College Objects to Birth Control, Cancels Student Insurance Plan

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In a previous post, I’ve discussed some of the issues that can occur when religiously affiliated colleges do too much to control the decisions of their adult students, often in an effort to prevent them from having any opportunities for premarital sex. When one combines that type of attitude with the Hobby Lobby ruling, all sorts of ridiculous things start to happen. Take what Wheaton College decided to do this summer for example: it’s no longer providing a student healthcare plan to students who need one because the school’s administrators object to providing contraceptives to students. You can check out a full article about it here, but here are some quotes.

Wheaton College has considered nixing student healthcare plans ever since last summer’s Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed religiously affiliated organizations to opt of out providing contraception through employee health care programs on grounds of faith-based objections.

It’s unsurprising that they used the Hobby Lobby decision as a way to do this, and it’s very upsetting. A lack of healthcare is definitely not better than healthcare that includes practices you don’t agree with. This is the same kind of thinking that led to the movement to defund Planned Parenthood: “We disagree with one thing they do, so let’s prevent them from doing everything else, the majority of which we do not even object to.”

What’s worse about this is that thanks to Obamacare, (the Affordable Care Act), the school did not even have to directly provide contraceptives. The article explains:

…it’s possible for the college to allow the insurer to take on the responsibility of students’ contraception, as part of an Obamacare provision.

“Really, all they have to do is fill out a form and send it to the federal government, saying they have this objection. Then, the insurance company will cover the cost of contraception,” Amiri explained during a phone call with Refinery29 this afternoon. Wheaton has declined to follow that channel.

The argument I’ve heard from conservatives about why they often refuse to fill out this form is that they see doing so as the same thing as signing a document allowing the person to receive contraception. I will give them that to an extent: that form does allow the person to receive contraception. However, the point of the document is to prevent the objector from having to provide it through his or her business, not to prevent the person seeking contraceptives from accessing them at all.

The position of the Obama administration, which I agree with in this case, is that a business owner objecting to providing contraception should not make it impossible for the employee (or in this case, the student enrolled in that plan) to acquire contraception.

To apply this to abortions, which is really what most people who object to contraception have a problem with anyway, this means that just because you object to abortions, (and your taxes don’t pay for them, by the way) doesn’t mean that no one should be able to have that procedure covered by their insurance. It just won’t come from the pockets of objectors.

For crying out loud, this isn’t rocket science. The government is actively trying to accommodate everyone by providing this opt-out option, and these conservative organizations are saying they’re violating their religion if they allow the people on their health plans to access contraceptives at all. They really aren’t satisfied unless reproductive healthcare is made unattainable, and they’re using accusations of religious discrimination and persecution to achieve that.

I want to give a big thank you to my fiance for telling me about the news that was the topic of this post. He’s been extremely supportive since I started blogging, and that means the world to me.

As always, feel free to leave comments. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful to other people and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

Homeschooling: My Experience

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As you may know if you’ve read some of the posts on my blog, I was homeschooled for the majority of my education. As a homeschooler, I used to get a lot of questions in my daily life about whether or not I enjoyed it, how I made friends, etc. I always answered those questions positively, but lately I’ve had some negative feelings towards my personal homeschooling experience, and a change of heart in how I think homeschooling should be treated by the government. I don’t think it should be banned, nor do I think that every family that homeschools does so for the wrong reasons. However, I might personally have benefited from going to public school in high school, or from being homeschooled in a different way. I can’t possibly cover all of the details of my entire homeschooling experience in one post (it encompasses the majority of my education, with the exception of 9th grade and college), but I’ll summarize what I remember and discuss my working opinion on it.

My homeschooling experience was pretty good in elementary school. My mother taught me how to read, and how to do math, as well as other subjects. While I did get a bit behind in math (I took forever to learn multiplication), I loved being homeschooled. I had plenty of close friends who were my age–most of them also homeschooled–who either attended church with me, or went to the same weekly co-op* classes.

Well into my elementary school years, but not quite at the end of them, my younger brother was diagnosed with dyslexia, and my mother began to focus most of her attention on him. While I probably didn’t experience as much educational neglect as some, even my mother will admit that she found herself focusing less and less on my education in order to help my brother learn to read. She also had to walk him through other subjects since he couldn’t sit down and read a chapter in a textbook by himself, or fill out a workbook without assistance reading and writing. His dyslexia was severe; eventually she realized he was beyond any assistance she could give him, and put him in public school. I don’t blame her for spending so much time with him initially in the hopes that she could continue to homeschool him. However, I am frustrated that she never really returned to me afterwords. Even after he went to school, she supervised my education about as much as a high school substitute teacher does.

