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Testimony of parent whose son committed suicide [1 of 4] after attending the Ark. Gov.'s School
American Family Association of Arkansas ^ | 1992 | Shelvie Cole

Posted on 09/25/2002 11:51:24 AM PDT by Aquinasfan

Arkansas Governor's School


Testimony of parent whose son committed suicide after attending AGS.

Given before Joint Interim Education Committee

(One of four known former AGS students who committed suicide)

My name is Shelvie Cole. I have much to say, and I will talk as quickly as I can. I think once I get started you will understand why I have a lot to say. The first thing I would like to say is I am not a religious zealot. I do not belong to the religious right, and I am not conservative in my beliefs. The reason I am saying this is because anytime anyone seems to have a negative comment toward the Governor's School, they are automatically categorized into one of those groups, somehow negating their comments.

I am speaking to you today as a professional and as parent. As a professional, I am a trained school psychologist. I have worked over twenty years in the field of education and mental health. As a parent, my youngest son, Brandon, attended Governor's School in the summer of 1990. In September of 1991 Brandon committed suicide. I find it very significant that it was three years ago today that Brandon committed suicide.

I had no idea the impact that Governor's School had on Brandon until I read his log after his death. I knew that he had begun to change; but then when I began reading his log, I understood some of the things that had gone on within Brandon that were the result of some of his experiences at Governor's School. I am not going to be \giving you a second hand information today. I am going to let Brandon talk for himself because I am going to read directly from his diary that he kept while he was in Governor's School.

One of my concerns about Governor's School is the way it is set up. I understood or I thought when Brandon attended - he was a very talented student - A/B student, well grounded, played on the tennis team, president of his computer club. He did not have emotional problems. He was the ideal son. By the way, my oldest son, Hank, is here with me for moral support.

When he was selected as a musical student, I understood or thought he would go and spend the majority of his time studying music, being exposed to composers, having experiences with other outstanding music instructors, and spending a lot of time with students who had similar likes. Some of that did occur.

During the six weeks of Governor's School the students are really encouraged to disassociate themselves from the outside world. That in itself has its effect on students. A friend of mine who was in the Marine Corps said that it reminded him of boot camp when they separate young men from their parents and their friends so that they can get them thinking in a military way.

Brandon's words: "We truly have been plucked out of our world. We live in the Governor's School world. I saw a newspaper the other day and realized how no outside events were talked about here. I don't think I will be able to leave after this is over. Let me warn you I am changing inside. I hope you will still like me as I am, but I am learning a new outlook on life and reality. Everyday activities are so trivial now to us here. I feel sorry for people who aren't here. The outside world is so blind toward world events."

A letter to a friend said, "I think I saw your grandparents at the Human Development Centers Fireworks Show. We actually got to go out in public and go over there. Missy, [who is his friend] and I saw a friend there and stopped to talk to her. Someone from Governor's School saw us and told us, 'you are not to socialize with anyone while you're here.' Can you believe that?"

His final entry in the log says, Governor's School helped me to separate myself from most of the people around me. This absence of being who I was known for gave me a chance to look inside of my real self. After I came back from the break, my friends and I could tell that we had suddenly been transformed into free thinkers. I was no longer worried about who was having the next party or who was going out with whom. I feel like I've awakened from a fourteen year sleep."

These are my words: There's a false sense of security in Brandon's statement because when he completed Governor's School he doubted friendships and support he had had most of his life. And he questioned values and relationships that in the past had been extremely important to him. But most of all he began to question himself. He was told so many times at Governor's School that he was going to change during his time spent thee that he felt that if he didn't change he would fail to be a part of what was expected of participants.

After these students have severed the links with their lifetime friends and family, they are sent back i8nto the real world with no follow up and means of support to help them as they continue their quest to discover who they are after this change.

Even though the Governor's School is under the umbrella of the Department of Education, no one in the department seems to be responsible for overseeing the curriculum of seems to have any say as to what materials are used while they are there.

Bruce Haggard, a biology professor at Hendrix College, is the director of Governor's School. When my husband and I discussed our concerns two years ago, we questioned why it is necessary to have articles included in the students' text, The Tree Book like the one on "The Morality of Homosexuality". Dr. Haggard acted as if he was unaware of such an article, but we found out later that the article has been and continues to be a part of the curriculum.

Then there's Areas II and III , and I think that's what you are going to hear today, what most of the parents are concerned about.

