Strange Fire

The normal life of a movement/organization like this, the homeschool movement, is 25 years. Organizational theory tells us that we are in the status quo phase moving to the decline stage. At this point, we have more invested in the infrastructure of the movement than we should. We are after profits to pay for our substantial investments in the institution. I say this with no prejudice. For profit and not for profit–all are forced to hustle to make ends meet. This quells the prophetic spirit and invites sensational–to use homeschool patriarch Steve Lambert’s word “strange fire.” We have to draw the masses so we invite the dilettante, the unusual, the opinionated to fill our keynotes. The purpose is to invite more people and pay the bills. Period. This sort of thing ultimately generates a sort of mediocrity on one hand and outright heresy on the other. We see this in our penchant to promote Doug Phillips and David Barton, the latter, especially, curry favoring to our monolithic vision of everything. This is normal. Richard Hofstadter, a historian, warns us that in a democracy leadership often moves to the mediocre and existential, instead of the confessional. For instance, can you imagine ugly Abraham Lincoln being elected to the presidency today? Ironically, in our pursuit of the sensational, the generalists, people like myself–with the most credentials and education–are often frozen out of the mix. I have rarely been asked to be a keynote because I discipline myself to presenting the facts, not hazy inflammatory conjecture. Facts, let’s face it, bore most people. So . . . what next? We must regain a prophetic, confessional (vs. existential) voice. We must return to squeaky clean excellence in everything we do. Unless the movement can regain this, we might very well sink into the social history cesspool, and be an interesting footnote that historians mention. I repeat: this is a fish or cut bait moment: either we discipline ourselves and stop promoting aberrant “strange fire” speakers or we disappear as a major sociological, culture-changing force in the next few decades.

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