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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Old stuff

I thought I'd already quoted this here, but can't find the link.

Anyway, here is something that I wrote 18 months ago, in response to a blog post about secular schooling. I'm still quite pleased with it:

I am fundamentally opposed to the idea that the state has ultimate responsibility for the education of my children. Their physical protection, maybe. But their educational well-being, who’s to be the judge of that? Will the “truth” change with each election? And what happens when the EU gets involved? And Turkey joins?

Of course I want them to come to believe what I believe. Not because they must be like me, but because I believe what I believe is true, (whilst admitting that I may be wrong. That is the paradox we have to live with.)

That is where I find the ‘secularist’ argument repeated here to be unwittingly symmetrical. You want to protect children from being indoctrinated – well wouldn’t any sane person want that? But one man’s prejudice is another man’s conviction.

“Since the sceptic does not consider it rational to doubt what he himself believes, the advocacy of ‘rational doubt’ is merely the sceptic’s way of advocating his own beliefs.”

If I decide to send my children to a school (any school), I obviously don’t expect everything they see and hear there to conform 100% to my world view. But I will try to ensure that their ‘exposure’ to ‘harmful’ experiences or influences will be gradual, and adapted to what I judge to be their ability to handle it. Just as I would do for what they watch on the TV, or for what I give a weaning baby to eat (or where I plant a sapling, for that matter).

It is entirely normal to grow up as a child believing whatever your parents tell you. But that isn’t sufficient to carry that belief through growing up and into the rest of your life. So there is no need to succumb to jihadist-or-fundamentalist-behind-every-lamppost hysteria.

Whatever their public posturing may be, I humbly submit that the majority of people are just muddling through life with a jumble of not-necessarily-coherent, half-thought-out beliefs which have more or less ‘worked’ for them so far, and for which they have managed to find some supporting community.

Whatever else I manage to transmit to my children, I hope that I manage to instil in them respect for others, and the courage to be themselves.


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