Class, College, and Courtship: Why the next generation of Quiverfull will probably be poorer than their parents

Class, College, and Courtship: Why the next generation of Quiverfull will probably be poorer than their parents November 16, 2013

by The Graduate

I think that part of the reason that our family was never really considered true homeschoolers by some of our peers is because we had money.  My dad is a brilliant businessman, and his success certainly did drive a wedge between us and our peers, and we were always viewed as different.  It is true that we did the same things to save money that other homeschool families did, but we did them as our hobbies, not out of necessity.  We never struggled with making the mortgage or worried about our cars breaking down.

In hind sight, I think that was a good thing, as it helped to insulate me from what I see as an increasing trend of homeschool families sending their children back to the lower classes.  I have a lot of respect for people who work with their hands.  But I don’t like holding blue-collar up as an ideal because it’s more “godly” than other forms of work.

I’ve seen this played out many times around me.  Parents, many of which were college educated, are told and decide not to send their children to college.  This often reduces their children’s opportunities for career advancement or for obtaining the perspective necessary to become fully-rounded individuals.  Even a Christian school will bring a lot of challenge to one’s character and beliefs.  But instead, the children are left to get their ideas from an extremely narrow number of sources and are led to believe that they have been given all truth, reducing their interest in exploring anything else.  To some families I have known, even ideas and knowledge can be seen as unnecessary.  Instead, if you’re working with your hands, you’re not exposing yourself to evil, the logic goes.  As long as you have the Bible, or more likely someone telling you what it says, there’s no need for anything else.

Ironically, I have seen that having many children can make a man a worse, not better provider, because of the errant teachings surrounding “God’s blessings.”  I have heard many times from over-worked mothers that “God won’t ever send you more than you can handle.”  But at the same time, there’s the flip side of the coin: fathers who think that doing “God’s will” will mean that God takes care of everything.  I have heard of many a working man who continually acts like he expects that God is going to get him a better job to support his burgeoning family, but if you ask him where he’s applied to or how many interviews he’s had, you’ll just hear that he’s “Trusting in God’s timing.”

A major fad right now is the “family-based economies” touted by Vision Forum and others.  These home-based businesses are viewed as ways for fathers especially to have influence over literally every sphere of their children’s lives.  Most of the work is hands-on or involves somewhat suspect “franchising” opportunities.  I have never seen a family obtain the upper middle class this way.  It’s rare to see one cross north of the poverty line.  I knew a young man who was very bright who eschewed all of college over this ideal, because in one semester of chemistry he found that his lab partner cursed too much.  Once again, the assumption is that blue-collar families are the most biblical model, and this way, the sons never have to leave the home at all.

Marriages often play out along working-class lines too.  I have been stunned to see exceptionally bright young women with highly educated parents being paired with men who were at best mediocre.  I once lost a courtship to a boy who was a farmer with a high school education, despite the fact that the girl’s father was a college professor.  He had not had the opportunity to explore his beliefs and therefore conformed exactly to his parents and church.

It is also darkly ironic how many homeschool leaders advocate abstaining from college when they would have gone nowhere without it.  Bill Gothard got his bachelor’s degree at Wheaton, one of if not the most prestigious Christian schools in the country, and he frequently mentions his honorary “doctorate.”  When I think of Vision Forum, the disparity becomes even worse; most of its leaders were very successful at business doing things which required college degrees but then they tell everyone else that college is not necessary.  It’s a paradox I cannot understand.  Look at Doug Phillips (esq and law credentials), Scott Brown (bachelors from liberal state school and masters in theology), Kevin Swanson (says that he attained the rank of student body president at a very secular Cal-Poly and has a Masters in Divinity as well), and Voddie Baucham (who became a Christian in a top twenty private secular college and has four separate degrees).

These are all highly educated men, the least of which has a Master’s degree, all of which used their degrees to attain the power and prestige they now have.  Doug Phillips never could have worked for HSLDA and the other three probably couldn’t have become ministers. Where would these men be without their degrees?  I’m sure they would be just as opinionated, but their only audience would probably be their used-car-dealership salesmen coworkers.

Yet they tell their followers that college isn’t necessary while at the same time selling them a lifestyle that includes $300 conferences and $150 toys at Vision Forum Inc.

It’s rare that a Quiverfull marriage results in an exceptional boy ending up with an ordinary working-class girl.  I think that this is because homeschooled men have much more freedom.  This past weekend, I went on a date with a Christian girl who wasn’t homeschooled, believed the earth was billions of years old, was working a full-time job, had a bachelor’s degree, and whose parents had never met me.  I can think of very few girls back home my age who would have been allowed to do the reverse.  To my dad’s great disappointment, I seriously doubt I will ever go back home and marry a girl with no college education, not out of snobbery, but because she simply could never understand me.  Perhaps that’s partly why some home school leaders have bewailed the great number of single women in their twenties and thirties.  The exceptional men are leaving to find educated women, leaving the dross for the rest.

