Agnostic Parenting and Education

It’s an interesting new challenge.

While Christian you raise your child in absolutes. There is a God. These are His rules. You must do this to gain Salvation. God is the creator of everything. We exist because God say it fit to make us. Values, Ethics, Morals are all dictated by the Bible/Christian culture.

As an agnostic this is very much not the case. Oh there are a few absolutes. Don’t hurt another being, etc. I am going to have to go away and consider if there are any deep and abiding absolutes while being agnostic as I raise my child.

The biggest difference, I find, is encouraging a love affair between your child and critical thinking/free thought. Teaching them to question authority, even yours when appropriate. I understand that many Christians will resent my claim that being a believer means leaving out the critical thinking in child rearing, and in very few cases I have seen Christian parents instill this in their child. Very few. I have come across 2 in my whole Christian walk.

Back on point though. Ignoring the us and them mentality of Noner and Believer, even in everyday life where you wouldn’t expect to find religious divides it is very seldom that I come across parents who are fully onboard with raising their children as free thinkers or seek to instill critical thinking skills. Regardless of faith, many parents and their children are walking through life with an intensely apathetic attitude to most things around them. They’re drones. Cogs in a bigger machine. Religion may numb the mind and control the masses but to be quite frank humans are more than capable of being numb sheep all on their own. I find VERY little support as a parent who seeks to raise an aware and questioning child. Christianity, in my experience, (and probably most religions to be fair) uses this aspect of human nature to their benefit and seek to fill the void with their religious absolutes. If you’re not paying attention and involved, before you know it certain things are just accepted as fact and never questioned. And that’s a scary reality.

Growing up I was always an inquisitive child. I quickly found that many, many people considered me rude or abrupt or down right intimidating with my questions and curiosity. For years I felt like I was a walking offense to people. The few who loved this aspect of me were like an oasis for me. Sitting in class and questioning the information we were given to regurgitate onto a test to prove the information had seeped into our brains just wasn’t cutting it for me. Luckily I had the rare few teachers who embraced this in me and encouraged it. Again, an oasis.

One clear example where my questioning was not welcome, surprisingly, was a philosophy class. The teacher handed out an assignment where we were to write an essay that answered the question “Does Evil Exist?”. As someone who was raised going to church since day one, my instinctual answer was yes. Despite this the urge to play devils advocate took hold and I decided I would answer No. That was the best damn essay I ever wrote. I put the most time and research into it that one essay than anything else I had written. I argued that no, evil did not exist and that it was a construct of society to enable it to function. I got a 55%.¬† I thought maybe I had written it shittily. I asked the teacher and he looked up over his glasses with disdain and remarked “it’s offensive”. It was a huge blow to me and I quickly realized that I might as well stfu and regurgitate.

After leaving school and my home country and settling abroad, I realized how incredibly subjective my whole education had been. Stuff I had taken for granted as The Truth or The Way It Had Happened, was simply not true in either my country or other countries I visited. I was stunned. How could this be possible. Education was supposed to teach you who, what, where, when, why, how, etc. It was a stunning revelation to me. that it could be so deeply subjective. Lets not even touch on the fact that evolution and creation were taught as mutually valid. It caused some strange dissonances in my youth.

The realization about how miserably my education failed in terms of teaching me to be objective, to use critical thinking skills, to question, to dig deeper or to step back and try to grasp “the big picture” set me on a question to educate myself as an adult. It’s a quest that will never end, which is a GOOD thing. It was part of the process in me losing my faith as well.

Now that my daughter is in mainstream education I have been floored at how subjective education still is. It is worse in Ireland were almost all schools are either protestant or catholic. The prods seem to have a bigger chip on their shoulder and push religion more than the catholics schools do. I find that fascinating in and of itself. What REALLY makes me wonder is if they are teaching my child that God exists and created the world, how the hell are they going to explain evolution as part of a modern education? I’d love to sit in and watch that one. Maybe the kids won’t question any of it since they too are being taught to simply regurgitate rather than learn.

The wee one coming home and telling me “God made the whole world” and then arguing with me when I posited other theories of how the world came to be made me realize I have my work cut out for me. She became especially frustrated when I told her that her teacher did not, in fact, know EVERYTHING. I addressed that one with pulling out a world map and showing her the various countries were she would be taught different religious tenants as True. With that experience I’ve realized that to combat the whole drone/cog mentality they instill right from day one in mainstream education I am going to have to subvert at home and be just as involved, if not more so, in her education and instill in her the realization that she needs to question, think critically, analyze and dig deeper. I have already mourned and raged against the realization that education is not objective and that the mental skills I value most in life are not taught or valued in mainstream education and now it’s time to counteract that.

It’s a big big challenge and one that is not strictly that of the agnostic parent. Hive mind is not a pretty thing.

Advertisements

1 Comment

  1. sierin said,

    July 20, 2010 at 5:24 am

    thank you so much for writing this.

    i’m not a parent myself, but my parents generally took a stance similar to yours, and, having gone through the whole in/out of church business and the whole shebang, i am so much freer and independent.

    The funny thing is, that has helped me immensely in other areas of my life too, like my career. People are so often scared to break out or say/do something deemed unconventional, but thus far, it’s been the key to my success. Being true to yourself, and questioning the status quo, at the cost of raised eyebrows and gossip, has proven practical.

    anyway, i guess i’m just gushing now, lol.

    It is reaffirming finding people like you out there.
    Continue fighting on, always.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: