Belief, choice and education

(In another thread, there has been a tangent diverting from internal choices within a belief system about participation stages, to when it is appropriate to educate children in your belief system.

With the intention of bringing the tangent to its own discussion, perhaps one could ask:
* What matters of belief should form parts of a child’s education, and at what age(s)?
* Is it possible to offer ‘bias free’ choices, whether beliefs are held to be foundational truths (for example religious ideas) or accepted as social constructions / matters of taste and so on?

From my perspective, this is a complex matter but it seems to me that:
(1) If you associate your belief with good life outcomes for your children and/or community (from your perspective), then it would be immoral for you not to educate them in it.
(1) The treatment of indigenous peoples and the effect of colonial/imperial attitudes in the past makes me think that these matters are so tied up with community and personal identity that denying the legitimacy another community’s beliefs - without strong evidence of cruelty or harm - is cultural violence.

What do others think? Including (but not only):
@SusanDoris
@Colin Smith
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Comments

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Is there any such thing as an objective life? And would you really want to have it, if there was? Humans create culture in order to live a meaningful life. That's another difference from animals. And you can't really avoid cognitive bias. You can only try to be aware of the cultural lenses of your time.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    We can hold to the ideal of teaching our children honestly. Making clear when we teach about A, B, C, D that A is an established fact, B is a moral imperative, C is part of the tradition of our tribe, and D is a disputed idea that some people hold.

    I suggest that the reasons we can never achieve that ideal are partly to do with our own lack of an adequate common philosophy to distinguish such categories.

    And partly to do with what is age-appropriate. There's an age at which a person can grasp such distinctions, and they need to learn a whole lot of more concrete stuff before they're ready to deal with philosophical abstractions.
  • Cameron wrote: »
    (In another thread, there has been a tangent diverting from internal choices within a belief system about participation stages, to when it is appropriate to educate children in your belief system.

    With the intention of bringing the tangent to its own discussion, perhaps one could ask:
    * What matters of belief should form parts of a child’s education, and at what age(s)?
    * Is it possible to offer ‘bias free’ choices, whether beliefs are held to be foundational truths (for example religious ideas) or accepted as social constructions / matters of taste and so on?

    From my perspective, this is a complex matter but it seems to me that:
    (1) If you associate your belief with good life outcomes for your children and/or community (from your perspective), then it would be immoral for you not to educate them in it.
    (1) The treatment of indigenous peoples and the effect of colonial/imperial attitudes in the past makes me think that these matters are so tied up with community and personal identity that denying the legitimacy another community’s beliefs - without strong evidence of cruelty or harm - is cultural violence.

    What do others think? Including (but not only):
    @SusanDoris
    @Colin Smith

    Thank you for starting this thread.

    Re the bit of your post I've emboldened, where do we stand on the objections by some Muslim parents to teaching LGBT issues to their children on the grounds that homosexuality is immoral and they want their children to remain part of their community and uphold its traditional views?

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-47613578

    ""Mr Ahmed said [...]
    "Fundamentally the issue we have with No Outsiders is that it is changing our children's moral position on family values on sexuality and we are a traditional community.

    "Morally we do not accept homosexuality as a valid sexual relationship to have. It's not about being homophobic... that's like saying, if you don't believe in Islam, you're Islamophobic."
  • CameronCameron Shipmate
    Cameron wrote: »
    (In another thread, there has been a tangent diverting from internal choices within a belief system about participation stages, to when it is appropriate to educate children in your belief system.

    With the intention of bringing the tangent to its own discussion, perhaps one could ask:
    * What matters of belief should form parts of a child’s education, and at what age(s)?
    * Is it possible to offer ‘bias free’ choices, whether beliefs are held to be foundational truths (for example religious ideas) or accepted as social constructions / matters of taste and so on?

    From my perspective, this is a complex matter but it seems to me that:
    (1) If you associate your belief with good life outcomes for your children and/or community (from your perspective), then it would be immoral for you not to educate them in it.
    (1) The treatment of indigenous peoples and the effect of colonial/imperial attitudes in the past makes me think that these matters are so tied up with community and personal identity that denying the legitimacy another community’s beliefs - without strong evidence of cruelty or harm - is cultural violence.

    What do others think? Including (but not only):
    @SusanDoris
    @Colin Smith

    Thank you for starting this thread.

    Re the bit of your post I've emboldened, where do we stand on the objections by some Muslim parents to teaching LGBT issues to their children on the grounds that homosexuality is immoral and they want their children to remain part of their community and uphold its traditional views?
    ...

    There are plenty of negative opinions about LGBT people across all religions and none; I know whereof I speak.

    For me, your example is why I put the second point in the OP - evidence of cruelty or harm is a reason to intervene. I don’t know what the evidence is in Islam, but evangelical Christian conversion “therapies” - for example - are something many would consider as harmful.
  • Looking at my own experience as a child, there was almost no engagement with philosophy, religion, and faith, and moral teaching at home was limited to don't lie, don't steal, get a good job, don't spend more than you earn, don't end up sweeping the streets, no one owes you a living, and so on.

