Homeschoolers Anonymous

Bill Gothard on Education: Jeri Lofland’s Thoughts

Jeri’s post was originally published on her blog Heresy in the Heartland  on September 8, 2013. It is reprinted with her permission. Also by Jeri on HA: “Generational Observations”, “Of Isolation and Community”“His Quiver Full of Them”, “David Noebel, Summit Ministries, and the Evil of Rock”, and “The Political Reach of Bill Gothard”.

My parents began homeschooling me in third grade, and enrolled in Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute, a curriculum exclusively for alumni of his Advanced Seminar, before I started seventh grade. Our family was part of ATI until I reached my mid-twenties.

The following statements are the main points from a session of Bill Gothard’s Advanced Seminar. They can be found on pages 88-91 of the accompanying workbook and on his website. Looking back, these “principles” explain so much of my educational experience.

Advanced Seminar Session 16: Successful Education

(Bill Gothard)

God has set a limitation on learning; thus, academic freedom is no justification for studying the details of evil.

Inge Cannon (pictured here with her husband) helped Gothard develop the ATI curriculum in the early 1980’s. She later directed HSLDA’s National Center for Home Education.

As an ATI student, I attended numerous conferences that became pep rallies for volunteerism with the Institute or urged us to study our favorite topics from the safety of our homes. (I even spent eighteen months enrolled in IBLP’s unaccredited correspondence law school!)

Inge Cannon was one familiar conference speaker. Cannon holds a master’s degree in education and helped Gothard develop the ATI curriculum in the early 1980’s. She later directed the National Center for Home Education, a division of HSLDA.

At an opening session of the 1990 ATI training conference held at the University of Tennesee in Knoxville, Inge Cannon warned us against the dangerous “High Places” of education. As she talked, I took careful and enthusiastic notes. I was just fourteen, and excited about this chance to sit with the adults.

In the Bible, God repeatedly told the ancient Israelites to tear down the idolatrous “high places”. Cannon thus defined a high place as:

“any goal or objective so commonly accepted that it is validated and esteemed as good, even though it violates the will and word of God”.

According to Cannon, the following “high places” are educational myths for home-educating parents to avoid.

The High Places of Education

(Inge Cannon–June 23, 1990)

During my time in ATI, I was just one of thousands of young people who were told that we didn’t need college credits, that college would corrupt our minds with “vain philosophies” and threaten our faith, that there are some things “God doesn’t want us to know”, and that employers would come looking for us because of our diligence, obedience, and virtue. So, many of us dutifully eschewed degrees in favor of home-based study.

Gothard, incidentally, later changed his mind and now even touts the Ph.D. degree Lousiana Baptist University conferred on him in 2004, much to the chagrin of those of us for whom the new dispensation came too late. Hundreds of former ATI students live today with the socioeconomic consequences of what we were taught, even as we struggle to catch up to our college-educated peers.