Monday, November 11, 2013

The Botkin's "Ready for Real Life" Webinar, Part VI

Introduction: Botkins Launch Webinar on Making Kids "Ready for Real Life"
Part I: Ready for What?
Part II: Are Your Children Ready for Real Life?
Part III: Arts and Culture
Part IV: Science and Medicine
Part V: History and Law
Part VI: Vocations
Part VII: Q&A Session

In part VI of the "Ready for Real Life" webinar series, the Botkins discuss the transition from homeschooling to adult life, offering advice on work, education, and adult leadership. As with prior webinars, the Botkins give this a separatist spin, discouraging young people from entering traditional workforces, the military, or universities that could "exploit them to their ruin". Maintaining Christian dominion is paramount, as usual. Unfortunately, the Botkins fail to understand the relationship between impractical homeschool teachings and homeschooled youth who are ill-prepared to take on the world.

Geoffrey began by praising Christian homeschool families, asserting that parents pulling their children out of schools was one of the most significant movements in history. However, he lamented the "nationwide fragility" of the Christian homeschool movement, claiming that a "lack of a dominion pattern of thinking" has weakened homeschooling. Many children remain confused as to why their parents homeschooled them, failing to see the "Biblical purpose" or "urgent reasons" to propel the movement, he claimed. "Some of them are even confused about marriage," he added.

Who do the Botkins blame for anemic homeschooling and disappointing results? Mothers.

Victoria Botkin claimed that the homeschool movement's biggest weakness is that it's "mommy-driven". At the 4:06 mark, she elaborated on how homeschool mothers allegedly stunt their children.
"We have to be honest and say that the weakness is that it's mommy-driven ... I know that what homeschool mommies like me love most is to gather our chicks together and snuggle up together on the sofa with our cups of cocoa and just have a wonderful time reading together. This warm, cozy mothering style is very good and it's very nurturing when the children are little, but we have to face it, as they get older, this is simply not a good formula for training up cultural leaders. So, as our children grow up, the way we interact with them and the way we mothers discipline them has simply got to grow with them."

Geoffrey Botkin agreed, claiming that homeschooling is stunting children's development in part because "mommies" are driving the process and fathers are insufficiently involved. At the 5:04 mark, he criticized homeschool mothers for cocooning their children in a safe, sheltered environment for longer than necessary.
"We notice that parents' teaching styles and techniques and priorities really are not growing with the children. We're keeping the children young. We're keeping the children undeveloped, and part of that is because mommies who are still driving the process, and because so many dads are not as engaged as they should be, mommies would like that warm, cuddling, secure, sheltered life to continue far into life as adults, as adulthood. And so too many young men, young boys are growing up being dwarfed or emasculated by the world and its real-life issues."

My jaw dropped at all the sexism, scapegoating, and flawed thinking I just heard. First, repeatedly referring to stay-at-home mothers as "mommies" was condescending. Second, the Christian Patriarchy Movement demands that women stay in the domestic sphere and nurture their children, so why were the Botkins blaming women for doing what they'd been instructed to do all along? Christian Patriarchy women who were listening to this webinar must have felt frustrated as the Botkins accused them of failing at their demanding, unending duties. Third, Geoffrey Botkin focused on young men, ignoring the possibility that his version of homeschooling might stunt young women as well. If this particular branch of homeschooling is failing to prepare children for adult life, its leaders need to reexamine their methods instead of blaming mothers as a knee-jerk reaction.

Geoffrey Botkin complained that many 17-19 year-old homeschool graduates are not the "dominant minds" in their environments, but rather find themselves being dominated by others. Such young people either strive to fit in with the outside world, or hide from the world out of fear, staying home and indulging in wasteful activities that aren't "dominion-oriented".

Christian faith requires Christians to have the "dominant mind" of each generation, Geoffrey reiterated. That is, Christians are not to dominate others "like the Islamic world teaches," but to be leaders. Christian homeschooling families are to instill this goal in their children, rather than training them to withdraw into a "sheltered" or "agrarian" lifestyle.

First, I was puzzled by Phillips disapproval of "agrarian" lifestyles. What's so un-Christian about farming? Second, if the Botkins are so perturbed by homeschool graduates shrinking away from the outside world, shouldn't they worry that their education model has poorly equipped students for adulthood? Finally, since some branches of the Christian homeschool movement live in their own bubbles as a way of shielding families from "the world", aren't withdrawn adults the natural result of this ideology?