This is how Brandon described the Governor's School experience. He said, "We have Area I class twice a day. This class is for what you were accepted in. Then everyone has Area II and III. Area II is where they try to get you to state something you believe in and then they rip you apart until you don't agree with yourself anymore.

"Then everyone has Area III. Here everyone cries and tells sad stories about themselves. Here everything you deal with is so deep. They encourage us to open up and say anything. In Area III one girl stood up and told the instructor to f--- off. The instructor just smiled and said, ' Why do you feel that way?' Can you believe that?"

Another letter he wrote said that, "We have Area II class where the object is to state something you believe in, and they reverse the way we feel totally. In Area III everyone listens to your problems; we've realized that life is not real, life is just a dream. Things like chairs and tables, numbers, trees, World War II, etc., die not or do not exist. Here they want you to relax and question the meaning of life."

He wrote this letter to a friend while in Governor's School. He said, "Robin, (who was his best friend since first grade) came and visited me on visitor's day last week. It was good to see her but everything she talked about was so trivial. We learn her things like the fact that we may not really be here. Do we have a soul? Do we create reality or does reality create us? Governor's School has really changed me."

"Area II is where you argue whether or not you are really here, why we're here and things like that. Then in Area II and III, we find out who we really are inside. Everyone cries and spills their guts to our group."

This is me talking. These classes are being taught like philosophy classes and psychotherapy groups. In my opinion the staff members who lead these discussions are not qualified to deal with such issues. If they were employed by our public school, they would not be allowed to conduct classes such as these because they lack the appropriate training to do so.

For instance, I met with Area II and Area III faculty a summer ago to discuss suicidal tendencies of Gifted and Talented students. The faculty was made up of two college level language teachers, an assistant junior high principal, a freelance songwriter, and English teacher, and a Presbyterian minister and a high school Gifted and Talented teacher. If we are going to continue to have these types of discussions as part of the curriculum, I feel the least that we can assure parents is that those who would lead the discussions would have the credentials to indicate that they have the training and the expertise to do so. The same credentials and requirements that we adhere to in the public schools should be the same standards at Governor's School.

If Governor's School continues, which I hope it does, and if it continues to be supported by taxpayers' dollars, then every taxpayer in the state should feel reassured that if their child attends Governor's School they have the same safeguards regarding curriculum and credentials of the faculty as they would in the public school district. If this is not the case, then Governor's School should receive its funding from another source and not be under the umbrella of the Department of Education.

I would like to close by reading you the first entry into Brandon's log, and then I will read one that was written three weeks later. This is the first one: "Moms are the best people around, and my mom is the best mom on earth. As a child she cuddled me and showed me the way like a guardian angel watching my moves, supporting me through times of confusion and lifting me off the floor of desperation. My mom is great!"

Three weeks later, three weeks later this is what Brandon wrote, "My mom is so closed minded I feel like we will have a standoff soon over issues. She doesn't see people for who they are, only for the way they act."

I had to ask myself what could happen during a young person's life during three short weeks to make such a drastic change in his attitude toward a parent, and I think it is a question you need to ask yourselves today. Thank you.

[This parent stated in another interview on video that she had not even seen her son during those three weeks.]

End of Testimony

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Government
KEYWORDS: arkansas; catholiclist; clinton; education; governorschool; governorsschool; governorsschools; suicide
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To: Aquinasfan
Read Marc Tucker's letter to Hillary Clinton. You can just type it in your address line. Let's hope that Hillary never gets further than Senator from NY.
121 posted on 09/27/2002 7:58:25 AM PDT by ladylib
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To: ladylib
you can just type it in your address line.

No comprendo. Can you give me a URL or a link?

122 posted on 09/27/2002 8:54:48 AM PDT by Aquinasfan
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To: Aquinasfan
I meant you can just type it in your browser, but here is the link:

The Maple River site is a good one. You'll be able to see what the "elite" has in store for your children.
123 posted on 09/27/2002 9:30:42 AM PDT by ladylib
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To: ladylib
You'll be able to see what the "elite" has in store for your children.

Thank you very much. Now excuse me while I vomit.

The "Dear Hillary" letter lays out a plan "to remold the entire American [school] system" into "a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone," coordinated by "a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels" where curriculum and "job matching" will be handled by counselors "accessing the integrated computer-based program." The plan would change the mission of the schools away from teaching children academic basics and knowledge so they can make their own life choices, and toward training them narrowly in specific job skills to serve the global economy in jobs selected by workforce boards.

