Over the next few weeks we are interviewing our board members so you can get to know them better and what drives their passion for HARO’s vision of “renewing and transforming homeschooling from within.” Today we’re interviewing HARO board member Nicholas Ducote.
About Nicholas: Nicholas Ducote is cofounder and Community Coordinator at Homeschoolers Anonymous. He grew up in a homeschool family immersed in an array of local, state, and national homeschooling movements – namely CHEF of Louisiana in elementary and ATI in middle school and high school. After high school, he worked at Bobby Jindal’s congressional office. He attended his first Communicators for Christ conference (CFC) in 2003, and credits homeschool speech and debate for kindling his passion for teaching. This passion inspired him to share the values of inquiry and critical thinking. He toured with CFC from 2006-2007 and, in college, he taught debate in Jordan and Afghanistan – helping to organize the first internationally sanctioned debate tournament in Kabul. He had a fellowship with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a free market think tank in 2009, and spent the summer covering Congress in Washington, DC.
Nicholas received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and his Master of Arts in History from Louisiana Tech University. He has been published in a number of subjects, including Louisiana’s economic and regional history, communication theory, and US energy policy. Currently, he works as a Funding Specialist for a civil engineering firm.
You say in your bio that your homeschool speech and debate experience kindled your passion for teaching. What are some other ways that homeschool speech and debate positively influenced your homeschooling experience?
Homeschool speech and debate taught me to think critically and gave me the tools to deprogram myself from the ATI cult. For most of my high school, debate was the primary driver of my education and I was given very little instruction in math and science. Debate tournaments, the socializing online with people I met there, and local clubs, were some of the only consistent social environments I had in high school. My parents pulled me from soccer at 15 when I had to play on a team where girls wore shorts and I would, of course, uncontrollably lust.
Among the HARO board members, you have the unique experience of growing up in a family that adhered to Bill Gothard’s ATI homeschool program. Has that given you a different perspective on the work that HARO does?
All of the HARO board members saw and/or experienced first-hand the issues HA/HARO discusses in the homeschooling world, but being in ATI gave me a slightly different barometer when examining abuse in our community. Some of my realizations that ATI was a cult came from learning about the polygamist Mormon sects and Scientology and the way people became trapped and abused by a system. In ATI, I witnessed a sprawling behemoth of a cult and spent time at a number of the “Training Facilities.”
I also knew something was wrong with ATI and Gothard by the time I was 18, but ten years ago no one wanted to talk about that. Everyone was busy praising Gothard and ATI. Knowing those issues gave me the confidence to start HA – knowing that I had seen and learned terrible things and no one could gaslight that out of me.
I tend to analyze the systems and ideologies within the homeschooling culture and movement. It was disturbing to realize how far Gothard and dangerous fundamentalist Baptist ideologies had poisoned the homeschooling world. Too often, I’m talking to someone and tell them “oh, that thing you thought was so weird is actually a teaching from Gothard” and they start realizing how much their parents might have borrowed (even unintentionally). Yet even now, with all the scandalous information on Gothard’s tenure at IBLP and the systemic cover-ups, people can still believe the same things they were taught in IBLP/ATI and think they have escaped the cult. That’s why I will keep talking about it.
When you helped organize the first internationally sanctioned debate tournament in Kabul, what was more surprising: the differences between your American homeschool world and the Afghan school world or the similarities?
The similarities are what was striking and moving for me. The young women were repressed, isolated by their families’ rules and social mores, and unsure of how to question authority or critically engage an issue – all shrouded under layers of religious orthodoxy. The sexist dichotomy of the dress code on tournament day reminded me of an NCFCA tournament or watching the “light bulb” come on for the students who were unused to challenging authority. My thoughts and emotions were so clear during my month in Kabul that I spent a good deal of my off-time writing a collection of short chapters on growing up in ATI that became some of the first stories on HA.
What first sparked your love for history?
G.A. Henty books and the Age of Empires computer game series. As such, my interests were wars, military campaigns, and heroes – the Crusades being an early favorite. As I aged, that same interest shifted to include foreign policy, diplomacy, and many of the nuances of international relations.
Does your love for history influence the work you do with HARO?
Yes and no. While I’m interested in history, I also am focused on the here/now of the homeschooling world. I see history as complementary to all other work – you can’t understand what’s happening now if you don’t know what happened before. But my love for democratic and feminist activism really drive my work. I saw first-hand the political movement within some spheres of homeschooling to transform the United States into a theocracy and enshrine patriarchy as the law.
What is one thing about the history of the modern U.S. homeschooling movement that you think every homeschooling parent should know?
While more recent history, I think the Men’s Leadership Summit in 2009 is the one of the single most important and revealing events in the history of homeschooling.
Author: The HARO Team