Because I loved to read, I was reading–Nancy Drew and The Saddle Club, but from about fifth through 8th grade, I learned very little without teaching it to myself. How was I supposed to know what I should be learning about? My mother did give me educational materials, but because she barely supervised me, I excelled in the subjects that interested me and almost completely ignored the ones that didn’t. Thankfully, she found some decent math books (The “Key To” workbooks saved me from complete mathematical incompetency.) So I began to make up for lost ground in math. She also gave me books on ancient Greece and Rome, and I completely devoured the book on Greek Myths she gave me. I recently found a timeline she helped me make, which I never finished. It began with the creation story, and included such Biblical adventures as “The Flood,” interspersed with real historical events. There was a constant thread of Christianity throughout my education, and it invaded every subject. Even the Key To books were made by a Christian company.

9th grade was terrible. My mother decided she didn’t have it in her to homeschool me through high school (not that she was supervising me much to begin with), so I asked to go to Catholic school. The one I attended turned out to have a terrible administration, and a heavier workload than what I have in college right now as a senior. I was a straight A student somehow, but I was exhausted and miserable. Because it was a private school, my parents blew what little money they had saved for my future college education paying for it; (which shows they didn’t have much saved up, but still). In hindsight, I should have gone to public school. Seeing how miserable I was, my mother took me out of that school at the end of the year to homeschool me again. She told me public school was my other option, but I refused at that point. I didn’t think it could be any better than the private school, since that was “real school” too, and my experience had been so terrible.

Homeschooling for high school was very different from homeschooling for the lower grades. There are fewer people who continue all the way through those years, so I often lost my peers to traditional education. Another way in which high school homeschooling differs from other years is that for many families, the question of being able to get into college is a big deal. This means being more organized, perhaps even homeschooling through a school that provides a diploma (I used NARHS). This was a good thing, because for once I was keeping track of my courses, the time I spent doing them, and what I did. My mother got me involved with a Catholic homeschooling co-op too, thinking that would be a great way for me to meet more high school aged homeschoolers, and take some classes. The co-op involved families with children of all ages, and the year I joined, about two thirds of the high schoolers were about to graduate. I didn’t make many friends there, though. I quickly discovered that they were from a stricter form of Catholicism than my parents–something I hadn’t known existed.

I’m working on a page about this now, but basically, some Catholics refuse to acknowledge the decisions of the Second Vatican Council (also known as Vatican II), and insist on some rituals that seem antiquated to the more mainstream, Roman Catholics. Wikipedia describes this stricter group as “Traditionalist Catholics,” but I knew them as Tridentine Catholics–“Tridentine” referring to the type of mass they attend, which is always in Latin.  Since my experience with this group, I’ve heard them referred to as “fundamentalist Catholics.” While they aren’t Biblical literalists, that description and the negative connotation of “fundamentalist” illustrates the way I felt about many of their beliefs, even when I was a practicing Catholic.

To make a long story short, these people were Catholic versions of the Duggar family. The average number of children in a family was somewhere around six or seven. It would be higher except for those families with low fertility or who married at an older age. I knew one woman who had birthed twelve children naturally. Another mother at that co-op told me that Catholics need to have lots of babies because Muslims are having more babies than Catholics, and it’s important to maintain a Christian majority. Most of the Tridentine women also followed what they referred to as “Vatican Modesty Guidelines.” I had to do a bit of searching to find what they were talking about–something about necklines and two fingers…but I found this page here, and suddenly understood why they all dressed like they were from the wrong decade, while the boys dressed normally. (The Duggars dress a lot like them, if you’re curious as to what that looks like.) The Tridentines had sexist habits too, for example, they always asked boys to lead prayer if there were any on hand, even if the only one available was six years old and not particularly good at leading prayer. Not only did I not fit in in my jeans and t-shirts, but I was also a woman. I soon discovered that the preferred Tridentine options for my gender were between perpetual baby making and joining a convent, neither of which appealed to me. I wanted 2.5 kids and a nuclear family, a fairly conservative aspiration, and for that, I was strange.

After two years of not learning much at co-op, and rebelling a little, my mother sent me to my local community college to take classes. It was a fantastic decision. I earned transferable college credits that wound up saving me time and allowing me to take more courses that interested me when I became a real undergraduate. I also learned real information. I took a chemistry course–my first well-taught science course, perhaps in my entire life. I also took intro to psychology, a course I recommend to everyone. Aside from my time at the community college, most of my homeschooling experience in high school was useless as far as learning is concerned. I was thoroughly under prepared for my college major (English) because I read very little cannon literature in high school, and did little to no analysis of what I read. My mom didn’t know what was typically required and didn’t bother to research it for the most part (or didn’t implement what she’d researched). I took two years to finish geometry, and the same amount of time to finish biology, and can’t remember much. I taught myself algebra II, and wound up retaking it in college. I taught myself physics, inventing my own labs, and I’d be lying if I said I actually learned anything. The best I could do was memorize. I couldn’t really apply much of my knowledge. Lucky for me, the tests weren’t hard.

