Skip to comments.Testimony of parent whose son committed suicide [1 of 4] after attending the Ark. Gov.'s School
Posted on 09/25/2002 11:51:24 AM PDT by Aquinasfan
Arkansas Governor's School
TESTIMONY NUMBER ONE
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
How many times have you heard Rush say, "liberals judge people by their beliefs, not by what they do"? I didn't appreciate how right he was. To be "virtuous" in their world you have to hold the correct PC dogmas. Then it's OK to get high and screw around. No heavy lifting. It's a good deal if you're shallow, lazy and conscienceless.
Where are you? We've got questions.
You might want to ask him about it.
POEM BY AGS STUDENT
The following poem was written by a AGS student, but not one of those who committed suicide.
You brought us here to teach us, You said you could enrich our minds.
We came because we felt so honored, You picked us for our talent.
We came to class most faithfully, to learn and experience your vast wisdom.
We took down notes on what you said, and our minds absorbed all we could be,
But then we saw what we had gathered, and wondered how that this could be,
for established facts were proven wrong, and nothing twice was ever the same.
We went to class and were asked to stand, for our chairs, you said, did not exist.
You also said, "Stop your breathing, and prove to us you are not dead."
We went to class and stood in place, you asked us why we should be happy.
You said common sense showed we should be crying,
and our facade of happiness was only a weakness.
We went to public showings of things, that would be better off staying in private.
Death Jihads and single murders, discussion of these was heartily endorsed.
We went to lectures where we were told, there was no God and all was right.
Whatever you wanted, it was good, be it death jihads or single murder.
We also were told about our rights, and how we should defend them.
Allow the white robed and hooded figures to march,
while others denied these rights, cringe in fear.
We were told this and so much more, and many of us believed you.
And those of us who disagreed, unto us was rendered scorn and shame.
You brought us here to lie to us, You thought that you could crush our minds.
We came because we were so blind, So trusting and so naive.
But now you see, I have won, I've beaten you at your own game.
I know the gun I hold at my head is real, and I have the strength to put it down.
Those who will not allow themselves to be transformed, will be destroyed rather than risk that child will become a leader for the opposition
This is why I homeschool. I will shield my kids from the mental manipulators until I judge they are strong enough to recognise when someone is attempting mind-control techniques on them, and deal with the attempted controller appropriately
Here's the Virginia site. It's run by the Virginia Department of Education.
On one of my previous posts a parent mentions that the seed money (three years) for these programs came from the Carnegie Foundation. This makes sense because the testimonials here ranging from 1983-1996 describe a similar format ("no absolutes," "we are the elite," "no one will understand this," PC curriculum). It seems that the Department of Ed takes over the operation after the seed money runs out.
So how are these schools funded today? Do they have a line item in the education budget? When were they first authorized? Was legislation put forward in various states in the same year? I'd like to know.
The number two reason why we homeschool. #1 is to learn the faith.
If parents knew what the educrats have in mind for their children many more people would be homeschooling. My kids will only enter a government school over my dead body.
Well, I don't know of anyone trying to pray out loud during one of the class periods... certainly it wasn't openly prohibited, and it probably would have been allowed if it wasn't disruptive, but anyone doing it probably would have been subject to ridicule from classmates. We did do 'meditation' in Area III once.
However, let me blow your mind by mentioning that in Area II, our class was at one point instructed to repeatedly chant the word 'F**k'.
Viewed through this lens, these governor's schools' purpose becomes obvious: they are ideological camps for the elite liberals to propagandize children. The purpose of the schools is to remove the children from outside support systems and then essentially brainwash them with the whole hideous circus of political correctness. They learn to doubt everything that they've been taught about their culture, religion, and nation. And into that doubt is placed a combination of radical relativism and socialist dogma.
Notice also the recurring theme from the kids that they now feel "elite" after what they've learned....and that their old friends and family are "simple" and "superficial". One of the ways which the liberals have propagated their philosophy (esp at the Ivy League universities) is to pose their ideology as much more "sophisticated" than the surrounding country. This has a natural appeal to young people....who like to feel that they are "hip" and "on the cutting edge". Now that they've adpoted this worldview, they rise above all others around and are members of the blessed annointed (Hillary has been caught in this stage of lefty development for several decades).
Frankly, the whole description of these schools reminds me of my freshman orientation at Brown. The liberals have this gig down to a science.
It does now. Here's the site for the North Carolina Governor's School Summer Program. Here's how they describe Area II and Area III:
Area IISounds like the same program that ran in Arkansas in 1992. Sounds like a job for a good investigative reporter. No one is on to these things.
Each student attends another class comprised of students from each of the Area I disciplines. Here students and teachers explore connections between and among these disciplines. As integrative concepts emerge, the class attempts to construct an understanding of contemporary ways of thinking and of the culture that arises from them.
This third class is also comprised of students from each of the Area I disciplines. Here students attempt to ground what they are learning in their Area I and II classes in their own personal experience. Finally, they apply that understanding to their social worlds.
