Hello darling #Exvangelical friends and fans thereof. It is time for our weekly installment. This may be a short one, we'll see. It was a short chapter, which interesting, for reasons we'll get to.
Teaser for future issues - I have gotten PDF's of Dobson's doctoral thesis so...
You can all look forward to that shitshow. I know I am. But right now we are just going to focus on this very exciting book that has been giving us a lot of useful information. We are currently on Chapter 4 - Four Men Who Shaped His Life.
And it is kind of weird this is the shortest chapter, right? Because like... it is theoretically about 4 different people but it is shorter than any of the previous chapters. I don't actually think @DrJamesCDobson wants to acknowledge that much formation in his life, personally.
Like his parents are one thing but much beyond that and you start cutting into that whole self made man image. Still, we do have four specific people here and we will do what we can with the information we are given. As usual, a lot is being said that is not what they think.
The first man who deeply impacted Dobson's life was named Dr. Eddie Harwood. Unlike his dad, Dobson did not feel he was called to be a pastor so he headed off to college. Apparently he scored well on his entrance exams for writing (really?) and was assigned to Dr. Harwood's class
Dr. Harwood was a notoriously challenging teacher and Dobson was not interested in this. He approached Harwood and asked to be transferred out of the class, saying he couldn't do the work. Harwood refused, told him that he was going to do well whether he wanted to or not.
And apparently he DID do well. He got an A in the class and took other classes with him after. Harwood took papers and covered them with red ink, slashing things through and chewing people out. Dobson credits him with teaching him how to be a college student.
More than that, Dobson used this technique at FotF, taking drafts of "articles, memos, and correspondence" and slashing them through with a red pen, fixing things he thought were wrong. Sometimes he would apparently just fix the whole thing himself and return it different.
Finally, if it was bad enough he would hand it back with the "Kiss of death - sophomoric writing" written in red pen on it. This story is told as if it a charming anecdote, instead of the tale of a boss who is a narcissistic bully, happily tearing apart his employees work.
So. Good job, Dr. Harwood. You helped shape some impulses that I think Dobson already had, molded a bully into a probably more articulate bully. We're all so proud of you. Here ends the tale of Dr. Harwood. If you think it seems short, it was.
Next is Dr. Paul Culbertson. Dr. Culbertson convinced Dobson to pursue psychology and apparently was very impressed with some of his papers. He mentored him for a couple of years. That's all we hear about him, it's like a paragraph.
When Dobson was heading for a doctorate. The book says that once he determined what he was going to do he "never wavered from his course. Like his father, Jim was something of a guided missile. Once he knew his target, he was totally committed to it."
So this is one of those weird things that is supposed to be extremely admirable as a quality and I suppose it could be. I know there are people who have very single-minded missions and accomplish them and it's good. But I feel like I hear different stories more often.
More frequently I hear stories of people who HAD a single-minded mission and then they got blown off course a bit because when you are 20 you don't always know what you are going to want. And then they find something even better. OR they find their way back but a different way.
These are good stories and they are generally about people getting to know themselves, starting to understand maybe what brings up these interests to begin with or how to apply them realistically. But Dobson doesn't seem to have ever had this phase. There is no self reflection
Imagine a life where nothing ever forced you to self-reflect. I mean, I know it's an old tune at this point, and if it's a drinking game it'll kill you, but the incredible PRIVILEGE that this demonstrates. He just never feels the need to question himself or his position.
The third important person was a Dr. Clyde Narramore, who I had never heard of, but who I have now read minimally about. As best I can tell, he was an important figure in the development of Christian counseling so I'm sure all the #Exvangelicals are super grateful.
Also, according to this Wiki, a lot of his books are on very similar topics to what Dobson would be writing about, so there seems no doubt that he was at least building on some of his ideas. I'm adding them wearily to the list of things to look at.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clyde_M._…
Apparently Narramore was particularly interested in recruiting young Christian students in the field. The book says that before him "behavioral studies had been widely regarded by evangelicals as a field for practicing atheists" which made me laugh because... still though?
I believe that evangelicals did with counseling what they do with a lot of things. Swipe basic ideas and research, repackage them in cheaper material that won't work, put Jesus on them, and market. It's #HowtoEvangelical and they use it to try to gain mainstream credibility.
Dobson says that Narramore sat down with him for two hours to chat with him. Although he says he talked with him about many things, the only thing he MENTIONS is that he told him not to rush into marriage and having children, because it would tempt him to abandon his dreams.
