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Friday, November 18, 2005  

News: David Ludwig reveals dark side of homeschooling

The homeschooling movement usually gets good press. That's partly because of demographics and organization. Homeschool parents are usually white, middle-class and articulate. The teaching parent, most often a stay at home mother, will present herself and her well-scrubbed brood as a slice of the supposedly idylic American past, circa 1950 or so. The fact that many homeschoolers are fundamentalist Christians helps, too. The fundamentalist and evangelistic sects are the strongest they've been in decades, deciding elections and influencing public policy. But, occasionally, a crack appears in the scrupulously maintained homeschooling facade. That has occurred this week with the flight to avoid prosecution, capture and charging of David Ludwig of picturesque Lititz, Pennsylvania. The homeschooled youth appears to have murdered his girlfriend's parents when they objected to an adult dating a child who would have been in junior high -- if she attended school. Yesterday, the revelations became even more disturbing. We learned investigators had discovered an arsenal in Ludwig's home.

CNN has the story.

LITITZ, Pa. (Nov. 17) - Police seized 54 guns from the home of an 18-year-old man charged with killing his girlfriend's parents and fleeing the state with her, according to court documents filed Thursday.

Warwick Township police removed the weapons, which included an array of rifles, shotguns, handguns and ammunition, on Sunday afternoon from the home where suspect David Ludwig lived with his parents. The search occurred as police were still trying to find him and 14-year-old Kara Beth Borden.

David Ludwig is being held without bail on murder and kidnapping charges after being flown back to Lancaster County on Tuesday from Indiana, where police captured him following a chase.

Police allege Ludwig shot Michael and Cathryn Borden shortly before 8 a.m. Sunday at their home in Lititz following an argument over his relationship with Kara. The two had been dating, apparently secretly, friends and witnesses said.

Ludwig is reportedly a hunter, but that does not explain the possession of such a large collection of weapons. (It may explain why the Bordens were killed with single, clean shots to the head. But, let's not rush to judgment. The suspect is innocent until proven guilty.)

The house full of guns was yesterday's news. Today's news is just as frightening. The Associated Press reports.

LITITZ, Pa. (AP) - An 18-year-old man accused of killing his girlfriend's parents and kidnapping her was videotaped discussing plans to conduct an armed raid on another family's home and kill people inside, according to court documents released Friday.

Police said another teen in the 18-minute video told them that the aborted break-in was among several such ``late night armed 'plans of forcible entry''' that he and David Ludwig conducted.

Ludwig and Samuel P. Lohr, 19, are shown in the video taking guns from Ludwig's house to a home and discussing using them to ``shoot and kill family members inside of the residence,'' according to a search warrant issued Thursday to Warwick Township police.

It's not known whose house was targeted, but it was not the home of Michael and Cathryn Borden, who were gunned down Sunday, investigators said.

The excuse that would have been offered -- that David Ludwig is a lone loon -- has been undermined before the home schooling movement could present it. The problems in Lititz are not about one or two home schoolees. As the investigation expands, other children and young adults who were aware of Ludwig's activities are likely to be implicated.

The arsenal and alleged plots offer clues to the dark side of the homeschooling movement. Though many home schooling parents may be merely separatists when it comes to allowing their children to interact with people who do not share their views, some are something worse than that. A deep strain of far Right beliefs runs through the homeschooling movement. Those beliefs include apocalyptic views based in religion, survivalist inclinations including caching weapons and ammunition, and patriarchal dispositions regarding the treatment of women. Homeschooling is common among adherents to the 'patriot movement', Christian Identity and white supremacist groups.

I have no objection to educational aspect of homeschooling. If a parent is qualified to teach a child better than the public or private schools, fine. After all, many parents tutor their schooled children. My qualms arise because of two non-educational aspects of the homeschooling movement: elitism and segregation. The message many homeschoolers are sending, usually politely, is: My children are better than yours. Expand that. They're saying their children are too good to be exposed to most of their peers. As a result of that attitude, homeschooled children are segregated from the norm. Not only do they not attend school, they are encouraged to associate only with other home schoolees. The result is a very heterogeneous, cult-like environment that doesn't prepare children for the heterogeneity of contemporary American life. It is a fecund environment for extremist views to take root. We are getting a glimpse into a homeschool community because of the Borden murders. Much of what we are seeing is evidence of what is wrong with the homeschooling movement.

Reasonably related

The Washington Post says David Ludwig's lawyer is trying to portray him sympathetically. The remarks were made before the news of the arsenal and alleged plans to commit home invasions were released.

3:30 PM