As with previous webinars, Geoffrey expressed his distrust of universities. Too many homeschool parents discover that their 16-18 year-old offspring have no social skills or capabilities, he claimed. He warned parents that if their children do not have university-level knowledge by the time they turn 18, their children's character will be deficient. If such young adults go to college, that poor preparation will "only exploit them to their ruin".

Geoffrey fielded a listener question about how to make sure children don't "crash and burn", that is, lose their faith or degrade their character after leaving home. In reply, Geoffrey warned that children can "crash and burn" even before they leave home if they're ill-equipped to cope with moral challenges. He condemned country music as one example of a moral challenge in Christian culture, accusing country music of promoting a "very destructive, counter-Christian theology". Another alleged source of moral corruption lies in homeschool support groups, he argued, where insecure children can become "peer dependent" and succumb to "peer-dependent compromise".

Translation: Don't you dare compare notes! Don't let those other homeschooling families suggest non-insane ways to homeschool your kids, I thought.

Parents need to talk with their children and understand their minds, as a strong family life can instill vital maturity and responsibility in young people. Parents need to test their children as they would "arrows", giving them opportunities for moral tests outside of the home.

The Botkins shifted gears to talk about careers and vocations. Immediately, Geoffrey dismissed parents' concerns about their children's financial well-being. Parents, especially "mommies", focus on how their children are going to make a solid, stable living as adults. Geoffrey frowned upon his focus on jobs and validation from the "elite oligarchy", reminding listeners that a supposed fixation on money, pensions, and "carnal security" isn't Biblical. A Christian's highest priority is their mission for God, not their job, he asserted.

Geoffrey's words left me stunned. Young adults should be thinking about how they'll support themselves, because work and bills will be part of their adult lives. Thinking about benefits and wages isn't about "carnal security", it's about making sure one has food, housing, and medical care. Financial reflection is even more important if one is trying to escape poverty, survive in an economically depressed region, pay for an education, or start a family. To ignore money matters in adulthood is to be dangerously immature, which Geoffrey fails to understand.

At the 18:22 mark, Geoffrey dismissed the American dream as "the pursuit of Mammon", arguing that society need a Biblical paradigm for worship, education, and career.
"The 21st century needs a completely new paradigm for education ... We need a new paradigm for worship. We need a new paradigm for work because the school model, the church model, and the career model are obsolete. They haven't worked. That's why there's so much confusion about going into the 21st century. The church has been endorsing this idea of the American dream since the 1950s, and people have really fallen for it. It's the pursuit of Mammon at the expense of Biblical obedience. So these models are obsolete because they were wrong, number one, Biblically, but they haven't worked, have they? That's why our culture is so broken and people are so confused about what to do. The culture that they created in the 20th century simply cannot and must not be sustained. So here's the solution. Let's move our children and the entire culture to the Biblical paradigm. We've lived too long in a humanistic paradigm, the paradigm of secular humanism."

Parents should teach children that being Christ's ambassador and occupying the world until Christ's return in their only calling, Geoffrey said. Christ's civilization must be planted and preserved in every society as part of the Great Commission, he instructed. Ominously, he reminded listeners that America is a "massive spiritual battlefield" and they must not be "taken captive".

Coldly, Geoffrey discouraged children from following "self-centered dreams" and giving themselves over to Mammon at the 24:17 mark.
"Parents, you need to help your children aspire to something far different than one career based on self-centered dreams to achieve carnal security by accumulating Mammon."

Benjamin Botkin, Geoffrey and Victoria's son, echoed his father's thoughts, stating that not every dream is worth fighting for. Sadly, by labeling dreams as "self-centered", the Botkins refused to countenance dreams that could result in progress, enrichment, and joy. As in previous webinars, the Botkins' advice boiled down to "do what God says, and don't you dare think, feel, or evolve".

Geoffrey assured listeners that if they obey Christ, they will have both money and viable occupational opportunities throughout their lives. This prosperity gospel nonsense struck me as dangerous, as it could cause Christians to neglect sound careers, financial planning, and budgeting. In the real world, God does not always provide, as those who have endured unemployment, poverty, and hunger know too well.

Benjamin discussed the feeling of being overwhelmed, when one's work, family, and church responsibilities seem overwhelming. His advice for uncluttering one's life was to excise everything that did not contribute to goals, including "worthless" activities and the desire to engage in worthless activities.

