Fundamentalist Homeschoolers Seize Control of American Pop Music!

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.

This morning, I came across a story from the libertarian Reason TV.  The Jonas Brothers headlined a National School Choice Week kickoff event.

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.

Image Source: Accelerated Christian Education

Image Source: 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?

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6 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Leaving Fundamentalism and commented:
    So, the Jonas Brothers were educated using ACE. I knew there was a reason that band sucked so much. Adam Laats has a great blog on fundamentalism, so check it out. I have many thoughts on this, which I’m leaving as a comment below Adam’s piece.

    Reply
  2. Wow. This is interesting because it throws light on how, as fundamentalism has diversified, ACE has had to accommodate differing views on music. Here’s what I mean:

    This is a quote from the ACE guidelines for their International Student Convention:

    Competition arrangements are to be Christian or patriotic rather than secular. Classical instrumental music is allowed as long as it is non-offensive to Christian values or good taste. Music sung or played with a jumpy, sensual, or worldly style is not acceptable. Contemporary Christian, jazz, gospel rock, or gospel country music are not acceptable.

    Back when I was a student, this always made me mad, because I was a huge Christian rock fan. But to ACE, this was a standard Christian view on music, and they saw no reason to defend it.

    Today, however, the same guidelines (online at http://aceministries.com/studentprograms/pdf/guidelinesISC/ISCGuidelinesSectionVIIIMusic.pdf) come with the following disclaimer:

    Please note: A.C.E. fully supports the authority of the local church and does not ask churches or Christian schools to adopt these music guidelines as their ministry standard. Furthermore, such standards are not given to imply greater spirituality. It is our privilege to minister to a very diverse group from various denominations, each having a particular distinctive in musical standards. In an effort to show deference to those attending, A.C.E. has set specific standards for our competition. We respectfully ask that all sponsors and students maintain good Christian character and graciousness at all times, especially in adhering to and respecting the standards set forth for convention.

    Back when ACE started in 1970, there was no Christian rock and there would have been no need for such a disclaimer (and they stayed that way until quite recently; I last attended a convention in 1999 and there was nothing like this in the guidelines). Every fundamentalist agreed on this. But as ACE have sold their materials to more and more Christian groups, particularly pentecostals and charismatics, they’ve come up against people who don’t share their views. In fact, at my charismatic Christian church-school, ACE’s views on dress codes, dancing, and music were considered unnecessarily restrictive even by the staff. They tolerated ACE’s stuffiness because they were in favour of a conservative Christian education and they regarded ACE’s curriculum as the best available.

    I’m interested to see where this goes next. If you google Dayton Hobbs’s newsletters, you can find examples of fundamentalists denouncing ACE for selling out to the charismatics (a huge insult in Hobbs’ mind) dating back to the 1970s. I’m actually quite impressed that ACE are managing to be so ecumenical about this; there are some radically different doctrines among the various churches who use their materials.

    Reply
    • @ Jonny,
      Thanks for the insights. But, of course, ACE does not need to approve of the Jonas Bros in order for the Jonas parents to select ACE curricular materials.

      Reply
      • No, I’m sure ACE does disapprove. Given protestant Christianity’s history of splitting over minor disagreements, I’m amazed at the diversity of parents who use ACE. Most people I’ve spoken to acknowledge that it is a narrow curriculum, and many have a number of doctrinal disagreements with the materials (which, as you said, teach a traditional fundamentalist line with no compromise). Despite that, the parents are so convinced that mainstream education is harmful that they’re prepared to make excuses for the system’s shortcomings.

  3. kittybrat

     /  February 1, 2013

    Jonny,
    This does indeed explain their saccharine public profile. I, too, lumped them into the category of the unlistenable. Interesting, but not surprising, that ACE has changed their admonition about music; the almighty dollar does have sway over their dogma, after all.

    Reply
  1. Creation Wins the Culture War | I Love You but You're Going to Hell

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