"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mike Pence’s Faith-Based Quest to Corporatize Preschool

By Doug Martin

Even though Indiana does not fund preschool and even failed to pass a law for a preschool pilot program recently, Mike Pence has a newly-formed early childhood learning advisory committee which doesn’t seem to be meant to help the situation. In fact, the advisory committee reflects a free-market biblical capitalism and should shock true Christians and parents alike.  Instead of funding full public early learning initiatives in Indiana, this committee appears to be Pence’s faith-based quest to corporatize preschool and hand out taxpayer money to Christian Right groups running church and in-home daycare centers.  Although the advisory board does not have anyone who is an early childhood learning expert on it, it does give a voice to Eli Lilly, the drug-maker behind many corporate school initiatives in Indiana.

The Board

Although an Indiana Head Start Program leader is on Pence’s early childhood advisory board, the state doesn’t even give money to Head Start and isn’t in any hurry to supplement the federal program, as some states do.  

One board member is Wabash College-educated Alonzo Weems, a vice president at Eli Lilly’s bio-medicines unit.  For some reason, Eli Lilly officials believe they should be allowed to call the shots on Indiana education.  The drug company and its nonprofits, by far, are big players in the corporate school movement in Indiana, and current and past board members sit on a whole slew of boards and fund the people and groups out to privatize our schools.

Lilly’s illegal marketing of Zyprexa to nursing home residents has killed off more than a few senior citizens and hurt thousands of people of all ages, as I detail in my soon-to-be-released book Hoosier School Heist.  And yes, anti-psychotic drugs for toddlers is the next big “in” thing for the pharmaceutical giants.  Not to mention the A.D.H.D drugs from Lilly and other companies doctors are prescribing to preschool kids, as the New York Times recently highlighted.  There is no evidence that Lilly plans to use its voice on Pence’s board to promote its pills, but Lilly has too much power in the corporate school movement in Indiana, as is.

There may be hope in Pence’s selection of Weems, however. Weems has spent time working with United Way’s Success for 6 child care program, so let’s hope this wins out over his pharmaceutical role.

Pence’s board chair for the early childhood learning advisory committee is the private-college Presbyteran educated and former drug company Bristol-Myers Squibb representative Kevin Bain who comes from the Southwestern Indiana Business Leaders Roundtable and the Welborn Baptist Foundation.  First off, it is safe to say that any group with the phrase “Business Roundtable” in its name is unfit for school children, as Susan Ohanian and others have noted more than twice, including the business-loaded education roundtable in Indiana. The Business Roundtable's national goal is to use the public schools to train workers, force-feed kids standardized tests, and it's been at it since State Farm's Ed Rust ran the show several decades ago.

Then there’s Pence’s board member Tammy Veselsky from the Traders Point Christian Academy, which runs its own preschool program, receives taxpayer money through school vouchers, and takes kids to the Creation Museum where the dinosaurs and the Sarah Palins roam hand-in-hand.  Traders Point Christian Academy is associated with Traders Point Christian Church which helps Focus on the Family give anti-gay conferences and perform gay conversion therapy.  The school’s former headmaster is J.K. Stevens, who now teaches at Lincoln Christian University, which Veselsky attended.  Eli Lilly’s Lilly Endowment, in fact, funds Lincoln Christian University’s World View Eyes, a program to “expand” the minds of youth to the ways of spreading a Christian worldview that Traders Point Christian Academy is involved with (page 8 in pdf box).

The Abuse

Pence’s goal to fund Christian Right preschool for Hoosiers could become horrific if it lacks regulation and supervision.  Lack of regulation has caused preschool deaths nationwide and in Indiana.  Indiana currently has 730 faith-based daycare centers.  After a one-year-old boy drowned in an Indy church’s daycare center, the Associated Press wrote this:

State law allows religious nonprofits to register their daycares with the state, but the facilities avoid much of the oversight that licensed daycares face. Only about 5 percent of church daycares are licensed through the Family and Social Services Administration.

The differences in requirements for licensed and unlicensed faith-based ministries are vast. Licensed centers must follow 192 rules; the unlicensed faith-based ministries, 21. Licensed centers must have one adult for every four infants and every five toddlers. There is no ratio requirement for unlicensed centers.

Religious nonprofits have fought repeated legislative efforts to eliminate the licensing disparity.

Recently, Indiana changed the law so that background checks have to be done on people who work at the Christian daycare centers, but not enough has been done.  There is still no ratio requirement of staff to toddler. In February of this year, the Journal Gazette wrote that:

If Indiana lawmakers need more evidence that church-based child care programs need stronger regulation, they can look to a recent incident in Greenwood. An inspector found a church official previously involved in a substantiated case of child sexual abuse at the Little Angels Daycare and Preschool.

Even with new laws, faith-based daycare centers in Indiana could slip into the same condition as Christian Right boarding schools. Even though Christian Right educators in Indiana boarding schools have a dangerous track record, the state did nothing to close them for years.  Some, in fact, are still in operation.