I heard Sam Blumenfeld speak about this at the Boston Conservative Society way back in the late '80s. I thought he had gone off the deep end. Like my wife says, "If you tell people this stuff no one will believe you." It's up to all of us to spread the word.

God help us. God save our children.

124 posted on 09/27/2002 10:05:43 AM PDT by Aquinasfan
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Selections from the "Dear Hilary" letter:

"Everything we have heard indicates virtually universal opposition in the employer community to the proposal for a 1 1/2% levy on employers for training to support the costs associated with employed workers gaining these skills, whatever the levy is called. We propose that Bill [Clinton] take a leaf out of the German book. One of the most important reasons that large German employers offer apprenticeship slots to German youngsters is that they fear, with good reason, that if they don't volunteer to do so, the law will require it. Bill could gather a group of leading executives and business organization leaders, and tell them straight out that he will hold back on submitting legislation to require a training levy, provided that they commit themselves to a drive to get employers to get their average expenditures on front-line employee training up to 2% of front-line employee salaries and wages within two years. If they have not done so within that time, then he will expect their support when he submits legislation requiring the training levy. He could do the same thing with respect to slots for structured on-the-job training..."

"Creating such a system means sweeping aside countless programs, building new ones, combining funding authorities, changing deeply embedded institutional structures and so on. .... Trying to ram it down everyone's throat would engender overwhelming opposition..."

"we propose that a new agency be created, the National Institute for Learning, Work and Service. .... The staff would be small, high powered and able to move quickly..."

"Create National Board for Professional and Technical Standards. Board is private ....  Neither Congress nor the executive branch can dictate the standards set by the Board..."

"One would want to make sure that the specific actions of the new administration were designed, in a general way, to advance this agenda as it evolved, while not committing anyone to the details, which would change over time..." 

[The new system will] "free up school professionals to make the key decisions about how to use all the available resources to bring students up to the standards..." 

[Institutions receiving funds under this system] "are required to provide information" [on student's] "backgrounds and characteristics, and career outcomes..."

  "All available front-line jobs - whether public or private - must be listed in [the government run employment system] by law..."


One can see this as a logical extension of Horace Mann's vision (see #117 above):

She [the State] explores the world for new objects of beneficence; and, so deep and common is the feeling which expects and prompts all this that she is gradually changing and ennobling the definition of a cardinal word in the language of morals,--doing what no king or court with all their authority, nor royal academy with all its sages and literary men, can do: she [the State] is changing the meaning of charity into duty.

125 posted on 09/27/2002 10:21:37 AM PDT by Aquinasfan
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To: Eva; twigs
FYI, Sam Blumenfeld on Whole Language
126 posted on 09/27/2002 12:25:42 PM PDT by Aquinasfan
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To: Red Jones
When I was a student at Mr. Jefferson's university in the 70's, the chapel on the grounds could not be used for religious purposes because that was considered to violate the separation of church and state. I'm not sure what the status of it is today.
127 posted on 09/27/2002 12:31:51 PM PDT by twigs
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To: Aquinasfan
"If you tell people this stuff no one will believe you."

You're right. They don't. When I tried to explain the mission of today's public schools to older members of my family, they said I was nuts.

Try talking to an older generation about the public schools. They still think that the public schools are the ones they grew up with in the 30's, 40's, and 50's -- you know, reading, writing, arithmatic, history, etc. Little do they know because they don't want to know. They see a beautiful school building with well-manicured grounds and they think that the school is a "good" school. They really don't know what's going on inside when the classroom door

The older women in my family think Hillary is just great and can't wait for her to run for President. They also like Janet Reno. They think it's too bad she lost in Florida. God help America.

128 posted on 09/27/2002 1:11:55 PM PDT by ladylib
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To: twigs
It's probably used for storage.
129 posted on 09/27/2002 2:48:36 PM PDT by ladylib
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To: ladylib
They still think that the public schools are the ones they grew up with in the 30's, 40's, and 50's -- you know, reading, writing, arithmatic, history, etc. Little do they know because they don't want to know.