I was able to breach the social class that most of my fellow homeschoolers grew up in
Part of it was because of my family’s affluence, but most of it was a conscious decision on my part.

I decided to explore the other side of the world. I would never say that everyone should go to college. But it always pains me to hear some parent who’s never set foot on a college campus talk about why his or her child won’t be going to the university next fall. A lot of them love to hear about how godless the place is, but when I tell them about the good things, there’s always an awkward silence. I can tell what they’re subconsciously thinking: If I got through three degrees with my faith intact, why are their 25-year-old sons still working as day laborers?

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Read everything by The Graduate!

The Graduate is a young man in his mid twenties who was formerly raised in the ATI lifestyle. Although he appreciates the contributions his parents made toward his education, he now sees how many parts of his previous lifestyle were both unwise and unbiblical. Because his family has left A.T.I., he struggles to connect and relate to the people he grew up with

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • persephone

    My parents became Jehovah’s Witnesses when i was 12. My college fund disappeared. There was not point in investing in education or a business beyond what was necessary, because the world was supposed to end in the mid-70s. Now, of course, Armageddon probably won’t show up for another 20 years or so (that’s the latest teaching I’ve found), so a lot of us have been struggling along with minimal educations (I got out, got a career, but still haven’t finished college) because of this.

  • Nea

    The more foolish and uneducated the flock, the easier to lead and fleece. That’s why educated conmen make sure no challengers will rise out of their meal tickets congregation.

  • Please tell me what code do you use to put strikethrough in comments, Nea?

  • Nea

    [strike] [/strike]. Replace [ ] with .

  • KarenJo12

    There are very few things that can induce spittle-flecked RAGE in me like this attitude. The leaders of this movement are consciously and deliberately making the lives of their followers and their followers’ children much, much worse. Faith that can’t stand exposure to English 101 or basic biology is no faith at all.

  • Saraquill

    I feel uneasy with your referring to undereducated as “dross.” It implies that they’re guilty of something, but if their lives are so tightly controlled, there’s not much they can do.

  • $190147

    To my dad’s great disappointment, I seriously doubt I will ever go back home and marry a girl with no college education, not out of snobbery, but because she simply could never understand me.

    Yeah, well. A couple of months ago I posted a comment on another blog about this expectation, in which I implied that marriage to a girl with no education was a dreary fate for an educated young man, especially one who wants to rise in the world and needs a wife who can help out with that. (The comment was a response to a post about one of the many keep-your-girls-at-home latter-day Christian Patriarchs.) Within the context of the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement this doesn’t officially arise as a problem, because within that movement, a wife isn’t supposed to understand her husband; she’s supposed to look up to him and put out and give birth and do what she’s told (I don’t believe I’m exaggerating). But to the prospective husband it may matter (especially, like I said, if he’s a young man who’s trying to make his mark on the world) and it may matter a lot. Regardless of what the homeschoolers get into the habit of telling themselves and their kids, they don’t exist in a vacuum, but rather are surrounded by a highly developed, demanding society, which insists on judging according to its own standards — and does it ever have them. One doesn’t have to like those standards or agree with them or think they’re fair in order to acknowledge that they’re there and that they make a difference. That’s why I think that no matter what the Quiverfull families say they believe, they’ll always continue to educate at least some girls, because that’s they only way they can keep on producing mates who are acceptable to their Favorite Sons.

  • Lucreza Borgia

    A book I read years back on how Saudi society was changing during the oil book talked about how the push for womens education came, not from an interest in actually educating women, but from Saudi men bringing home educated foreign women that they had met in college here in the US. These newly educated men had little interested in barely literate women. Of course this was the late 70’s/early 80’s so things are different now except it is nearly impossible for a Saudi woman to use her education unless she is in a field that serves women exclusively.

  • B.E. Miller

    There’s a really sarcastic cynical side of me that wants to say “Don’t worry. By the time the next generation grows up and has kids, they’ll have families they can afford to support, because some of the kids will die of starvation/illness (because food stamps are ungodly and vaccines unbiblical) and they’ll be able to feed the one or two that are left.”
    ‘Course that’s a terrible solution, and something I’d only like to see in a Monty Python or SNL skit.

  • Diane

    I did hear something about the whole 1975 thing but it was more of a rumor than anything else. It was never officially stated by the Gov. Body that I would happen in ’75. That was sprung off from that it would mark 6000 years of human history, not the end. Some took it as that sadly and ran with it without nobody to stop them until it passed.

