Getting On : Education
from Cultinvator - Monday, February 17, 2003
accessed 1609 times
Getting Smarter and Making It Pay!
by Jonathan Jan 30, 2003
CHOOSING BETWEEN COLLEGE OR CULT- WHY BOTH WERE UNLIKELY
Want Higher Education?
Getting Smarter and Making It Pay!
My experience as an ex-Family member
trying to make college work.
It’s hardly necessary to explain why taking college classes or working for a degree has virtually been impossible for Charter Members of the Family, unless they find some major excuse as to why taking a class might work for the group to in some way achieve its strictly-defined religiously-oriented goals. Even then, as a member born in the group it was difficult for me to get my previous Home members to vote on such an issue as the possibility of outside education, being that the Family’s literature was considered “all that one really has to know”.
As far as Family history is concerned, the idea that Joe Blow or Jane Doe could get their Home’s voting approval from even a simple majority of the population to grant him/her the time out of cleaning bathrooms, fund-raising, proselytizing, office work, childcare or shepherding, to “waste away” at some superficial “self-gratifying” pursuit such as a certificate, associate—much less a bachelor or masters—degree, so far as I experienced up till the date that I left, December, 2000, is just unheard of.
Ever since I turned 18 and I began to develop critical skills, the thought of education and academic mastery was too big an issue to ignore, so I tried to find a way to convince my fellow members that education is the key to greater achievement, even in a religious sense. I had brought this up time and again from Home to Home, and the stream of answers given were not too different from one Family Home to the next. Responses were rarely positive towards the idea. They varied in degrees of hostility, but were never fully positive. At best, responses were skeptical. Even my friends saw the idea as non-functional and unpractical to the lifestyle. There were too many stereotypes built up against the idea of higher education. Like most stereotypes some of the criticisms were true. Higher education may involve learning information not directly useful to the student or the student’s goals, or as they like to call it, head stuffing.
Another concern is the idea that one’s values are adulterated or tainted by strong opposing ideas in an open-minded democratic environment. One cannot be a Family member without being a Christian and one has to acknowledge that the founder and present leadership are legitimate spiritual leaders who hear from an unquestionable Deity, (Jesus Christ, God, the Holy Ghost, and so forth) Yet the reason that most in the group stayed away from the idea of going to school was due to the arbitrary stance imposed in the group’s foundational literature, which is of course written by the founder, David Berg.
The Family’s constitutional book, the Love Charter had negative overtones concerning the issue of education as well, being that it too reflected the founder’s opinion, which to most members is mostly taken as a “fundamental revealed prophetic truth” not to be questioned. To most of my co-workers it just seemed too costly an effort of the Home to grant a member like me the consideration of sharing my precious “Home Resource Hours” to engage in such a self-enriching experience, being that full-time volunteer man hours are the group’s standard currency and vital budget. Our time was not considered our own, but was for the schedule managers to arrange and distribute according to voted goals based on the movement’s religious pattern of thinking. To think that I could be able to cut my “obligatory religious work hours” in half and be able to spend most of my time enriching myself in skills without somehow bringing in God, converting souls, or contributing money to the group, seemed too distant an ideal for me to fathom most of my teen life in the group.
I feel it’s necessary to explain some of the reasons why most Family people don’t go to college, as well as the circumstances that prevent members from pursuing higher education while remaining in the group. I was at a position where I probably had more freedom in my Service Home at the Family Care Foundation, than anyone would in a regular Field Home, being that the President, Grant Montgomery, is also one of the 3 top leaders of the group. So basically his opinion and decisions had a good amount of weight re: the issues brought up to be considered in voting sessions. This was due to the advantage he had in the process of interpretation of the Family literature, rules and views discussed, being that he lived with the founder for so long.
From my time at FCF it appeared to me that the management there felt somewhat paranoid of being linked to the group, The Family. This was because of all the bad rap the group gets from those who left on bad terms, and even though I continue to have friendships in the group, including Grant and his wife and children, I don’t feel intimidated by their desire to keep the Foundation and group separate. It doesn’t take a degree in sociology to note that if every volunteer and paid worker at the Foundation is a member of the Family that the Family Care Foundation is intrinsically connected or at least manned by its members, therefore reflecting its views and ideals to some degree. At the least one would agree that the group’s goals are furthered through the charitable function and established system.
