What you take for granted about Actual School

I think people who go to schools take these things for granted:

  • Observing multiple adult role models
  • Observing different peer personalities, behaviors, and interrelationships
  • Moving freely among peers in a school hallway and/or playground and/or cafeteria at least once per day
  • If you’re noticeably sick, there’s a school nurse that will probably end up evaluating you
  • Some level of opportunity for physical activity

I went to kindergarten and first grade at a local good public school and was bullied in first grade, so I was excited about home ‘school’ at first. Incidentally, the school also had a plan for addressing my educational and social issues, that I believe would have actually done so, in a developmentally appropriate way.

All the things that I’ve listed above I would have gotten in even ‘bad’ public schools but didn’t get in home ‘school’. Each of these things listed above would have made a huge difference in my development. Some parents may provide these things to children they’ve taken out of school, but it’s something you can’t take for granted once a kid has been taken out of school.

Other things that you can take for granted in school but not home ‘schools’:

  • Meals for children who don’t get enough at home
  • Some level of discussion about the human body – how it should function, what healthy bodies are like, healthy things to do to care for your body
  • Someone notices if you disappear for weeks
  • Someone notices if you’re locked in a cage or closet 24/7/365 because then you don’t show up at school
  • Someone notices if you way half the weight you’re supposed to at your age, or if you’re half the height you’re supposed to be
  • Someone notices if you can’t talk or can’t read

People who talk about how they went to a ‘bad’ school take these things so much for granted that they don’t realize that while a ‘bad’ school might be abusive, violent, have bullying – a bad home ‘school’ can have all of the same, plus some very significant (lack of) things that amplify the effects of abuse. If you think all parents who remove their kids from school provide these things you take for granted in schools, you can be disabused of that inaccurate assumption by these stories.

When you think about home ‘schools’, please remember these facts to supplement the photos of happy children filling out workbooks at the kitchen table.

There is a reason people choose to be fundamentalists. They aren’t so different from the rest of us.

From Micah Murray’s blog:

Do you ever miss it? … There were years when I had all the answers. There was a time when there were no decisions to be made, no opinions to be formed, no choices to agonize over. There was a time when every next step was set out for me, when my reactions and responses followed a blueprint that was exact in its plans for my life.”

An article very worth reading. I’ll wait. Come back after you read it. :)

There is a reason people choose to be fundamentalists. The security is complete. You know that you won’t accidentally do the wrong thing thinking it is the right thing. You know that you won’t accidentally be wrong about anything. You know that if you follow this list, your actions will be successful, you will only help and not harm anyone, and you will be blessed. Everything that happens to you is happening for your good. If you see anything bad happen to anyone, you can rest easy knowing that God is using it for their good – and possibly also to provide an opportunity for you to act in faith. Depending.

Similar to the author of this incredibly articulate and beautiful article, the choice to be a fundamentalist was forever revoked from me when I followed all the rules – in a selfless act of love – and instead of being successful, it failed, and instead of helping, it seriously harmed those I loved. I was faced with irrevocable, unforgettable, unignorable evidence that the rules, even when followed with complete devotion to God and love, didn’t always bring success and didn’t always bless. My security was shattered forever. If the reality I completely believed in was false, what was real? If what I believed was absolute good, harmed, it could not be good – so what is? I had been wrong about how I was called to act – so how should I act?

It was a pivotal moment in my life. I didn’t want to harm anyone else by trying to do good. I needed to know what was real, what was good, what was my role in the world.

Now I know that necessarily, we all are mostly wrong about most things, and I always will be. I’ve made peace with that – I’m secure in that insecurity – through the commitment that I will always continue to try to be less wrong than I was the day before, so I can do less wrong – less harm.

Burrowing into reality has brought me to a place where people I know and have known, say I’m radical. It’s strange. One, because I actually have a conservative temperament – I hate change and I hate being wrong, and that’s actually what drives my transformation – by learning the truth better, I can be less wrong and do less wrong, act on less wrong beliefs. Two, because I am driven by the same core values as conservative Christianity, the Tea Party, Ron Paul, moderates, liberals, and Bernie Sanders progressives: compassion, love, and anti-violence.

What is different about these groups is not their core values, but what they believe is real – because core values lead to different actions depending on the reality they operate within. I once believed that the most loving thing we could do to a homosexual or a rebellious adult child was to execute them, because it was the only and best shot to possibly bring them to repentance and save their soul from eternal, infinite torment.

There are not words to express how glad I am that I no longer believe in that reality – because I know how precarious my escape was. I know that some people I love, people who share my core values of compassion, love, and anti-violence, are still stuck within that cage of false reality, effecting hate and destruction and violence out of their desire and efforts to love and heal. I know that I did that. I will always know that I did that. That I was young doesn’t change the fact that I know that I am capable of that, and I know the truth about people who do that: a few truly are as evil as the John Olivers and r/atheisms of the world portray, but the fundamentalist masses – just like you and me, they care, they love, they want and try to help the best they can.

