Little Known Facts About Focus on the Family



Excerpted from Little Known Facts About Focus on the Family
By Dr. Cathy Burns
pp. 33-38
Reprinted by permission.



...When a concerned person wrote Focus on the Family over the Quest program, this is the reply she received:

"Dr. Dobson does not deny the positive features of the Quest curriculum. He realizes the several prominent Christian psychologists have had a hand in devising and developing it. He knows that the works of reputable Christian authors are to be found among its recommended resource materials. He believes that many of the morals it teaches (termed 'values' or 'social skills') are fully compatible with a Christian perspective. He applauds Quest's emphasis on the importance of communication between family members and peers. And finally, he is a personal friend of Rick Little, the developer of the Quest program.

"In spite of all this, Dr. Dobson cannot offer a general endorsement of Quest. The program has its problems; and, in the final analysis, he feels this is a case in which the bad outweighs the good. The authors of Quest have generally attempted to incorporate the work of secular humanists into their curriculum, thus introducing elements clearly unacceptable to Christians. In some instances they have prescribed group exercises and techniques closely resembling those employed in psychotherapy--a risky practice in the absence of professionally trained leadership. Even on these points where the 'values' promoted by the program are potentially compatible with Christian mores, interpretation and application are completely subject to the individual instructor's personal biases. This means that Quest could become a vehicle for communicating some distinctly un-Christian values.

"It is true that Dr. Dobson authored a chapter in the original Quest textbook (1979). It remains there today in spite of the direction in which his opinions on the program have developed. Once given, he has decided not to attempt to withdraw the chapter. But it should not be understood to imply any endorsement of Quest on his part." 120

Just what is the Quest program? It goes by different names in different places such as Skills for Adolescence, Skills for Growing, and Skills for Living, among others. 121 According to Quest International's own material, we find:

"Founded in 1975 [by Rick R. Little] with initial funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Quest International is a nonprofit educational organization reaching more than two million young people each year throughout the world. Quest International's programs and services unite schools, families, and communities to encourage the healthy development of young people." 122

    "All of Quests programs promote higher-order thinking skills, discussion, cooperative groupwork, and active learning." 123

    "The role of the teacher is that of planner, initiator, presenter, instructor, guide, facilitator, remediator, and evaluator." 124

    Notice: the role of the teacher is anything but a teacher--which is what outcome-based education is promoting.
    "Furthermore, the programs encourage active parent involvement in shared homework assignments, on the Implementation Teams, on School Climate
    Committees, as adult leaders for the service learning projects, and as classroom helpers and resources." 125 This brings in the idea of lifelong learning for adults
    since the parents are supposed to share in the homework assignments.

    Citizen magazine reports:

    "Quest units dealing with drug, alcohol and tobacco use also contain many messages about the harmful side effects of the substances.

    "But even with the information that drugs are illegal and harmful, some parents say that other lessons Quest teaches give parents the impression that decisions
    about drugs should be based on consequences instead of whether it's right or wrong.

    "Instead of telling children, 'Some things have already been decided for you because they are illegal," Quest tells them to decide whether or not it's worth the risk,'
    said Linda Patarozzi.

    "Patarozzi pointed to a lesson in the junior high curriculum that puts negative behaviors such as drug use in the same 'risk' category as making an acting debut." 126

    In fact, "the earlier Skills for Adolescence program has been shown to have the potential to actually increase drug use and also has had its philosophy and methodology criticized." 127

    "Another exercise titled 'Thinking About Taking Risks,' tells students to list the positive and negative consequences of risks such as shoplifting. 128 Is there really a positive side to shoplifting?!

