary school teacher said:
“Teachers are literally afraid that we’re going to be punished for having books in our classes. There are no children’s books that show the ‘opposing perspective’ of the Holocaust or the ‘opposing perspective’ of slavery. Are we supposed to get rid of all of the books on those subjects?”
Imagine having to grade masses of papers, answer dozens of irate emails and phone calls, AND be concerned that the books you’ve chosen for your classroom library might be deemed controversial, even when the validity of the subject matter is not in dispute. Teachers definitely have a tough job, and this kind of situation only makes it tougher…
And once again, it makes me glad I don’t have to deal with this problem myself. I think if I had children, I would want them to be free to read almost everything. I grew up with parents who mostly let me read what I wanted. All it did was open my mind and make me love reading. I really think this new law is misguided, even if it was well-intentioned. This situation ought to be fixed as soon as possible, before more excellent teachers decide to change careers.
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