Geoffrey emphasized that the Botkins were not advocating careers (which they defined as lifelong jobs), which they considered part of a broken paradigm. Rather, he encouraged listeners to devote themselves to four chief priorities -- family, business, church, and civic duties -- which must be integrated and pursued simultaneously.

On the topic of using talents in one's future jobs, Geoffrey discouraged parents from excessive focus on children's gifts. Using gifts to determine one's future job merely plays into the "statist security state", where a "slave economy" assigns job roles based on one's talents. At the 46:15 mark, Geoffrey encouraged leadership and decentralized business over work in the "ant colony".
"Keep the correct, new 21st century paradigm in mind. For the 20th century, people grew up thinking about just becoming part of this statist security state, a workforce state, and it was really a slave economy, very similar to what was advocated by Plato in all his writings. An oligarchy is in charge, and everybody else just kind of fits in as servants and slaves based on abilities, gifts, and talents. You don't want your children even to be thinking that way ... You still can go to a so-called career counselor, and they'll say, 'What are you good at?'. Well, they're helping to to sort people into little cubby holes as servants, not as leaders, as those who serve the planned economy, not those who create it and do something totally different. That's why we don't want you to be caught up in thinking about 'well, what are my children good at', so they can take their little place in the pyramid, in the ant colony. We want them to be the leader of tomorrow who create the entire new business climates all over the world that are so different, a decentralized state system, a decentralized economy where there's so many more independent businesses and business people."

Geoffrey Botkin's monologue reflected a certain ignorance about how employment works. Do some businesses behave in unethical ways? Of course. Do wealthy oligarchs wield disproportionate power? Sadly, yes. Does the world need new models of business? Yes. However, helping a young person plan for their future is not "sort[ing] people into little cubby holes". Plenty of jobs serve meaningful roles in society, and performing such jobs does not render employees "servants and slaves". Finally, some fields require employees to work their way up to positions of authority, so we cannot expect everyone to take leadership positions immediately. Leadership and paradigm shift take time, and they require years of training and experience. All young adults, homeschooled or not, need to understand this.

Geoffrey's poor grasp of work realities was apparent in his advice about degrees and credentials. The Botkin family did not practice graduations, he said. Children are ready move forward in the world when they're able to lead their generation with confidence and "cultural discipleship", he stated. Assessment of young homeschoolers should focus on whether they understand the kingdom of Christ, and how they will spend their lives seeking it. None of his children got credentials, he explained but that hasn't stopped them from getting job offers. For example, he bragged that his son Isaac received job offers to be a college professor at age 19-20, dismissing his lack of credentials, but Isaac turned them down.

Wait. What? I thought. Universities. Don't. Work. Like. That. Competition is fierce for new faculty positions, and degrees are essential requirements for applicants. No college worthy of the title is going to hire a 19 year-old kid with no degree or credentials.

On the topic of degrees, one listener asked what to do if their state required homeschooling parents to have degrees. Geoffrey scoffed at the idea, encouraging listeners to "stop complying with unlawful laws" and warning them against submission to the state at the 57:06 mark.
"What kind of degree? What if they tell you you need a PhD in education, or a Masters from a teachers college? Would you bow the knee to the state just to get that so you could homeschool your children, or would you give up and throw your children back into the government system? Christians have to stop complying with unlawful laws, especially without challenging the idea behind that law before they're ever passed. We should be articulating and declaring our independence as parents to have the freedom to educate our children, because this freedom comes to us as a command from God Almighty. I mean, the state does not regulate this ... No, we don't have to go chasing these degrees just because we're afraid something is going to happen. What would you do if they passed a law outlawing spanking? Would you just simply stop spanking your children? You can't do that. You have to continue to obey God first more than man. You have to obey God first."

David Botkin tackled the topic of military enlistment after homeschooling, listing and critiquing four reasons why some homeschooled youth choose the military. First, some people want to earn degrees after their service, but David claimed that degrees weren't desirable ends. Second, some people want to establish a long-term military career, to which David replied that while short-term work for the military was acceptable, long-term work was not. The Constitution doesn't allow for a long-standing army, and that the Founding Fathers disagreed with the idea, he insisted. Third, some people want to reform the military from within, which David claimed was a positive but misguided intention. A private would have very little impact on the military as a whole, and many people don't even know what needs to be reformed. Fourth, some people want to protect and serve their country, but David argued that the government (including "unconstitutional" departments such as the IRS and EPA) are a much greater threat to Americans than any foreign aggressor. David, it seemed, had absorbed much of his father's disgust toward alleged "statism".