    The results were not pretty: I ended up as a default agnostic; thought religion was something old people got, along with antimacassars and cuckoo clocks; voted Liberal in the 1979 election purely because that's what my parents (I believed at the time) voted for; and didn't meet my first young Christian until I was 19 when a work colleague astonished me with the revelation that she didn't believe in dinosaurs and took Genesis literally.

    School had tried but all I can remember of anything religious is school assembly, Christmas carols, and an RE lesson where I learned that Sikhs always carry five totems, two of which are a knife and a comb. I've forgotten the other three.

    All in all, my worldview was really formed by The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, and the World About Us series.

    So the issue of what to teach and when and how interests me a great deal but perhaps not for the reasons anyone here thought.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I don't think it's possible to avoid this altogether. With things like religion and certain ethical/controversial 'issues', we are aware that our views are not the only views, and we can teach children in these terms - that we believe one thing and others believe other things - but there are so many subtle cultural views and attitudes and values that we absorb as a default and they are just our normal. And even when people become intellectually aware that there are other ways of viewing something, they will still easily unquestioningly default to their way and apply it to everything they see.
  • I suppose you could sum if up as Don't give children knowledge: give children the power to think.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Sum what up? That is not what I was saying. I was saying no matter how hard people try to be objective, they will inevitably pass on assumptions they hold, that they are not even aware that they hold. None of us can view all our views, attitudes and values objectively. It's an impossibility.
  • fineline wrote: »
    Sum what up? That is not what I was saying. I was saying no matter how hard people try to be objective, they will inevitably pass on assumptions they hold, that they are not even aware that they hold. None of us can view all our views, attitudes and values objectively. It's an impossibility.

    Ah, sorry. I didn't mean specifically you. It was a general 'you' and in reply to the OP. I agree that people will inevitably pass on assumptions but perhaps they could be more aware that they are doing it.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Objectivity is not only unattainable it is also undesirable. It is the subjectivity that provides an interesting perspective on the subject. All that anyone can do is make their own particular biases apparent. This enables counter arguments from different perspectives to be presented.
  • In real life, parents and other adults, as well as their peers, will inevitably influence young people by their beliefs, whether religious or not. Some always vote for a political party because their parents did. Some stay with a familiar religion, or an atheistic point of view, which their parents brought them up with.

    It is not wrong to be open about what we believe, as long as it doesn't incite hatred and/or encourage violence. A good education helps young people to think for themselves, to challenge and question and to form their own point of view.

    <Tangent: The reminds me of a scene in Blackadder in which he was trying to get Baldrick to think for himself.>

    To answer the op:

    A religion worth its salt will have the equivalent of 'confirmation' when a young person/adult accepts the religion as his/her own. Age appropriate teaching is and should be provided. It will inevitably be biased.

    It is only possible to be bias-free to an extent. If I as a Christian am teaching my son, I will not teach him all of the other religions or atheism, I will simply tell him that they exist too and that others believe them, while my beliefs lie in Christianity. It would be wrong not to teach him what I sincerely believe is a good and right way of life, one which benefits all of society.

    It would also be wrong not to tell anyone else about it who showed an interest, whether or not their cultural background was Christian - which is not the same thing as proselytisation.
  • Apology for missing something out and getting the tags slightly wrong/.
    Cameron wrote: »
    (In another thread, there has been a tangent diverting from internal choices within a belief system about participation stages, to when it is appropriate to educate children in your belief system.
    I think the first and to me the most important, point is to say that I think the phrase ‘educate about’ is more appropriate than ‘educate in’.
    With the intention of bringing the tangent to its own discussion, perhaps one could ask:
    * What matters of belief should form parts of a child’s education, and at what age(s)?
    As much as possible. Dstarting with stories told in a way appropriate for age, and in a way that states they are true stories, only if this can be backed up at a later date by independent sources; otherwise with the qualification that this is what some people believe. As the child grows older, the stories can be repeated in more elaborate form.
    * Is it possible to offer ‘bias free’ choices, whether beliefs are held to be foundational truths (for example religious ideas) or accepted as social constructions / matters of taste and so on?
    I think it is probably nore possible nowadays. When I was young, I think I was fortunate that whatever stories I read, or heard (in school and Sunday School for instance), which involved acceptance as being true, the only factor reinforced as absolutely true by my parents was God.
    From my perspective, this is a complex matter but it seems to me that:
    (1) If you associate your belief with good life outcomes for your children and/or community (from your perspective), then it would be immoral for you not to educate them in it.
    (2) To think it would be immoral is to wear metaphorical blinkers, I think, since to teach it in isolation from life in general and history in particular could well be seen as indoctrination.
    (1) The treatment of indigenous peoples and the effect of colonial/imperial attitudes in the past makes me think that these matters are so tied up with community and personal identity that denying the legitimacy another community’s beliefs - without strong evidence of cruelty or harm - is cultural violence.
    Yes, and there is no excuse really these days for ignorance of such attitudes and behaviours, especially since some of them are current.

    When my children were born, they were baptised; it was expected, taken for granted. I had already begun to question the idea but was too busy dealing with a large number of other problems to sort it out. By the time they were approaching the question of confirmation, there had been much discussion, including whether it would benefit them in life. The decision was theirs. They were both veering well towards atheism, whereas for me this was still some way off.



