Tuesday, August 11, 2009

From Normblog:

The claim made by Richard Dawkins, and mentioned by Martin in passing here, 'that imposing parental beliefs on children is a form of child abuse' surely merits some clarifying explanation before we assent to it. It is, of course, easy as well as necessary to draw a distinction between putting a belief to children in a way that makes it plain to them that there are alternatives to, questions about, disagreements over it, and insisting on the belief as the sole unchallengeable truth. There's a difference between trying to educate children in a spirit that encourages interest in the world and finding out about it, on the one hand, and indoctrination, on the other. However, teaching people anything at all must involve putting across some points, beliefs, theses, in a more favourable light than others. If nothing else, education in a non-doctrinaire spirit means explaining the different modes of holding a belief and why leaving them open to falsification in the light of counter-evidence or the demonstration of internal inconsistency is an intellectual virtue. Again, must we not discriminate better from worse as between maintaining some standards of personal cleanliness and not doing so, or between behaving with consideration and kindness and being rude and dishonest? More generally, educating children involves, willy-nilly, the imparting of moral beliefs. This cannot be done without the presentation of some things as good and others as less good or downright bad. Even done in a non-doctrinaire way, it must involve a degree of active direction. It's misleading, therefore, to pretend that only dogmatists and fanatics narrow the minds of their children to the available sum of human beliefs. Everybody does it to some extent. Socialization of any kind would be impossible without it. It begins with the teaching of language.

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