I am happy to say I don’t know anything about the Jonas Brothers.
I survive the shame of my ignorance by putting them in a mental category along with Hannah Montana, Barney, and all other noxious pop culture targeted at America’s youth. As far as I am concerned, these are things I do not need to know about.
So imagine my surprise to learn that this pop group has become a leading advocate of school choice. Imagine my surprise to learn that this leading pop group learned about the world and everything in it from their conservative evangelical Protestant homeschool curriculum. It appears the Jonas Brothers have been educated with the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum, one of the most ferociously conservative Protestant curriculum choices available.
But let’s start at the beginning.
Curious as to why such a high-profile pop band would sign up for an event so popular among conservatives, I looked into the Jonas Brothers. As usual, everyone but me seemed to be already aware of the Jonas Brothers’ deep commitment to conservative evangelical religion. Slack-jawed comedian Russell Brand, for instance, earned some opprobrium for mocking the Brothers’ virginity pledges.
When I checked out a “Day in the Life of the Jonas Brothers” video, I was surprised to see (check out the video at 3:58) that the homeschool curriculum they used was from Accelerated Christian Education.
As I argued a couple years ago in the pages of History of Education Quarterly, among Christian fundamentalist school publishers, ACE stands out for its rigid traditionalism and strict sectarian notions in every subject, from creationism to the religious meanings of the US Constitution.
I have no beef with conservative religious families who choose to use ACE materials to teach their children.
But I am surprised to find that young people educated with such materials have had such a meteoric rise to the peaks of pop culture. After all, one common theme among conservative educational activists is that American pop culture peddles filth and trash. Long before the Beatles, long before Elvis, conservatives worried about the sex and loose morals associated with such pop singers as Jimmie Rodgers.
Yet with the Jonas Brothers, we find a group doing very well in the choppy seas of pop music. As far as I am aware, the Jonas Brothers did not come to fame as a particularly “Christian” music group, but rather as a particularly saccharine tween-idol music group.
Is it fair to say that conservative worries about the anti-Christian nature of American pop culture are overstated? Or are groups like the Jonas Brothers simply exceptions that prove the rule?