Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Part 9

Wisdom vs. Natural Inclinations -Seeing and responding to life’s situations from God’s frame of reference (Proverbs 9:10) ~ Bill Gothard

by RazingRuth
Bill Gothard wasn’t a great student. He makes no effort to hide the fact that he flunked the first grade and barely passed the next eight grades. From 1st to 8th grade, he was a lackluster student. However, according to the legend, near the end of eighth grade, an older friend challenged him to read and memorize large portions of scripture. In doing this, Bill Gothard (claims to have) found the key to unlocking his intelligence. I’ll let his words speak for him.

“However, as he memorized and meditated on Scripture, Bill’s grades improved significantly—so much so that he graduated from high school a member of the National Honor Society. This direct correlation between his grades and consistency in memorizing and meditating on Scripture continued through college and graduate school.” – History of IBLP, Bill Gothard

At fifteen, Bill also noticed that some of his classmates weren’t paying attention to their instructors. This bothered him enough to meditate on their lack of attention. Through thought and meditation, Bill realized that these boys were making “drastic choices that would have drastic consequences” (source: a taped lecture from 1993). It was these experiences that led Bill Gotharrd to create the homeschooling program that we all know now as ATI/IBLP.

Before I get into how this worked in my childhood home, I would like to take a moment to ask a few questions (and answer them).

Q: Does Bill Gothard have children?
A: No.

Q: Is Bill Gothard married?
A: No

Q: Had Bill Gothard spent a lot of time observing youth, prior to creating the homeschooling program?
A: Yes. However, the youth he observed were admittedly troubled inner-city, heathen youth with multiple problems and, often, criminal records.

Q: Does Bill Gothard have a degree in education from a credentialed school?
A: No. He has a BA in Biblical Studies and an MA in Christian Education from Wheaton College. Presently, it holds all the necessary credentials for providing degrees in education. In 1961, it did not. In fact, by the 50’s, it was known as the most neo-conservative, evangelical university in the northern United States.

The homeschooling program I was raised in was created by a childless bachelor who took his educational ideals from mentoring troubled teens and applied them to families with a one size fits all mentality.

I was very young when the decision was made to homeschool. As such, I can’t say that I know what my parents reasons were but I’m almost positive Mr. Gothard influence was key. We lived in an area with nice schools and my mom had been a teacher. Still, despite all of the stress heaped upon her, my mother was charged with homeschooling her children and she did it with as gracious a heart as she could muster. Since she had a background in teaching math, we were some of the best educated children in that discipline, in our cohort. She broke with the prescribed curriculum for math somewhere in the fourth grade and began teaching us her own.

ATI utilizes Wisdom Booklets. These books can be used to provide education for a wide age range of children at the same time because of the way they’re formatted. Every section is focused on a scripture from the Bible. Every child studies the same topic/scripture while the parent applies it to different disciplines (the law, medicine, language, etc.,.). To keep it “grade level”, you use different worksheets or reviews. But, yes, the question I get most often “Did you get the bankruptcy lecture?”, is answered with a resounding “Yessiree”. I probably got the lecture three times over the course of my homeschool education. The curriculum repeats itself every four years.

One problem I saw was that there was no room for individuality within the ATI curriculum. There’s no program designed for special needs children. Even though the lessons are so basic (and so academically unrigorous that I can’t imagine anyone “falling behind”), there’s no remediation options. If I missed something due to illness, it was just missed. If you didn’t understand something, there were no academic consequences since the Wisdom Booklets don’t build upon anything academic. It’s ironic, to me, that Mr. Gothard developed this program after watching kids zone out and fearing for the “consequences” of their inattention — there are no consequences, save what Gothard considers spiritual consequences or physical punishments — for not learning your ATI curriculum.

To be continued…in part 10.


  1. I'm even more impressed than I already was that you are now in college. Other than math, it doesn't seem like you really learned much.

  2. How does this system ensure that you are learning anything, like how to read or spell? I've never understood how you can teach the same material to such a diverse age group as most QF families have.