I’m not here to say whether the organization or its members are right or wrong. Some people like religion, some don’t, some people like closed social orders such as monasteries, military agencies, and cults, others can’t stand them. No one is forced to remain in The Family and I was not an exception. I was able to convey the desire for me to go to school and so I requested a grant from the Family Care Foundation and I received it. I even managed to get a letter from Grant (my boss at the time) stating that I lived and worked in the Foundation for room and board and therefore had no financial income to report on my income statement, which brings me to the next stage in my life: the departure from the group, and initial registration process which helped materialize the dream I had of studying what I wanted to study and beginning the process towards being the person I chose to be.
THE DEPARTURE - REGISTERING AT A COMMUNITY COLLEGE
I can still remember the night when I decided to do something drastic about going to college. In the previous months and years, in previous Homes, I had tried and appealed the issue politely to my overseers several times, through what I thought were the right channels. To no avail. That night was the eve of 2000. I got on the Internet and watched the digital imagery of video chatters in Australia jumping up and down as they affirmed that the clock had ticked and no catastrophe was apparent and the Y2K glitch had not paralyzed our life, and the world as we knew it was not at an end. I realized at that point how much of my life had been based on fear of the unknown. And might I reiterate, that so far as is apparent, really in most cases the future is unknown, a blank slate.
It then dawned on me how much influence my decisions have had a play on my destiny. It now appears to me that believing in the concept that our life is a planned-out, organized set of events is just a self-fulfilling prophecy. It grows into our subconscious and forces our frame of mind into such a pattern as to make us conform to a set of principles that are not necessarily innate or built in. This to me was refreshing, it’s like I found a new way to look at hope. No longer through the idea that if I fit into a set of beliefs I might find grace to mold myself into a religion and then attain favor in the sight of a Deity and religion—therewith benefiting from a set of rewards for having kissed up to “The Plan” or canon of beliefs. That was the only type of hope I had been conditioned to embrace.
No, the type of hope I’m referring to is a different type of hope. It’s the kind that tells me that if I use my resources I can achieve freedom and joys based on my own value system. I can be the one to decide what is joy, satisfaction, good and self respect. My life is like a movie and I am the director. I don’t have to base my story on a book written several thousand years ago by people I don’t know. I get to pick my friends for being people that I connect with, not just people that connect to the cause of a same religion. I get to pick the skills I want to enhance, they don’t have to please some idea of a deity out in the sky. This is my set of beliefs, might I clarify. Not that I believe every religious person is in a state of self denial. Many choose to express themselves through the more defined system, and that’s their prerogative. In any case I made it a decision to start making my own decisions and began the process towards achieving my own goals based on what I felt was best for me.
I worked at FCF so there was a merge of The Family structure with corporate structure. I still had shepherds and leaders to answer to about spiritual issues and my manager to answer to about work-related issues. My manager was a lot more knowledgeable about business-related issues than the average Family member so I felt confident that I could discuss the issue of education lightly without feeling hostility or some kind of insinuation against attending classes or the concept of working towards a degree. I asked him if he felt that his success today in setting up this Foundation was largely credited to his exposure to formal education at the university he attended before he joined. I wanted to get his view on the issue before putting out the question flatly as to whether he felt that I might benefit from that environment for the good of the Foundation’s growth.
It was hard to ignore the correlation between his success and his background. People are just not born with business skills, and they’re not downloaded through spiritual revelation. So his answer was affirmative in part. He said that although a lot of his experiences and input from attending university had a part to play, he believed that most of it came through trial and error as well as the extensive research he and other had done through reading and speaking to experts and counselors regarding the establishment of the non-profit organization.
He said that he felt that most of that education was a waste of time. That some of it was useful but that most teachers really did drill in a lot of useless and irrelevant concepts that were no help in his present life. The term he used concerning his feelings about teachers at his university was that they “didn’t know their X’s from a hole in the ground,” that most of them are just head stuffers who put on a great show for the students and for the governments who provide their salary, but that most of his teachers really didn’t know what they were talking about—and that in general it was a waste of time.
He did mention that there are some isolated exceptions to this outlook and that there were a lot of classes out there that were useful if taken individually. He said that in his opinion all the years and work, as well as money involved in pursuing a degree were just not worth it for Family workers at the Foundation. When I asked whether he felt that a long term investment of helping some of the workers at the Foundation earn their degree might enhance the general success of the work there, this was his answer.