And the younger generations are too indifferent to bother finding out. The government school system is ingeniously designed. I pray that the homeschool movement unravels it. On the surface, the school waters seem fairly placid. But two freight trains are barreling in opposite directions. On the one hand, the liberals are consolidating their hold on the inmates with School-to-Work, OBE and homosexual propaganda. On the other hand, you have the voucher and homeschool movements shaking the very foundations of the structure. I see it as a toss up. But it's going to break one way or the other in the next twenty years.

130 posted on 09/28/2002 6:40:21 PM PDT by Aquinasfan
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To: Sloth

I attended Arkansas Governor's School in 1990. I received the exact same core curriculum and what has been presented in this forum as "brainwashing". I'm married, have children and a great career. I'm a registered Republican, slightly more conservative than moderate and have never once entertained killing myself. Although a shame, I firmly believe than anyone who is capable of being pushed over the edge by six weeks of liberal babble in high school isn't going to hold up for long in the real world. The ideology preached by many of the "professors" at AGS was openly confronted and rejected by those who held differences of opinion. It was a program for the mentally strong to be exposed to concepts and belief structures different than their own... and certainly not presented in any format that would compare to what we are asked to swallow on a daily basis in our jobs, our universities or from the televisions in our homes. I would hate to see what I found to be a stimulating exercise in free speech be boiled down to some liberal brainwashing experiment. Having experienced the exact same summer in question, I'd have to say it wasn't anything like it's being portrayed to be.

131 posted on 08/07/2004 12:16:00 PM PDT by skelly95319 (Shannon Kelly, AGS 1990 Alumnist)
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To: skelly95319

Did you say you went to the 'SUMMER SCHOOL', or did I misunderstand you??

