Indoctrinating Kids Shows Distrust of Reason

13 12 2008
11-humanist

Dale McGowan says that parents can raise good children without God. -- Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard News Office

“It’s a very different process to reach adulthood and cho[o]se your first labels yourself,” said McGowan, “than to look down and see the word ‘Catholic’ or ‘atheist’ hanging around your neck.”

Among Humanist parents, confidence sometimes runs dry in the face of religious traditions that already offer “a box of settled questions” on death, sexuality, and other big issues.

“It’s into that breach of confidence that the church steps,” said McGowan.

There seems to be a growing sense of community among nonreligious parents, he said — but it’s pretty new. . .

Good write-up of Dale McGowan’s um, “un-ministry”? — where as Harvard-honored humanist dad, he’s spreading the good news about how educating kids to reason for themselves and to challenge all authority and ideas, is more moral and socially responsible and thus more real as education, than indoctrinating them in any belief system and calling it good news for education:

In fact, research shows that indoctrination, often the focus of religious upbringing, is, more than anything else, what impedes moral development, claimed McGowan.

“At the heart of indoctrination is the distrust of reason.”

Better off are children who get from their parents “an explicit invitation to disagree,” he said — that is, children “actively engaged in the refinement of their own moral development.”

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13 responses

13 12 2008
boremetotears

I’ve been tiptoeing around this one since I started blogging. Yeah, the Emperor has no Clothes and Dale is great at saying so in reasoned and thoughtful ways.

14 12 2008
Jenn

A bit of the topic but I came across this article and wondered what others would think of it. Decided to send it to 2 regular bloggers:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7782245.stm

14 12 2008
writestuff444

I think perhaps that one shoe doesn’t fit all feet..In other words, the statement “a box of settled questions” implies that all religious thought and inquiry says it has all the answers settled. I don’t believe that humanists or aetheists alike can assume that free thinking and question asking and exploration of thought and reason aren’t allowed in all religious homes. I know that we were always taught to question all blind faith…with reasoned inquiry into why we had a faith in anything, even something as sacred as the Trinity. Thus reasoned faith to me is no different than reasoned aetheism or reasoned humanism…

15 12 2008
Nance Confer

They just haven’t reasoned to the right answer yet. 🙂

Sorry, Betty, couldn’t resist the temptation. 🙂

New word (to me) that emphasizes the difference between the sane and reasoned religious people we interact with every day and the obnoxiously pious — where I would say “bible thumper,” I heard the term “devil dodger” a few days ago.

Although I think “devil dodger” implies a larger dollop of hypocrisy . . .

Nance

15 12 2008
JJ

Speaking of in-your-face obnoxiously pious hypocrisy —

Yesterday afternoon FavD and I were running around doing a few Christmasy things (Yes, I said Christmas, that term’s fine with her in her self-declared atheism) and when we pulled into one parking place, she had to rant for a good three minutes before we could get out of the car, because the car next to us had a bumper sticker about keeping the Sabbath holy. (FavD is the religion student at college, remember.)

Here’s the rant as I recall its main themes. 🙂
“So if he feels strongly enough about the biblical to put an OBNOXIOUS [she used that word, Nance!] bumper sticker on his car for the rest of us to see, then what the hell is that guy doing out shopping on Sunday?? IN THAT SAME CAR! With the Sabbath bumper sticker right on it! How dumb is he in his holy-rolling, doesn’t know what day it is, or is he just interpreting the Sabbath rules the way he pleases? If you want to get all by-the-book, you can’t drive your bumper stickered car on the Sabbath, and you can’t even walk more than 11 blocks because you’re not supposed to “travel” and if you could get somewhere, you can’t engage in commerce when you get there! And if you don’t mean to follow ALL the ancient rules in full no matter how demanding and difficult, then think about what’s really important and what makes sense for good people to do NOW, and shut up!”

I have no idea where she got those specifics about blocks walked on the Sabbath, but last semester her religion prof was a Jewish scholar so. . .?

She kept a quiet burn going until we sat down for lunch. So I offer her as both Reasoned Humanism and Reasoned Religion, and Mr. BumperStickerThumper as Intolerance and Unreason.

15 12 2008
JJ

We both instantly assumed BumperThumper was Christian, I realized writing this now, never having seen in in-your-face Jewish faith bumperstickers and having seen thousands of the other kind. He also had a yellow Choose Life license plate which may have influenced our assumption. Hmmm.

But I mention this now because of course, if the guy really turned out to be Jewish, then there would have been no hypocrisy right? Yesterday was Sunday, not Saturday. 🙂

With so many different holy rules in different holy books, seems to me no matter how holy you wanted to be, the very first thing would be thinking about which ones were more important and in which faith tradition, and making some very human, imperfect decisions, because you couldn’t possibly follow them ALL indiscriminately and lead any sort of reasonable life. . .

