Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Indoctrination?

Suppose a parent were to tell a child the following: 

Now, son (or daughter) I am not telling you what to believe. As the great Richard Dawkins says, if I were to label you as a child according to my beliefs, I would be guilty of child abuse. But, when you decide what to believe, just remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and no religion is worthy of belief unless it passes that Outsider Test for Faith, as defined by John Loftus. 

Indoctrination? Yes, no, maybe so?

18 comments:

B. Prokop said...

All debates over word definitions aside, this is an issue of enormous importance - more significant by far than most of the things we normally discuss on this website. That issue is how far do parents have the right to raise their own children as they see fit? This is not easily answerable. If you're inclined to answer "they have every right" (as I myself am), you still have to wrestle with the problem of parents raising their children as cult members (as in Waco), or polygamists, or Jew-hating white supremacists, or whatever.

To the other extreme are those who would push federally mandated education standards upon children, to be raised in the true "indoctrination centers" (and here I am using that term negatively) that are today's public schools.

I'll give you a rather benign example. I was recently invited to give a presentation on astronomy at a local middle school. (As a part time community college instructor in the subject, I have some expertise in the field.) Well... After I was finished, I was soundly criticized by a school administrator for using the phrase "9 feet across" in one demonstration I was making. "We never use anything other than the Metric System here" I was told, and warned that I was in violation of the Next Generation Science Standards, and would not be welcome unless I got in line tout de suite!

Hugo said...

"I was soundly criticized by a school administrator for using the phrase "9 feet across" in one demonstration I was making. "We never use anything other than the Metric System here" I was told, and warned that I was in violation of the Next Generation Science Standards, and would not be welcome unless I got in line tout de suite!"

Wow that's one crazy administrator! Isn't better for kids to understand both, while making sure they understand that metric is the norm in science, instead of forcing them to use only metric? He could suggest you say '3 meters or 9 feet' for example...

Papalinton said...

On the contrary Hugo, it isn't better to learn both. Indeed confusion reigns supreme in an ambivalent system. We in Australia went through this change back in the 1970's when the country transferred from imperial to the metric system. And as a teacher I was at the forefront of having to not only deliver that change but to become proficient in it myself concurrently. Let me say categorically and unequivocally, from experience - there. is. no. benefit. in. running. a dual. system. whatsoever. Except from an historical social interest perspective.

More than likely, rather than the implied Gestapo demands of the school administrator, I think what Bob experienced was an adverse reaction to change. While he was affronted by the administrator having the temerity to alert him to the fact that science standards had indeed changed and moved on, what caused the greater injury was the hit to his ego. He was found to be out of touch with modern day scientific standards, albeit being a self-acknowledged expert in the field of astronomy.

His haranguing of the public school system is way off the mark, egregious, and uncalled for. Contrary to his nonsense characterization they are hardly 'indoctrination centres', representing as they do the bulk of any one community. All one needs to do is a cursory survey of the the community in which they live to see the scuttlebutt underlying Bob's statement. One need only to note in that survey that those send their children to religiously-prescribed schools together with those that advocate home-schooling, a phenomenon overwhelmingly supported by religious groups, are singularly driven by the tribal imperative. This imperative is symptomatic of insecure behaviour, an anxiety that manifests itself in the pressing need for separation from the mainstream of community, particularly and especially in the young years. There is little doubt parents that subscribe to separateness have no confidence in either their own parenting practices or the strength of their religious convictions will be sufficient to guide their children through the hurly-burly of normal schooling.

To imply that the Next Generation Science Standards is indoctrination is more an indication of a tad of indignant irrationality.

B. Prokop said...

"His haranguing of the public school system is way off the mark, egregious, and uncalled for."

You are obviously unfamiliar with the disaster that is the current US Public School System.

Hugo said...

@Papalinton

Mr. Prokop was a guest speaker; there was no reason to react strongly to the usage of 'feet' in this context. It was a good occasion to explain the conversion between the 2 systems.