The second reason he gave, I believe was a more honest one. In this answer I felt that he was being more realistic and less political about the whole higher education issue. His reasoning was that being that most members were temporary volunteers in the Foundation; much like is the case in the majority of Family Homes, so that type of investment would just not be practical being that there would be no assurance that the person trained would remain at the Foundation. So the consensus concerning that issue was that attending a course or two would be the most the Home could sponsor for the Foundation’s members. It makes sense that being that no one is paid a wage in The Family, (at least one that is substantial, or that is not requested by the community for common potting) labor hours are the prime currency of that type of lifestyle. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that a substantial investment would be a conflict of interests with no guarantee of return to the community, or in my case, to the Foundation’s long-term productivity.
At that point I made it clear to them and myself that I could no longer work for them and that I would branch out into a pioneer Home to try to bargain with other Family members for a setting where the community could benefit from my part-time labor, financial contribution, and in turn tolerate my controversial educational endeavors. I had contributed over a year of my labor to the Foundation and a lifetime to the group so I felt like it was not out of place for me to request a grant towards my educational goal. And amazingly enough it was granted. I knew the Foundation operated on a low overhead budget and I wasn’t about to expect a $5000 donation. But the $600 that I got was a big help in the purchasing of books for my first semester. So as soon as I gave the Home my notice I signed up for admissions at the nearest major community college, City College in San Diego, CA. During the next 3 months I trained the next person along in the accounting principals that I had learned and began to contact a number of friends to find one who would be interested in opening a new Home in the area.
I took a trip with little avail to my relatives in the Midwest, begging for some help in getting me on my educational path, but I was too distant physically and emotionally to expect too much of a response. And may I add that any effort or act that contributes to helping someone to get on their feet and through college is never wasted. If that person gets through college and makes it into a successful career I believe that that person will always be indebted to those who helped him/her. If that person ends up raking in the cash, unless he/she is a cold hearted self-centered jerk, those who helped will not be lacking appreciation and gifts. At least that’s how I look at the world, nothing is forever lost when it is given, it truly is kept in the heart of others.
So, back to my story. I began making those decisions that later proved to be the cornerstones of my life as an independent free thinker. One of my old friends from when I used to live in Brazil happened to be moving to San Diego to get away from a strenuous break-up from her ex and I needed a breakup from my ex-life. We shared rent on an apartment in North San Diego County and I began commuting downtown almost daily. On the days I stayed home, I’d help out with dinner or the chores and we all raised our support on the weekends. How we raised our support? Well, not too differently from the majority of Homes in this part of the world: through children entertainment activities and fund-raising parties. These usually involved balloon sculpture, face painting, and sometimes other party-like entertainment activities. In fact that’s still what I do. The main benefit to this job is that it frees up the week for the serious long-term endeavors, which in my case has been going to school—which pops in the new topic: admissions to a city college.
THE ADMISSIONS PROCESS
I had no idea at first if I was even able to enter a college and begin to take classes. All I had was a GED, and I didn’t know if colleges accepted that piece of paper. I hardly even knew what a GED was for. Four years earlier I had just followed the group of teens into doing one at the Tampa Community, when someone thought it might impress the sponsors that we did endorse some type of educational plan. (Of which a GED is hardly an accurate portrayal, much less a proof.) But I felt the inclination to give it a try anyhow. If only for the sole purpose of getting a better idea of where I would eventually arrive regardless of my present position. Anyway, in the long run it didn't matter, after all my decision to educate myself was final!
So I managed to get a driver in the community to give me a ride to the college. I had to get public transportation halfway back though! (Where I was going wasn’t exactly considered a priority to the Work. Heh!) To my surprise, after entering into the Admittance Building, after naively getting directions from a student standing by on how to “join a college”, I found the process of admittance quite straight forward. Not any harder than filling out a multi-page reaction to one of the instructional MO Letters after our faithfully-attended spiritual devotions.
They admitted me but told me that if I wanted to work towards some type of degree that I would have to take a college placement test. This test was not to evaluate whether I was eligible for college. This test was intended to place students at a compatible level. Anything above total academic illiteracy would do. So it proved to be the case for me. I was placed at pre-algebra status. Pretty much at the place where the GED stops testing. (There were no algebra questions in the GED test I took.) I basically placed at a mathematical level of a 14 or 15 year old, depending on what part of the world one lives in. I had taken my GED at the age of 19, four years earlier.
I did better in English though, probably from all the writing and reporting we were used to doing, from the standard set of requirements. I’m not at all complaining, after all things do work together for good eventually. Right? And as far as history goes, or other elementary sciences are concerned there was very little of that in the GED test and this college placement exam reflected nothing more than the need to test the 3 basic elementary abilities of reading, writing and arithmetic. The 3 “revolutionary R’s” as they used to call it in early days. (After all, a good part of Americans hardly know where New York city is located on the map, much less the names of all the American presidents.) Hey, but who cares anyhow!