  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    edited November 2
    You can't teach children values as "concepts in the abstract" - ie without a basis in some kind of story. Or without some kind of incentive eg praise or sweeties or punishment. Or without modelling yourself desirable attitudes and behaviour. Their brains just aren't ready for that yet. In mid-teens maybe you can discuss issues (LGBT for example) and the way different people or societies have different attitudes in a rational debate-y type of way.

    I acutally don't see what's so wrong with developing different ideas than your Mum and Dad as you grow up. You don't need to criticise them. They gave you what they thought with the best intentions (in most cases). After all, they only had the information they had (tradition, religion, "science" such as it was, etc) and the social structures (church, youth movements, sports clubs, etc) available to them at the time. One perhaps began to see, understand and act differently from them because of information you got or friends you made or books you read ...

    Take my Mum. Born in 1925, she never met an L or a G till she was 25 (let alone a B or a T). She'd only heard horrid jokes or nasty stereotypes till the 1980's probably. She began to think "Well, that's a bit un-Christian" when she had a gay boss with whom she began enjoying little chats about what book each of them was reading at the moment. Then his partner died suddenly and of all the workplace she (a lowly pool typist) was the one who "screwed her courage to the sticking place", marched up to him and said "I am so sorry to hear of your friend's death". And ever after "called out" anti-gay sentiments expressed in her presence.

    It's always a process. And as far as I know she never for a moment blamed her parents or her church for "brainwashing" her. Just as I don't blame her or Dad for passing on their ideas of morality or brainwashing me.
  • Cameron wrote: »
    (In another thread, there has been a tangent diverting from internal choices within a belief system about participation stages, to when it is appropriate to educate children in your belief system.

    With the intention of bringing the tangent to its own discussion, perhaps one could ask:
    * What matters of belief should form parts of a child’s education, and at what age(s)?
    * Is it possible to offer ‘bias free’ choices, whether beliefs are held to be foundational truths (for example religious ideas) or accepted as social constructions / matters of taste and so on?

    From my perspective, this is a complex matter but it seems to me that:
    (1) If you associate your belief with good life outcomes for your children and/or community (from your perspective), then it would be immoral for you not to educate them in it.
    (1) The treatment of indigenous peoples and the effect of colonial/imperial attitudes in the past makes me think that these matters are so tied up with community and personal identity that denying the legitimacy another community’s beliefs - without strong evidence of cruelty or harm - is cultural violence.

    What do others think? Including (but not only):
    @SusanDoris
    @Colin Smith

    Thank you for starting this thread.

    Re the bit of your post I've emboldened, where do we stand on the objections by some Muslim parents to teaching LGBT issues to their children on the grounds that homosexuality is immoral and they want their children to remain part of their community and uphold its traditional views?

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-47613578

    ""Mr Ahmed said [...]
    "Fundamentally the issue we have with No Outsiders is that it is changing our children's moral position on family values on sexuality and we are a traditional community.

    "Morally we do not accept homosexuality as a valid sexual relationship to have. It's not about being homophobic... that's like saying, if you don't believe in Islam, you're Islamophobic."
    Thank you for highlighting Muslims, because there are no other religions that think homosexuality is wrong. The atheists I've heard saying things that sounded homophobic must have been secretly Muslim.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Yes, I agree with Galilit - kids pick up values through seeing them modelled, or illustrated in a story. So if a child observed their parents making judgemental comments about someone to each other, or to their friends, the child will absorb these values. Even if the judgement is expressed in a light-hearted or subtle way, kids pick it up - they'll see that certain clothes, or hairstyles, or lifestyles, or decisions, or religion, are frowned on or laughed at. To give an example that is often given these days, if a mother is always trying to lose weight, and expressing unhappiness when she gains weight, her daughter will pick up that gaining weight is a bad thing. And what the kid absorbs this way speaks louder than what the parents tell their kids - they may be telling their kids not to judge others, that everyone's different and this is okay, and that it doesn't matter what weight they are, but the kid will still absorb at a deeper level what they observe.

    When this topic arises here, it is usually about parents who teach religion to a child, but it works the other way too. If a parent sees religious beliefs as a bit silly, they could be conscientiously teaching their children that everyone can choose whatever religion they like, or no religion, and that it's the child's choice and will be respected, but ultimately, if the kid observes their parent making some snarky comment about religion to a friend, this is what they will absorb, and they won't want their beliefs to be the subject of their parent's mockery, so they will imitate the mocking behaviour.
  • Cameron wrote: »
    (In another thread, there has been a tangent diverting from internal choices within a belief system about participation stages, to when it is appropriate to educate children in your belief system.

