All God's Children
January 30, 2012 12:40 PM   Subscribe

The Beardslee, Shellrude and Darr families left North America for West Africa during the 1950s. They followed what they believed to be “God’s Calling” – to spread Christianity throughout the world. Their children however - starting at the age of 6 – were required to attend the boarding school in Mamou, Guinea, run by the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Cut off from their families for 9 months out of the year and without any reliable means of communication, the children quietly suffered emotional, spiritual, physical and/or sexual abuse at the hands of the all-missionary staff. All God’s Children tells the personal story of the first boarding school for children of missionaries to be investigated for abuse at the hands of the parents’ missionary colleagues. The survivors and parents share their journey of seeking justice, redemption and healing.

Note: The YouTube videos play fine. The other copies are extremely slow for me.
posted by PeterMcDermott (9 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Incredible that parents do not realize that raising their children themselves IS their vocation. Anything else is less important , and can wait until the kids are grown.
posted by Cranberry at 12:46 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Grr. Here's a link to the YouTube pieces. Should have probably gone into the main post, but whatevs.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:50 PM on January 30, 2012

Ugh. I just want to run home and hug my kids right now.
posted by The Giant Squid at 1:31 PM on January 30, 2012

Oh, holy crap. I went to Alliance Academy as a missionary kid in Ecuador in the early '90s. To this day, I had no idea it was related to this.

We did have dorms, but I remember a pretty good educational experience for those involved. Lots of oil brats with teenage angst, and socially backward, naive children of ministers (me). I don't think the angst or awkwardness was much more than normal American-style youthfulness, though.

I really, seriously hope there were no wrongdoings in those dorms.
posted by functionequalsform at 2:54 PM on January 30, 2012

Cranberry, I don't think I have ever seen someone make such a sweeping blanket statement against all boarding schools. Or am I misinterpreting the point you were making (always highly possible with me)?
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:30 PM on January 30, 2012

Incredible that parents do not realize that raising their children themselves IS their vocation. Anything else is less important , and can wait until the kids are grown.

As a missionary kid who went to boarding school I can tell you the education I got there was far, far superior to what I would have gotten had I stayed at home and gone to the local school. Not all boarding schools are the cesspool described in the link. And while I'm quite proud of the educational work my parents were doing, elementary and secondary education was not their forté.
posted by Runes at 5:03 PM on January 30, 2012

Sidhedevil: I don't know about Cranberry, but I also think it's peculiar to want to have children, so that you can hand them over to somebody else to raise for nine months of the year, because you consider something else to be more important than your responsibility to love and care for them.

That doesn't say anything at all about the quality of the boarding school itself, or the quality of the education that a child can get there. In the UK, we've got a long tradition of using them as high pressure feeder schools for Oxford and Cambridge. If you aspire to a place in the ruling class for your kid, then sending him to Eton or Rugby is a pretty good start to the process.

But I don't think there can be any doubt that the majority of children are traumatized by the process of seperation from their family at an early age, for months and months on end. Perhaps the process of having gone through that yourself inures you to the pain your children are likely to suffer, but it's hardly the instinctive thing to do.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:23 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't have kids, and I didn't go to boarding school, so I've got no skin in this game.

I do know lots of people who went to boarding school who found it to be a very positive experience. I wonder if there's any data on this out there?
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:44 PM on January 30, 2012

We're talking about a problem to do with the age at which the children start: if you send a 6 year old or younger to boarding school, that's inherently traumatic, period. Indeed, raising kids 0-3 in orphanages is no longer permitted in the vast majority of the world because data shows that it is fundamentally damaging to brain development if an infant doesn't have one or two consistent, devoted caregivers who basically love them uniquely.

Shift workers in orphanages for infants—even the best ones—simply can't replicate normal parenting. And while 6 is definitely older than 3, it's probably not old enough to take a child away from his parents for months at a time in an institutional setting.

In contrast, sending a high school student to a good boarding school isn't inherently traumatic.

Residential institutions, however, by their very nature are prone to child abuse. When you've got vulnerable people under the absolute power of people who are not their families and who do not have ways to communicate with the outside world, you've got a recipe for abuse for at least two reasons. The first is that absolute power corrupts and that institutional environments create abuse if the checks and balances and regulation of power is not done right. This has been shown over and over and over in everything from research like the Stanford Prison Experiment to repeated abuse scandals at every form of residential institution for vulnerable people (children, elderly, mentally ill, disabled, etc.) ever created.

Second, residential institutions for children attract child abusers for the same reason banks attract robbers: it's where they can find lots of what they want.
posted by Maias at 3:26 PM on January 31, 2012

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