David discouraged military enlistment, citing the U.S. military's flaws. For example, he argued that many of the U.S. military's actions have been unconstitutional and unbiblical, and that it has involved itself in inappropriate tasks (i.e., nation building) that should not concern the U.S. government. He also complained about the presence of "sodomites" and women in the military, which he blasted as an "abomination". The supposedly declining moral standard in the military, such as current tolerance for fornication, also disgusted him.

David, if you think "fornication" in the military is something recent, think again, I thought. And I can think of far more serious moral outrages in the U.S. military than gay or female soldiers.

David emphasized that while joining the military would be a bad decision in most cases, Christians would be obligated to uphold the law and the Bible if they did enlist. Specifically, they would be obligated to disobey any unlawful orders, which would result in a court martial and possible dishonorable discharge.

Geoffrey Botkin addressed a listener's question about whether parents should prepare their sons for social and economic collapse. At the 1:11:41 mark, Geoffrey claimed that the U.S. is already in the throes of collapse as a result of God's "chastisement". 
"America has been in an economic and social collapse now for two generations. This is by direct intervention and the will of God, and it's part of a chastisement of God that's promised in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. And so, yes, you should be preparing them to live in this time of economic and social collapse. We have lost so much social fabric, and the value of the dollar, and the freedom to even conduct business. They need to be fully aware of these things and the direction--they need to know that the direction for the future--yes, it's very, very fragile. The good news is that things are so bad now that there could be such a collapse that it's time [for a] great opportunity to begin rebuilding when things stumble and fall clear to the ground. And this has happened at so many different times in history. You can look at history and you can see the trends and you can see  when things actually collapse and totally fail. What a phenomenal opportunity that is for Christians who have wisdom and knowledge to rise up and take the lead and begin the rebuilding process and lay the foundations together again."

Geoffrey sounded almost gleeful as he spoke of the opportunities Christians will have to rebuild society after a collapse, as if he were excited about the prospect of fundamentalists forming a new world in their image. The fact that a real societal collapse would be terrifying, and that millions of people would face deprivation and death in the ensuing chaos, did not seem to perturb him.

I found Geoffrey's insistence that America is collapsing to be ridiculous. While America has many problems, it is not experiencing a wide-scale collapse. Look at war-ravaged countries. Look at failed states. Look at societies that disintegrated due to genocide or ethnocide. That is what collapse looks like. Geoffrey's apocalyptic warnings echo those of other fundamentalist Christians, who see America disintegrating when it really isn't.

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Part VI of the "Ready for Real Life" webinar exhibited the following themes.

  • Little respect for degrees and certifications: The Botkins do not see college educations, degrees, or other certifications as necessary for success. Geoffrey also sneered at the idea that parents should have degrees before they homeschool their children, seeing this as an act of unnecessary intrusion by the state. The idea that a college degree could make young people more competitive in the workplace, or bestow knowledge otherwise unavailable to them, was not considered.

  • The workplace as the tool of an oppressive oligarchy:  Geoffrey spoke of the traditional workplace as an oppressive, deadening environment in which workers are rendered "slaves" by a callous oligarchy. He compared workplaces to pyramids and ant farms, refusing to consider that not all workplaces oppress their employees. Geoffrey could have discussed serious problems facing some workers, such as low wages, unsafe working conditions, and job discrimination, but preferred to warn listeners about a supposed "statist security state".

  • Dismissal of monetary matters: Geoffrey discouraged people from focusing on money matters when contemplating young peoples' futures. Money matters were dismissed as an obsession with "carnal security" and Mammon.

Which leads to my last observed theme . . .

  • Homeschooling failing to prepare children for adulthood: Geoffrey and Victoria complained that too many homeschooled children were unprepared for adult life. Instead of questioning their impractical beliefs about degrees, money management, careers, or raising children in a fundamentalist bubble, they blamed over-nurturing "mommies". The irony would be hilarious if real children's futures weren't at stake.

Stay tuned for part VII!


  1. So -- these people shield their children from knowledge of the mainstream culture that they'll need to live in, and discourage them from learning how to provide financial security for themselves, and then they're surprised that when their kids grow up, they "find themselves being dominated by others"?

