Religion in Public School/ Children and Religion
Posted: 08 July 2007 02:53 PM   [ Ignore ]
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In our city, the entire public school system is Christian.  Just last year, they were required to change the mission statement to leave out ‘values of the church’, and only have ‘values of the community’ as part of their value system or whatever.  My grandma is a school teacher and she says every year the children take home papers that parents have to sign whether or not they would like their child to participate in daily prayer.  They have NEVER had anyone not sign it in favor of the prayer. 
My kids are 3 and 1 and until now I’ve been pretty set on homeschooling.  Any thoughts on this?  I really don’t want to be the first one in my community not to sign this thing, however, we do have a huge immigration rate right now (mostly Europeans - I’m in Canada) and a growing number of voices in the community are speaking out against this religious majority.  It may be that in 2 years the issue will have already been addressed.  My husband would say who cares, let them pray in school, we teach them at home as well.  My philosophy right now is just to teach them about all religions, but I know that going to school in town here, and probably just living in general here, they will be told how to be saved and about hell, and I just think this is inappropriate for young children to have their innocence be taken advantage of in this way….  Do you tell your kids other people are liars when it comes to religion?

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Posted: 08 July 2007 04:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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JF,

It’s always a tough issue deciding how to deal with raising a child as a skeptic/atheist/agnostic in a predominantly religious community. My daughter will be entering 1st grade in the Fall, and though we live in a fairly varied and progressive community, even here Christianity is the most visible and dominant point of view. It’s tough to stand out, and even tougher on the kids. I conspicuously leave out “under God” when reciting the pledge of alliegiance in my daughter’s classroom, but in our community no one’s likely to give her or me a hard time about it. It sounds like you’re not so lucky in your community, and that makes your choices tough. I do absolutley agree that the influence of school, teachers, and especially peers becomes important especially in later grade school, and it’s understandable to be worried about how that wil undo your efforts at home.

On the other hand, as a skeptic and freethinker, I am wary of homeschooling for primarily ideological reasons. My brother-in-law home schools all his kids because as an evangelical Christian he’s terrified they might be exposed to ideas other than his own and be tempted to think for themselves. I think we as freethinkers have to accept that our job is not to insulate our kids from other ideas but to immunize them as well as possible with good critical thinking skills. No one can decide what the right choice is for your kids but you, but I’d be tempted to recommend continuing to present all religions as interesting sets of stories (there are some great mythology bedtime storybooks out there, and I sprinkle in Christian myths as well to make them just one of the pack), to talk honestly about your beliefs but not denying that good, smart people can believe very different, and strange, things, and to do the best you can to teach them to think for themselves and question everything, even if that inevitably means they will question you and your ideas and may come to think very differently.

FWIW, my daughter went to a Jewish Community Ctr. preschool for 3 years and can still recite her Shabbat prayers when called upon to, but we’ve had simple and brief yet very frank discussions about why I don’t believe the same things as some of her teachers and friends’ parents. Sometimes she says “I believe in God because somebody had to make the world.” Other times she says “I don’t believe there’s a god” partly because she wants to be like me. And sometimes she shows the kind of great thoughfulness I hope for when she says “It doesn’t make sense that God would make everybody and love everybody and then kill all the babies [from the Passover story].” I hope she turns out to share my ideas about relgion, politics, etc, and I do admit to stacking the deck as best I can. But I still see my job as teacher her to make up her own mind, and that means she has to be exposed to some of the alternatives to what I think. I hope things work out for you and your kids.

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Posted: 23 July 2007 12:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I am very interested in this topic.  I just celebrated my one year wedding anniversary and my concerns for raising future children are becoming more of an issue the closer I get to this life step.  Critical thinking & education in a world of taboos would be a great topic on POI.  I was very fortunate to work out an insecure framework for critical thinking despite growing up in an extremely religious small town.  It wasn’t until college & later inquiries that I discovered how significant a role science plays & the many communities for secular humanism & free thinking.  I know it isn’t my parents fault for growing up and raising me the way they did, but I can’t help wondering how much things would be different if I didn’t have to constantly wrestle with freedom and being ostracized by the majority during those crucial educational years.

I am just not sure which methodologies are the least damaging & awkward.  I know faith plays a key role in child development i.e. “don’t touch the stove.”  This is why I know some people have tried the Santa clause method.  Go to church or churches coupled with critical thinking skills they should come to question the religious views just as they question Santa Clause.  This method seems strong because the children form the conclusions intrinsically, but this method can have stressful complications.  Not to mention it’s common to lie or delusion your children until their faith bubble is a ripe lesson to pop.  I like Mckenzievmd’s point about immunizing your children not insulating them.  Can you recommend children’s books that support critical thinking?