15 12 2008
JJ

All of which is to say — FavD does beyond all doubt “engage actively in the refinement of her own moral development” and if there’s any moral indoctrination around here, it’s FavD indoctrinating me! 🙂

15 12 2008
JJ
15 12 2008
Jenn

A few more things to consider, someone else was using the car. My husbands sports affiliations may make me appear something that I’m not. If I started putting bumper stickers on the car, he may appear to be something that he is not.
Another one, the calf may have been in the pit. Anything from medically needing supplies to an angry wife without a birthday present :-)?
Least likely: The car was parked there the day before to send a message to shoppers.
Very likely: They forgot the message on their bumper and where desperate to get Christmas shopping over, the kids begged to go, they needed something on their way to a potluck gathering, etc. etc.

Our pastor once used a story to get a message across. A person with road rage was pulled over by a cop and asked to get out of the car and put her hands on the roof? Very shocked the lady asked but WHY? The cops response was, mam I noticed the bumper sticker on the car as Christian, you must have stolen the car.

The potluck thing made me think of this one: School was having a share something of your faith day, the Catholic kid took her rosary, the Jewish kid took a dreidel, the Muslim child had his prayer mat and the Baptist child had a corning ware dish. Very puzzled the teacher enquired about the dish, he said, “Mam, whenever we get together we have a potluck and eat”.

Enough of my stories, I better get off the blogs and get some work done!

15 12 2008
Jenn

One more possibility, could have been a Seventh Day Adventist.

15 12 2008
Kristina

Jenn, that was my thought.

I’m thinking he probably wasn’t a Jew. Most are not evangelical. It just goes against Jewish thought. On the other hand, most Jews, who are not Orthodox, agree that a car can be used to drive to service on the Sabbath. However, shopping is definitely against the rules if you’re keeping the sabbath holy. Lovely.

As far as indoctrination is concerned, I was indoctrinated. When I moved out of my parents’ home, I had no reason not to do all those things I was told never to do (premarital sex, drinking, drugs-never did these-didn’t want to ruin my life, completely). The only reason for it, before, was that I would go to hell. Well, I was going to hell anyway, why not go in a blaze of glory. Kids need to understand there are other reasons for not doing things, or for doing things than because “God said so”. Otherwise, when and if they stop caring what “God said”, there is no reason for them to maintain a good life. I can guarantee you the way I lived was not good for me. And, that was why I shouldn’t have been doing the things I was doing.

This type of indoctrination drives me nuts.

15 12 2008
Jenn

I think that anyone who spends a lot of time with someone else either argues constantly with that person or is to some degree indoctrinated. I don’t get where the obsession with hell comes from. I grew up in a Christian home with my parents belonging to two different churches. The one my mom attended only met once a month due to the minister coming from a different town to our small town. I stayed in a hostel from grade 1 as driving from the farm back and forth everyday was not practical. In all my growing up I never recall being threatened with hell fire. Yes, we where taught that certain things where expected but the grace of God was always offered.
There seems to be some obsession in the US that Christians indoctrinate their kids and that people don’t think for themselves. I have not experienced it growing up(although not in the US), always searching for the truth was held up, never was I told to believe something cause someone said so. The church I presently attend the pastor is insistent that no-one take anyones word just because of the persons “status” but to always check for truth. Writestuff 444 has the longer version on her blog.
People are more indoctrinated in my opinion to spend and live a life of luxury than anything else.

23 12 2008
JJ

Here’s Dana blogging about consumerism including boycotting stores for not saying Merry Christmas, as not being True Christmasy either, because it isn’t focused on religion.

But then here’s an evolutionary behaviorist and marketing professor blogging in Psychology Today about religion as consumerism and marketing behavior. He argues that the “brand loyalty” of religion is so effective because it’s intergenerationally inflicted on kids we protect as too young for all other consumer-message bombardment:

One of the benchmarks for determining whether it is ethical to advertise to children is to ask the following question: What is the minimal age at which children have the cognitive capacity to understand the ulterior motives of advertisers, and accordingly to build cognitive defenses against such attempts?

Finally, here is Dale’s take on the practical downside of selling even nonreligious parental answers to kids’ unthinking lizard brains as automatically correct:

Many nonreligious parents, in the admirable name of high integrity, set themselves up as infallible authorities. And since (like it or not) we are the first and most potent authority figures in our kids’ lives, turning ourselves into benevolent oracles of truth can teach our kids to passively receive the pronouncements of authority. I would rather, in a low-key and fun fashion, encourage them to constantly take whatever I say and run it through the baloney meter.

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