I didn't mean that they should literally teach both in parallel; I agree with you on that. And yes, it does seem that Mr. Prokop implies that the Next Generation Science Standards is indoctrination, which is just as exaggerated as that administrator's reaction.

Ilíon said...

"We never use anything other than the Metric System here"

How geocentric, how planetist! What, do they expect that when humans live on Mars they must continue to use a system of measures based on the size of *this* planet?

Long live the "English" system of measures, which is based on human beings!

Ilíon said...

Even not talking to your kids about God is indoctrinating them to your (incorrect) view that God is unimportant.

But they still want to know -- when he was about 12, my great-nephew asked me (out of the blue) to talk with him about God.

Hugo said...

Ilíon said...
"your (incorrect) view that God is unimportant"

God is certainly important to both theists and atheists alike; just like Allah is important to you. An imaginary character that had such influence on human beings cannot be deemed unimportant.

"But they still want to know -- when he was about 12, my great-nephew asked me (out of the blue) to talk with him about God."

Sure, they still want to know, it's a good thing; just like people who grew up in very religious societies want to know more about what people who don't believe in God. I had several discussions with my wife's younger brother after he got to know I don't believe in God anymore.

B. Prokop said...

Anyone with a brain knows that a good ol' Imperial Pint of British ale beats a pathetic 500 ml of German lager any day!

And the metric-measuring, lager-guzzling Jerries lost twice big time last century to the "Pint o' Bitters" drinking Tommies. Coincidence? I don't think so!

im-skeptical said...

"Anyone with a brain knows that a good ol' Imperial Pint of British ale beats a pathetic 500 ml of German lager any day!"

You are correct. But if you want to compare apples to apples, I would take 500 ml of bitters over a pint any day.

Papalinton said...

Bob says: "You are obviously unfamiliar with the disaster that is the current US Public School System."

As background reading perhaps THIS BOOK might give a little insight into how the American people 'guided' in respect of educating their young. The abstract of the book summarizes it thesis thus:
"Winner-2008 AESA Critics' Choice Book Award
Breaking new ground in studies of business involvement in schooling, Capitalizing on Disaster dissects the most powerful educational reforms and highlights their relationship to the rise of powerful think tanks and business groups. Over the past several decades, there has been a strong movement to privatize public schooling through business ventures. At the beginning of the millennium, this privatization project looked moribund as both the Edison Schools and Knowledge Universe foundered. Nonetheless, privatization is back.

The new face of educational privatization replaces public schooling with EMOs, vouchers, and charter schools at an alarming rate. In both disaster and nondisaster areas, officials designate schools as failed in order to justify replacement with new, unproven models. Saltman examines how privatization policies such as No Child Left Behind are designed to deregulate schools, favoring business while undermining public oversight. Examining current policies in New Orleans, Chicago, and Iraq, Capitalizing on Disaster shows how the struggle for public schooling is essential to the struggle for a truly democratic society."


As a very keen outside observer and friend of the US, I am dismayed at how the US is being dissected, piece by little piece, by sectional interests. Observing the US over the past forty years of my life, [I read daily the NYT, Washington Post, Huffpost, and the LA Times to get a sense of what's happening across the country], the US is slowly imploding on multiple fronts. One needs only to understand how mega-businesses, such as Rupert Murdock's NewsCorp, so easily softens up large sections of the community, influentially large enough, and against their own better judgment, to unwittingly support and galvanize his organisation's self-interests.

It seems the American metaphysical dream for eduction of its young is to produce 'factory fodder' to feed the engines of big business.
Exchanging "E Pluribus Unum" for "In God We Trust" was a fundamental error of judgment on the part of American society. It simply gave those that subscribe to the 'Prosperity Gospel' a free run for themselves under the guise of a divine mandate from God. The moment a politician or big business leader bows his head in pray he is automatically accorded 'honest' status without conducting any process of due diligence.

