Duggar Scandal: Could Crazy Homeschool Curriculum Be Partly to Blame?

Everyone has an opinion on sex education, but is it possible that some wacky teaching on that topic contributed to Josh Duggar's molestation scandal? The 19 Kids and Counting family has famously homeschooled all their children, but what exactly have they been taught?


Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have been very vocal in the past about using Bill Gothard's Advanced Training Institute materials and lesson plans, and while that doesn't necessarily mean they used them exclusively or entirely, they still teach some pretty crazy and damaging things about sex.

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27-year-old Nicholas Ducote self-identifies as a "homeschool survivor," and created an online community for others like him called Homeschoolers Anonymous. He recently talked to Slate about what it was like growing up with a fundamentalist Christian mom, who also used ATI materials to teach him.

He said that he was confused by some of the teachings, such as "semen gives you cancer." He said, "There's this idea of immunity, that when a husband and a wife have monogamous relations for a long time, the wife develops an immunity to a natural reaction to semen. If you are promiscuous, you will ruin this immunity and get cancer."

Holy crap. No, semen does not cause cancer. HPV, which is an STD, can cause cancer, but not the semen itself. But I'd be willing to bet that most families raising children in the Purity Culture opt out of the HPV vaccine, so by using ATI logic, not immunizing your kids can cause cancer. In other words, they're taking a giant leap to say that "semen causes cancer."

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Ducote also said that ATI focuses a lot on linking disease and spirituality. "Your spiritual problems cause your physical problems," he explained. "They believe cancer is a punitive condition for a lot of people, that God will curse you will cancer. To tie it all together, their big thing was that God and the Bible and fundamentalism could be applied to every situation. Every situation in life is black and white and there is something God has to say about it."

Um ... not exactly.

Also according to ATI doctrine, crushes are considered immoral. Ducote said, "If I have a crush on you, I am giving you a literal piece of my heart, and the more pieces of my heart I give to girls before I marry, the less of my heart I will have to give to my wife. This is where they have such extreme ideas about purity and about abstinence."

How about being that much more appreciative of your spouse if you have a few heartbreaks under your belt? And I don't mean that literally -- you can stay a virgin and still have romantic feelings for someone. We're not animals after all.

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Except that they sort of teach that men are -- at least that they're not able to control their baser urges. Especially not if they've thought about something sinful three times! "They say that if you think about something three times it's just as bad as doing it," Ducote said. "If you think about sex, it results in this rush of testosterone. So it goes like this: Immodest women cause rushes of testosterone in men and cause them to irresistibly assault -- either sexually or violently -- women. All the blame is put on the women and how they dress. There is very little responsibility put on men to just not rape women."

Ugh. But that's not even the most shocking "teaching" to come out of ATI curriculum. According to Ducote, they view all sexual sin as one and the same. He shared this story about how indoctrinated he was with thinking that all lust was equally evil:

There was a time in my teenage years when I was really struggling with lust and masturbating. I was trying to stop wanting to masturbate, and the natural hormonal urges I was feeling -- that was "lust," that was the devil trying to tempt me. I had a couple of friends and we struggled with this together. One of the guys literally preyed on underage girls; that was his thing. That was his struggle. We would discuss our struggles as if they were equal, as if we were both struggling with this "lust." My action that I couldn't control was masturbating, but his action that he couldn’t control was preying on underage girls. That's the kind of equivocation that it creates. These Christians have been saying this about Josh Duggar. There is no conception of different levels of a sin.

Yeah. Pretty sure that preying on little girls is worse than masturbating, if masturbating is even bad at all. How about this -- masturbation isn't a crime, but pedophilia is.

I am in no way whatsoever defending what Josh did, but if he was really taught that all sexual sin is the same, then the guilt he has likely been carrying around for years is probably more punishment than most of us could imagine. Jill and Jessa made it very clear in their interview with Megyn Kelly last week that all the touching that occurred was over clothes, and he never even spied on them naked.

What Josh did was very wrong, and very upsetting, but it's hard to imagine growing up with the idea that even having a crush on a girl is a sin.

What do you think of ATI's teaching on sexuality?


Image via Duggarfam/Instagram

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