My joy was not in wanting to be able to quote every formula in physics or be able to name every major politician in reverse chronological order from the period of the cradle of civilization to present. I wanted to have the freedom to randomly listen to all the major philosophies of life and compare them to my set of ideas and see if I could grow as a humanist, a free thinker. I wanted to grow spiritually and think independently enough to jump out of my “2-by-2 psychological fish bowl of perceptions”—which I was conditioned to believe to be place where the will of God is manifest in our modern day and age. Our founder's writings portrayed the group as being the purest and safest place to be without question or doubt, or what some in the group liked to call the place of highest blessing in the eyes of Jesus our Savior.
In this self-appointing group they liked to call themselves the “elite called -out army” who would partake at the Lord’s table in the day of redemption, commonly known as the second coming, the end of this “sinful, and perverse” life as we know it, which, according to our “spiritually sexy” prophet is manipulated by a very rich group of antichrists conspiring at every moment along with spiritual demons to turn man against “HIM” the Almighty who loves us enough to make any sin punishable by hell and damnation if we don’t accept his “humble” yet exclusive SON. Whoooooah, Such a sudden burst of contradictions. Gosh, I can hardly believe how I lacked in noticing such a basic manipulation of ideas and obvious pattern of political spins of circular reasoning, or at best, a trend of fallacious assumptions.
I know that many Christians don’t venerate themselves with such an overly exclusive arrogance, to the point where hateful simplistic ideas get people hurt or demonized. Although, I see people from every culture and background express this overzealous vibe to some degree, which in turn manifests culturally-centric behavior. It was considered a normal day-to-day spiritually strengthening experience to read verses from our founder’s text books whose thesis implied that religions or independent ideas different from ours (such as homosexuality or the pursuit for secular academic ambitions) were not only unacceptable but intolerable in the sight of God and fundamentally a distortion of God’s plan.
In any case, as my vision and goals began to materialize, I began to feel a genuine love for humanity. I believe this love was not just a cry for freedom of thought or a reflection of my need to display independent alternative views to life, but a reflection of the reasons that I too felt were genuine, unpretentious, legitimate, and pure motives for wanting to love and be loved. I wanted and continue to want to be appreciated for my individual subjective me, and living existence, I wanted and continue to want to be seen as an individual, a creative and unique personality. And I don’t just mean that spiritually. This includes the material and physical being which my previous religion seemed to tolerate, and showed value towards only when my behavior reflected submission to the religious core of faith statements or fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. That’s what one perceives with intuition. Words are hardly necessary to perceive such utilitarian motives.
So in my venture towards free expression I took the exam and attended orientation sessions which doubled as psychological sittings, in the search for self acceptance and the need to feel respected for the decisions I intended to make. While deciding on what my major should be at orientation I received help choosing some General Ed Classes to satisfy certain academic requirements for any degree. I can look back and see how meaningful my choice was. The classes I chose to add to my first semester, College English 101 (a.k.a. writing and composition), Pre-Algebra, Psychology, Sociology, and cultural anthropology.
As if the need to delve into the nature of the human being were not obvious enough through the choice of these behaviorally-oriented sciences, in addition, I spent a good amount of time discussing life with my Psych teacher, who was very reassuring and not at all the “priest of Satan” that my fundamental religion, in the simplistic stereotypical perception, insinuated secular counselors to be.
However, there were more than just psychological barriers to confront following my crucial decision. I wondered how I was ever going to be able to afford such an education. My experience in other States which was a major contributing factor to the inability to go to college was an economic one. Would I ever be able to afford such a privilege as college or university? This question leads me to the next chronological topic: Finding a way to get Educational Financial Aid Services while in school and how I made it pay!
To be continued...
Reader's comments on this article
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Sunday, April 22, 2007 - 17:34
Cultinvator, you may or may not be pleased to note that Karen Zerby sent a response to this article of yours to the whole Family just two months after you posted it here. See:
Issues, Part 17, by Maria Maria #669 FD/MM 3480 5/03
For the record, Jesus thinks some of your points are "obvious bunk." :)
(reply to this comment)
| From sarafina|
Monday, April 23, 2007, 10:42
Thanks for posting this Monger, I had somehow missed this article.
