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
The upshot of this is that the "Governor's School" described here is the educational dream school of both Bill and Hilary Clinton. This is what they and the educational elite have in mind for your children.
The Arkansas Governor's School was immortalized in the video "The Guiding Hand" the transcript of which is available here.
Please feel free to post other exerpts from the testimonies collected here.
I, personally, have experienced something similar to this as well. As any young person would, as soon as I arrived at Governor's School during the summer of 1983, I began to make friends. Because of the immediate attacks upon our religious beliefs, it was not long before I knew the religious faith of my friends, as well as some of their strong convictions. I had friends who were of many different religious backgrounds and some who professed no faith of any kind. Many of then in the first week had told me of their personal faith the God of the Bible, the authority of the written Old and New Testament, and their belief in life after death in either "heaven or hell". After approximately three weeks of anti-Christian propaganda, the majority of my friends had totally changed their whole moral system and world view. Those who had not totally converted to an atheistic, anti-Christian philosophy told me that they were no longer sure of their religious beliefs. I must say that for a few I questioned some of my beliefs as well. I honestly dont know what you would call an attempt to change the value system of over three hundred children in three weeks, except brainwashing.
One incident has remained very clear in my mind because it was so upsetting to me. We had watched a movie of raw footage of Nazi concentration camps and the varied forms of torture and killing and uses of the Jews dead bodies that took place during War World II. The footage was horrific especially for me as a sixteen year old. Later that same day we were told to divide into groups at various locations in order to have group discussions led by an instructor. I was involved in a discussion that took place in the foyer of Rainey Hall led by an man who was not one of my regular teachers. He reminded us of the film we had viewed earlier in the day and asked the question, "If there is an all-loving God, why does He allow things like this to happen? I was the only child in the whole room who would stand up to this man. Before the discussion was over some of the students, who two weeks earlier had professed Christian beliefs, were in my face yelling that there was no god and there was no way there could be one. It is very clear that the curriculum of the program is intended to bring about these results. It is also maliciously discriminating against those who profess orthodox Jewish or orthodox Christian beliefs. It is also apparent that the instructors influence was causing students to persecute each other.
Sounds kinda Maoist to me. Gotta love those rascally Clintons. Gov. Bill Clinton said "it would be impossible for me to describe to you just how exciting & unusual this education adventure is." According to one student who attended the Governor's School, Hillary Clinton talked about converting the schools (public schools) into something similar to the Governor's School.
They're all over the country. I typed in "Governor's School" and found respectable sounding math/technical schools. But I also saw personal horror stories from kids on their home pages. One was of the NC Governor's School.
Apparently they're run by the state board of ed. Be very wary. It wouldn't hurt to talk to alumni. Maybe you could ask for an alumni list?
This bears repeating:
Gov. Bill Clinton said "it would be impossible for me to describe to you just how exciting & unusual this education adventure is." According to one student who attended the Governor's School, Hillary Clinton talked about converting the schools (public schools) into something similar to the Governor's School.
Look out New Yorkers! Apparently Bill is interested in becoming mayor.
Q: Did she call you while she was at the Governor's School.
A: Yes. We talked while she was at the Governor's School. She would call. We were very close to her. We started working with Fran because of her suicidal tendencies when she was in the 10th or11th grade. My wife first found out she had suicidal tendencies. She became very close to us. She talked to us off and on mostly as a result of our initiation of us contacting her during the AGS. It's been so long ago now that I forget a lot of it.
There was a lot of existentialism offered to them. I remember one of the debates that really got her into an uproar was whether or not homosexuality was right. Things that are contrary to Judeo Christian morals & values. Basically being thrown up as an alternative lifestyle type of thing. And basically whether anyone could judge right or wrong (NO ABSOLUTES). That's basically what I remember from our conversation.
After it was over, most of our conversation took place about what she was exposed to at Governor's School. Just trying to balance she had been exposed to at the Governor's School.
Q: How much difference did you see in her?
A: The big difference that I saw was that she questioned her faith a awful lot after Governor's School. It was almost as if the experience of the Governor's School destroyed her faith.
It took her several years after that to work through and I'm not sure she ever got back to the point to where she was before Governor's School.
"No absolutes" seems to be a recurring theme.
Unfortunately the flattery of the invitation seems to have clouded some parents' minds.
The first week there, my son was given, as were all of the boys in his area, the book Lies, Secrets, and Silence by Adrienne Rich, an avowed lesbian poet. The instructor's rationale was that the boys "needed to become familiar with a woman's perspective on life." From that point on, the curriculum became a constant assault on the values and beliefs of many on the students there. The other general text students used contained essays that were absolutely depraved, in my opinion. Of the ten or twelve featured speakers in my son's area, only two held relatively moderate Philosophical viewpoints. The rest promoted views as controversial as militant feminism, homosexual rights, multiculturalism, unlimited abortion rights, radical environmentalism, and the radical animal rights movement. Not once, in my son's area, did they have even one speaker that supported patriotism, the Church, the value of the family, or any other set of ideas that might have conflicted with AGS agenda of political correctness.
I actually saw the video that was distributed by hand just before the 1992 election. I wanted to scream I was so furious. I wanted to wretch every time someone said that they were going to vote for Clinton. And for some strange reason 20/20 and 60 Minutes never picked up this explosive video.
The video is far worse. I don't know where they got the clips from, but there were segments showing half-naked kids dressed up in "war paint" dancing around a room. It was kind of like one of those trance/dance club things.
Q. How soon after attending the school did you notice the change in behavior?
Immediately. When he came home he didn't want to go to church with us. In October or November was the incident when we found him in the bed room sitting on his bed with his belt around his neck. He had never displayed any kind of stuff like that. He said, "Mom, you would be surprised how many kids have committed suicide who went to Governors School."
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