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A new video from Angie the Anti-theist, regarding indoctrination - of any child. Good point.

I like Angie, I'll look at this video over the weekend, Hypatia...still at work. Smile
I don't know how I feel about that. It sounds good in theory, but a child is going to be influenced by others concerning religion whether his parents do so or not (or 'indoctrinated'). Peer pressure will rear its ugly head, and relatively early. If the kid is a totally blank slate, he will be more likely to accept the most outlandish arguments if he has nothing to set against them. He should at least be encouraged to start thinking about this stuff before that happens. The parents can explain the different ways of looking at the question and why they see it the way they do, age-appropriately of course.

I wouldn't want to send a kid of mine out completely innocent, ignorant and defenceless.
Edited by catman on 06/24/2011 15:14
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
catman wrote:
I don't know how I feel about that. It sounds good in theory, but a child is going to be influenced by others concerning religion whether his parents do so or not (or 'indoctrinated'). Peer pressure will rear its ugly head, and relatively early. If the kid is a totally blank slate, he will be more likely to accept the most outlandish arguments if he has nothing to set against them. He should at least be encouraged to start thinking about this stuff before that happens. The parents can explain the different ways of looking at the question and why they see it the way they do, age-appropriately of course.

I wouldn't want to send a kid of mine out completely innocent, ignorant and defenceless.

Oh, I totally agree.

I think free thinkers are much more likely to be people who teach their children that there are many schools of thought, and to teach them to discover and explore and weigh, with critical thinking and rationalism, many outlooks and philosophies. But I also think it's good to think about what we offer to young, malleable minds, in particular, that could be indoctrinating them in just one school of thought, even if it isn't religion or some other form of dogma.

But I don't think showing kids what isn't believable, and teaching them to think and reason is something I would construe as indoctrination, not by a long shot. There are always a few, in any 'group', who can carry something too far though, and make it appear that 'their' way is the only acceptable way.
catman is spot on. No kid can make it through a single Christmas without being exposed to massive Christian propaganda.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I do not understand this womans point. How is a kid singing a song indoctrination?

She didnt sit the kid down and say 'everything you are about to hear in this song is true'. Christians do that with their music, but hell im a young man and I still sing songs I do not understand the lyrics of, because the music is fun.

I even sing, and get a hell of a lot of enjoyment out of, music that I whole heartedly do not support the lyrics of or sentiment behind them. For example go check out Sam Cooke's Jesus Gave Me Water, System of a Down's Science and Blink 182's I wanna fuck a dog in the ass.
T_E: I don't think the woman needed to tell a five-year-old that everything he was about to hear was true. The kid would tacitly assume it was, at least subconsciously. Whether it would have had a significant lasting effect is anyone's guess. You know better; the five-year-old didn't.

I do, however, don't think the age of five is too early to begin to understand that not everything one hears is true. It isn't proper to indoctrinate a child, but it is proper to teach him/her how to think and to not accept everything as true (surely that is not indoctrination!).

I don't mind singing Jesus Loves the Little Children, although a different image from that which was intended comes to mind Perhaps the errant Catholic priests are simply trying to be like Jesus. Frown
Edited by catman on 06/26/2011 14:42
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
I disagree, young kids repeat what they hear without considering the meaning of the words.

They then gather some semblance of meaning from how people react to what they repeat. Hmmm, so maybe thats where the reinforcement would come in, clapping and smiling and congratulating could do the indoctrinating.
Yes, that would reinforce it, but I think a 5-year-old would at least subconsciously pick up on the lyrics unles he were uncommonly skeptical (as a child of mine would likely be...he probably would have caught me in a lie or two by that age).
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
I've been thinking about this issue for a long time now, and it has become especially relevant not only in my career but also with raising my children.

Education vs. Indoctrination

As a professional educator, and an atheist, the co-evolving issues of education and indoctrination are encountered unremittingly. How does one separate the two? To many, it seems obvious what is education and what is indoctrination, but in my experience, people subjectively define whatever they teach to their children to be “education”, and what other people teach their children (with which the first parent might disagree) is labeled as “indoctrination”. I know people who firmly believe that teaching evolution to their children in the context of a high school science class is “indoctrination”. And I know people who teach their children that the Bible in its entirety is a divinely inspired document, inerrant and holy, meant for man on a 6000-year-old Earth, and they consider this “education”. And obviously, those exact two examples can be labelled the exact opposite term were the parents changed to someone who holds the opposite opinion.

So, if a person tells their child that Santa Claus is a fictional character, what category does this lie within? If a person tells their child that Mohammed, prophet of Allah, is from a false religion and of Satan and that Jesus is the Son of God and is the only narrow path to avoid eternal damnation, what is it called? If a person tells their child that Jesus is a prophet of God, but that Mohammed is the last prophet, the restorer of a pure monotheism, as it says in the Qu’ran, what is it called? If a parent tells their child that no gods exist, that all religions are bunk, what is that called? If a parent teaches their child to sing a song from their youth, does it become indoctrination the moment that the lyrics of the song are religious/intolerant/prejudiced/patriotic/liberal/atheist/whatever?