    And some of the products of fundie homeschooling "hide from the world out of fear, staying home and indulging in wasteful activities that aren't 'dominion-oriented'." In other words, those guys you read about who never grow up and live in Mommy's basement playing computer games or ranting on internet bulletin boards all day -- this is where some of them come from.

    As education, this is malpractice.

    Oh, and those fantasies of a collapse which will allow them to take over amid the ensuing chaos -- this is a very common kind of thinking among marginalized right-wing fringe groups of many kinds, not just the religious ones. If what I see on their bulletin boards is accurate, all over the country there's a scattering of semiliterate hicks stockpiling guns and ammo and gold, waiting for the United States to implode into some sort of Mad Max nightmare so they can emerge and carve out little empires for themselves. Those fantasies are all they've got. It would be too humiliating to accept that their present lives of yelling and fuming and waving Bibles, while the mainstream culture ignores them and marches on, is all there's ever gonna be.

    1. Infidel -- It's sad. Evidence that fundamentalist homeschooling doesn't work is right in front of them, but they refuse to admit it. And it's the children raised in this subculture who suffer the most from their invincible ignorance.

      Instead of fantasizing about a collapse that won't happen, these fringe right-wing groups need to face reality. They'll live much richer, less ridiculous lives if they do.

  2. Wow. The Botkin family gives absolutely horrible advice. Let me see if I have this straight:
    Job choices:
    * Nothing that needs a degree - that blocks the majority of career paths right off the bat but totally eliminates a real career in medicine and STEM.
    * The government is evil - that eliminates all local, state and federal jobs plus badly limits your customer base. No shot of a paying job in education, infrastructure, urban or agricultural planning, social work, justice, or public safety. If you refuse to accept government monies, you will have a hard time getting trained in skilled trades.
    *Working for anyone else is evil. How young men are supposed to learn new skills without working for someone outside their family is never clarified.
    *Starting your own business solves everything. I have a few questions about this. Where is the start-up money coming from? What collateral do these young men have access to? What skills are they using to run this business? What products or services are the men selling? Who are their customers?

    If the young men are supposed to join the family business, how are businesses going to grow enough to support the original (large) family plus the growing (large) families of all of the sons? My husband's family's farm has grown from supporting one nuclear family of 2 (manager/worker) adults and 4 kids to providing incomes for 4 (manager) adults and 8 kids in 20 years. (The four families also have spouses who work at least part-time). In the 40 years before that series of expansion, the farm could support one family of four kids. In bad economic times, one spouse would get work outside of the farm to bring in cash to keep the business running.

    I feel terrible for the next generation of these families. They are being sold a fake bill of goods.

    1. NatureLover -- I'm working on a commentary post on the Q&A webinar, and it's even more of this nonsense. They don't grasp the importance of degrees or specialized training, don't offer any advice for securing start-up money for business endeavors, and seem to think a widowed/abandoned woman could homeschool her kids AND support her family on a home business. These people don't live in the real world!

      You're absolutely correct. Christian Patriarchy Movement families are being sold a fake bill of goods here. When they discover that the Botkins' advice doesn't work in real life, it won't be pretty.

  3. I am thinking that Geoff old boy is really beginning to be off his rocker. So if all Christians out there are supposed to shun degrees and if going to college is so "against the kingdom" what would be his take on, say, medical professions? He has talked (ad nauseum) about homeschooling children growing up and taking dominion of every facet of society, to include medicine, law, etc., but without medical degrees how does a homeschooler grow up and take dominion in that category? Read all the anatomy books and medical books he can, do a few surgeries on the dining room table on a "spare" dog, cat, or neighbor's child until he feels he gets it right, and then go hang the proverbial shingle out that says "Ben Botkin, MD"????

    1. Anonymous -- The Botkins' advice is COMPLETELY unrealistic. Whether they like it or not, people need to get degrees from accredited schools if they want to have advanced careers. The Botkins want to have their cake and eat it too -- that is, be leaders without actually engaging the larger world.

  4. Botkin has a valid point about universities. My husband is the director of the college of natural resource sciences and engineering at a university. He has chaired numerous committees for hiring faculty. He has taught and advised grad students for years. He'd be the first to tell you that although a degree is required, they are easy to come by and a dime a dozen. What is rare and possibly on the way to equal status is motivation, ability to learn, critical thinking, ability to work with others on a team, and communication skills- skills that the Botkin children appear to possess in abundance. We have talked about how a high school diploma is no longer required for college entrance, and how a college degree may someday not be required for grad school.


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