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  1. #11
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    That sounds really interesting. I'll look into those books. This makes so much sense to me, and I'm glad to see it explained neutrally. I often feel torn between "lying to children" and giving them the tools they need to learn for themselves as they are hard-wired to do. I wish that I could lighten up and not feel like I have to explain everything to such detail.

    Part of the problem here is that I became a mother when I was pretty young (I had my daughter at 23) and I hadn't really worked out what *I* thought about these things yet. I still haven't, but I'm much more comfortable with the ambiguities now. So, in a way, we're learning together. I can't in good conscience set myself up as a wise sage with all the answers when I'm really just figuring things out too!
    Here's an excerpt, which may help (I have it on my bookshelf ) I've cut some bits out for impact.

    Quote Originally Posted by Science of Discworld
    A special kind of magic is one of the many things that have made humans what they are. It's called education. It's how we pass on ideas from one generation to the next. If we were like computers, we'd be able to copy our minds into our children, so that would grow up agreeing with every opinion we hold dear. Well, actually they wouldn't, but they'd start out that way. There is an aspect of education that we want to draw to your attention. We call it 'lies-to-children'. We're aware that some readers may object to the word lie...... It is a lie. It is for the best possible reasons, but it is still a lie. A lie to children is a statement that is false, but which nevertheless leads the child's mind towards a more accurate explanation, one that child will only be able to appreciate if it has been primed with the lie.
    The early stages of education have to include a lot of LTC, because early explanations have to be simple. However, we live in a complex world, and eventually ltc must be replaced by more complex stories if they are not to become delayed-action lies.
    ...examples of LTC are the idea that the earth's magnetic field is like a huge bar magnet with N and S marked on it, the picture of an atom as a miniature solar system, the idea that a living amoeba is a billion-year-old primitive organim, the image of DNA as a blueprint for a living creature, and the connection betweeen relativity and Einstein's hairstyle....*
    ....When you live in a complex world, you have to simplify it in order to understand it. Indeed that's what "understand" means. At different levels of education, different levels of simplification are appropriate. Liar-to-Children is an honourable and vital profession, otherwise known as "teacher".
    ...
    Every so often you have to unlearn what you thought you already knew, and replace it with something more subtle. This process is what science is all about and it never stops.


    *Universities are very familiar with bright qualified school-leavers who arrive and then go into shock on finding that biology and physics isnt quite what they've been taught so far. "Yes, but you needed to understand that", they are told, "so that now we can tell you why it isnt exactly true".
    I got tired of typing this any further, but it's a good book.. interesting views from Ian Stewart a top maths professor/guru and Jack Cohen, interspersed with fiction from Pratchett to enliven proceedings. For any more, go out and buy it

    Hope you find that of interest.

    -Geoff

  2. #12
    Lex Parsimoniae Xander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    Thanks, Xander. This is exactly what I have done, and if my children only ever spoke to me it would probably be perfect. I do stick mainly to the concepts that are important to me, such as tolerance and finding the light in each person and so on and so forth. My mother has the kids a lot and she's very devout, AND very concrete in the way she expresses her faith. She tells them the stories, and she tells them as fact. I DO want my kids to know that her faith is important to her and for them to respect that, but not necessarily to buy something just because Nana said it, yknow?
    Brings to mind "Mother knows best" except in this case it's followed by "but who's?"

    No one ever said motherhood was easy or that you'd even get a fair crack at the whip. I guess the thing I've seen is the better role model you are for your kids, including how you are to them, then the better they turn out.

    From speaking to you, unless your a monster outside of the forum, you shouldn't have too much to worry about.
    Isn't it time for a colourful metaphor?

  3. #13
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    Here's an excerpt, which may help (I have it on my bookshelf )



    I got tired of typing this any further, but it's a good book.. interesting views from Ian Stewart a top maths professor/guru and Jack Cohen, interspersed with fiction from Pratchett to enliven proceedings. For any more, go out and buy it

    Hope you find that of interest.

    -Geoff
    I really appreciate you typing it out, Geoff. It is intriguing! It almost seems as if they're equating using analogies to lying, and I guess that sort of cuts to the heart of my issue here-- I don't think an analogy is a lie. It's not factually accurate, true, but if it contains a deeper or intuitive truth, then it isn't a lie. The bar magnet example underscores this- saying the world is LIKE a bar magnet isn't the same as trying to convince a child to believe that it literally IS a bar magnet.