    I’m sorry what happened to you though, nobody should be denied an education. Today, it’s becoming more acceptable and more JWs are attending college than before. Hopefully as more and more jobs require higher education, they might stop looking down on it so much.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    I remember the parameters for college my parents set out if I wanted to go away (as opposed to living at home and going to the local state school — secular, but I wouldn’t be in the dorm): Within a half-day’s drive of home and Christian. I ended up at a Southern Baptist university. Ten years later, the Baptists threw us out, bunch ‘o’ liberals that we were. I got a great undergrad education there.

  • KarenJo12

    I keep thinking of women in European royal families up through the 19th century. All a queen consort really did was provide an heir, but all royal and noble daughters received an excellent education, at least in the arts, literature, and languages, because having a dull wife reflected badly on the husband. Patriarchal families will adapt to this reality, although it will cost a couple of generations of misery to do so.

  • Thanks!

  • Catherine

    To be fair, a lot of young adults are likely going to be poorer than their parents, regardless of Quiverfull status. These days it’s just an economic reality.

  • persephone

    There’s video posted on YouTube of a member of the governing body stating at a convention in 1967 that Armageddon was coming shortly after 1974.

    But it comes down to the governing body having reset the end multiple times. That’s the weakness of a end times basis for your cult: there’s an expiration date.

  • Angela

    This, exactly. Plus even were they not being micromanaged being less educated does not qualify someone as “dross.” It’s fine to seek out partners with similar levels of education but not to devalue those with less.

  • Judy

    *is an actual JW* I don’t buy that. Was the video legit? Was it taped by someone who was actually there at that convention?
    As for the whole ‘failed predictions’ ultimately you’re dealing with imperfect men. There was a time when they had a Christmas tree at their Brooklyn HQ, but soon realized it had pagan origins. It would be unrealistic if they knew it all from the get-go and ‘the road gets brighter and brighter’.
    If anything, they were hopeful it would come, but they understood that if Jesus didn’t know the day or the hour, why should they?
    I don’t know your circumstances that lead you to leaving (besides lack of higher education) but I’m sure God feels your pain. I myself attended college and graduated. There was never a time when I faced pressure from my folks or my congregation to reconsider and they knew I wanted to go. I was never looked down on or anything of the sort. They understand that you do need to take care of your household and going to college was an acceptable way to do so. And I’m not alone quite a few others are attending or have finished college too.

  • The Graduate

    OK, I will concede that I used a poor choice of wording there. What I meant is that there are many, many unprepared young men in my community (for the same reason as unprepared young women) who are no where near close to being marriageable yet still become married since they subscribe fully to the system. These are the ones left after many of the more qualified young men leave.

  • The Graduate

    See my above comment. I didn’t choose my wording well.

  • persephone

    It was recorded at the convention by someone in attendance. It was often common when we attended conventions for recordings to be made of keynote addresses for distribution to those unable to attend. The video itself is just pictures added to the recording of the address.
    The governing body’s excuses for the changes don’t hold water. If you want to believe it, you’re going to, and you’re certainly not going to listen to someone like me who is now part of the world, being controlled by Satan. You read and study what they want you to read and study. You accept it because you choose to, without applying critical thought. If you want to stay in an HDO, that’s your choice, but that song and dance aren’t appreciated here.

  • persephone

    I used as an example of one of my ancestors on another site on a post about vaccines. She lived in the 18th century. She had 14 children listed in the records. She could have had more, because often stillbirths were not recorded, and many church records do not list children until they were baptized. She was married for over 30 years, and I would not be surprised if there were a number of miscarriages, which would also not be recorded. (My family runs to the fertile.)
    So, 14 children lived long enough to be named and recorded. Of these 14, only 6 made it to the teen years. Of these six, only three are recorded as reaching adulthood. So, of possibly two dozen or more pregnancies, three infants made it to adulthood to marry and have children. And this is very, very common.
    It’s only in the last century, with the spread of vaccines, faster growing grain varieties, improved medicine and prenatal care that this has changed to allow families like the Duggars and the Bates to exist with regularity. If the Quiverfull movement continues to move toward cutting out doctors and prenatal care, they may just fail at their overtaking the U.S. by outbearing us.

  • persephone

    The patriarchal types have to create their own version of history, because history doesn’t support their belief system.

  • Nea

    They’re going to fail at overtaking for a variety of reasons. They’re a tiny subculture that avoids and misunderstand the main culture, putting them in a bad position to sway it. Lack of education will mean less power to sway it. Physical abuse kills off some. Lack of medical care and vaccination will kill off more. Children leave, to avoid more abuse or because they do not share the faith. Children leave because the facile faith shatters on contact with secular society. Corrupt leaders bring shame upon everyone connected with them, making more leave from shattered faith and the secular society even less willing to listen to them.

