By Oliver Del Signore
September 15, 2001
Do we do our children a favor by sheltering them from ideas that contradict our own or would they be better served by being exposed to such thoughts while we are still by their side to help them understand why we believe as we do?
Many parents today think it is their duty to prevent their children from learning anything that does not strictly adhere to their own political, social, and religious dogma. Certainly it is a parent’s responsibility to pass on their beliefs to their children, but is it not also a parent’s responsibility to prepare their children for the world they will face as adults? Is a myopic world view going to serve them well, or will they soon find themselves foundering because they have no clue about how the world really works.
I believe the problem is that some people are just afraid of ideas. They are afraid of anything that challenges them, that might make them think about what they believe and why they believe it. Instead of facing a challenge and using it to strengthen their beliefs, they run from it, refusing to acknowledge its very existence, evidently believing that if they cover their ears and close their eyes, they will somehow be made safe. By doing so, they miss out on an opportunity to teach their children a valuable lesson — that yes, other people believe different things but this is what we believe and this is why we are right and they are wrong. They miss the opportunity to teach their children to think, to reason, to analyze arguments in search of the truth. Which suggests the real problem.
Perhaps they are afraid to open their beliefs to question because they are not sure they can defend them. And if their belief is indefensible, what lesson will that teach their children?
Imagine how quickly bigotry and mindless hatred would die out if it had to be defended by logical, reasoned argument. Now that’s a challenging thought.