So I am a ‘radical’ because I have the same values, but based on the evidence I have explored, have come to believe in a dramatically different reality.

For anyone who wants to ensure for themselves that they really do fulfill the values they hold: go observe people who are not like you. Listen to their stories. Go see situations and environments that are not like yours. Read about them and try to imagine being those people. Test the things you believe about reality – find the strongest arguments against them, and explore whether your beliefs can hold up to those. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 “Test each of your beliefs; retain what passes the test.”

The Unbreakable Sandy Bland; Thoughts on submission, human dignity, liberty, and what we say it’s supposed to mean to be an American

Watching the Sandra Bland dashcam video as a person who grew up confined in a violent home, my instincts give me a feeling of shock when I hear Sandy say, ‘let’s take this to court’, and ‘oh wow you’re going to do this over a lane change?!’, ‘you have no right’ etc. My instinct in that situation (which I know I wouldn’t be, because I am white and usually project high status) but if I somehow were in that situation, what I would do instinctively, without even thinking about it, would be to say ‘yes sir, yes sir’. I would conceal the fact that I knew he had violated my rights, because he had already shown me that he is a violent person, and I know what violent people do when you stand up for yourself: they get more violent. You assert your rights, they violate them more. Violent people have it in their heads that they have to ‘break’ you into submission, what they call ‘respecting’ them. They will do it to your death if necessary (not that they are conscious that they’re doing it to your death, but it doesn’t enter their head to watch out for a level of damage that will kill you, they often aren’t even educated in what kinds and levels of force can be lethal). So the moment that police officer told me to put out a cigarette, I would be scared for my life, and I would defer, and add in some groveling for good measure (yes sir, thank you sir, have a beautiful day sir) and then when I got out of there I might call a lawyer to discuss my rights.

It goes without saying that a person with that kind of violent psychology should not be a police officer, and it’s also clear that we have quite a few police officers with that psychology in this country. Some people are saying he should have been trained to restrain himself, but come on, most people don’t have to be trained to not violate another person’s rights and beat them up. Most people just wouldn’t do it. If someone disrespected you, would you threaten them? Would you escalate violence until you got submission? If so, you shouldn’t be a police officer. It goes beyond we shouldn’t be hiring people with this personality, we should be screening people for this personality and not letting people like it on the force, but beyond that, once there is a single incident like this, that person should be off the force for life. This is not a ‘mistake’ you make as an officer. This is showing his true colors. He is a violent person who will escalate violence until he gets the response he wants. I’ve known enough people like that to know that people like that don’t just change overnight. He didn’t just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, it can’t be trained out of him or reprimanded out of him. It is his personality. He should never see another day of police work.

And here’s the thing. When I tell you how I would have deferred to the police officer, ‘yes sir’, you’re probably thinking that would have been the right thing to do. I don’t feel that way. I’d do it, but I’d hate myself for it. I just let an officer dehumanize me. Show me that his ‘position’ was more important than my humanity and my rights. I’d wish I’d stood up for myself whatever the costs. Sandra Bland was violated, but that violence was inflicted solely from the outside, from the officer. I would have violated my own human dignity, to protect my body and my life. I feel ashamed to confess it here to you. I’ve done it a thousand times. It might be why I’m still here, able to tell you this. But it wasn’t worth it. It’s a weird thing to say since I’m glad to be alive. But the psychology of deference in face of extreme humiliation and dehumanization – it does something to you. The violation goes beyond your body into your soul. I think this is what they mean by ‘breaking’, as in ‘breaking the will’, which is homeschool dogma for good parenting. I respect Sandra Bland. I honor her. Her strength, her courage, to stand up for herself, to maintain her self-respect and humanity, I aspire to that. I aspire to that level of courage.

This difference between Sandra Bland and me makes me think of Hana Williams, the adopted girl killed by homeschooling parents trying to ‘break her will’. I was called ‘strong willed child’ (another homeschooling phrase) so I guess I held out longer than many – I still remember the sad mommy conferences where homeschool mommies sat around in hushed, sad voices brainstorming escalating violence and dehumanization to ‘break’ my ‘strong will’ – but, I ‘broke’. And I became a ‘good girl’, who said ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘obey immediately and cheerfully’ ‘without asking questions’. And the amount of physical violence alone that went into that, literally may have injured my health. But Hana never broke. So the violence escalated – clearly more would be needed to ‘break’ her. And eventually she died for her strength of spirit, for her complete confidence in her humanity, for her refusal to break. Her parents didn’t think ‘we’re going to kill her’, but they felt they ‘had to’ keep escalating violence until she ‘broke’, but instead of breaking her spirit, they broke her body, and she died. She is a hero of mine. I wish I had had her strength, her courage. She kept her humanity, her self respect intact. I wish I had never ‘broken’. It is a sort of violation of the soul, not worth the goal of preserving the body. If I could go back, pick a broken body or a broken soul, I’d choose the former.