Specifically he told him "don't put yourself in that strait jacket." As a result, Dobson put off some of his carefully structured life plan and held off on getting married until... 24. He and Shirley then waited 5 years to have a child, showing incredible restraint.
I mock, obviously, but I know that was waiting a while in that culture and probably particularly in the 60's. However, there is a line where it says that Dobson once said he was "the oldest living father of a teenager" which I ASSUME was a joke, but isn't presented as such.
However, all the Dobsons' friends were having kiddos and were teasing them for not doing so which, let's be clear, is a shitty thing to do no matter who you are doing it to. Do not give people shit for their reproductive choices, even if they are monsters like Dr. Dobson.
But apparently one night they were having a party and friends began to "get insulting about the Dobsons' 'barrenness.'" Now this is a VERY vague statement. What does that mean, "get insulting?" Barrenness is certainly an intense word. Like... I have no sense of what happened here
But apparently Jim freaked out. "He angrily struck back at everyone in the room, telling them if they wanted his friendship they had better back off. Shirly later recalled that his retort was like a bomb dropped in the middle of the party. 'Our guests scattered to every room...
of the house just to get out of his line of fire.'
That was fine with Jim. He and Shirley knew what they were doing, and he didn't intend to let his friends deter them."
So like. What a neat story. I think, I THINK we are supposed to be admiring of Jim's standing up for himself.
I can't imagine why else this story would be being told. That singleness of purpose again. But can you imagine, like really can you imagine, having a friend who would destroy a party this way? Like I would probably be like cool, so I probably DON'T want your friendship? I'm good?
No matter what they did, this seems like an out of line response. Especially since it seems clear that, once again, the reality of what happened is somewhat obscured. We aren't told much of the actual words said, but it was bad enough that the whole party basically ran away.
However, this remarkable anecdote is followed by Dr. Narramore talking about Dobson's singleness of purpose, how he was such a remarkable young man that he even remembers what he was wearing the day he met him. This is such a fucking bizarre mythology.
But it IS a mythology, make no mistake. We were raised to believe that men were allowed to be harsh and cruel and "singleminded" and somehow all of these things could prove they were great men. This man. This petty, bullying, angry man, shaped my life, shaped all our lives.
I just can't get over it. The deeper you dig, the worse he is.

Okay, on that note, we're almost done but let's pause for a breath, yeah? Look at this bear cub and think about how cute it is.
All right, home stretch here.
The final man who deeply impacted Dobson's life was a man named Dr. Ken Hopkins. Basically he convinced him to go to USC and he mentored him while he was there. That's it, really. That's all that is in the chapter about him.
On April 3, 1967 Dr. James Dobson graduated with a PhD in Child Development and a minor in... Research Design. When I read that I screamed. See, there are a lot of things about Dobson that really make me angry but his careless and misleading data is way up there.
As best I can tell, every evangelical is unforgivably irresponsible with data but not every evangelical has a doctorate. Dobson at some point was in school, had to DEAL with data, presumably knew how to use it. And so there's always kind of been two options to me.
1) He was not very good at it to begin with and somehow squeaked by or
2) He was actually very good at it and he has been very intentionally manipulating data to help manipulate an entire generation of people for decades now.
A minor in Research Design kinda suggests the latter.
I hope to have some more insight on this once I get to his theses (there are actually two). There's some really interesting information to me just in the topics, I'm excited to jump in. But for now I'm just going to be frustrated because I think none of this was an accident.
In closing the book assures us that in "5 years of graduate study he earned straight A's with the exception of three B's, giving him a Graduate GPA of 3.91." (I don't think they know what straight A's are.) "The guided missile had found it's target."
Ew.
There's a paragraph fawning over how these four men had been there when it counted, how much of a difference they made in the life of this one young man, how important it is for established professionals to take time for younger folks because see how it can change the world.
This is all based so heavily on a white boys' club sort of insider information. Yes, it's great to mentor people, but Dobson had access to certain mentors because of WHO HE WAS and the money he had and the color of his skin and many other things. Every one of these men was a Dr.
They were mentoring one of their own. That's their JOB. I'm in grad school now, and I can find mentors in my own field, that's a thing I can do. Academia is a specialized world that allows for that and expects it. None of these men deserve any credit, this was for their own gain.
Not to mention of course, that if they truly had the influence on him that even these couple of pages claim (who's to say, really), then out of that we got... Dobson. Seems to serve as more of a warning than anything.
Next week we will finally get into Shirley! I'm very excited to see what (if anything) we learn about this woman behind the man or whatever. Thanks for listening, kids. More to come.
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