    With the intention of bringing the tangent to its own discussion, perhaps one could ask:
    * What matters of belief should form parts of a child’s education, and at what age(s)?
    This is the tough one. Too early and it is straight up indoctrination.
    Cameron wrote: »
    * Is it possible to offer ‘bias free’ choices, whether beliefs are held to be foundational truths (for example religious ideas) or accepted as social constructions / matters of taste and so on?
    No. It is not possible, because it is not how we learn and because it is impossible to be unbiased. The best thing we can do is to teach children to think critically.
    *
    Cameron wrote: »
    From my perspective, this is a complex matter but it seems to me that:
    (1) If you associate your belief with good life outcomes for your children and/or community (from your perspective), then it would be immoral for you not to educate them in it.
    If this is your POV, then you want indoctrination.
    Cameron wrote: »
    (1) The treatment of indigenous peoples and the effect of colonial/imperial attitudes in the past makes me think that these matters are so tied up with community and personal identity that denying the legitimacy another community’s beliefs - without strong evidence of cruelty or harm - is cultural violence.
    The position above (particular belief = good) conflicts with this reality even when taught with the gentlest of ways.
    This is the TRUTH! inevitable leads to harm to people of other beliefs.
    This is what we believe to be true, others believe something different. That would be more ideal, but in practice takes much more effort.

  • CameronCameron Shipmate
    @lilbuddha thank you for your points.

    I guess I would advocate uncritical instruction of children about certain things - such as stealing or hitting other children being a bad thing, or brushing your teeth to be a good thing. I recognise these are not challenging examples!

    More broadly, I suppose I struggle with how young children can be taught critical thinking before they have the capacity for it, which creates a problem. Most pedagogy seems to be simplified in earlier years. For example, I remember early chemistry lessons included (false) ‘solar system’ (Bohr) models of atoms. We were not ready for electron / probability clouds, and the incorrectly simple model was good enough to start with.

    Complex moral concepts would seem to be similarly challenging. For example, I could understand stealing=bad as a child, but I am sure I would not so easily have understood structural inequality that leads to deprivation and places some people in situations where criminal behaviour is more likely (and other choices are fewer).

    How does one develop critical thinking in younger children?
  • CameronCameron Shipmate
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    When my children were born, they were baptised; it was expected, taken for granted. I had already begun to question the idea but was too busy dealing with a large number of other problems to sort it out. By the time they were approaching the question of confirmation, there had been much discussion, including whether it would benefit them in life. The decision was theirs. They were both veering well towards atheism, whereas for me this was still some way off.

    I think most people would think that is fine. Confirmation is about affirming faith (or not, I suppose) when you are able to do so, typically around the age of 13-14 I think. That seems a good age by which critical thinking should be strongly encouraged. I do think that some kids of that age will always choose the opposite view to their parents, though :smile:

    I haven’t taken up your other points, because I think they largely raise pedagogic problems of the kind mentioned in an earlier response above.
  • @Cameron
    Teaching simplified atomic models does not affect what is being taught any-more than teaching Newtonian models does and a stepping stone approach to concrete is necessary.
    So too, I think is a stepping stone approach to morality. Stealing is wrong, then inequality is much like theft.
    One develops critical thinking in children by encouraging questions and encouraging the questioning to go further. By framing answers in as objective a way as possible. By being honest to ones limited knowledge/understanding. By being a critical thinker oneself. Something many adults fail at often and nearly everyone fails at sometimes.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    I think the difficulty comes when one is dealing with something contested in the public realm. Do I say, “Vaccines will help stop you getting dangerous illnesses, and that’s why you’re being vaccinated - but some people don’t believe that”, or do I say “Some people believe that vaccines will help stop you getting dangerous illnesses and some people don’t, but we believe that vaccines will help stop you getting dangerous illnesses so that’s why you’re being vaccinated”.

    On what basis would it be right to stop me conveying spiritual truth in the same sort of way?
  • BroJames wrote: »
    I think the difficulty comes when one is dealing with something contested in the public realm. Do I say, “Vaccines will help stop you getting dangerous illnesses, and that’s why you’re being vaccinated - but some people don’t believe that”, or do I say “Some people believe that vaccines will help stop you getting dangerous illnesses and some people don’t, but we believe that vaccines will help stop you getting dangerous illnesses so that’s why you’re being vaccinated”.
    Vaccines are demonstrably effective. It isn't a "belief", but a reality.
    Believing vaccines are not effective or otherwise dangerous is not on the same level as the actual evidence that they are effective and it is not critical thinking to suggest they are.
    BroJames wrote: »
    On what basis would it be right to stop me conveying spiritual truth in the same sort of way?
    There is no such thing as spiritual truth. That is a euphemism for belief. And that is a problem. There is nothing wrong in having a non-empirical belief* but certain phrasings of it are detrimental to critical thinking.

    *One that does not do inherent harm
  • CameronCameron Shipmate
    I am not sure I agree with that @lilbuddha

    From a phenomenological, subjectivist paradigm (let alone a postmodern one), there is not necessarily an objective truth that is occluded by subjective experience and interpretation. I and others would argue that some things are properly understood within a phenomenological paradigm.

    If you are a positivist you will think differently, but if someone has religious or spiritual experience and/or is persuaded by a belief system’s narrative that is credible to them, it is going too far, I think, to claim that it is not (related to) the truth.

    As I say though, if we have different paradigm commitments we are not likely to agree. I’m OK with that - it’s one of the insoluble philosophical arguments.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    I agree with you about vaccines but you don’t have to look far on the internet to find plenty of grounds (however inadequate you or I might consider them to be) for disbelieving the efficacy of vaccines, and for believing they are harmful. What would I say to my children about the many (albeit possibly a minority) who believe that vaccines are unnecessary or harmful.