So we need to have a conversation about authority and violence in this country. No, submission to authority is not a good in and of itself. It’s a violence. ‘Authority’ is not more human than me, more human than you. I think this is what Patrick Henry was getting at when he said ‘Give me liberty or give me death’. An unbroken spirit is worth fighting for, worth dying for. You might not realize that until your own spirit is broken, or threatened to be. But most Americans have had our spirits threatened or broken, so we know. The founding fathers may not have been thinking of people of color, women, children when they spoke of freedom, but we can. We all deserve liberty. We all deserve to be treated with respect.

Deference isn’t worth it. The fact that that is still my instinct, is because I’m still afraid, somewhere inside something is still broken. Somewhere inside I’m willing to trade my humanity for my life. I wish I wasn’t, and I aspire to heal that part of myself. My humanity, dignity is worth fighting for. And as a community – an intersectional, unified community – our dignity is worth fighting for. Please don’t go around saying that a woman, or person of color, or whatever kind of person, could escape violence if only they groveled more. Do you really want to live in that kind of world? Join the fight to change that world instead.

Here’s a link to a good interview with a lawyer about Sandra Bland’s constitutional and legal rights.

Don’t underestimate the political power of the ‘home-school’ movement

This is a response to an article published today by Salon titled “Capture the Duggar base: Bobby Jindal’s desperate home-school Hail Mary is 2016′s strangest strategy” and subtitled “‘Religious freedom’ + home-schoolers. It seems like a tiny GOP sliver, but a strategist to watch thinks otherwise.”

I believe that it’s impossible to understand and predict the American political environment if you underestimate the impact of the “home-school” movement on state and national policy and commend the author for this piece. It’s an under-discussed topic.

There’s one paragraph that needs to be addressed by a “home-school” insider, so here goes. Lamar White, the author, writes,

‘RenewAmerica boasted about the work it had done in electing Jindal to Congress. “During his congressional race of three years ago (in 2004), Jindal engaged the assistance of grassroots Christian and conservative youth organizations such as Student Project and Generation Joshua,” they reported. “Ignoring fears of their ‘polarizing’ effect on his campaign, he won handily, upholding their Judeo-Christian values as a hallmark of his terms in office.”

That year, in its own post-game analysis of the gubernatorial campaign, the HSLDA championed the staggering results of its direct voter contact work. “Generation Joshua Student Action Teams were an integral part of gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal’s victory in Louisiana in October 2007,” it wrote in a press release, specifically claiming:

“In the days leading up to Louisiana’s election, close to 100 homeschooled students and their parents worked in three locations (New Orleans/Metairie, Shreveport, and Lake Charles) on behalf of Bobby Jindal for Governor. Altogether, the teams made over 250,000 voter contacts, knocking on over 100,000 doors and making thousands of phone calls. On election night, October 20, Bobby Jindal netted nearly 54% of the vote.”

Of course, this is absurdly implausible. According to these numbers, each homeschool student would have had to knock on 1,000 different doors in only a few days. All told, Jindal received slightly fewer than 700,000 votes, which means Generation Joshua believes it contacted the equivalent of 35 percent of Jindal’s entire electorate. Still, despite the hyperbole, and despite that only 3 percent of students are homeschooled, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, it would be unwise to dismiss how important the homeschool movement is for Bobby Jindal.’ (emphasis mine)

I disagree that 1000 doors knocked per kid in the days leading up the to election is “absurdly implausible” and “hyperbole”. Drawing on my past as a ‘home-schooled’ political activist, here’s why.

25 doors knocked per hour is a reasonable rate for door knocking, with about 6 ‘contacts’ (people answering the door) per hour – especially given that ‘with their parents’ in ‘home-school’ context indicates stay-at-home moms drove them from house to house, cutting out walking time in less dense neighborhoods.

Imagine that you believe that the future of your state and nation depends on this election, and the purpose of your existence is to ‘protect’ your state and nation from moral decay. Plus, you’re hardly ever allowed out of the house or interacting with strangers. In this context, you’re excited to invest as much time as possible into political action. (I’m mentally referencing my teen days working political phone banks, doing speech and debate, and manning food drives.) In my teens, my peers and I would have loved to put 12 hours a day into something like this.

Four days at ‘only’ 10 hours a day per kid would meet that 1000 doors knocked number. If it were me and my peers – we would have been knocking doors at the earliest appropriate hour until the latest appropriate one, and considering it one of the most fun occasions of recent memory.

