Why The Duggars’ Homeschool Program Is So Concerning

Depending on your point of view, the Duggar family of TLC’s 19 Kids & Counting and spin-off series Counting On is either a wholesome family with solid American values or a less-than-admirable family with a restrictive lifestyle. 

Much of the criticism about the Duggars is centered on their faith-based practices, such as their policy on wearing modest, gender-specific clothing, their premarital courtship rules, and their belief that women are better served in the home than in the workforce. Not surprisingly, the Duggar children are all homeschooled. Homeschooling has long been popular among families who feel that traditional schools don’t meet their personal needs, but their choice of curriculum is what has many viewers worried.

 The Duggars teach their children through the system created by the Advanced Training Institute (ATI), a part of the Institute in Basic Life Studies ministry. The IBLS made headlines in 2014 through 2016 when its leader Bill Gothard was accused of multiple instances of molestation and sexual harassment with 10 of his accusers filing lawsuits against him and the institute on charges of rape, harassment and cover-up, (The Washington Post). 

Even disregarding the shady history of the IBLS, its program raises red flags for many given its teachings. The ATI establishes fathers as the leader and spiritual guide of the family and the ones responsible for educating their children. All core subjects – from history to linguistics to math – are based on biblical passages and moral lessons, and some of those moral lessons are questionable, at best.

The Duggars' school system promotes a questionable approach to abuse

Former followers of the ATI have spoken out against the institute and its policies, particularly those concerning abuse within the family unit. Recovering Grace, a support group for people affected by the Gothard teachings, has shared samples of ATI literature addressing those issues. 

A booklet titled Moral Failures in a Family suggests that boys may molest younger siblings if they’re not kept busy enough at home, or if their parents allow them to babysit or change diapers. 

These teachings aided the Duggar family’s response to the molestation scandal involving oldest son Josh Duggar. Parents Jim Bob Duggar and Michelle Duggar sent Josh to a Christian counselor and got help for the girls as well, but blamed the media for “twisting” the facts “to hurt and slander” (via The Washington Post). Jill Duggar and Jessa Duggar also sat for an interview in which they denied that their brother was a child molester; Jessa said that Josh was merely “a little too curious about girls” (via USA Today). Have they truly healed and forgiven, or were they taught to act as though they were?

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