    I note your statement that there is no such thing as spiritual truth, and presumably you would believe it to be right to bring up a child to share that belief, but on what evidence is it founded? Or would you say to a child that some people believe in spiritual truth, and some do not and that the child must make up their own mind about it?
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    You'd take your child to your church as a matter of course. If (when) at some stage they ask you why you'd just start by saying simply "Because we are Presbyterians" (or whatever you are).
    If they question further answer according to their age and vehemence or contra-arguments they raise. I think it could be an interesting conversation for all concerned.
    Assuming they are old enough to be unsupervised for an hour or two - is it really that important they come with you?
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    And it's not just church - it's anything that is the norm in your family. You live in a certain area - so your child will also live in that area, and be influenced by the norms there. You have a certain set of friends and acquaintances, and there are of course different norms and values among different sets of people - your child becomes part of a certain culture, a certain social class, etc. There are numerous values that are just taken for granted and absorbed. Church is relatively simple to see and describe objectively, in terms of saying some people believe in God (and more specifically in Christianity's version of God), while others don't. But even within that, there are so many differences in how people see God and faith, and they are all so culturally influenced that people are often not aware of them.

    Parental ability to express to the child differences in practices and views will also depend on things like how broad the parents' experience has been, the extent to which they have travelled, their education, etc. And that is of course dependent on all sorts of factors. If the child is able to go to university, they will have the opportunity themselves to meet a wide variety of people and to challenge the norms they've grown up with, as often happens.

  • EliabEliab Shipmate, Purgatory Host
    A conversation I had with my daughter, Miss Consequence, a few years ago (she was 8 or 9, I think):

    C: Dad, would you rather I believed what you believe, or do you want me to think for myself?

    E: Consequence, you can't believe what I believe unless you think for yourself.


    What I want for her is to care about goodness and truth, to pursue the insights she has and that are important to her. I want her to find God, not learn how to recite a statement of faith, and part of that finding has to involve thinking and questioning. I can't indoctrinate her into my religion - because anything that I could indoctrinate, wouldn't be my religion, however superficially similar the dogmas might be.
  • AravisAravis Shipmate
    We live in an area which is diverse in culture, religions, and social class, and it would not have been appropriate to attempt to limit our daughter to one set of norms. She was baptized as a baby and came to church with us, but by the time she was five I’d also told her a bit about Islam as she had Muslim friends at school and we had Muslim neighbours.

    When she was about eight (I think) we had some discussion about choice of beliefs. I said it would obviously be nice for us if she wanted to be Christian, but that nobody could or should decide your beliefs for you, and that I’d rather she followed whatever she did or didn’t genuinely believe; I’d prefer her to be an honest agnostic than an unthinking believer. I also told her that it was not essential to believe in the literal truth of the Bible to be a Christian, but that you might have to be tactful with people who did believe that, especially if they happened to be your grandparents.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    I agree with you about vaccines but you don’t have to look far on the internet to find plenty of grounds (however inadequate you or I might consider them to be) for disbelieving the efficacy of vaccines, and for believing they are harmful. What would I say to my children about the many (albeit possibly a minority) who believe that vaccines are unnecessary or harmful.
    The value and efficacy of vaccines is objectively demonstrable; a faith belief in God, or a God/god, Is not objectively demonstrable.
    I note your statement that there is no such thing as spiritual truth, and presumably you would believe it to be right to bring up a child to share that belief, but on what evidence is it founded? Or would you say to a child that some people believe in spiritual truth, and some do not and that the child must make up their own mind about it?
    The word 'spiritual' is one nowadays often used; not so when I was young. When it comes up, its widely differing meanings need to be discussed too, I think, and not a one meaning exclusive to a connection with God/etc.
    ,

  • Aravis wrote: »
    We live in an area which is diverse in culture, religions, and social class, and it would not have been appropriate to attempt to limit our daughter to one set of norms. She was baptized as a baby and came to church with us, but by the time she was five I’d also told her a bit about Islam as she had Muslim friends at school and we had Muslim neighbours.

    When she was about eight (I think) we had some discussion about choice of beliefs. I said it would obviously be nice for us if she wanted to be Christian, but that nobody could or should decide your beliefs for you, and that I’d rather she followed whatever she did or didn’t genuinely believe; I’d prefer her to be an honest agnostic than an unthinking believer. I also told her that it was not essential to believe in the literal truth of the Bible to be a Christian, but that you might have to be tactful with people who did believe that, especially if they happened to be your grandparents.
    Well, I think that's spot on- super post.
  • Aravis wrote: »
    We live in an area which is diverse in culture, religions, and social class, and it would not have been appropriate to attempt to limit our daughter to one set of norms. She was baptized as a baby and came to church with us, but by the time she was five I’d also told her a bit about Islam as she had Muslim friends at school and we had Muslim neighbours.

