Why is Christian Education Europe promoting child abusers?

Why is Christian Education Europe promoting child abusers? September 22, 2014

Previously on this blog, we’ve looked at the history of spanking in Accelerated Christian Education schools and asked whether it still happens today. Sources closer to ACE than me tell me that paddling is a thing of the past in UK schools that teach the ACE curriculum. But they’re still selling spanking manuals.

Christian Education Europe (CEE) has UK contracts to distribute two ranges of products. One is ACE. The other is Growing Families International (GFI), a series of child-rearing manuals by Gary and Marie Ezzo. In preparing this post, I tried to think of a way to convey to you in a single sentence just how problematic the Ezzos’ teachings are. And I have it. But first some background.

Have you heard of James Dobson? Within the Christian Right, Dobson is a voice to rival Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell; he was particularly influential on the Reagan administration. Dobson’s books on discipline, The Strong-Willed Child and Dare to Discipline, are pretty big on spanking and other ‘creative’ punishments themselves, and you should ask some of the kids who were raised with Dobson’s methods if they think they were abusive.

So you’re in the picture. Dobson is a Christian Right advocate of authoritarian, disciplinarian parenting.

And here comes my sentence that says it all about the Ezzos:

The organisation James Dobson founded, Focus on the Family, has publicly denounced the Ezzos’ teachings.

An article in The Christian Research Journal in 1998 said of the Ezzos’ Growing Families International program:

Although it is not a cult, it has consistently exhibited a pattern of cultic behavior, including Scripture twisting, authoritarianism, exclusivism, isolationism, and physical and emotional endangerment.

It was here that I learned of Focus on the Family’s views on GFI:

According to a public statement, Focus on the Family (Focus) has received numerous reports of “failure-to-thrive in infants subjected to” the Ezzos’ program Preparation for Parenting (PFP), and does “not recommend the Ezzos’ material.”

The Christian Research Institute (publisher of the journal), much like Focus on the Family, is not the kind of organisation that often gets much praise on this blog. Its president, Hank Hanegraaff, is as conservative a Christian as you could ask for. When even these guys are condemning your child-raising practices, it’s a sign that the criticism against you is not just some atheist conspiracy.

Of course, the unbelievers have been out in force against the Ezzos too. They were the subject of a 1999 Newsnight investigation, in which Jeremy Paxman pointed out that their recommendations for baby feeding have been linked with failure to thrive in infants, and had been criticised by the American Pediatrics Association. Gary Ezzo replied that his teachings were in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics, at which point Paxman read a statement from the AAP which appeared to contradict what Ezzo said.

How did the Ezzos come to the attention of Newsnight? Why, they were in the UK at the invitation of Christian Education Europe, who had brought them over to speak at a protest rally against the ban on corporal punishment in schools. This caused professional problems for Stephen Dennett, CEE associate, because he was an Ofsted inspector at the time, and it was quite reasonably felt that Ofsted inspectors shouldn’t be associating with child-abusing cultists.

In the BBC’s report on the subject, they mentioned that the Ezzos “think pain is ‘a gift from God’ and advocate that parents spank their children from the age of 18 months on up to five times a day to teach them discipline”.

A full timeline of the Ezzo controversy can be found at Ezzo.info.

The Ezzos are advocates of child abuse on a par with Michael and Debi Pearl, whose book To Train Up a Child has received so much condemnation. I hear far less about the Ezzos. It’s time more was done about this.

So Christian Education Europe, why are you promoting child abuse?

Christian Education Europe's vision of the perfect textbook*
Christian Education Europe’s vision of the perfect textbook*

Related posts:

More information on the Ezzos:

* This is a joke (The caption and picture only. The rest of this post is deadly serious, and I thought you could use some levity.)

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