    Not only are "positive" views of shoplifting discussed, but the parents are referred to in derogatory terms. It mentions that parents "suddenly seem like nosy prison wardens." Another place refers to "pusy parents." 129

    There are "Twelve Rules for Getting along with Your Parents." One of the rules advises the "wise give in, at times, so parents will be more likely to co-operate when it's some big deal that you really care about." 130 Another rule is: "Ask your parents' advice now and then on something big enough to make them feel important." 131


    Quest also utilizes the techniques of visualization and guided imagery 132 (which we covered in detail earlier). One of the earlier Quest editions had an exercise called "Elevator." Teachers are to "establish a quiet, contemplative mood." Teachers then tell students 'you are in an elevator.' Each Each button in the elevator represents an age. When students push a button, the elevator will take them back to experiences they had at that age. 'Be sensitive to those who may have stopped on an unpleasant floor,' the book tells teachers. 133

    Does this occult practice disturb Dobson? Of course not! He just stated that these techniques could be "a risky practice in the absence of professionally trained leadership." In other words, if these techniques are used by professionals, they are okay. 134 He further added: "I hope you understand that I'm not condemning Quest. I'm sure there are many schools and classrooms in which it's being put to good use." 135

    We've already seen where Dobson claims that several prominent Christian psychologist have had a part in the Quest literature. Also, in his October 27, 1981, letter to Rick Little at Quest International, he said:

"I know you love the Lord and are trying to serve him. I have never questioned your motives and consider you to be a trusted Christian friend. I'm sure that Quest is doing some good... However, I believe you made one fundamental error, and that was bringing professional into your organization who do not share your Christian faith. That put us all in bed with the enemy, so to speak, and helped to undermine your very noble and Christian purposes." 136


    I don't know which individuals Dobson thinks are Christians, but he is incorrect to infer that non-Christian professionals were brought in later. According to a paper from the Sagamore Institute, we find this out about the Quest program: "This nationally acclaimed, research-tested program is sponsored and administered by The Quest International Center of Columbus, Ohio and was originally written by Sagamore Institute's Howard Kirschenbaum and Barbara Glaser." 137

    Humanists Wrote Quest

    Glaser is Kirschenbaum's wife and both are well-known humanists and they were the original writers of this program! 138  Kirschenbaum is Director of the National Humanistic Education Center (NHEC). Before its reorganization in 1973, the NHEC was originally called Adirondack Mountain Humanist Center. In 1980 the name once again was changed to Sagamore Institute. 139  Also in 1980:

"The National Coalition for Democracy in Education [was] founded, comprised of individuals and organizations who support the right to teach humanistic education in schools, educating the 'whole student.' It opposes interference by state legislatures or school boards in teaching of evolution, and it opposes censorship of books in school libraries... The Executive Director is Howard Kirschenbaum." 140

"One of the books he has coauthored is Values Clarification: A Handbook of Practical Strategies for Teachers and Students. In fact, the annotated bibliography and resources list at the end of Unit 1 of Skills for Living lists Kirschenbaum's Values Clarification book and specifically identifies it as the source for the 'group interview,' 'rank ordering,' 'voting continuum,' and 'other activities used throughout this course.'" 141

    We've already briefly looked at the origins of values clarification, yet the Quest program is based on values clarification and humanism. "According to the Encyclopedia Associations, the Quest National Center promotes 'Humanistic Education' in our schools." 142  Some of the authors listed in the suggested reading material (for the Skills for Living program) include Sidney Simon (who doesn't believe in right and wrong), Carl Rogers, Rudolf Dreikurs, Thomas Gordon, and Leland Howe. Each one of the above authors is a humanist! Additionally, over 65% of the books listed can be obtained from the National Humanistic Education Center, again showing the humanistic bias of the Quest program.

    The Lions Club is in a joint venture with the Quest program. This association seems to make the Quest program more acceptable. However, we are told: "'Service clubs such as the Lions sponsor sterilization camps that reportedly do 900 operations a week' in Kenya." 143  Sounds like a real "compassionate" organization, doesn't it?

    "Despite the controversy that surrounds him, Little says he has no regrets about creating Quest.
    "If I were to do it over again [says Little]... I'd probably end up doing it pretty much the same.'" 144

    Knowing what is involved in the Quest program, do you think Rick Little is a Christian as Dobson claims he is?

