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Robinson Crusoe, Home School Hero

Margaret Eustace France

Focus on the Family's Editions

In addition to encouraging families to take their children out of schools and lobbying for the relaxation or abolition of statutes regulating parents' abilities to discipline home school children, Focus on the Family provides resources for teaching in the home, in effect offering to manage the autonomy sought on behalf of evangelical Christian families. Among these resources is the series Focus on the Family Great Stories, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, which includes classics like David Copperfield, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables. The most famous in this series of twelve books is Robinson Crusoe. The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe is the only novel in the series that, during its four years in print (from 1999-2003), was exclusively available in paperback from Focus on the Family. The organization's commitment to promoting the centrality of the family in general and the importance of paternal involvement in particular makes the Crusoe books a peculiar vehicle for their message. Indeed, far from depicting parental control, the first and second Crusoe novels describe the title character's escape from and success outside of family life. In Robinson Crusoe the title character ignores his father's advice and eventually reaps material and spiritual rewards. In Farther Adventures Crusoe develops from insolent son to absent father — at the beginning of the novel Crusoe longs to go back to sea, but his wife prevents him from doing so by insisting that she accompany him. Conveniently, she dies, and he leaves for his "farther adventures," abandoning three young children. Though "Where's Dad" would make a suitable (if snarky) alternate title for Farther Adventures, initially the novel hardly seems consistent with Focus on the Family's core values. Setting aside Crusoe's apparent lack of interest in fatherhood, the book is horrifically violent — villages are sacked, villagers are raped, and often Crusoe himself is the catalyst. The inclusion of both Robinson Crusoe and Farther Adventures in the series resonates with Focus on the Family's aims because only the second book suggests that violence is a useful tool — with the caveat that it must be utilized with the support of other Christians. Continue . . .

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