Public Schools, Homeschooling, and IndoctriNation

Guess which movie won this year’s San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, put on by Christian Patriarchy leader Vision Forum? Here, I’ll give you the trailer:

Yep, that’s the one! IndoctriNation!

IndoctriNation explores the origins and social impact of America’s public school system and has sparked debate among Christians and atheists over the roles of faith, and government in education. “People are starting to wake up to the damaging effects of a government-controlled education monopoly,” says IndoctriNation co-director, Colin Gunn. He continues, “We now are facing all these problems in America — high taxation, welfare dependency, government debt — and as Christians and conservatives we have to see we can’t solve those problems until we solve the public schooling problem.” 

At the Film Festival, Doug Phillips (President of Vision Forum) stated, “This [film] is the tool for which we have been waiting for the last 20 years.”

E. Ray Moore said, “We hope that this movie will help move several million more Christian children into K-12 Christian education and home schooling. Many Christian leaders and pastors are finally giving up on conservative public school reform.”

I hope I’m not the only one who senses the irony in the film’s title.

There are today lots of different people who homeschool their children for lots of different reasons. Unfortunately, however, a large proportion of homeschool parents homeschool their children for the reasons discussed in the above excerpt and in the film. My parents were among them. There is a belief that public schools are indoctrinating children into secular humanism or even atheism, and that the only solution is to remove their children from the public education system.

I grew up with a very stilted idea of what public schools were, because I literally believed the things stated in the film. When I went to college and met evangelical college students, especially through Campus Crusade for Christ, who had made it through the pagan public schools with their faith intact, I was taken aback. It didn’t make sense. It didn’t square with what I’d been taught growing up.

Nevertheless, organizations like The Exodus Mandate, which was one of the sponsors of IndoctriNation, speak of public schools as . . . no, I’m going to let them speak for themselves:

Exodus Mandate is a Christian ministry to encourage and assist Christian families to leave Pharaoh’s school system (i.e. government schools) for the Promised Land of Christian schools or home schooling. It is our prayer and hope that a fresh obedience by Christian families in educating their children according to Biblical mandates will prove to be a key for the revival of our families, our churches and our nation.

There is a strange mixture of fear involved in all this. There’s this idea that if children are exposed to outside ideas or influences they will be subverted, and that the only way to raise proper children is to remove them from all outside influences and ideas in what can amount to isolation and indoctrination. The thing is, if people are secure in their own beliefs then other ideas or people shouldn’t pose such a dire threat. To argue that the only way you can pass your views on is through isolation and indoctrination is conceding defeat. This thinking is also very much conspiracy theory thinking.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are susceptible to the ideas in this film. From the outside looking in a film like IndoctriNation may seem like a good laugh, but it’s taken very seriously by many and as such has destructive potential.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Jay

    Hi, Libby Anne.

    “The thing is, if people are secure in their own beliefs then other ideas or people shouldn’t pose such a dire threat.”

    This is such a powerful statement, and I think it gets to the heart of the matter so well – many (most?) people aren’t very secure in their beliefs, and realize at some level that those beliefs can’t stand up to outside scrutiny.

    Most of us are guilty of that to some extent – it takes some effort to seek out and try to understand things we don’t agree with.

    You’re an excellent and sensitive writer. I’ve enjoyed reading your older posts, and look forward to the new ones.

    • anotherone

      Actually, I don’t think being insecure in your beliefs is a bad thing at all. Insecurity may be the sanest psychological response to the complexities of life and the universe.

      In my opinion, the bad thing is the unwillingness to *change* beliefs based on new information, experiences, or interpretive methodologies, no matter how compelling.

      People who are unwilling to change what they think deal with new information in a variety of ways. Either they refuse to expose themselves (and/or their children) to it altogether, or they expose themselves to it, but throw up some hefty psychological defenses to stay close minded and keep from having to adjust their beliefs based on information or experience that contradicts them. ***These*** tendencies of fundamentalists are what bother me, particularly when it’s parents who are consciously limiting their children to a very tiny, tightly-controlled subset of information and experience.

      But yeah, the hypocrisy of pretending to be secure in your beliefs while insulating yourself from anything that might challenge them gets on my nerves too.

  • jamessweet

    I hope I’m not the only one who senses the irony in the film’s title.

    Not in the slightest. I was actually somewhat confused initially, because I assumed it was a film about the evils of Christian homeschooling.

    • Yukimi

      That was my first instinct too which it’s silly because this is the second time I’ve heard about the film XP

      it’s such a creepy film…

    • seditiosus

      Same here.

  • Ace of Sevens

    That’s what my parents thought, too. The, they ran out of patience an money. I got sent to public school in fifth grade after growing up hearing how awful it was. That was really scary.

  • BaisBlackfingers

    90% of Christian Parents send their children to Public School.


    88% of Christian children deny their faith by graduation day.

    implies a generational attrition rate of over 79% among Christians. Wouldn’t we have noticed?