    I suppose the point being made is that since a young child hasn't learned to differentiate between analogies and literal facts, giving them analogies IS tantamount to lying to them, without the judgment usually inherent in saying something is a lie.

    Maybe I give my daughter too much credit. I think she does understand analogy to a degree, which is why I press when I think she's taking something literally that I think she could understand figuratively. But, perhaps the moral of the story is that I should keep on giving the analogies, and not worry too much about her interpreting them correctly now. Look at the big picture of her entire childhood as a process of working from more general to more specific as she grows (this isn't really an issue with the 2 year old yet, for obvious reasons).
    The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
    -anonymous graffiti in the basilica at Pompeii

  4. #14
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    Am I shortchanging them? (Loaded question, I know-- be honest!)
    I know where you're coming from as I faced the same issues while raising my children. I think it truly depends on the child and how and when they can except those concepts. Most parents that truly care about their children are "tuned into" them. There's really no black/white answer as it depends on how much abstract information a child can absorb and process.

    My children were raised Catholic and went through all the sacraments even though I don't have strong feelings about the Catholic Church. I felt that they needed some level of religious instruction. When they were old enough and as they asked questions, I present different theories and they were able to accepted and understand them. It's like anything with children, it's timing and parenting through example.

    The hardest job in the world is parenting especially if you care about raising your children to fit into the world independently.

  5. #15
    Member Ferrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    I interrupted morning devotions with the idea that the Adam & Eve story was possibly an analogy/metaphor... and my own children laughed because they had no clue what I was saying: How can something be "true" and "not true" all at once?
    I think before adolescence - and this has been proven with psychological tests - it is impossible to see gradations. Everything is a dualism. It wasn't till I first could see these 'gray areas' that I started doubting Christianity, at about 12-13, and I have been an agnostic since.

    Many say that Genesis is 'allegorical'. I was willing to accept this till I actually decided to read the bible myself and it is far from coherent. It does strike me that it is a patchwork of tribal tales sewn together by a elder of some sort. If there are 'morals' in it then they do not quite chime with Christianity, need I mention Lot's story? Which is no surprise - the Old Testament is chiefly the work of a different religious tradition to Christianity. Perhaps Jesus was of this tradition, I rather doubt the true founder were. Indeed, I would go as far to say that Jesus was a relatively minor figure. It was St. Paul, St. Augustine and later St. Aquinas who, from a mass of traditions that barely cohered fashion together a religion. St. Paul perhaps bears most responsibility for Christianity being its present form - without his evangelism it is likely it would have remained a Jewish sect and died off. And St. Paul and St. Augustine (especially the later) were both heavily influenced by Roman mystery religions, noticably Mithradism, which exerted a stronger influence on Christianity (see the theology of the said mystical religions) than austere Judaism, which was to develop into a quite different form of faith, Talmundic Judaism. The focus on the mystery of communication with God, an entity that was both God and man, and indeed the Christian concept of the afterlife are all products of the mystery religions. Ironically, Mohammed knew a fair few Arabic Christians, as well as Jews, which explains their influence on Islam. The Islamic concept of the afterlife is very much obliged to Christianity.
    I hate having to play all of this by ear. I think I will just gently introduce possibilities to them as they get older and also really let them initiate any ventures into "grayness." I expect the eldest to be the most open and interested in the gray spots. It is just hard, because C so firmly believes in Christianity while I am completely unsure and have no way to prove or disprove anything about God. We both understand where each other is at and try to be fair with each other about how those views are represented to the children, but we are still somewhat at odds right now...
    I wouldn't worry, my parents are quite irrationally attached to Christianity, albeit of the allegorical kind, and I suspect it forms some sort of crutch for their psychology and moral prejudices. I humour them. I nevertheless have emerged out of it perfectly rational and able to accept a form of agnosticism. The notion of God is not illogical, rather it is alogical, but I think it is beyond the human ken to know for certain. I entertain the notion of there being a God, but if there is a God I rather doubt it - or any other supermundane entity - has much to do with the philosophical mess that is Christianity. In a sense however, I readily accept why myths need to be promoted. 'Without God, everything is permitted' as Dostoevski wisely wrote. God, or the supernatural is the only matter in which to form a morality that is objective, not clouded by emotions, cultural differences or psychology. And the promise of reward, divine, is a valuble excuse to promote morality. If life is really transient, why should one abide by moral strictures? But yet society needs morality, from a sense of Hobbesian self-interest. Thus, perhaps religion serves its purpose. I would rather a morality that was expressly connected to social good, rather than a morality based on fictive entities, but this would be considerably harder to enforce, as the failure of Communist states show.