    The idea that homeschool fecundity will mow over centuries of secular culture flies in the face of all rationality. No culture has out bred another into social takeover, ever.

  • B.E. Miller

    That was very common, alright. And it’s what made it easy for William Palmer (8/6/1824 – 6/14/1856) to get away with killing his children for insurance money. Most women counted themselves fortunate/blessed if they only lost one or two kids.

    And now I wonder if it’s possible that some mothers and/or fathers were serial killers of their own children, and got away with it, because no one would have thought anything of a family’s children dying off one by one.

  • persephone

    The legal treatment of women and children allowed for an extreme level.of abuse, neglect, even murder. It apparently was not uncommon for desperate parents to overdose their children with laudanum to keep them from suffering slow starvation or illness.

  • persephone

    The FLDS is suffering from inbreeding and abuse to the point that they have large cemeteries by each enclave that are dedicated to children. These cemeteries are larger than the adult cemeteries, and they don’t include the young men dumped in the desert who have been determined to not qualify to have families.

  • Nea

    I’m not surprised. The Amish are having similar problems — although they are not trying to “take over” and thus will come out into the world for medical help.

  • B.E. Miller

    I’ve heard this about the Mennonites as well, I mean the inbreeding issue. Though the news report (it was either 20/20 or 60 Minutes) was covering mostly the Amish and just barely the Mennonites. At the end of the report, I want to say that it was mentioned that the Mennonite bishops had given approval for IVF.

    I am now really curious as to how both communties will compare in 50 years, especially if one is using IVF to avoid inbreeding, while another is not.

    I had also heard that some Amish are starting to adopt (which would help the inbreeding issue.)

  • I would be very careful with the assumption that uneducated = subpar spouse. My husband is a high school dropout (for various reasons), yet he is one of the smartest people I know.(*) He reads, educates himself, and we challenge each other about many ideas. Also, he can write clearly and concisely, all while using proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar (a big deal to me), all while citing sources and at least attempting to interpret them correctly. Plus being patient, loving, and several other traits not traditionally associated with being either “educated” or “uneducated.”

    In contrast, my first husband was a journalism major who could not construct a proper sentence if his life depended on it. His writing was rambling, petulant, full of spelling and grammatical errors, and was not even divided into paragraphs. He was not interested in educating himself on anything, and seemed to believe that simply asserting something was sufficient proof.

    (*) Yes, he really is one of the smartest people I know. He didn’t have the best judgment when he was 17 (hence the high school drop-out), and for now we haven’t remedied this because it makes more sense for him to be the stay-at-home dad.

  • $190147

    I’m not confusing education with brains; they’re not the same thing at all. The world is full of smart people with no schooling and it’s also full of educated idiots. I’m speaking of education as a social necessity and as a stamp of middle-class belongingness. I don’t have a great deal of respect for it in that capacity but it has to be admitted that a college diploma can function as a Good Housekeeping seal which shows that the woman who has it comes from an at least ok background. This is something for which homeschoolers feel and show an unaffected scorn, and I don’t blame them.

    Yet when the time comes, if they’ve got the money, they too (often) send their daughters to school, with the result that the daughters, years or months later, write posts on blogs which start “I was always dissatisfied with my upbringing but my dissatisfaction was not clear to me until I went to school.” Their parents would avoid this outcome if they could, and they do their best to stave it off, but they know that if they don’t send their daughters to school the girls may not register with the people who meet them as clearly middle-class. Education is that vital in this country to the construction of a middle-class identity.

    I hope that my willingness to talk about these things will not be construed as approval of them. I as good as said in my original comment that lots of homeschooled college-educated guys may be fine with marrying women who are educated to the high-school level or to the equivalent of it, but that if a young man wants to climb socially he’s going to have a harder time doing it with a woman who has never been to college than with a woman who has. What I’m talking about is a question of snobbery; there’s no point in calling it anything else; and it’s not surprising that people who are working toward becoming unworldly are conflicted over how much it should matter to them. (Though my bet is that it does matter to them and that it’s going to continue to matter to them more than they’d like to admit. But I could be wrong.)

  • I see what you’re saying now. Thanks for clarifying. Your thoughts on this dynamic are very interesting.

  • Mermaid Warrior

    Ha, I was thinking the same thing. If, after exposure to new ideas and some critical thinking, a young person raised fundamentalist Christian begins to question his or her views, maybe those views might not be as infallible as they think. Good views hold up even when standing up against scrutiny.