To Break Down a Child: A Call for Stories about Pearl-Style Discipline
By Shaney Lee, HARO Board Member
What do these three children have in common? All of their deaths were linked to the abusive teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl in their book To Train Up A Child.
If you weren’t homeschooled growing up, it’s possible, even probable, that you’ve never heard the names Michael and Debi Pearl before. Their success with their publishing efforts are largely due to word-of-mouth through fundamentalist Christian churches and homeschooling communities.
It is estimated that over 670,000 copies of To Train Up A Child are in circulation. That’s at least 670,000 too many. Much of that word of mouth has largely been enabled through homeschooling communities. Their books have been prominently featured in the homeschool editions of Christian Book Distributor’s catalogues, been recommended on homeschooling forums, and handed from parent to parent at homeschooling conventions (not to mention sold in some of the booths).
The Pearls don’t just advocate spanking as a method of child discipline. They advocate a method of discipline that puts the child’s will in direct defiance of God’s will and of the parents’ will, that makes the breaking of a child’s will the ultimate goal of child discipline, and that puts parents in a position to believe that if they are not 100% successful in their discipline, they risk their child’s very soul.
And yet, when these teachings are linked to the death of multiple children, there are thousands who speak up in defense of the Pearls’ teachings.
Enough is enough.
It is time for those of us familiar with the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl to speak up and speak against these abusive methods. It’s time to show that the damage of the Pearls’ method goes beyond just a few parents who got out of control. It’s time to show that it’s justifiable for the Pearls’ teachings to be linked to these horrible outcomes.
If you were raised with the Pearls’ methods, it’s your time to speak. If you’ve read the Pearls’ books and are against what they teach, it’s your time to speak. If you are a parent who previously used the Pearls’ methods, it’s your time to speak.
Even if you’re not normally a fan of what Homeschoolers Anonymous does, I ask you to join us for this series.
Because this issue is bigger than any disagreements we might have about homeschooling. It’s about preventing another Lydia, or Hana, or Sean.
This is not about whether spanking is a legitimate form of discipline (that’s a whole ‘nother discussion in and of itself!). This is about taking a public stand against a method of teaching that is extremely harmful towards children. Any system of childrearing that views children as rebellious little souls whose wills needs to be broken — rather than as small humans who are learning to live and thrive in the world — dehumanizes children and will always be harmful in the end.
Hana, Sean, and Lydia can’t speak up for themselves. It’s up to us to do it for them, to stand up for children who still have a chance. While it is the homeschooling community that has largely enabled the Pearls, I strongly believe it is the homeschooling community that is most equipped to fight against their abusive teaching.
So let’s stand up for our children. They deserve better.
To contribute your story or thoughts:
As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.
If you interested in participating in this, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for submission is September 15, 2013.