  • Les Lane

    Years ago when I testified against creation science here in Nebraska. There was a fellow testifying on the other side who had been raised in a closed fundamentalist Christian environment and was absolutely terrified when he was exposed to evolution. I imagine it’s what we might experience if suddenly incarcerated in a high security prison.

  • Judy L.

    I don’t think it’s insecurity in one’s faith that drives some religious people to insist that other beliefs are a dire threat. I think it’s just pure arrogance and irrationality. The people who oppose public education and who want to live in a theocracy seem to genuinely believe that the ‘worldly world’ and all of us who live in it are controlled by devils and demons who want to feast on the brains of Christian children and drink their blood and nibble on their immortal souls forever in the fiery pits of Hell. These people are perverted and willfully ignorant.

    • Janey Q Doe

      But that is a form of insecurity- you are not strong enough to fight off those demons. It might not be the insecurity in the truth of your faith standing up to scrutiny, but it sure as hell is insecurity.

      • Judy L.

        Janey Q Doe,

        I think of insecurity and fear as being different things. Both can be irrational, but insecurity is something that a person feels about themself, where fear (and hate), in this case, is something that is aimed at others. But perhaps insecurity in one’s strength to resist the evils that are all in one’s own mind is more complicated, though just as ridiculous.

  • Kevin Alexander

    One of the most difficult theological questions is: If god has infinite wisdom, why is he so stingy with it? Especially with wisdom, it’s one of those things that you could give away any amount and you haven’t lost any. You’d think god was smart enough to know that.

    And another mystery: When he does give wisdom, it’s always to the people who don’t believe in him. The scientists learn more every day of god’s creation but his believers have to home school to protect their kids from finding any of that out.

  • Mr.Kosta

    You Americans need to cut all this Cristian fundamentalist homeschooling crap right off the bud. Otherwise you risk raising a generation of ignoramuses that will hinder back the progress of the USA and hand the title of the most powerful and influential nation on Earth to China in a silver platter.

    • Libby Anne

      The trouble is, the Christian homeschool lobby groups (yes you heard that, lobby groups) have a complete stranglehold on Congress (and no, that’s not an exaggeration). As a result, any attempt to regulate homeschooling is shot down before it gets off the ground.

  • Mr.Kosta


    Damn typos.

  • Twist

    I do love how they’ve redefined indoctrination to mean ‘teaching children anything other that biblical literalism’. Hilarious.

    Seriously, you’d think if they were really so sure, so certain that what they believed was correct, they wouldn’t fear public school and they wouldn’t attempt to shelter their children from any outside influence.

    What they really fear is their children learning something real, learning some critical thinking skills, learning how elegantly evolution can explain so much, how ‘theory’ doesn’t mean what they’d like to think it means, how embryos aren’t in fact tiny little people, how we know how old the earth is, and how big the universe is, and how it came to be. The reality is so much more fascinating, so much more beautiful than some being just magicking it all into existance. They fear that once their children see some of reality for what it is, that the entire bronze-age sky daddy fantasy will just fall apart.

    University leavers are not less religious than when they started because university is some evil, corrupting brainwashing cult, they’re less religious because they have learned about the world and met people from outside their previously small circles. They’ve learned how to think for themselves.

    • ScottInOH

      Of course, they don’t see it this way. They see “worldly” ideas, images, activities and so on as temptations to distract us (or their children) from the right path. They see it as analogous to sweets. Kids (or some of them) left to their own devices would eat candy bars and ice cream instead of fruits and vegetables. Parents have to force them to do the right thing for their own good, and maybe by the time they leave the house they’ll have internalized good eating habits.

      • amhovgaard

        “Kids (or some of them) left to their own devices would eat candy bars and ice cream instead of fruits and vegetables”
        Actually… this seems to be mainly a result of these foods being restricted. It’s too late here for me to have the energy to look up the references, but I’ve seen several studies that appear to indicate that 1. kids tend to choose much more varied diets than adults often assume, if they are really left to their own devices, and 2. using candy bars as rewards and restricting access to them makes kids eat more when they get the opportunity to do so.

  • Antigone

    The indoctrination part is interesting, but this is the part that is seriously angering me:

    He continues, “We now are facing all these problems in America — high taxation, welfare dependency, government debt — and as Christians and conservatives we have to see we can’t solve those problems until we solve the public schooling problem.”

    THOSE are his problems? The levels of suicide (especially among gltb students), the levels of poverty and unemployment, our crumbling infrastructure don’t get a mention, but THOSE are our problems?!

    I don’t understand these people.

  • freedomfighter101

    I’m glad I found you.. What a coincidence. I had just finished watching an interview with him on a show (can’t remember name). Good thing I’m a skeptic and an investigator.. and I sought out more information and i was like: “oh good…. a feminist site… and then you set it straight.. you rock.. thank Goddess for feminists…