One of my biggest complaints about my homeschooling experience is the quality of the educational materials with which I was supplied. My mother, like many of the Christian and Catholic homeschoolers we knew, believed that Christian publications were the best option, since they proclaimed God-centered facts. The problem she didn’t anticipate was that in order to do this, they often had to teach false or irrelevant information. Take the American history book that was forced upon me in high school, for example. My middle school years had been filled with trips to historic sites in places like Williamsburg and Philadelphia, so I had a clear sense that America had more protestant than Catholic influences, but this book begs to differ. In it, I learned a version of American history that emphasized Catholic contributions to US history above all others, and frankly stretched some facts upon further examination.

Perhaps the worst texts I ever used were the LIFEPAC high school health workbooks from Alpha Omega publications. The name of the publisher alone gives away the bias, and boy did it have one. It was a fundamentalist health text that spent way too much time on spiritual instruction and skipped sex ed altogether. It also contained tons of outdated information that even I, sheltered and under instructed though I was, noticed.

I did graduate with a high school diploma. I did finish my work. The paperwork says I was educated, but in hindsight, I beg to differ. I’ve spent every year of my college education playing catch-up in my classes, and in my social life. My home education did not prepare me for life outside of home. I prepared myself for that life with little assistance in far too many areas.

Because of my experience, I support legislation that would set some regulations for homeschooling. I’d like it to remain legal, but there needs to be a system in place to prevent educational neglect, while still giving parents the freedom to help their children learn at their own pace and in whatever learning style that best suits them. I personally believe that homeschooled students should be evaluated about once per year, maybe twice. They should have to show that they’re actually doing work. I strongly feel there should also be legislation preventing parents from using propaganda textbooks. Sure, teach your kids your religion, but don’t corrupt their education with it by refusing to teach them anything else. I’m fine with parents choosing their texts as long as the options are all actually good, factual ones. Currently, there are way too many pseudo-educational texts, and homeschoolers use many of them.

The problem I have with homeschooling isn’t homeschooling itself. It’s the fact that so many families choose it in order to shelter and indoctrinate their children. I was hardly exposed to non-Catholics prior to college. I didn’t learn how sex worked until I was 15, and many of the “facts” I was given about it at the time were incorrect because I learned them from another high school kid.

This sheltering and indoctrination is what I often jokingly refer to as homeschooling “on the wrong side of the closet.” It’s a serious problem though. Some children enter the world having no idea that a fair number of the people they’ll meet in the working world will not follow their exact form of Christianity, will not be straight, will not be white, and will not be republican. It shocked the heck out of me when I first realized as a college freshman that the majority of students in one of my classrooms thought the legalization of gay marriage in the US was inevitable. I agree with those people now, but I used to think it couldn’t possibly be true; everyone I’d met before then, except for a handful of people, supported DOMA. I was so sheltered that I hadn’t been exposed much to democrats. I don’t want future children to be as unaware of reality as I was, or to grow up without ever being taught important facts. I want them to be more prepared than I was for everyday life outside of their parents’ watchful over protection.

What are your thoughts on homeschooling? Have you had an experience with it? Feel free to comment. All opinions are welcome, just be respectful and think through your comments before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

 

* (In homeschooling “co-op” is when a group of parents who live near an area, often but not always subscribing to the same religious beliefs, get together regularly with their kids, and the parents take turns teaching classes to groups of the kids in subjects that they’re good at. A parent with an art background taught art, one with a chemistry background would teach chemistry, etc. It’s as close to traditional school as homeschooling usually gets.)

 

 

The Trouble With (Some) Religiously-Affiliated Colleges

© Kurt dreamstime photos

© Kurt Dreamstime photos

It’s hardly a secret that I dislike religiously affiliated schools, but there are plenty out there that don’t rub religion in their students’ faces and force them to bathe in it regularly while preventing any new ideas from reaching their students’ eyes or ears. While I don’t attend a religious college, I know several people who do, none of whom feel that religion is being imposed upon them. Quite to the contrary, some of them have experienced a great deal of diversity on their campuses, including but not limited to diversity of religion, sexuality, and political opinions. And you know what? I’m glad there are many schools like that out there.

That’s exactly what I think college should be:  a safe place for people to be themselves, while listening to and considering new ideas. In many ways, college is the rest stop between childhood and independence (if you can get yourself out of debt), and it’s an excellent place to figure out what you stand for, and what matters to you. Especially since you’re constantly learning. Often, the things you learn in class will help you make decisions about what to believe. There are some courses that are extremely common for college students to take, and I recommend them all–English 101, Intro to Psychology, Intro to Sociology, etc. While these courses may not always relate directly to your major, the information you learn from them might affect your political opinions, the way you vote, the way you read the news, and how you conduct your daily life.