What a feeble reply from Jesus, "those who want to believe Me will believe Me—and those who want to believe otherwise, believe the voices of the world" "It all comes down to faith. You can't explain or give a logical reason for everything that I have said"
WTF kind of answer is that? Bottom line is they don't have a good answer to this article.
Thanks for writing this Cultinvador, it was very helpful and insiteful..one thing though you said "No one is forced to remain in The Family and I was not an exception." That is a incorrect statement, I tried to leave twice and was not allowed, infact the last time (when I was about 15-16)I mentioned leaving I was locked up in a room for prayer and fasting with a 24hr guard watch. It wasn't till I was 18 that I was finally allowed to leave, so I guess it could be rephrased to say "No one as a legal aged adult...is forced to remain in the family"(reply to this comment)
| From Cultinvator|
Monday, April 23, 2007, 18:28
You're right. Minors were held against their will... In very abusive situations. Highschool kids sometimes feel like they're held in jail against their will... but that's nothing compared to being raped in the middle of the night or put on 24hr guard... I overlooked the abuse of minors in this article especially back then with POAs counting as parental power and this type of abuse happened merely because they could and we were too young to have a voice. (reply to this comment)
Friday, March 07, 2003 - 17:14
I'm reminded of two famous quotes: "Brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outer flourishes"(William Shakespeare) and "Only your mother will read every word you have to say"(Unknown)
(reply to this comment)
| From cultivator|
Saturday, March 08, 2003, 05:54
Brevity when summarising,
tediousness when presenting
otherwise guts on screen make a story where numbers of words nor organisational formulas fall short of momentum in honest spontinuity and quantum coordination boil down the pot to a stale minimum of skeleltons of fleshnesness. A place where the flesh is consumed for entertainment and the blood mixed with fat is the product of functionaly instead of existance flavor being a ramification of a life and what is in a moment of tragedy without meaning or linear reasoning.(reply to this comment)
| From Culivator|
Sunday, March 09, 2003, 17:13
Joe the humanitarian Textsaving Samaritan, I can always count on you!
Congrats! Thanks for volunteering as the site’s most adamant spellchecker! Aren’t you the creative worm.
MS Word was useful enough to translate these slips of the finger (after some slight brain chemical alteration after late night clubbing) to you my friend into your anally retentive drive towards spelling perfection :P – and yes, poets can create their own morph of words, but in this case a slight right click followed by the enter stroke of the key was less of an effort. I had these translated, corrected, reviewed and notarized for your control freak, megalomaniac greatness:
In any case your suggestion is heard out. Someone’s got a lot of time on hand, but I probably should paste my ephemeral writ through spell-checking software, even if solely to escape the tedious nitpickers.
Your duress is astounding, and it’s annoyance ever easily curbed to humor me with frequence. My thesaurus will continue to be ever present, being that I get free "proper word use" tuition from you my friend. How else am I to learn?
Keep being the great Joe critic H-appy that you are...lol! All things work to some purpose, I guess... Your award: Carnival/Mardi Gra's Extra large beeds neclace for flashing your anal retentiveness for all of us to benefit from. Take it sleazy!
(reply to this comment)
| From Cultivator|
Sunday, March 09, 2003, 17:20
Ignore the next comment, along with the chemical adultery that provided it after my regular social clubbing vices. A few semesters will follow indeed, and maybe I'll develop a style with interesting oddities, capturing enough to get a handfull of curious comentators. BTW, are you into writting too? What's your stake in the writing universe?
Thanks for showing interest!
Jonathan (A.k.A) CI(reply to this comment)
| From Cultivator|
Saturday, March 08, 2003, 14:27
I take it that thought processes at a previous point either portray debutant perspectives or crucial drama lost, in both cases a change of heart, or at least state, is evident. I'll take it for what it is and express my current emotion towards a continuous approach to growth and less of an exit perspective to chopping of umbelical cords. Love your comments though, and I'm not necessarily contradicting them.
I am not always the cynic. (reply to this comment)
| From JoeH|
Saturday, March 08, 2003, 05:59
Where subtlety fails, blunt honesty begins: You're way too full of yourself. Get into the broader scheme of things. Think about it - do you want to read about the complex thought processes that led me to purchase Maruchan Ramen instead of Top Ramen? Really man, you have something that vaguely resembles talent, show a little consideration for your readers and make it a little more interesting and to the point.(reply to this comment)
Monday, February 17, 2003 - 11:48
Good article Cultinvator! I look forward to the next chapters.
(reply to this comment)