March 22, 2006

Boycott business

I realized last night that one of my Yahoo groups is sprinkled with mentions of The Old Schoolhouse (TOS) magazine, its free offers for new subscribers, and that the list owner has a blog through homeschoolblogger which is advertised at the bottom of the Yahoo posts. So I unsubscribed but also sent a private email to the list owner explaining my reason,

Dear xx,

Just wanted to let you know that I've unsubscribed to xyz Yahoo group because I'm boycotting The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and their over their support of the Pearls' book.

I'll miss my subscription, and hope that you'll consider switching your support from TOS.

Many thanks and all the best,


This morning I received a reply -- sorry, you won't be able to read it in its entirety because I don't think that's quite right -- which prompted me to send my own reply, which I am going to share, along with the pertinent parts from the list owner's reply, highlighted in blue.

Dear xxx,

>This whole thing has been blown WAY out of proportion

Considering that a four-year-old boy died at the hand of a parent who suffocated him by wrapping him in a sheet, and that his body, and those of his two living siblings, were found to be covered with heavy bruising, and that these ideas for discipline and training were taken by the mother from the Pearls' book, "To Train Up a Child" -- which book and authors have at the very least the tacit endorsement of Gena and Paul Suarez at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine -- I don't think it's possible to consider that this subject "has been blown WAY out of proportion".

>I know the hearts of The Suarez' and they are NOTHING but the most Christian people I have ever met.

I can't claim to know the hearts of the Suarezes. What I know of Mrs. Suarez's character rather than her heart is limited to what I've read in the magazine, its website, and her blog; and her current blog posts, since the tragedy, give me conisderable pause.

I'm particularly dismayed and concerned by Mrs. Suarez's comments on her blog, where, rather than offering any comments of condolence or the horror of the tragedy, she was rather more busy criticizing what she considers the "liberal media", but not denying, retracting, or apologizing after the fact for her newspaper quote,
“[The Pearls] are talking about something that would fit in a purse,” Suarez said. “The only way you can kill a child with that is by shoving it down his throat.”
Primarily, she was unhappy that the quote was taken out of context. And yet Mrs. Suarez has no problem mustering outrage at public school teachers who wield knives or make students eat pencil shavings, in one case, as Mrs. Suarez points out, with allegedly fatal consequences.

As for the Suarezes being good Christians, I tend to think that my own standard of Christian behavior is rather different, more in line with that demonstrated at Gentle Christian Mothers.

>If you would read the Disclaimer on the inside pages of their magazine, it plainly states the following:

Disclaimers are all well and good and in quite a few cases legally binding, but there is nothing that says that having a published disclaimer discounts one from being able to examine matters on a case-by-case basis, and deviating from said published disclaimer, especially when a case such as the present one arises. When someone hides behind a legal disclaimer rather than using his or her heart and head to make an exception, I do have my doubts about any concern, which in this instance certainly hasn't even been professed.

>I think that [disclaimer] says it all. TOS is a HOMESCHOOLING magazine ... NOT a parenting magazine.

You see, the fact that TOS is a homeschooling magazine, and a business endeavor established by a homeschooling family rather than, say, an enormous Time Inc. juggernaut gives one all the more hope that when certain situations arise, they can be examined carefully, rather than routinely dismissed based on the fact of the existence of a legal disclaimer.

And I've been a home educating parent long enough to know that one of the arguments in favor of homeschooling that we homeschooling parents bring up exceedingly often, often to the annoyance of non-homeschooling parents, is precisely that homeschooling and parenting cannot be divorced, and few of us would wish it so. And to use the word "parenting" to describe what the Pearls are advocating -- and yes, I have seen and read the book -- is thoroughly inappropriate.

>They have never taken a stand saying that they "support" the Pearls' advice, so I'm not sure why everyone is all in a tizzy over this.

On Mrs. Suarez's own blog, "No Greater Joy" is listed under "Ministries I Like," which presumably is a choice she made without any financial enticement or coercion. And at no point since young Sean Paddock's death have Gena or Paul Suarez made any comments distancing themselves from the Pearls' punishment methods.

Morever, TOS offers one of the Pearls' books ("No Greater Joy") as part of its free gift package for new subscriptions; the Pearls have been scheduled to appear alongside the Suarezes on part of their European tour next month; and the Pearls are contributors to TOS as well as valued advertisers. This goes way beyond the usual strictly business publisher/advertiser relationship. And many publications, large and small, do have advertising standards in place for material that contravenes their standards and which they will not accept.

There is no tizzy. What there is is a boycott, which is a policy of nonintercourse, in this case the exertion of financial pressure on sites and organizations that support, host, or passively allow Pearl endorsements; some are even boycotting*, which continues to carry "To Train Up a Child." And, because of previous pressure, Barnes & Noble no longer sells new editions of "To Train Up a Child", though used copies of "No Greater Joy" are still available there.

>Would everyone be boycotting TOS if all of a sudden, everyone HATED [insert popular math text/program], but TOS continued to allow them to advertise in their magazine? I think not and this is exactly the same thing that is happening.

I think not either, but mainly because this is most certainly not exactly the same thing. Hating [a popular math text/program] and disapproval of a book that promotes an extreme form of corporal punishment are two completely unequal propositions. However, if you're asking if homeschoolers would also boycott a very popular math book/program -- even if that math book math is an integral part of most homeschoolers curriculum, unlike the Pearls' book -- if the math curriculum author were found to be, say, promoting hate speech or child abuse or neo-Nazism, I can't speak for others, but I certainly would. There are other math books and programs in this world, just as there are other books on children's discipline, other free blogging sites, and other homeschooling magazines. Then again, depending on the item and one's principles, one can also do without.

>I'm sorry you feel that you cannot continue to support a stay at home, homeschooling family business

I can appreciate the position of small, family-based business caught in a boycott, but what I cannot do is continue to support a stay-at-home homeschooling family at the expense of the principles I value and that I am teaching to my children, especially when I haven't seen any cogent arguments from the pro-TOS camp. Among our own guiding principles are these:

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.
(Albert Schweitzer)

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. (Edmund Burke)

Long before we began homeschooling, we were a family with only one spouse working, and the primary business here is farming, so we're more than familiar with financial strain and doing without, and even with being caught in a boycott of sorts when the export of Canadian cattle was halted because of BSE. Many small family farms were caught in a squeeze, and toward the end it was more politics than legitimate health and safety concerns, which made the situation all the more untenable.

>but we are all adults and are allowed to make our own decisions.

>I just wish everyone would get ALL of the facts before they choose to make such rash choices.

We are indeed, all adults that is, and I thought it was only polite and reasonable to let you know of the reason behind my decision to unsubscribe, when I could easily have chosen to unsubscribe without any explanation.

But to have you call that decision "rash", to suggest that those participating in the boycott do not "ALL of the facts," and to belittle my choice, and by extension my principles and values, hardly seems good business sense from someone who would like my financial support to continue, and makes me rather hesitant to resubscribe even if xyz Yahoo group were to withdraw its support from TOS and its blogging arm. As you wrote, we all make our own decisions.

Yours truly,


those interested in petitioning about the book can go here.

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