My point is not just about labelling. Labelling is important because an appellation has connotations associated with it. Most people would not appreciate being told that they are indoctrinating their children with a specific action, yet may not balk at the same action being labelled education. It is more than labelling, however, because the underlying issues need to be examined; why do we value or need education, and why is something like indoctrination viewed as harmful?

To distinguish between indoctrination and education, I think indoctrination should defined as “teaching someone to accept a principle or belief uncritically.” If a point of view is taught, but never critically and objectively examined, there is no way to determine whether that point of view contains any truth. Without allowing for testing and experimentation, any doctrine can be adhered to, regardless of its truth content.

Conversely, education should be about teaching people how to think, so they can arrive at their own informed conclusions. Inculcation with facts is obviously a part of the process, but it is more important to be able to look at the facts, look at various competing explanations for those facts, and then to be able to dispassionately evaluate the evidence so as to begin eliminating false conjectures.

Here is a concrete example: Suppose James has a daughter, Samantha, who is five years old. James is wondering whether to tell her about the Santa Claus story, or if it would be considered somehow “robbing her of imagination or magic of Christmas” by telling her the origin of the political-cartoon-inspired Coca-Cola-corporation-coloured weight-enhanced Father Christmas-St. Nicholas amalgam advertising juggernaut that we see today. Should he (a) lie to his child, to propagate the myth and to help extend the “magic”, (b) tell her outright that Santa is a myth and that the presents under the tree were purchased by Mommy and Daddy, or (c) say nothing? Parents are often caught in this type of conundrum. Some will object to the Santa story on religious grounds, citing that such commercial symbols rob from the Christ-centric celebration that it is supposed to be. Some people vehemently object to spoiling this enchanting time of childhood.

In my opinion, we should not lie to our children. How can we expect them to trust us with serious questions in life if they know we choose to lie to them about the peripheral minutiae? How can one demand honesty when it is neither demonstrated or valued in option (a)? Nor do I think option (b) is particularly valid, for the parent is pronouncing a truth by an argument from authority, it does not allow the child to understand why the Santa-type tale might be ridiculous in another context – e.g. objects fall to the ground because invisible gravity elves carry them there. Option (c) by itself isn’t particularly helpful either, because it lets the child encounter the harsh reality of being told a wild tale for a significant portion of their lives, and the parent is allowing it to happen.

A rational approach to this problem would be to train the child to think critically. This involves an understanding of systematic testing of claims to see if they hold up to scrutiny. Questioning, and then following up the curiosity and exploration of doubt should be encouraged, and helping the child to understand how to objectively evaluate evidence is required, prior to giving away all the beans. This allows the child to investigate the claim for his or her self, and then hold or withhold belief in the proposition based on their own analysis. Option (c) becomes an ethical option only if the child is prepared to come to a rational conclusion themselves.

Obviously, this applies to situations other than analyzing whether Santa actually takes the milk and cookies laid out for him to share with his flying reindeer parked at the top of the chimney, recently graced by his rotund ascent. In education, students are presented with facts they must learn, processes and rules they should follow, and they develop skills to become functioning and hopefully valued contributors to society. But most importantly, students should be taught how to think critically, so they can determine when a political ad is spinning the facts to get their vote, to be able to avoid the next Ponzi scheme, to evaluate their actions in order to determine if the outcome they intend is actually borne by their behaviour. The powers associated with reasoning should be more valued than beliefs that are held because someone told us they are true. Only by equipping those who are to be taught with the skills to be able to make informed decisions on their own, can we ever hope to have people that are independent and educated. Education involves the acquisition of general knowledge, an understanding of processes and a host of skills, and the ability to think critically. Without the freedom to explore new ideas and explanations, and to test them, how can one ever be sure that the propositions to which they hold are not fraught with error?

So, in summary, I think indoctrination and education have one critical distinguishing characteristic: education contains the ability to use critical thought, and to apply it to all questions of importance, indoctrination does not.

So, would teaching my children to sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” indoctrinate them any more than would teaching them to sing XTC’s “Dear God’? Without the context of the ability to be able to evaluate the lyrics critically, I think they would be about the same. Sing them both, rejoice in the music and the message of both, and let an educated, not indoctrinated, individual make their own rational decision about the truth contained therein. Santa, Jesus, Mohammed, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Evolution of Man, the Tooth Fairy, the Big Bang, invisible gravity elves, faith healers, moon landings, homeopathic medicine, MRI diagnoses, economic reform proposals, the Germ Theory of Disease, Quantum Mechanics, etc., can all be evaluated with critical thinking. Adopting any position, on any of these and a multitude more topics, whatever that position, should it not be arrived at through rational means, is more likely to be fraught with error.
Photon, I think we should lie to our kids, if only to test their rational skills and then to congratulate them on calling us out on our shit.
I think that can be done with a thought experiment, sort of playing "Let's Suppose..." with the kids; this way you can tell them an outlandish tale, ask them what they think of it, whether they believe it, and get them to explain their reasoning.