And that is a sad indictment for a country that professes to be 85% christian believers.

B. Prokop said...

"Exchanging "E Pluribus Unum" for "In God We Trust" was a fundamental error of judgment on the part of American society. It simply gave those that subscribe to the 'Prosperity Gospel' a free run for themselves under the guise of a divine mandate from God."

It's a bit more complicated than that. E pluribus unum was only the unofficial motto of the USA (since 1782), and never given legal status despite its appearance on our paper money. "In God we trust" was first seen on US coins in 1864, though the phrase itself dates way back to 1814 and the writing of The Star Spangled Banner, which includes the line "And this be our motto: 'In God is our Trust.'"

"In God we trust" was made the official US motto in 1956, only two years after the words "under God" were inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance. Both changes were inspired not by big business or even for any specifically religious reasons, but were rather part and parcel of the ongoing Cold War against atheistic communism.

I quite agree that, now that the Cold War is history, it is time to get over it and move along. I would be quite happy to see E pluribus unum made the official US motto, and to scrap the Pledge of Allegiance altogether. But figure the odds of getting either of those two changes through congress today!

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, reasonable adults must give their children reasonable ways to test what they are taught in their surrounding cultures. We should not let them be open-minded to everything and therefore susceptible to every huckster. We shuld teach them critical thinking skils and the skeptical disposition. It's that simple. Thanks for mentioning my work on the OTF. It is the only reasonable way to test one's religious faith. One should be open-minded about doing so rather than closed minded about it. Even David Marshall now recommends it.

B. Prokop said...

"It is the only reasonable way to test one's religious faith"

Well John, I wouldn't go so far as to say "only", but as long as you allow for two acceptable outcomes (i.e., either dropping one's faith or confirming it) as equally valid results, I have no problem at all with looking at one's faith from an outsider's perspective. In fact, that is precisely what G.K. Chesterton did in his magnificent book The Everlasting Man.

My highest recommendations for this amazingly well-written and insightful work. Anyone reading this blog who has not yet read The Everlasting Man needs to drop whatever he's doing and obtain a copy.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks B. Prokop,

In my book I refer to Chesterton although I also argue he wasn't truly approaching his faith from the outside even though he said we should. I don't suppose you've read it to know. Cheers.

Papalinton said...

Yes, yes, I knew all that, Bob. But has the irony ever caused you to wonder that one should stand for some two hundred years after being recommended as a great motto, a time over which many adversities were overcome, only for the change to be prompted through a knee-jerk fear response some sixty years ago? Probably not.

Equally, ironic, the President that signed the new motto into law, Theodore Roosevelt, also "took issue with placing the motto on coinage as he considered it sacrilegious to put the name of God on money." [Wiki] But there it is, front and centre, America's modern God.

I always thought Christians valued the story about someone tossing the money lenders out of the temple.
Anyway, it's of casual interest only. I generally agree with the Supreme Court: "These acts of "ceremonial deism" are "protected from Establishment Clause scrutiny chiefly because they have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content."

"Ceremonial Deism". I like that. And no significant religious content. I like that too.

B. Prokop said...

"the President that signed the new motto into law, Theodore Roosevelt"

Not sure what your source for this info was, but Theodore Roosevelt was not president in 1956 - Eisenhower was. In fact, T. Roosevelt died in 1919, decades before it was signed into law.

Hmmm... Causes me to wonder whether you sources on dating the Gospels are not equally far off. :)

Papalinton said...

"... but Theodore Roosevelt was not president in 1956 - Eisenhower was. In fact, T. Roosevelt died in 1919, decades before it was signed into law."

Absolutely correct. Roosevelt's comment was made in response to the time "In God We Trust" was being printed on coinage. It is interesting to read A REPORT of the occasion and the reasons for his decision to omit it from being struck on coins. What is even more interesting is the unholy scrap by the religiose of the time to get it back on.