Thanks for your comments so far. More Q's:
What have you heard about the kid who committed suicide?
Had you heard any complaints from parents about their children's behavior after leaving?
Whoa. One mind blown.
I wasn't aware of this angle. I can see how this would be very seductive for high schoolers. I remember how insecure I was at that age and how important positive reinforcement from faculty was to me. It's frightening to remember how utterly naiive I was. There but for the grace of God go I.
It looks to me like they are choosing the best and brightest for indoctrination, the future leaders of our country.
Everyone reading this should be VERY frightened for the future of our country. I wasn't even aware of the exsistance of this school and I venture to say most people aren't.
I saw the video in '92 but thought that the only Governor's School was in Bill Clinton's Arkansas. Apparently, that school was the tip of the iceberg.
To everyone, please e-mail your friends linking them to this thread calling special attention to post #59. It wouldn't hurt to forward this to any reporters that you might know either. This is ripe for an investigative report.
Time for some research.
Personal & Social Dynamics CurriculumIt's tough to read between the lines of this educratese, but this sounds rather ominous to me.
Frank Corley, PSD Coordinator, Missouri Scholars
Academy & other members of MSA faculty and staff "Personal and Social Dynamics" ("PSD") is a curriculum put together by the Missouri Scholars Academy ("MSA") and intended to address a number of key developmental issues that teenagers -- especially ones who are "gifted" -- confront in secondary schools, in families, in communities, and in relationships. The fact that Governor's Schools are "residential" schools, where students are part of virtual families and real communities, and, thanks, in part, to the accepting and tolerant environment established by Governors Schools, become involved in a range of both short-term and long-term relationships -- provides an obvious opportunity to see the immediate contexts of the topics raised in PSD. Key to the success of PSD is the teamwork of a "residential assistant" and a "faculty member" who co-facilitate each portion of the curriculum. This NCoGS session will focus on one typical day from the 2002 MSA PSD curriculum but will also allow audience members to understand the overall curriculum.
"Thanks, in part, to the accepting and tolerant environment established by Governors Schools, [students] become involved in a range of both short-term and long-term relationships -- provid[ing] an obvious opportunity to see the immediate contexts of the topics raised in PSD."
Or, "let's experiment on some kids for fun." Ever wonder why they call these things educational laboratories?
This is news to me; I haven't thought of Governor's School in years.
In 1987, I was nominated by my art teacher to attend NC Governor's School West at Salem College.
I did not make the cut... this makes me glad.
Begin to Share
Name: Daniel Hocutt
What kind of resources are programs developing or considering as a response to the tragedies of September 11 and the ongoing fear that anthrax scares are generating? At the Governor's School for Humanities and Visual & Performing Arts at the University of Richmond, some of the Humanities faculty develop a course last year (2001) called "Head to Head and Worlds Apart." The course examined the question, "What happens when cultures collide?" and studied several cultures and movements, including the Taliban, to foster appreciation for the difficult plight many people experience. They were even able to bring in a teen Afghan regugee to meet with the students and share his horrific experiences. How serendipitous and tragic at the same time! I am working to get a copy of their syllabus available online for others to share.
Here is a copy of the course's description.
"What happens when cultures collide? In this course we will consider the ramifications of cultural contact, conflict, and change through the lens of historical perspective and future projection. We will have the opportunity to come face to face with survivors of cultural clashes from such venues as Afghanistan and West Africa. Through field trips and reading we will look far afield at the tragedy of the Holocaust and reflect upon the legacy of cultural divide within our own country.[!] From contemporary headlines we will select, research, and compile case studies to be presented to a Model World Court."
Nothing to see here. Move along.
Name: Chris Campolo
I think a model world court is an excellent idea for GS. I wonder how to set it up so that we do not receive "rulings" which merely reflect prevailing sentiments (anger and patriotism, here, anyway). Any ideas?
TN Governor's Schools cancelled
Name: Steve Jones
All seven of the Governor's Schools in TN have been cancelled by our Governor due to the politics of fighting over the creation of a state income tax. Some of these schools have been in existence for 18 years. We are looking at a well over $500 million shortfall in state revenues this year. The arts and education were the first to go. The Governor's Schools were cut by the Governor in a $15 million cut to education. You can find out more by checking out the link on our homepage at http://www.gsfta.org. Please stay on top of your state politicians to keep this from happening to you.
I read this article about a month ago at the encouragement of another Freeper. My first reaction was that it sounded like Pol Pot's regime. Very scary indeed!
I know no more than what I have just written, but it seems to me that someone in the schools are identifying who they consider the best and brightest and are indoctrinating them quietly behind closed doors. ALL the parents I know whose children are in these classes are delighted. It is a badge of honor for them, as well it should if we could be sure that no nefarious goal was at work. I happen to think otherwise.