    When she was about eight (I think) we had some discussion about choice of beliefs. I said it would obviously be nice for us if she wanted to be Christian, but that nobody could or should decide your beliefs for you, and that I’d rather she followed whatever she did or didn’t genuinely believe; I’d prefer her to be an honest agnostic than an unthinking believer. I also told her that it was not essential to believe in the literal truth of the Bible to be a Christian, but that you might have to be tactful with people who did believe that, especially if they happened to be your grandparents.
    As long as tactful allows for expressed, but respectful disagreement, I rather like your approach.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    I agree with you about vaccines but you don’t have to look far on the internet to find plenty of grounds (however inadequate you or I might consider them to be) for disbelieving the efficacy of vaccines, and for believing they are harmful. What would I say to my children about the many (albeit possibly a minority) who believe that vaccines are unnecessary or harmful.
    That some are idiots and some are fools. The fools so believe because they are afraid of something they cannot control, like autism, and the anti-vaxx rhetoric gives them the feeling of control. Or it gives them an "answer", however wrong, to why something happened.
    BroJames wrote: »
    I note your statement that there is no such thing as spiritual truth, and presumably you would believe it to be right to bring up a child to share that belief, but on what evidence is it founded?
    The lack of any concrete evidence of any faith.
    BroJames wrote: »
    Or would you say to a child that some people believe in spiritual truth, and some do not and that the child must make up their own mind about it?
    I would say that some people believe that that have no direct evidence. Life does not contain concrete answers for everything.

    Truth is a variable word. The problem with using it with small children is that they do not have the experiential tools to properly differentiate.

    It is an observable truth that walking off the edge of a cliff will end in falling.
    It is a "spiritual truth" that having enough faith will prevent falling to one's death.
  • I suppose you could sum if up as Don't give children knowledge: give children the power to think.

    That's a wretched idea. Children need knowledge, they need facts. Human brains are designed to absorb facts at a prodigious rate when they are young. It's why kids are so curious about everything. It's a disease in math(s) teaching that kids need to learn the meaning behind techniques, and not facts. But that's only true at certain levels. At the basic level kids need to know facts, and they need to know them cold.

    You can't have the power to think if you don't have any knowledge about which, and with which, to think.
  • Eliab wrote: »
    A conversation I had with my daughter, Miss Consequence, a few years ago (she was 8 or 9, I think):

    C: Dad, would you rather I believed what you believe, or do you want me to think for myself?

    E: Consequence, you can't believe what I believe unless you think for yourself.

    This is fantastic.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    BroJames wrote: »
    I agree with you about vaccines but you don’t have to look far on the internet to find plenty of grounds (however inadequate you or I might consider them to be) for disbelieving the efficacy of vaccines, and for believing they are harmful. What would I say to my children about the many (albeit possibly a minority) who believe that vaccines are unnecessary or harmful.
    That some are idiots and some are fools. The fools so believe because they are afraid of something they cannot control, like autism, and the anti-vaxx rhetoric gives them the feeling of control. Or it gives them an "answer", however wrong, to why something happened.

    I don't disagree with what you say, but would add a third group: people using the gullibility and fears of groups 1 and 2 for their own purposes. Whether to make money directly, get more eyes on their sites for more ad revenue, puff up their egos with the knowledge of how many people they have influenced, whatever.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    I suppose you could sum if up as Don't give children knowledge: give children the power to think.

    That's a wretched idea. Children need knowledge, they need facts. Human brains are designed to absorb facts at a prodigious rate when they are young. It's why kids are so curious about everything. It's a disease in math(s) teaching that kids need to learn the meaning behind techniques, and not facts. But that's only true at certain levels. At the basic level kids need to know facts, and they need to know them cold.

    You can't have the power to think if you don't have any knowledge about which, and with which, to think.
    Definitely agree. There was a time when I was teaching that someone thought of a brilliant idea that children should always have it explained to them why a process in maths worked and not proceed until it was understood. Those of us who taught at Primary Schools sighed and went on teaching facts and how to work the process. I used the analogy of use of a hammer. I'd ask them if they knew how to use a hammer. Answer, yes. Then I'd ask, do you understand how the fulcrum and lever work? Answer no! 'Use the tools,' I'd say and they liked that idea. Some would go on to learn in greater depth and some would not, but that's okay.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    Agree about "using the tools" from an early age and explaining the principles later.

    But what does this insight translate into in areas that are more controversial ?

    Teaching children to obey the Ten Commandments at an early stage and explaining other concepts of morality later ?

    Taking children to a wedding with a bride and groom, and explaining LGBT later ?

    Seems like everyone's fine with the principle of teaching the simple and concrete early in a definite way, and then later the abstractions and complexities and uncertainties and disputes.

    Until it's their own hot-button issue. When they want to prevent children forming simple ideas that they disagree with.
  • CameronCameron Shipmate
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    The value and efficacy of vaccines is objectively demonstrable; a faith belief in God, or a God/god, Is not objectively demonstrable.

    So what?

    The proposition that one should only accept propositions that can be founded on objective evidence (and/or repeatable experiments) cannot be derived from objective evidence. The rule is not demonstrable on its own terms.

    This is different from saying that a particular proposition can be derived from objective evidence, within the rules of the scientific method / paradigm. And for the avoidance of doubt, I have no issue with medicine and medical decisions - like vaccine use - being based on that. I would avoid both a mediaeval and a postmodern doctor! But I would also avoid a reductionist ethicist or spiritual counsellor who is confined by the scientific method - I think it’s category error territory.

