We reality TV fans are absolutely captivated with the Duggar family, partly because their lives as “independent Baptists” is so different than the lives many of us lead! And the differences start quite early: The Duggar children are all homeschooled through a controversial program called Advanced Training Institute. According to its official website, ATI is a “Biblically-based home education program for families who desire to raise up sons and daughters who are ‘mighty in Spirit’ and able to impact the world for Jesus Christ.”
So what does that look like, exactly? “The ATI curriculum uses the teachings of Jesus Christ, given in the sermon on the Mount, as the primary source for teaching linguistics, law, history, science, and medicine,” the website says.
Basically, ATI students read and comprehend a Biblical passage, then learn about other subjects through questions that passage. Gawker published some examples of these questions, many of which sound awfully forced — e.g. “How can graphs help to visualize the consequences of lust?” or “How do prime numbers illustrate the principle of ‘one flesh’ in marriage?” In a sample Wisdom Booklet from the ATI website, a scripture quote about mourning is paired with “History” questions like “How did true mourning result in revivals in colonial America?” and “How did a great city mourn over sin?”
As you can expect, ATI has plenty of critics. Gawker, for one, called the program an “insane, terrifying homeschool cult” with “dangerous, backwards logic” — calling particular attention to in its views on sexual abuse. (On one ATI handout titled “Counseling Sexual Abuse,” there’s a section called “Why did God let it happen?” with bullet points including “immodest dress” and “being out with evil friends.”) For the record, ATI founder Bill Gothard resigned in 2014 amid of sexual harassment or molestation accusations from dozens of women, as The Washington Post reported. However, as we’ve reported before, the family hasn’t commented on Bill’s alleged abuses, and they certainly haven’t distanced themselves from ATI. Stay tuned…