I went to a geography class Tuesday night in a local community college and the professor showed us satellite images proving the probable existence of the Biblical Garden of Eden. I nearly fell out of my chair. Not only did he make his argument with scientific evidence, he started it with the presumption that the Bible is real and literal. I've been in and out of schools for a number of years and this is one of the few times I've ever seen this happen. I had to think what a wonderful lesson this was for the young people in there who had probably consistently been told that there is no absolute truth!
I know the gun I hold at my head is real, and I have the strength to put it down.
Not an amazing poem, but I LOVE these last few lines.
Unfortunatley, many did not have the strength to put down the weapon of mental destruction and took it to its logical conclusion; death.
Heads will roll.
God help them, and us. Very enlightening and unfortunately, depressing.
As I sat in on many classes in our area, I was quite surprised, in this age of policital correctness, how aware teachers were between "ordinary" students and "gifted" ones. Although I'm a conservative who sees differences among people, I felt very uncomfortable at this characterization. Kids tend to live out the expectations handed to them. I only saw one teacher who expressly designed her lesson plans to mirror the advanced content of the courses she once taught at a private school. I was very impressed at the results of her class. She assured me that if you challenge any kids to think and learn, they will (there are always individual exceptions; I'm talking here about the group). Her "ordinary" students gave her the same level of results as did her prior private-school students. I think that's because she expected them to.
This philosophy dates back to the origins of compulsory government education not only in America, but right back to the Prussia of the early 1800s. Fichte, the German atheistic philosopher thought it best to school the "elite" 1% in separate schools which would provide something like a classical education. Another 5% would be trained to be professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.) The remaining 94% were to be prepared for being drones. The curriculum for these children was designed to actually diminish their intellectual abilities. Especially important was the goal of diminishing an interest in self-education. Preventing them from reading was the key. The technique to accomplish this? Whole language.
The absolutely stunning history is outlined in John Taylor Gatto's The Underground History of American Education
I forgot to mention that the first eight chapters are available to read now on-line. Click on the link above. The chapters dealing with whole language are included in the available chapters.
Another good book for information regarding the origins of whole language is Sam Blumenfeld's "NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education." Gatto's history seems to be more extensive though.
I'll condense what I read from Gatto and Blumenfeld.
Sight reading is appropriate for languages like Chinese where pictures represent words. Phonics is appropriate for languages like ours in which letters represent sounds.
"Sight reading" has been promoted by advocates for the reasons you mention it avoids the drudgery of flashcards and learning letter sounds. The drawback is that it is a very bad paradigm for deciphering unknown words. There is no way for someone who has learned to sight read only to "sound out" previously unencountered words. The resulting frustration leads to anger, despair at reading and an association of reading with pain. This is the effect that whole language advocates like Dewey desired. His goal for youngsters was two-fold, to encourage children to work together to guess at the meaning of words and to limit the ability of the child to read, and hence learn, by himself.
There is a marked correlation between whole language instruction and declining literacy rates wherever it has forced out phonics instruction. Perhaps the most notable example is the decline in reading ability of American GI's from the 30's to the 50's and the drop in California test scores ten or twenty years ago when whole language was implemented statewide. Check out Gatto for his sources.
Did you know that dyslexics can't learn phonetic reading, and that is their main reading roadblock? So, there are two groups who benfit from sight reading, visual learners and learning disabled.
I've read the opposite. From what I've read, the "brain pattern" testing that was performed decades ago and upon which that conclusion is drawn is wrong, but has become textbook orthodoxy.
In my school district (along time ago), a classical education was the goal for everyone. Rather than condemning some to a lesser education, you had to opt out. Up to five years of Latin was offered and advanced classes were open to anyone who was interested. The school scored in the top ten in country on Iowa tests.
The history of American government education is very tangled and there are many threads running through it. On one hand you have the elitist/dumbing down vision of Horace Mann, The Columbia Teacher's College, Thorndike, and Dewey. On the other hand you have the classical approach that has its origins in grassroots American self-education and religious instruction. The origins of compulsory education in the 18th century are an incoherent mixture of Protestantism, Hegelianism, Unitarianism, socialism, social Darwinism, and psychology.
The influence of Protestantism declined linearly from the early 1900s through the Supreme Court decision banning school prayer in the mid-1960s when the schools became the exclusive domain of humanists, socialists and psychologists.
That explains why you could still receive a classical education "a long time ago."
Give Gatto a read. You won't be disappointed.
I never thought of my learning style, but I do try to visual things to draw upon knowledge. I also try to "see" a text in my mind. Thank you. Very, very interesting!
My experience confirms this. At age four my first daughter learned to read competently (could independently handle short Dr. Seuss books) after about 30 hours of teaching (1/2 hour a day for two months) with Blumenfeld's book, Aphaphonics. My second daughter was even faster, learning in about twenty hours. But she was 4-1/2.
Both already knew their letter sounds from watching Sesame Street.
Sounds like a great topic. You're dead on. That's why euphemisms are so important. Language doesn't directly, mechanically determine thought, but it heavily influences thought and most importantly seems to set up boundaries over which the formed mind is reluctant to cross.
The answer to the last question is a resounding yes. Gatto covers some of that territory too.