Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Exclusively inclusive

One of the biggest challenges inherent of managing an inclusive homeschool network in the Deep South is the overwhelming number of people who just don't "get it." I'm referring to people who join our inclusive organization despite the fact that they clearly do not understand what that word means, or worse still, seem to know but completely disregard the polite boundaries and rules of netiquette that help soften the edges of conflicting opinions expressed on our message boards.

It's not as if we're unclear or obtuse about the nature of our organization. When we (read: Deanna, web guru and PEAK partner in crime) reconstructed the web site, she and I practically bent over backwards to explain just what--exactly--inclusive means.

Regardless, some people have attempted to argue that if PEAK were *truly* inclusive, we'd allow exclusive faith-based subgroups to form within PEAK. I don't understand why that would even seem like an option. There are so many exclusive groups that cater to separatists, so why come here? Joining PEAK with those expectations is the equivalent of saying, "Gee, that inclusive group would be great if it weren't for all that diversity."

That has created its own set of problems. After much debate, we actually had to restrict the posting of prayer requests because it became a creative loophole for members (inactive members who never come to anything and never post to the boards unless they're asking for prayer) to figure out specifically who on the list was Christian (based on responses to their pleas for prayer). Due to the abuse of our inclusive generosity, prayer requests are no longer allowed on the PEAK boards. It was too distracting from on-topic posts, and there were sooo many prayer requests that a new member reading the archives would reasonably question whether or not the group was, in fact, inclusive.

[Side note: Of course, there were loud cries of religious intolerance and discrimination, because as you can imagine, Christians in the Deep South are widely discriminated against. Whatevah.]

Some people have joined PEAK to troll for possible converts. I had one local member who would contact new members off list and engage them in conversation so that she could ask them pointed questions about their religious beliefs. She gave several of our members a thorough "spiritual frisking" before I got wind of it. I sent word to her through the local homeschool grapevine to knock it off. She finally left, but I mean, c'mon.

For some reason, these same people are shocked--shocked, I tell you--when they learn that PEAK does not discriminate against gays, single parents or Pagans. They get angry and leave, but they rarely go quietly. As a result, I have become quite adept at damage control.

Of course, these people are free to join PEAK. We're inclusive, after all. But sometimes, I wish we could put up a banner on the web site that declares PEAK exclusively for inclusive homeschoolers. It would greatly simplify my life.

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