132 posted on 08/07/2004 12:34:48 PM PDT by Kackikat (,Kerry=the counterfeit, GWBush is the real deal!)
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To: Aquinasfan
I am both amazed and astounded by how many people taking part in this forum who have neither attended nor experienced Arkansas Governor’s School first hand. It is sad to me that so many will believe the worst rather than investigate the truth. I attended in 1992 and the experienced most certainly transformed me into not only an open-minded individual, but into one who can hold her own arguing all sides and angles to most any issue or debate. I see the whole picture and not just one side of it. That said, it does not mean that I agree with what has been stated here. And with what I have read on this blog, few people actually have any idea about the educational environment that they are speaking against. Moreover, it is being misrepresented to parents of children who are potential candidates for Governor’s Schools across our nation.
Did you know that the current Republican Presidential hopeful, religious leader and former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee had a major and guiding hand in the creation of a PBS documentary, “The Guiding Hand” (in preparation for his election campaign as Lt. Governor and to undermine Democratic hopefuls in the upcoming presidential election) that attacked AGS for it’s structure and it’s teachings? Did you know that he and others hand their hands in splicing interviews to change the very essence of what the youth who experienced AGS said about it? Did you know that the youth became incensed and tried to have the production halted for misrepresentation of their comments? Did you know that once Huckabee entered office a Governor that he saw for himself how the program was designed and never took part or permitted any changes to the program once he gained an inside understanding of the curriculum? Did you know that AGS would not allow him access to their texts or their curriculum because he was taking such a biased stance. Who would allow t access to their materials? At the time, AGS would not and so, it took election as the Arkansas Governor for Huckabee to gain such access. I know this not just as a former AGS graduate, but as an employee of the Board of Education. Huckabee attacked AGS because he did not understand it and once he was allowed access to the truth, he retreated from his stance. AGS encourages students to think for themselves. It teaches “NOTHING.” I repeat, AGS teaches nothing.” Could it also be that AGS is attacked by the Right because it is an implementation of Bill Clinton. Why is it that other Governor’s School’s in other states, most of which use similar or the same materials, are not attacked with the force that AGS is? Could it simply be the Clinton link?
Let me take you through a class at AGS, please. Governor’s School only presents an issue from an unbiased pro and a con perspective and opens the gates for debate and discussion. For example (a very simplistic one) AGS Area II presented my class with the topic of abortion. AGS and the instructor, held firmly to an unbiased stance. The instructor served as a facilitator, not a discussion guide. There was a reading assigned the night before from the “Tree Book” and since students receive no grades, they are not required to read anything. Those who do not read, will simply be behind in the discussion. Students, upon entering class, are asked to discuss their opinion, views, and experiences as they relate to the reading. As a class, we divided pretty well divided evenly in terms of our position on the topic. Some “pro-choice” some “pro-life” - might I add, none were “pro-abortion.” There simply is no such thing. The abortion issue is choice and is not nearly as simplistic as Right Winger’s have tried to reduce it down to. This is not a black or white issue, it is the Grey portion that is cause for debate. Seldom is the Grey presented by the Right side.
In class, we started with the simple - good or bad; pro or con. Then one of our students came out as the child product of a rape. She discussed her mother’s distance from her as a person (likely due to being and living every day with a child who was the result of rape). Her words were emotional and tearful. It humbled us all. Another student then presented the case of a recent hometown debate over the right for the family of a mentally retarded women in a group home to have an abortion after being the victim of rape at the hands of one of her “house parents.” Is abortion acceptable in cases such as these?
Yet another student had a cousin who was born with no face and with no arms or legs. Is abortion acceptable in cases such as this? I could go on, but my point is that there was no emphasis placed by the instructor on any specific side of the issue, only the encouragement to expand the minds of students and to see issues in terms of more than just right or wrong and yes or no.
Many students began with the view that “Abortion is wrong - no matter what. When asked why they felt this way, the answer was always, “the Bible says so,” or “that is what my parents believe.” AGS exists to encourage students to think freely and not to think things just because that it what they have been raised to believe or because that is “the way it has always been.”
AGS, like every organization designed to encourage youth to question the status quo and to think freely, has been under attack since it’s inception. Look at Socrates . . . he is a perfect example. Like AGS, he encouraged his students to ask questions. He answered questions with questions and statements with more questions. The experience posted here by Aquinasfan that an instructor asked her after the presentation of the documentary titled, Night and Fog” the question, “If there is an all-loving God, why does He allow things like this to happen?” is just that . . . an inquiry. I truly doubt that it was meant as an attack against “God” or “religion,” but rather a questions designed to make students think about things such as the “free will” of those who led the Nazi extermination and the fact that our world can spin out of control without the questionings of persons who feel that something in unjust or improper. I saw the very same film in 1992. It was a staple at AGS. I was part of the same sort of discussions. I could be wrong, but I suspect that Aquinasfan did not understand the intent behind this question. Rather, it was seen as an attack rather than just a question. Sadly, a student walking about AGS with the philosophy that it exists to confront or that the instructors mean to offend is sadly, going to take everything to heart and leave with little more than a large chip on their shoulder.
All I see here on this blog is constant criticism and commentary from people who are not familiar with the AGS program in the least. Granted, I do not mean to take away from those who have had experiences at AGS or from parents who have lost children and who speak out here. It is those who know nothing short of what they have been told here at this site by others who are outsiders to the AGS experience are my focus.
When parents send their children to a summer program and expect them to learn in a traditional setting without discovering or investigating the setting their children are entering, they are totally unprepared for their children to return home believing differently from what they have been taught. Even worse to these parents, their children came home as newly developed “free thinkers” and thusly, they questioned their parents beliefs and the source of those beliefs. In the case of the film, “Night and Fog,“ I ask you, would we now criticize the child of a Nazi from helping to hide a Jew to save their life? Who would be in the right, the Nazi parent who believed and participated in the extermination of Jews or the Jewish sympathetic child wishing to save the lives of those who were being exterminated. It is this that AGS seeks to encourage and not to teach.
133 posted on 11/04/2007 1:38:00 PM PST by albie25 (A view from INSIDE Arkansas Governor's School)
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To: albie25

Hillary is that you defending the AGS?
Why dig up a thread from 5 years ago to post on?

134 posted on 11/04/2007 1:47:05 PM PST by boxerblues
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To: mykdsmom; Constitution Day

Heh. I’m a Governor’s School reject.

135 posted on 11/04/2007 2:38:20 PM PST by Overtaxed
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To: Overtaxed

You too? LOL

136 posted on 11/04/2007 4:05:23 PM PST by Constitution Day
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To: Constitution Day

Heh. Yeah. I read through to the end before I realized the thread is a few years old. Guess I’m too slow for Governor’s Skool!

137 posted on 11/04/2007 4:11:28 PM PST by Overtaxed
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To: Overtaxed

But skool R fun!


138 posted on 11/04/2007 4:17:55 PM PST by Constitution Day
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To: Aquinasfan; All

Bump for this info

139 posted on 11/04/2007 4:19:44 PM PST by Syncro
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To: Constitution Day

140 posted on 11/04/2007 4:42:24 PM PST by Overtaxed
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