Another Contradiction

    Dobson claims that he does not endorse or condemn the Quest program. However, as just stated above, he clearly said that he is "not condemning Quest." 145 Listen also to the words of Tom Minnery, Vice President of Public Policy for Focus on the Family: "Our research on Quest revealed a broader concern: Even the best curricula can be mistaught, but if parents aren't vigilant, how will they know?" 146 Did you catch the insinuation that Quest is a good (perhaps even the best) program but the teachers are the ones who are misuing it? Never mind that humanists were behind it from the beginning. Never mind that humanistic values are stressed. Just blame the teachers for making a good program into ab bad one. It is true that the teachers can introduce their own values into a course, but they still use the material as a guideline--and that's where a big problem comes in--because the Quest material itself is not only tainted with humanism but it is actually immersed in it!  In spite of this, FOTF seems to thing it's a great program.

    Dobson's argument that he is not endorsing Quest because of how some local teachers can misuse it is an extremely lame excuse. Are we to say we cannot endorse the Bible because some people misinterpret it?

    Furthermore, in the Focus on the Family magazine, Teachers in Focus, we find some interesting information. In the March 1995 issue there were several groups mentioned as "Violence Prevention Resources." One of the groups listed was STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand). 147  I wrote to this organization and was quite surprised to find that they actually are selling materials from Quest International. Oh, and they also sell a number of videos produced by Focus on the Family such as Sex, Lies and...the Truth, Adventures in Odyssey and McGee and Me! among others. 148  I thing it should be obvious that FOTF actually does promote the Quest material--even if it is in a round-about way.

    Quest International is also "a charter member of the Character Education Partnership [CEP]..." 149  Two of the people on the CEP Advisory Council are Zbigniew Brzezinski and Jesse L. Jackson. 150  Brzezinski was "the first director of the Trilateral Commission..." 151 He was also one of the speakers at the State of the World Forum (September 27 to October 1, 1995) which was chaired by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. "Brzezinski warned against 'parochial fundamentalism' and 'narrow cults, ethnicity, national or religious passion.' And he said, 'We cannot leap into world government through one quick step. A consensual global system requires a process.'" 152 "Over 20 years ago he declared in his book Between the Ages that 'national sovereignty is no longer a viable concept.'" 153 Also in this book:

"...he explained his view 'Marxism is simultaneously a victory of the external, active man over the inner, passive man and a victory of reason over belief... [and] the fiction of [national] clearly no longer compatible with reality... [but] a [world community] cannot be achieved by fusing existing states into on larger entity... It makes much more sense to attempt to associate existing sates through a variety of indirect ties and already developing limitations on national sovereignty.'" 154 [Emphasis in the original]


    Brzezinski also called for a new international monetary system. 155

    Another member of the CEP is the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) 156 which is a division of the National Education Association. 157  The ASCD is also an affiliated organization with Kirschenbaum's National Coalition for Democracy in Education (NCDE). Other affiliated organizations are the humanistic Sagamore Institute, Association for Humanistic Education, Association for Humanistic Education and Development, Connecticut Teacher Centers for Humanistic Education, North Carolina Humanistic Education Association, and the N.W. Ohio Humanistic Education Association. Did you notice how humanistic this group is? One of the NCDE's sponsors just happens to be the well-known New Ager, Marilyn Ferguson! These are the type of groups and people Dobson is associated with time and time again.

    In ASCD's 1962 yearbook, Perceiving, Behaving, Becoming, we find : "'We need to de-emphasize tradition and the past... Educators can no longer afford to deplore and resist change. Too many teachers are still insisting that things must be done the 'right way.'" 158  At ASCD's 44th Annual Conference and Exhibit Show (held March 11-14, 1989) the theme was "Educating Global Citizens: Illuminating the Issues." Some of the speakers were Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dee Dickinson, Shirley McCune, and Jean Houston. 159  ASCD's 49th Annual Conference and Exhibit Show (March 1994) also had some interesting speakers. Of course, there was Howard Kirschenbaum, William Spady (father of outcome-based education), Gordon Cawelti, etc. Other speakers were Robert Simonds of Citizens for Excellence in Education and Amy Stephens from...Focus on the Family!  The talk was "Religious Conservatives and Public Schools: Can We Find Common Ground?" 160  How can Christians find "common ground" with humanists who are agnostics and atheists? (By the way, Dobson had Amy Stephens on his November 17, 1995 Focus on the Family program.)  Incidentally, anther member of the Character Education Partnership is Focus on the Family! The connections between FOTF and the humanistic education and the New Age go on and on and on. There really seems to be no end to it.