As I’ve detailed before, New Horizons Youth Ministries’ staff have had numerous allegations of abuse and the ministry finally lost its license as a boarding facility in Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois to board wards of the state.  Lifeline Youth and Family Services and Crosswinds took over the schools but have kept directorial staff  members who have been employed with the abusive facility for as long as 20 years. But they are not the only ones. Indiana is rife with Christian schools known nationally for their harsh and inhumane ways of disciplining kids. 

Mike Pence’s school voucher/gay bashing friends at Advance America illustrate this.  Governed by lawyer Eric Miller and his handpicked Baptists, Advance America’s board once included Roger Voegtlin.  Voegtlin is known for  giving sermons on beating kids with hickory sticks and was featured in Cooper Anderson’s UnGodly Discipline show which detailed Indiana Christian school abuse, and should be a warning on what to expect from Pence’s preschool and school voucher program plans.

Students from Voegtlin’s Fairhaven Baptist Academy in Chesterton have allegedly been humiliated, spanked until they bled, and even raped.  Voegtlin himself did jail time after he started the school in 1970. In the Anderson program, Voegtlin’s adopted son and daughter, who no longer have any connect with the pastor, highlight his abuse, and former students describe how the pastor would paddle them in front of the class. 

Jeremiah Souza told CNN’s Gary Tuchman, in a follow up show on September 22, 2012, that “I was raped for three years straight there. And I was told it was my fault. I went and told the pastor. He asked me if I was tithing and giving money to the church at that time. He said it was because I wasn't giving money that I was violated.” Souza says since his parents are still members of the church, they have cut him off, and he has no contact with them now.

Fairhaven alumni are producing a movie, the Darker Side of God, to detail these abuses. Calling the school a cult that forces child labor, waterboards, brainwashes, intimidates, and beats to indoctrinate its students to the ways of Christ at its $80 million complex, survivors of the school, with hundreds of others, protested a few days after Anderson’s show aired. 

Describing the alleged rape of her 13-year old sister, Alison Lavery told the Chicago Sun Times that “(The church leaders) called it ‘an affair’ and blamed her, so my family left the church because that wasn’t right. But I had just transferred into the (church’s school) dorms, so they put me on grounds arrest, meaning I couldn’t leave the property or talk to anyone outside of the church. And they told me if I ever left, my life would be destroyed.”

In a state where 15 percent of high school girls report having been raped, all of this is not reassuring. Christian Right leaders have no business raising kids in daycare centers or boarding schools in this state.

Christian Fascism in Hoosierville

And here lies the problem.  Jesus, in Indiana and America, is now Milton Friedman with a beard.  Besides working with dictators to steal from and kill the poor throughout his long career, Milton Friedman—a dead economist and 1 percent con-man—is savior to Mike Pence.  

Pence got his start working for the 1 percent Friedmanites by leading the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a think tank whose pseudo researchers spread propaganda in newspapers weekly around the state.  Indiana Policy Review Foundation’s Cecil Bohanon, in referring to school vouchers, writes this:

Full disclosure: I have a dog in this race. I am on the board of Delaware Christian Academy (DCA), a private Christian school that uses a traditional curriculum and accepts state-financed vouchers. I have long advocated educational vouchers as a means for improving educational quality. I agree with Dr. Milton Friedman, who would have been 101 years old on July 31 of this year; I think competition in K-12 education is healthy.

Milton and Jesus have become one.  The true message of Jesus has been co-opted by the 1 percent and the whackos who carry their message. Chris Hedges, the award-winning journalist and scholar on the death of the liberal class, has warned about the Milton Friedman Christ and its role in American fascism for some time.  In a 2004 article, he writes:

Dr. James Luther Adams, my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, told us that when we were his age, he was then close to 80, we would all be fighting the "Christian fascists."

The warning, given to me 25 years ago, came at the moment Pat Robertson and other radio and televangelists began speaking about a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government. Its stated goal was to use the United States to create a global, Christian empire. It was hard, at the time, to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously, especially given the buffoonish quality of those who expounded it. But Adams warned us against the blindness caused by intellectual snobbery. The Nazis, he said, were not going to return with swastikas and brown shirts. Their ideological inheritors had found a mask for fascism in the pages of the Bible.

Adams was in Nazi Germany and barely escaped Hitler.

Closer to home, socialist and Hoosier union leader Eugene V. Debs wrote this from his jail cell in 1919, imprisoned for speaking out against the war:  

I told my friends of the cloth that I did not believe Christ was meek and lowly but a real living, vital agitator who went into the temple with a lash and a krout and whipped the oppressors of the poor, routed them out of the doors and spilled their blood and got silver on the floor. He told the robbed and misruled and exploited and driven people to disobey their plunderers, he denounced the profiteers, and it was for this that they nailed his quivering body to the cross and spiked it to the gates of Jerusalem, not because he told them to love one another. That was harmless doctrine. But when he touched their profits and denounced them before their people he was marked for crucifixion.

Christ would not like Pence and the New World Theocratic Corporate Order.  If Christ were alive today, he’d be in the federal prison in Terre Haute, labeled a traitor to America.  Let’s hope the true Christians in Indiana come out and say this.  Let’s hope the real Christians in Indiana come out in full force against Pence and his early learning advisory committee and pray for the best for Indiana children.