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Posted: 23 July 2007 01:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ve not found a lot of such books, but one I liked for my daughter was Alexander Fox & the amazing mind reader by John C. Clayton. I also read to her a lot of children’s versions of world myths, interspersed with stories from contemporary religious traditions as just another set of stories.

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Posted: 23 July 2007 02:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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retrospy - 23 July 2007 12:10 PM

I am just not sure which methodologies are the least damaging & awkward.  I know faith plays a key role in child development i.e. “don’t touch the stove.”  This is why I know some people have tried the Santa clause method.  Go to church or churches coupled with critical thinking skills they should come to question the religious views just as they question Santa Clause.  This method seems strong because the children form the conclusions intrinsically, but this method can have stressful complications.  Not to mention it’s common to lie or delusion your children until their faith bubble is a ripe lesson to pop.  I like Mckenzievmd’s point about immunizing your children not insulating them.  Can you recommend children’s books that support critical thinking?

If it’s any help, my brother gave his kids the choice of what they wanted to do and one of them (my niece) decided she wanted to get baptised and go to mass.  My nephew decided he didn’t want to go to mass, but would prefer to join in with being baptised so my brother told the priest that his son wasn’t so keen but that he didn’t want him to be left out abd the priest baptised them both.  These days, my nephew goes to mass as well, but it is his choice.  My nephew’s and neices all know that I don’t go to mass, but I have never told them I am an atheist and I don’t think they would even know what an atheist was.  They never actually ask me why I don’t go to mass and I’m not sure what I’d say if they did.  Probably that I just don’t want to, which is partly true.

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Posted: 23 July 2007 02:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I thought of another issue.  What are your views on circumcision?  I was, my family isn’t jewish, it’s become somewhat of the american tradition to mutilate the male genitals at birth.  I asked my parents once and they mumbled something about “it’s easier to keep clean” and that was the end of it.  Can anyone offer any insite into this tradition?  I can’t decide what I would do if I had a son.  Personally I account the actual mutilation suffering to be relatively zero, since I don’t remember any part of it and I’m sure that the countless seconds spent cleaning each day could really ad up.  It would also be stresfull on my child to know that he is different from me and stressfull for both uf us explaining why.  Especially if circumcision is as popular in America as my impression tells me.  However, it is very unnatural.  I’ve read in maxim magazine (before I discovered skeptic & humanist media) that it is likey more pleasurable to be sans circumcised.  I’ve never been one to succumb to the pressures of the masses, but I am not sure I am preppared to make that decission that leads to my child suffering.  When is it appropriate to break the cycle?

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Posted: 23 July 2007 03:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Not that I expect anybody to answer this, but I never understood how masturbation is possible in circumcised males.

[ Edited: 23 July 2007 04:37 PM by George ]
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Posted: 23 July 2007 03:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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George - 23 July 2007 03:19 PM

Not that I expect anybody to answer this, but I never understood how masturbation is possible in circumcised males.

Answer: with patience & imagination


I would like to see some studies done on pleassure & circumcision.  Does the pleasure outway the suffering & maintenance?

[ Edited: 23 July 2007 03:48 PM by retrospy ]
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Posted: 23 July 2007 05:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Not from personal experience, but the answer would seem to be: lubrication.

I hadn’t recalled this until the initial post, but I remember in the second grade in Rhode Island seventy years ago, the teacher having us recite the lord’s prayer.  While I would now be strongly against this, I don’t think school group rote recitation such as this or the Pledge of Allegiance make any impact on most of the kids.  Sunday school is much more of a threat toward inculcation.  Since I had no outside religious brainwashing, when I went to the third grade I dismissed the whole prayer idea. 

J.F., I’d work to avoid having my kids exposed, if I were you, however, if you give them counter-information before and at the same time, it probably won’t affect them.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The great thing about critical thinking is it’s ability to digest ideas and remove the fat.  Religion is a good test of critical thinking skills because it is a very fatty concept.  I’d like to think that a child armed with good critical thinking skills could come to this conclusion, but there is a limit to their critical thinking skills at young ages.  I’m not sure the santa clause method I mentioned earlier is the best method, but on the other hand it isn’t fair to try and isolate them from religions either.  Look how effective the abstanence policy is, for example.

I did a search and found a local community of secualr humanist that meet once a month.  I hope they can offer a discourse on these and other topics.  Until now, my only means for discussing these topics was through the internet.  This is one of the reasons why I am thankful for CFI.  I know the POI podcast talks a lot about how they support these communities in universites.  I hope they will take this one step further and support communities outside of universities as well.  Especially concidering the benefits it has for children.

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