  • I think that's right, but don't some theists equivocate by using words such as truth and reality, to indicate their own beliefs? I was saying on the baptism thread that believing in God seems different from believing in stars, but someone could say that stars and God are both "reality".
  • Among other things, culture is what is going on around you. We all absorb this, as if we were in petri dishes. This is, as far as I can see, a universal condition of being human. It's part of the socialisation. Is is possible to bring up children aculturally, and in particular is it possible to do so without leaving them as anxious, even paranoid loners, or sociopaths? I would suggest not. Therefore, every child will absorb what they experience, and this will form them even as they question, especially in adolescence. It's inevitable, and a lot better than the alternative.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    don't some theists equivocate by using words such as truth and reality, to indicate their own beliefs?

    Most people use "true" and "real" and "moral" to refer to what they believe to be true or real or moral. Inevitably. We have no direct access to reality that is not filtered by our own perception.

    There's potentially an issue of equivocation if everyone accepts that there are "public beliefs" to which one standard of evidence applies and "private beliefs" which require a lower level of evidence.

    In which case passing off one's private conviction as a public truth might indeed be falling short.

    But it's not confined to theists - look around on these boards and see the number of people stating their private political convictions as if they were public truths...
  • I think that's right, but don't some theists equivocate by using words such as truth and reality, to indicate their own beliefs? I was saying on the baptism thread that believing in God seems different from believing in stars, but someone could say that stars and God are both "reality".

    Yes because they are both part of my reality. Stars are an objective reality and God a subjective one, but I treat them equally as part of my worldview when evaluating the world around me. I don't think I'm unique in treating objective and subjective reality on a fundamentally equal basis. In fact, I believe it's a universal part of being human. I see the atheists on this august vessel doing it every bit as much as the people of religious faith, however furiously they deny it.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    Cameron wrote: »
    (In another thread, there has been a tangent diverting from internal choices within a belief system about participation stages, to when it is appropriate to educate children in your belief system.

    With the intention of bringing the tangent to its own discussion, perhaps one could ask:
    * What matters of belief should form parts of a child’s education, and at what age(s)?
    * Is it possible to offer ‘bias free’ choices, whether beliefs are held to be foundational truths (for example religious ideas) or accepted as social constructions / matters of taste and so on?

    From my perspective, this is a complex matter but it seems to me that:
    (1) If you associate your belief with good life outcomes for your children and/or community (from your perspective), then it would be immoral for you not to educate them in it.
    (1) The treatment of indigenous peoples and the effect of colonial/imperial attitudes in the past makes me think that these matters are so tied up with community and personal identity that denying the legitimacy another community’s beliefs - without strong evidence of cruelty or harm - is cultural violence.

    What do others think? Including (but not only):
    @SusanDoris
    @Colin Smith

    Thank you for starting this thread.

    Re the bit of your post I've emboldened, where do we stand on the objections by some Muslim parents to teaching LGBT issues to their children on the grounds that homosexuality is immoral and they want their children to remain part of their community and uphold its traditional views?

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-47613578

    ""Mr Ahmed said [...]
    "Fundamentally the issue we have with No Outsiders is that it is changing our children's moral position on family values on sexuality and we are a traditional community.

    "Morally we do not accept homosexuality as a valid sexual relationship to have. It's not about being homophobic... that's like saying, if you don't believe in Islam, you're Islamophobic."
    Thank you for highlighting Muslims, because there are no other religions that think homosexuality is wrong. The atheists I've heard saying things that sounded homophobic must have been secretly Muslim.

    Actually, that wasn't what I was hoping to highlight. The important aspect of the story isn't Muslims and homophobia but the idea that any community has a right to control what children born within that community learn.
    I see it as the role of each successive generation to examine and if necessary modify or reject the previous generation's values.
  • Russ wrote: »
    Agree about "using the tools" from an early age and explaining the principles later.

    But what does this insight translate into in areas that are more controversial ?

    Teaching children to obey the Ten Commandments at an early stage and explaining other concepts of morality later ?

    Taking children to a wedding with a bride and groom, and explaining LGBT later ?

    Seems like everyone's fine with the principle of teaching the simple and concrete early in a definite way, and then later the abstractions and complexities and uncertainties and disputes.

    Until it's their own hot-button issue. When they want to prevent children forming simple ideas that they disagree with.

    But five of those ten commandments have nothing to do with morality. I agree the other five are important, though the sixth commandment is much less important than it was.
  • Galilit wrote: »
    You'd take your child to your church as a matter of course. If (when) at some stage they ask you why you'd just start by saying simply "Because we are Presbyterians" (or whatever you are).
    If they question further answer according to their age and vehemence or contra-arguments they raise. I think it could be an interesting conversation for all concerned.
    Assuming they are old enough to be unsupervised for an hour or two - is it really that important they come with you?

    For me the, Because we are Presbyterians" (or whatever you are) line cuts to the heart of the issue. It's the equivalent of saying because we are Democrats, Republics, Tories, Labour, or whatever, which imposes your values/beliefs on the child.