Using kids is key because people are more likely to talk to teens and kids and more likely to have a favorable response to them.

"I see young mamas and daddies producing a whole new generation of godly, wholesome kids. If we can’t beat the progressives today, we will beat them tomorrow in the numbers game. While they kill their children and stuff them in a green refuse container bound for the city dump, two of our kids multiply to become eight, ten, or nineteen in about 20 years. Think about that—two  million homeschoolers today, ten to sixteen million in twenty years. If you can’t out­vote them today, out­breed them for tomorrow." - Michael Pearl
A common Dominionist / Quiverfull / Reconstructionist sentiment, in this case expressed by Michael Pearl, author of To Train Up A Child. “That escalated quickly.”

Something key to note is that Generation Joshua kids are unpaid, even though politicians pay the organization Generation Joshua. And they’ve never had access a variety of information or permission to form their own opinions. And this work will count on their high school transcripts as a full ‘civics’ course.

You literally have people popping out a culture warrior a year for their ‘quiver’ of arrows to put people like Jindal in office.

Like Michael Pearl, author of the child-abuse manual To Train Up A Child that is believed to have been influential in the tragic early deaths of Hana Williams and Lydia Schatz, recently wrote, “If you can’t out-vote them for today, out-breed them for tomorrow.”

In which I share how a dysfunctional autonomic system affects cognitive function

I have high IQ intelligence, which people quickly realize when they speak with me or read what I’ve written. So I think it’s often hard for them to wrap their minds around the fact that I also face cognitive disability.

When people hear the phrase “cognitive disability”, they tend to think of developmental disabilities or hallucinations. So for those of us who face cognitive disability despite normal or high intelligence and no hallucinations, we are often treated as if we could not possibly have a cognitive disability.

If you fade out as the day goes on, experience periodic mental confusion, periodic rushed thoughts, etc – most people aren’t looking for that, it hasn’t even occurred to them before as something that can happen. We often call it ‘brain fog’ amongst ourselves, but it actually has a very scientific basis and can be described scientifically. Pre-syncope, hypovolemia, cerebral blood velocity instability, postural tachycardia – outsiders usually haven’t considered that those cause cognitive limitations, and even don’t know that the kind of cognitive limitations they cause exist.

Traffic light. Standing is red, fast heart rate. Squatting is yellow, slower heart rate. Green is lyiing down, hear rate is normal.
Standing has a strong effect on the autonomic system of Postural Tachycardia Syndrome patients.

Imagine writing an essay in each of these situations:
– You just crossed the finish line of a marathon.
– You just lost 1/3 of your blood.
– You’re about to faint.
– You’re in the middle of a flu.
– You’re a passenger in an economy car driving down a cobblestone road.
– You’re in the process of running a marathon.
– You just finished running a marathon while having the flu, lost 1/3 of your blood, are riding in an economy car driving down a cobblestone street, and are about to faint.
– You just lost 1/3 of your blood, have the flu, and are sprinting. (POTS in the second half of the day.)
– You just lost 1/3 of your blood and are about to faint. (NCS)
– You just lost 1/3 of your blood and are sprinting. (POTS)

These examples aren’t simply allegorical – in these situations your body would be in the same physiological state as a dysautonomia patient who is doing non-strenuous activity – for instance, sitting down. So you would know how we really feel. Since dysautonomia is instability of our homeostatic systems, what is going on in our body is changing all the time, so we likely experience the feeling of several of the above situations in the same day.

This is me at a coffee shop working on paperwork: You just lost 1/3 of your blood and are about to faint.
This is me at the drug store counter: You just lost 1/3 of your blood, are sprinting, and are starting to faint.
This is me lying down at home after going to a coffee shop to work on paperwork, then the drug store, then am so miserable I drove home, total of three hours out of the house: You just finished running a marathon while having the flu, lost 1/3 of your blood, are riding in an economy car driving down a cobblestone street, and are about to faint.

As you can guess, recovery takes time and rest and is often incomplete.

And as you can probably also guess, it is hard to do even knowledge-work like writing while in this condition. Where ‘hard’ is an understatement. Sometimes your skills and abilities feel like they are locked inside you, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t break them out to the outside world. And you learn to make peace with this, even though you never stop trying. Other times, you are almost completely locked out of your brain and body and all you can do is watch the world and struggle to complete survival activities like drinking water and eating something.

I hope this post may give readers an idea of the kind of cognitive challenges dysautonomia patients face on a daily basis. We aren’t looking for pity. We’ve made peace with our conditions and are fighting on to contribute to the world and live a good life. We are just looking for understanding. Understanding makes the world a warmer place and removes barriers that might otherwise be placed there accidentally.