Unfortunately, there are some problem schools that don’t encourage that kind of self-discovery. They act like boarding schools for minors rather than educational institutions for adults because they choose to enforce ridiculously strict rules in an effort to promote a pure Christian lifestyle. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a pure Christian lifestyle if that’s what you want to choose, but to force it on young adults is to tell them that you don’t trust them to make their own decisions, and that they aren’t strong enough to do so on their own. Need I remind these schools that their students are adults?  The excessive control these schools keep over their students shows a fear that young people, if left to their own devices, will always resort to sex, drinking, and other risky behaviors associated with people their age. And you know what, in a school that doesn’t have crazy restrictions, many of them will, there’s no denying that. But a significant number will not, and their decisions not to at a time when many around them are will mean a great deal more to them, because college will have been more like the so-called “real world.” The more you shelter, the more you prevent people from understanding reality. If young adults don’t learn how to make their own decisions by the time they graduate from college, they will be worse off when they attempt to enter the workforce, or go off into the “real world” to live on their own.

In this post, I can only scratch the surface of the ridiculous things religious colleges do in order to protect their students’ “purity.”

Dress codes are a common thing to see at these schools. While encouraging students to dress professionally is one thing, sometimes these dress codes can lead to problems. Check out this post, at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/10/21/there-are-still-christian-schools-with-this-awful-fire-safety-policy/

Fire? Hope you have time to follow the school’s dress code! Maybe just in case you should shower in a dress. In my experience, the most ridiculous dress code rules tend to focus on female modesty, because of the double standard for men and women. I’ve frequently seen people have to leave my school’s dormitories in towels because of a fire drill, or a fire alarm going off. It’s not fun, but it’s the best thing to do, because in a real fire it’s extremely important to leave as quickly as possible. Screw dress codes, this is student safety we’re talking about!

Then there’s this story about Patrick Henry College, and one student’s experience with its rigid dress code and curfew.

http://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/change-the-world-with-love-not-a-battle-axe-alaina-gilloglys-story/

In this case, the school’s dress code and its curfew rules made her life extremely difficult. Imagine being spied upon by other students, who at any moment could report you for a violation? How do you focus on your school work in a situation like that?

How about the wording of some codes of conduct? Check out Christendom College, which goes out of its way to actually tell students what types of films they should and shouldn’t watch on campus. This is their student handbook. Scroll down to section VIII. The part about movies and other media is under part B, number 15, pages 21-22. Tell me again how old your students are, Christendom? http://www.christendom.edu/life/pdfs/Handbook.pdf 

Franciscan University of Steubenville’s sex policy is pretty ridiculous too. The student code of conduct prohibits “Lewd, indecent, obscene or otherwise immoral conduct or expression that violates Catholic moral teaching on sexuality; or the promotion or advocacy of such conduct or expression.” (section 3.13). Don’t believe me? Check it out. http://www.franciscan.edu/StudentLife/Default.aspx?id=164&menu_id=111

Imagine going to a school where, for example, being gay and kissing your boyfriend/girlfriend, which certainly violates Catholic teaching on sexuality, could cause you to receive disciplinary action! Under this policy, you could probably get the same treatment for premarital sex. I’d have been expelled from that school long ago if I went there. While you’re on that website, also take a look at section 3.19, which prohibits “Violation of University visitation policy for residence halls including but not limited to:

a. Visiting in individual residence hall rooms of members of the opposite sex outside of designated hours.
b. Visiting in lounges, common rooms, or kitchens of members of the opposite sex outside of designated hours.”

While this isn’t the strictest visitation policy I’ve read, it’s not at all necessary. There’s no reason to ban adults of one gender from visiting adults of another gender completely at any time. It should be up to the individual students to invite their friends over or send them home as they see fit, because guess what–if you’re in college, you’re probably 18 or older, and you’re ready to take responsibility for how much time you spend studying, and whether or not you’re doing things like having sex. Sometimes the reasons for a guy coming to visit late at night aren’t at all sexual. My boyfriend sometimes comes by to do homework with me. Sometimes I visit him to do the same thing. Heck, I’m in his dorm room typing this right now. We like to hang out and watch movies together (and we don’t check with the USSCB before choosing them because we don’t care whether or not they’re offensive to Catholics). And you know what? I’m just shy of a 4.0, and not suffering for it at all. I get my work done, and hang out with people of both genders in my residence hall.

Sure, things go on in college that probably make parents extremely uncomfortable, but when a kid turns 18, he or she is no longer considered a kid, and will have an easier time becoming independent if he or she is treated as an adult.

Happy Thinking!

-Nancy