Trials . . . and Homeschooling?!
TruthQuest History, Children’s Preservation Library
doing this homeschool thing?
think if God could, He would grab each of us by the shoulders, look deeply into
our eyes, and press into us His earnest answer to that question! Let Him do
that now. Still your weary mind, open your yearning heart to His leading, and
listen to a story . . .
boy was born in March 1906. His mother died before his tenth birthday. His father
was a soldier and a miner. Young Adolf
(not the one you’re thinking of) never did graduate from high school but
instead helped at the mine and worked as a mechanic and traveling salesman. A
friend suggested he join a rising political group with career opportunities.
Adolf Eichmann was eventually promoted through the ranks, becoming a top SS
official in Nazi Germany. He directed the imprisonment, torture, and
extermination of millions of Jews, determinedly working toward his boss’s
the fall of Hitler, the victorious Allied armies hunted this notorious war
criminal, but the soldiers who arrested him under a false name did not realize
he was Eichmann and thus took no special measures to hold him. The mass
murderer was able to escape, hiding first in Germany and then in Italy. Some
priests helped him get Red Cross paperwork for Argentina, and he eventually
blended into Buenos Aires society.
he wasn’t the only European who moved to Argentina after the war. So did a
Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivor who had suffered under Eichmann, and whose
daughter had unknowingly—due to an alias—befriended Eichmann’s son. When her
father discerned the man’s true identity, Israeli intelligence swooped in,
smuggled Eichmann out of Argentina, and set him before the world in a dramatic
Jerusalem trial (1961), eventually hanging him.
that trial, many expected to see on the witness stand a crazed killer, a
flailing megalomaniac. Eichmann was, after all, a mass murderer! Millions died unspeakable deaths, the ovens and gas
chambers were busy, at his hands! He oversaw the herding of humans into those
awful trains . . . and was not moved to guilt or compassion, not even when all
was recounted during the trial!
the world saw, instead, was a commonplace man—he looked like anyone’s balding
uncle—who had most recently been an Argentine factory foreman, daily riding the
bus to and from work and bringing flowers to his wife on their recent
twenty-fifth anniversary. In other words, he was ordinary.
he deny the heinous crimes? No, he only denied guilt, because he was merely
“following orders.” This was the same alibi given by Nazi war criminals at the
earlier Nuremberg trials and now called the “Nuremberg Defense.” (A powerful
film on this topic, Judgment at Nuremberg, stars Spencer Tracy.)
Jewish website1 I checked claimed Eichmann was not even
anti-Semitic, just bureaucratic. He was, in his mind, simply a good citizen
going with the national flow. This morally exempted him, he felt.
German-Jewess and political theorist, Hannah Arendt, who had escaped to
America, witnessed and wrote about Eichmann’s trial . . . and this is what we
want to specifically consider as homeschoolers. “She coined a phrase, ‘the
banality of evil’ to describe Eichmann,” explaining that it stems from
“thoughtlessness—the tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to
mass opinion without critically thinking about the results of their action or
the Psalmist would say . . . Selah! Stop and think what this means! Most
people assume that such blind, unthinking obedience as Eichmann’s, such a
personal disconnect from moral responsibility, could happen only under duress
and to someone else somewhere else, such as in Nazi Germany
under the spell of an orator like Hitler, during the post-World War I chaos
that helped him grasp power.
Is it rare for people to do automatically and unthinkingly what their culture
teaches them . . . in the glaring face
of common sense, the lessons of history, and God’s own truth? Or is it common?
Is it so common that we do it ourselves (even in our parenting and homeschools)
without realizing it?
already know the answer in my own life, but that doesn’t carry much weight.
Let’s look instead at the unforgettable experiment—triggered by Eichmann’s
trial—carried out by an American professor who wondered the same. Dr. Milgram
asked local volunteers to “help with important memory studies” by “testing”
people’s recall. They would be “teachers” and give electrical shocks to
“learners” who failed to remember correctly. However, the “teachers” were the real subjects of the experiment, because
the “learners” were part of the setup. They only pretended to forget and then
pretended to feel painful shocks.
stunning and disconcerting result of the experiment was that most ordinary townsfolk kept right on
administering ever-stronger shocks—even a deathly 450-volt blast—over the
pleading cries of the “learners,” their fellow townspeople! Why? Because they were calmly told to do so by a single man in a lab coat.