This way I can observe whether they are employing critical thinking skills, without the ethical issue of being untruthful.

However, I do say outrageous things in social settings from time to time to see how people react, people are especially funny if they don't realize you are being sarcastic or purposefully hyperbolic.

I have two nieces, who are now both in their 20's, but when they came to stay with me for a week in the summer when they were around 7 and 9, I offered to take them on a tour of the astrophysical observation facility just outside the city, where I was had done my thesis research and where they were having a public open house as well. The girls asked "What will we see there?", and instead of giving them the straight answer about telescopes and domes and control rooms and stars, said "There will be a troop of dancing gorillas there, they are really quite a sight" in a For the Benefit of Mr. Kite type tale. The sad part is they believed me, and were disappointed to tears when the gorillas didn't show up. I mean they weren't my kids, but who believes that there will be a troop of dancing gorillas at the observatory?

They still think I did them an injustice there, about a decade-and-a-half later, but seriously, dancing gorillas?

My kids regularly evaluate what I say to them in order to see whether it matches up to their predictions or expectations. When I'm asked "What's for supper?" I might respond "I'm considering butterfly larvae grilled in butter, grass clippings, with a dozen ice cream cones each for dessert", to see what the response is. My son, who is just learning about insect stages of life in Grade 1, proudly proclaimed he wasn't going to eat any caterpillars! Those dozen ice cream cones didn't meet the same skepticism, unfortunately.
Edited by Photon on 06/27/2011 16:21
...I do say outrageous things in social settings...

I love doing that with new people, or old friends. I also like to guage their opinion on a subject and argue for the exact opposite - many times you can get them to the point of giving up, or admitting defeat. If I have been arguing for something I disagree with Ill then point out what they should have said.

People probably think im an ass.
I had a run in with this sort of thing recently when my parents were trying to buy a stuffed bear with angel wings that played a religious recording. I suggested they get something else because when it came time to cull the herd of stuffed animals (an annual affair at my house because people never learn) that it was likely going to be first in the bag, much as a similar one was bought previously by an aunt.

My father objected that I shouldn't try to "limit exposure" and I responded that if this were a Budda doll we wouldn't even be having this conversation, but left at that because the subtle nature of all this was going to quickly become an issue. (Some people do learn, slowly.)

Like most things, this isn't even remotely simple. I don't really go out of my way to limit exposure, really. My parents are free to take my daughters to church on those occasions when they have the opportunity, but much like our Pastafarian friends, I don't see much merit in purposefully maintaining "both" points of view to be "fair," especially while steeped in an environment so overwhelming Christian in the first place. That the doll was going to be eventually tossed was simply fair warning, though no doubt the event will be twisted into typical Christian persecution claims in the future.

So what do you think? As it pertains to this conversation, does "exposure" equal an attempt at indoctrination? I tend to think it does, as per Photon's definition, where the idea is to get people (children or otherwise) to accept those notions they're being exposed to as both normal and correct without critically analyzing them. From a family politics point of view, my reluctance to sit down and formally discuss all the nonsense they're exposed to for fear of undermining their esteem for the relatives those concepts come from places me in an unfair position and limiting that exposure is my only recourse.
A great help in my emancipation was trips to the Kingdom Hall with my nan, she is still a Jahovas Whitness but with my parents being Catholic and JoHo's considering catholicism to be the Whore of Babylon it led to some interesting points of contention.

I did hear this year the reason behind my nan becoming a JoHo as opposed to the Catholic she was bought up to be, a harrowing tale (thankfully not child rape).

My grandad was off having an afair with another woman that he had convinced others was his wife, my nan was rushed to hospital after complications with a baby she was carrying (internal bleeding I believe) - she was treated like shit after giving her name, because they believed her to be the mistress of the triangle.

She asked for the priest during the birthing who I believe refused to be present, the child died during birth and my nan was near death herself, she screamed for the priest who gave her her last rights, she asked had the baby been christened to which he replied something along the lines of 'I will not christen a bastard in a bucket'.

My nan went off the rails after her recovery from the immediate injuries, drinking heavily and else. It was at some point during this episode the JoHos got her.
What a horrible story. Harrowing indeed! Small wonder she 'went off the rails' (I like that expression).

Cynic: Yes, I'd say that exposure equals "indoctrination", especially if the children are threatened with hellfire if they don't believe.
Edited by catman on 06/29/2011 15:33
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
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