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.

We can haz separshun of Church & State naow pls?

Ah lolcatz.

But seriously.

Ireland. Church and State. All mixed up in bed together.

I was raised in a country where church and state are separate. School was secular. Your parents were in charge of your religious indoctrination… I mean education. We learned ABOUT world religions but we weren’t taught them as fact. Not unless you went to a Religious School specifically, anyway.

Here? Not so much. My child goes to a Protestant school because I signed her up before I became an apostate. Also, having been indoctrinated into the idea that Catholics were just one more herd of people in need of salvation who did sacrilegious things like worship/pray to Mary, pray to Saints, really did think they were literally eating part of Jesus and drinking his blood at Mass… yeah I wasn’t too keen on sending the progeny to a Catholic school. That’s not even touching the horrific sexual, physical and emotion abuse stories I had heard about the Catholic run schools. See me later, I’ll share.

So. Protestant school. After abandoning The Myth, I still figured it was my best option and I had heard lovely things about this school. And to be fair it IS a lovely school. Outside the indoctrination aspect. And believe me – it’s there. “God created the WHOLE WORLD!” I was informed one day. Huh. Fascinating. Wonder how they are going to accurately teach Science and the Theory of Evolution without looking like they are contradicting themselves, I thought. I asked what her thoughts were on the subject. “Everyone believes in God so I am going to too so they don’t laugh at me.” Wow. I still feel sick when I remember her saying that.

Believe or face ostracism. Believe or be an outcast. Believe to fit in. Accept “hive mind” or else. BS. I nipped that one in the ass right quick.

Teacher is not always right. Teacher does not know everything. Question everything. Think for yourself. Do not accept everything you are told simply because it comes from an authority figure. Not even me. Not. Even. Me. (Respect? Yes. Accept? No.)

Teachers are gonna LOVE me.

When I realized the SCHOOL was teaching my child Christianity as FACT, I won’t lie – I curled up in the fetal position on my couch and bawled while my partner looked on in shock and somewhat abject horror.

You see I naively believed school would teach my child objectivity, critical thinking and with impartiality. Oh silly optimistic me.

Which brings me to my point. They fucking well SHOULD teach that way. There should be options for NON religious education in this country. Not everyone here is a Christian or a Catholic (if you see a difference between the two). And to be brutally honest, it is unacceptable that mandatory education only comes in a school that indoctrinates from day one.

The problem? Our government literally cannot afford to run all the schools in the country and the two factions of Christianity pay for the majority of education at a primary and secondary level in this country. And whoever pays the bills makes the “facts”.

I want this to end. I do not want to have to un-indoctrinate my child when she comes home every day. I do not want to constantly contradict her teacher. Is she allowed to learn about religion? Of course. All of them. In context. Right along side the fact that there are certain religions that are prevalent in certain areas of the world and the only reason why Christianity is pushed here is because of where we live. If we’d been born in the Middle East, it’d be Islam as the dominate religion. (Yeah, I actually marched her to her world map in her room and told her that, pointed to the areas and named the dominate religions.)

Another reason I want separation of Church and State is because, let’s face it, the Church doesn’t have a good track record of having the child’s well being first and foremost in mind. Not to mention the lack of age appropriate education. Call me a sensitive but I am not of the opinion that my childs very first school trip was to church where she learned about dying bloody Jesus on the cross where he died for her sins was quite age appropriate. Especially when she came home saying “Some kids were scared, but not me Mum.” Nice. Did they forget one child had nightmares about Ants when they were teachings the letter “A”? Dead bloody Jesus might have been a stretch.

Shall we address the GLARING problem of the Catholic church being directly involved in the vast majority of Irelands primary and secondary schools when they have a world wide track record of sexually, emotionally and physically abusing children? Or how about it’s particularly bad in Ireland? How very few (if any) were ever brought before a court of law and held accountable for their actions? How are people not up in arms in the streets over this institute still being in charge of their children?

It leaves me baffled. I wanted an education based on objectivity, critical thinking and teaching my child how to think for herself, to question, research, dig deeper and never accept anything at face value. That’s what she is getting taught at home and no I am not abdicating my parental responsibility to the school to teach her these things – I want them to ENFORCE these things. Otherwise, what’s the POINT?

I have no idea what the solution to this problem is. We’re switching schools before she enters the next grade due to a move and unfortunately the choices are Catholic (apparently very laid back and non-indoctrinating) or Protestant (apparently very indoctrination oriented). Wonderful choice, eh? Child molester sanctuary or indoctrination central? Oh and even better, when I enforce my right to keep her exempt from certain activities, it alienates her and makes her “other than”. I don’t think that’s a BAD thing, but I am painfully aware how hard that can be as a child.

Oh and before you ask, homeschooling is a piss poor alternative in this country with little to no guidelines, support or anything that resembles either… which might work out in my favor if I can’t hack, and decide to flout, the educational system :p

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know how to rally the government to change their educational system. I do not know how to get religion out of education in this country. I only have a plan to subvert it all at home.

What I do know is that in this day and age having a dominate religion deeply entwined in the state is not a healthy or progressive option. No. Not at all. In fact it’s assbackwards and keeping us chained to some really medieval laws and mindsets in this country. Want a list?

  • Divorce was only made legal in 1996. Despite the fact that it is legal now, once separated a couple has to wait 4 years before they can fully divorce. No re-victimization there at ALL when it comes to ending abusive marriages.
  • Abortion is still illegal.
  • The legal sale of Condoms was only allowed in 1978. Advertising them after that point still had severe legal restrictions though.
  • From ’73-’79, despite the Church AND State objections, contraceptives could be given out at family planning clinics but not sold. In 1979 they were legally allowed to be sold, but the sale of them was not widespread.
  • Gay marriage is still illegal.
  • A new Blasphemy Law passed in 2010 (that’s right – 2010) making it illegal to Blaspheme in Ireland. Is your mind blown yet? Mine still is.

So. Go go Roman Catholic Church and State! Possibly NOT the best organization to be in charge of our children and their education after all.