“teachers” had no grudge. They’d never been harmed by the “learners.” They’d
never even met! Nor did the “learners” act or look threatening. Yet, the
“teachers” were willing to torture and possibly kill these innocent
neighbors—right before them—all so they could avoid resisting the program and
could gain approval from the scientist! They wanted to be sure they hadn’t
become noticeable by rocking the boat, so they did not analyze the difference between their beliefs and their actions.
“teachers”—like Eichmann—were ordinary. They had not earlier been killers. But
once the “expert scientist” endorsed a “plan,” it easily overpowered their own moral beliefs! And this occurred back
in the 1960s, when the United States was more characterized by Judeo-Christian
if we have long wondered why so many ordinary
German people (when there were churches in every town square and the German
education system was considered academically successful) hunted their Jewish
neighbors, helped load the trains, and fired up the gas chambers . . .
we have long noted that Hitler would have been just a lonely maniac if millions
of people had not cooperated with him . . .
we must also ask how average American
townsfolk (in Milgram’s experiment) could believe they were electrocuting their
neighbors, and continued to do so, under the influence of a single, soft-spoken
it is common, then, to succumb to an “expert with a plan,” we should also ask ourselves if we have unwittingly allowed
our current post-Christian culture to tell us “how things are done.” Every day,
the confident “talking heads” sell us their latest cure-alls and super-systems.
example, who has defined “education” for us? Have we—without
thinking—duplicated the educational methods, locations, goals, schedules, and
philosophies of the world around us? Or have we really pressed into God for His definition of education?
pre-World War German schools may have looked
impressive, but John Gatto says they were actually designed to inhibit deep
thinking, instead implying that an abundance of academic factoids was true
education.3 This was a passive education, not an active one. It
promoted the culture’s own values, rather than showing through every academic subject that God’s truths alone free and
prosper mankind. Hopefully, this is not the style of your children’s education,
for when the German population was asked to passively accept Hitler’s cruel
extremes, many did so. They were unthinking clay in the hands of the “experts.”
who has defined “family life” for us? Who said that Father and Mother and
Children should be separated all day? What does the nature of all aspects of our daily lives,
finances, entertainment, politics, time investments, etc., reveal about the
influences we accept?
good news is that once we—the lovers of the Lord—lock onto His truths, we hold
to them relentlessly. Let’s just be sure to probe His principles for parenting
and education too! We cannot be Eichmann-like ourselves, even if that is human
nature. We cannot passively and unthinkingly apply the same secular educational
method we experienced as students. We cannot be, like Eichmann, mere
“bureaucrats” in our homeschools, mindlessly enforcing the secular goals of our
and I have a mighty purpose! We are called to raise children whose spiritual
and academic education is totally God-defined and unique to each family. We
have all day, every day, and every “subject” to reveal the Lord so powerfully
to our kids that they can withstand the subtle authority of the culture, but we
must do so first . . .
veteran homeschooler, founder/operator of a large homeschool library, columnist
for a homeschooling magazine, and speaker on education/history, including
interviews on Moody Radio’s Prime Time America
program. Her history curriculum, TruthQuest
History, is one of Cathy Duffy’s 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum
and has won numerous awards (www.TruthQuestHistory.com).
Michelle earned a B.A., summa cum laude,
from the University of Alabama. She
and John have four children and five cute grandsons!
Gatto, John. “Confederacy of Dunces.” Complete publication details of this
article unknown; I was handed a photocopy that did not include citations.
author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool
families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com
or read it on the go and download the free TOS apps
to read the magazine on your Kindle Fire or Apple or Android devices.
How many times have I known (in my mind) what is going on around me in my everyday life, but I don’t really know or recognize these things in my heart? What exactly am I doing here in our home… and why?
Have [I]—without thinking—duplicated the educational methods, locations, goals, schedules, and philosophies of the world around [me]? Or have[I] really pressed into God for His definition of education?
What does the nature of all aspects of our daily lives, finances, entertainment, politics, time investments, etc., reveal about the influences we accept [as a family]?
After viewing this article/movie a few years ago, I reevaluated many of the things I do and why I do them. But it was time to be reminded and critically analyze my thoughts and actions once again.
My goal? To actively engage my mind – and my heart – in my actions and words.
And now here I am… realizing my even greater need to lean on God’s grace, guidance, wisdom, and strength in all that I do.