    You could say that you're at church because you'd like to share what you do with your child and then see if the child is happy being there or not.
  • Aravis wrote: »
    We live in an area which is diverse in culture, religions, and social class, and it would not have been appropriate to attempt to limit our daughter to one set of norms. She was baptized as a baby and came to church with us, but by the time she was five I’d also told her a bit about Islam as she had Muslim friends at school and we had Muslim neighbours.

    When she was about eight (I think) we had some discussion about choice of beliefs. I said it would obviously be nice for us if she wanted to be Christian, but that nobody could or should decide your beliefs for you, and that I’d rather she followed whatever she did or didn’t genuinely believe; I’d prefer her to be an honest agnostic than an unthinking believer. I also told her that it was not essential to believe in the literal truth of the Bible to be a Christian, but that you might have to be tactful with people who did believe that, especially if they happened to be your grandparents.

    I wish my own parents had taken this approach.
  • Apologies for the mass-posting. Don't have internet at home so playing catch-up.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited November 3
    @Cameron said -
    Confirmation is about affirming faith (or not, I suppose) when you are able to do so, typically around the age of 13-14 I think. That seems a good age by which critical thinking should be strongly encouraged. I do think that some kids of that age will always choose the opposite view to their parents, though.

    You say that as if it’s awkward/deliberate of them. I don’t think so, it’s the age where they (hopefully) start to think for themselves.

    My son was due to read in Church at that age. He got upset and didn’t want to do it. He was a very shy boy so I started giving him help on overcoming his nerves. He said “It’s not that- I don’t believe it, any of it.” So we had a good chat and I made sure he knew that his beliefs were entirely his choice. He did do the reading in the end - but just as he would reading any story out loud.

    At the time his two best friends were Muslim and Hindu. The three of them talked about religion a lot and decided Hindu was the best - more parties!

    He remains an atheist to this day, aged 33 - and I am gradually catching him up ;)

  • Colin SmithColin Smith Shipmate
    edited November 3
    Boogie wrote: »
    @Cameron said -
    Confirmation is about affirming faith (or not, I suppose) when you are able to do so, typically around the age of 13-14 I think. That seems a good age by which critical thinking should be strongly encouraged. I do think that some kids of that age will always choose the opposite view to their parents, though.

    You say that as if it’s awkward/deliberate of them. I don’t think so, it’s the age where they (hopefully) start to think for themselves.

    My son was due to read in Church at that age. He got upset and didn’t want to do it. He was a very shy boy so I started giving him help on overcoming his nerves. He said “It’s not that- I don’t believe it, any of it.” So we had a good chat and I made sure he knew that his beliefs were entirely his choice. He did do the reading in the end - but just as he would reading any story out loud.

    At the time his two best friends were Muslim and Hindu. The three of them talked about religion a lot and decided Hindu was the best - more parties!

    He remains an atheist to this day, aged 33 - and I am gradually catching him up ;)

    I sort of want to give your comment a big warm hug. And you for that matter.
    Not because you're catching up your son in the atheist department* but because you obviously did a good job of parenting.

    *I'm really not in the promoting atheism business.
  • I think that's right, but don't some theists equivocate by using words such as truth and reality, to indicate their own beliefs? I was saying on the baptism thread that believing in God seems different from believing in stars, but someone could say that stars and God are both "reality".

    Yes because they are both part of my reality. Stars are an objective reality and God a subjective one, but I treat them equally as part of my worldview when evaluating the world around me. I don't think I'm unique in treating objective and subjective reality on a fundamentally equal basis. In fact, I believe it's a universal part of being human. I see the atheists on this august vessel doing it every bit as much as the people of religious faith, however furiously they deny it.

    That's fine, but the differences between stars and gods seem important, especially that gods, well, a lot of them, are held to be supernatural. (I realize that some are not). I'm not saying that stars are more important, how would I know? The supernatural has some odd properties, anyway, this is a can of worms.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    I think that's right, but don't some theists equivocate by using words such as truth and reality, to indicate their own beliefs? I was saying on the baptism thread that believing in God seems different from believing in stars, but someone could say that stars and God are both "reality".
    Stars are an objective reality and God a subjective one, but I treat them equally as part of my worldview when evaluating the world around me. I don't think I'm unique in treating objective and subjective reality on a fundamentally equal basis.
    I don't see that God is a subjective reality. The standard the evidence for God needs to meet in order for it to be rational to believe in God might be a subjective standard, but that's a different sort of statement.

    We learn the use of the words 'truth' and 'reality' in connection with various practices that include honesty and not lying, being wrong and being corrected, learning and finding truth out, distinguishing between fiction and non-fiction, and so on. Truth comes in where the direction of fit between belief and reality is that the belief should fit reality. If there is a mismatch the belief ought to change. That being the case 'subjective truth', that is a belief that has no obligation to fit to reality, is something of a catechresis: a straining of language away from its home context. I suppose a genuine example of subjective truth might be my belief that my gender is male: it seems to be agreed that people can come to think that they used to be wrong about what their gender is, (hence there's genuinely a matter of fit), but that no other party is in a position to pronounce on the matter. But the existence of God isn't that kind of question; if I believe in God I don't believe God is any kind of fact about me in particular.

    Part of the problem is that the words 'objective' and 'subjective' have many distinct and somewhat contrary uses, which leads people into confusions.
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