    I have to agree that based on this "curriculum" that you didn't have more problems with college.

  3. Part 10 will go into details about my education and how I ended up getting into a university. It took me a lot of remedial education in science and history/social studies.

  4. It is right that you should be proud of how far you have come. You are an articulate and literate writer!

    Keep up the good work!


  5. I'm looking forward to reading Part 10. In between fuming about Gothard's complete and utter lack of qualifications, of course... Unbelievable.

  6. One thing that makes me so mad about BG's method is that it gives home schoolers who educate their children well and do an excellent jog of it, and who wouldn't touch ATIA with a 10 foot pole (including all the home schoolers in my church..who ALL go to college BTW)...a bad name.

  7. What is this bankruptcy lesson?

  8. Yes, I'm curious as to what the "bankruptcy lecture" is as well...

  9. As a bankruptcy attorney, I am dying to know what the bk lecture is, and wondering how in the world I missed it, since I went through those Wisdom booklets so many times. We started using ATI when I was going into 9th grade. So I was stuck with it for 4 years. I remember memorizing Matthew 5, 6, and 7. I remember my mother being very nervous about homeschooling (b/c back then we could potentially end up in foster care and my parents in jail - so we couldn't leave the house during school hrs). She did an excellent job supplementing the BG crap, but it was the one thing that she pushed, despite my dad being against us doing anything other than the Wisdom booklets. He always said that knowledge w/o wisdom is useless, and so until we could gain wisdom (which apparently in his eyes, we never did), we didn't need education. I know there was a lot of stuff in the wisdom booklets advocating the wonderful health benefits of home-made, whole wheat bread, circumcision, QF mentality, not socializing with others outside of the "wise" circle of ATI people, etc. Wow, it's all coming back to me. And it is very painful . . .

  10. If you ever watch the first TLC special with the Duggars, 14 Kids and Counting, you will see a little snapshot of the Bankruptcy lesson from the Wisdom Booklets.... Michelle Duggar's sugary sweet voice telling the kids about bankruptcy... I think I need to go vomit now just thinking about it... Sorry, I'm being overly dramatic....

  11. I'd love to read the bk article. I'll have to get it from my mother, who has kept all the wisdom booklets, in hopes that her children would "use them on" her grandchildren. Not going to happen!

  12. Ruth: Another aspect that you may not be aware of is the fact that Bill Gothard, who teaches absolute, instant, unquestioning obedience to one's parents (no matter one's age), is living in direct disobedience to his own parents, and has been for at least fifty years.

    I heard, in person and on at least three different occasions, one or the other of Mr. Gothard's parents state that they wanted him to marry and raise a family. Yet, at 75, Mr. Gothard remains unmarried.

    In any other person, I would not be concerned. But for a man who is continually admonishing young people that they must obey their parents wishes --- both the spoken wishes (direct commands) and the _unspoken wishes_ (just how are kids supposed to know those, anyway?!), and who teaches that "delayed obedience is disobedience," this "delay" of marriage is a serious fault.

    It is made more serious, in my opinion, because of the way it is done. Mr. Gothard claims that he is "postponing marriage" for a time, so that he can "serve God." Again, a noble and admirable goal. Who would argue with the importance of serving God rather than pleasing oneself?

    But to use God as a tactic for delaying obedience to your parents, when you are telling other people that they must obey "immediately and without complaint" ... well, I have a problem with that.

  13. For those who want to learn more about Gothard and Gothardism, there is an amazing Yahoo discussion group which has looked into almost all aspects of this teaching. Many who have come out of the movement have found real help there and many others who have been pressured or tempted to join Gothard have found truth there. There are thousands of posts from over a decade and you can learn just about anything on Gothard from searching the archives or reading the files. There is also an extensive link section. You do have to be a Yahoo member to read the posts, but it will be worthwhile.

    Obviously, this is not in any way to discourage what Ruth is writing. In fact, you will find a great deal of confirmation in the stories of others of this group.

    Here's the link"

    Keep going Ruth!


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