    As I've stated several times, there's so much that could be said about Focus on the Family.  I didn't begin to cover all the material I have, but I believe enough has been said to show you that there's a double standard lurking behind the "Christian" facade of FOTF. "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness" (II Peter 3:17).

Dr. Cathy Burns
212 East Seventh Street
Mt. Carmel, PA 17851-2211

Focus on the Family & the Theosophical Society

Charter Schools & Character Education


120. Letter on file from Bob White, dated January 24, 1990; See also: Michael Ebert, "Parents Split Over Quest: Does a 'Life-Skills' Program Used in 20,000 Schools Nationwide Teach Traditional Values or Immorality?," Citizen (July 20, 1992), p. 4.
121. "What is Quest?," Citizen, (July 20, 1992), p. 4.
122. Quest International: Frequently Asked Questions (Granville, Ohio: Quest International), n.d., p. 1.
123. Ibid., p. 2.
124. Ibid., p. 3.
125. Ibid., p. 4.
126. "Parents Split Over Quest," Citizen, op.cit., p. 10.
127. John Ankerberg with John Weldon and Craig Branch, Thieves of Innocence (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1993), p. 53.
128. "Parents Split Over Quest," Citizen, op.cit.
129. Marian Harber, A Report on Skills for Adolescence, (1987), p. 10.
130. Ibid.
131. "Parents Split Over Quest," Citizen, op.cit., p. 11.
132. Ibid. p. 4.
133. Ibid.
134. James C. Dobson, "Where Do We Stand?," Citizen (July 20, 1992), p. 2.
135. Ibid.
136. Copy of letter on file from Dr. James Dobson to Rick Little, dated October 27. 1981.
137. Bulletin from Sagamore Institute.
138. Harber, op.cit., p. 2.
139. Cuddy, Chronology of Education with Quotable Quotes, op.cit., p. 49.
140. Ibid., p. 66.
141. Ankerberg, Weldon, and Branch, op.cit., p. 59.
142. Harber, op.cit., p. 1.
143. Ibid., p. 4.
144. Michael Ebert, "Quest's Founder Listens to Kids," Citizen (July 20, 1992, Vol. 6, No. 7), p. 14.
145. Dobson, "Where Do We Stand?," Citizen, op.cit.
146. Tom Minnery, "Don't Be A Stranger," Citizen (July 20, 1992, Vol. 6, No. 7), p. 5.
147. "Violence Prevention Resources," Teachers in Focus (March 1995, Vol. 4, No. 3), p. 4.
148. Students Taking a Right Stand (STARS), 1995-1996 Catalog, p. 3,4,5, 16, 17.
149. Overview (Granville, Ohio: Quest International).
150. Character Education Partnership (Alexandria, Virginia: Character Education Partnership), September 1994 listing.
151. Cuddy, Chronology of Education with Quotable Quotes, op.cit., p. 46.
152. Dennis Laurence Cuddy, "What Caused This Mess?", Christian Conscience (December 1995, Vol. 1, No. 11), p. 43.
153. "Blueprint for a New World Order," Christian World Report (July/August 1995, Vol. 10, No. 7), p. 3.
154. Dennis Laurence Cuddy, Now is the Dawning of the New Age/New World Order (Oklahoma City, OK: Hearthstone Publishing Ltd., 1991, p. 244.
155. David Allen Riviera, Final Warning: A History of the New World Order (Harrisburg, PA: Riviera Enterprises, 1994), p. 190.
156. Diane Berreth, "The Character Education Partnership," Educational Leadership (November 1993), p. 8.
157. Cuddy, Chronology of Education with Quotable Quotes, op.cit., p. 23.
158. Ibid., p. 38.
159. Ibid., p. 83.
160. Brochure from ASCD's 44th Annual Conference and Exhibit Show, March 1994.