  6. #16

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    What an interesting topic. I don't have children, so my opinion probably holds little weight, but I really responded to Geoff's statements. I think in a sense it's okay to lie to kids about things that are beyond their comprehension.

    What is a lie? It's a deception we engage in because it is not in our self-interest to reveal the truth. That isn't what you're doing if you allow your kids to believe the allegorical aspects of religion as historical truth. You're merely giving them a placeholder that will allow them a foundation to build on with more sophisticated thinking later. The malice that is part and parcel of a lie is absent here, so "lie" is a term that is harsher on you than is warranted.

    As an example, think of what a lot of people say when a small child asks them where babies come from. Many say, "When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, God gives them a baby." Which, if you believe in God, isn't entirely untrue. It's just not specifically true. It's a way to give them something they can wrap their heads around without being untrue to the reality of the answer.

    In regard to the grandparents, I think it's okay to say that mommy and grandma think about things a little differently. It might be a good way to introduce the kids to differences of opinion. Personally, I wouldn't approach it like Ferrus, where he says he "humors" those with religious beliefs while still conceding that a God is alogical. I think it is dangerous to teach children to link the presence or absence of religious beliefs with a level of intelligence or emotional strength. Religion doesn't work that way.

  7. #17
    Member Ferrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FMWarner View Post
    Personally, I wouldn't approach it like Ferrus, where he says he "humors" those with religious beliefs while still conceding that a God is alogical. I think it is dangerous to teach children to link the presence or absence of religious beliefs with a level of intelligence or emotional strength. Religion doesn't work that way.
    Of course it doesn't - but there still has to be metrics of validity (and what else is there but ratiocination), else how can one discriminate between religions and their attendind assertions? Christians demand blind faith (effectively), in a belief system that is illogical (especially the incarnation of God) - I ask, why should I have blind faith in Christianity over any other illogical system? If it is only possible with a religious experience, then it is certainly an inequitable God who inequally doles out these.

    Maybe deluding your children is best. Perhaps delusion is the path to happiness - and what else but beatification is really the goal of life - it is certainly possible. But, I am an inveterate skeptic, and always shall I stay thus.

  8. #18
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    I was thinking about this again tonight when G asked why popping the clutch starts a car when it won't start. Noah and I immediately started going into a very detailed explanation of how a car works and I could FEEL her eyes glazing over. So in the end we told her that it was like giving CPR to the car to restart its heart. Total lie, but it was an explanation she could get her head around and may prime her for more details later if she is still interested.

    Thanks to everyone for the comments. I've been stewing over them all.
    The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
    -anonymous graffiti in the basilica at Pompeii

  9. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ferrus View Post
    Of course it doesn't - but there still has to be metrics of validity (and what else is there but ratiocination), else how can one discriminate between religions and their attendind assertions? Christians demand blind faith (effectively), in a belief system that is illogical (especially the incarnation of God) - I ask, why should I have blind faith in Christianity over any other illogical system? If it is only possible with a religious experience, then it is certainly an inequitable God who inequally doles out these.

    Maybe deluding your children is best. Perhaps delusion is the path to happiness - and what else but beatification is really the goal of life - it is certainly possible. But, I am an inveterate skeptic, and always shall I stay thus.
    I wouldn't ask that you accept or have blind faith in any religion if you do not believe it to be valid. After all, as an INTJ I am all about logic. I've just come to understand that for people with religious convictions, their faith supersedes logic, and that in fact that may even be what makes it beautiful to them. I don't think that religion is logical or illogical. It doesn't fall on that scale. It's something felt from the heart rather than the brain. It's exactly like love, only no one speaks condescendingly to someone in love, calls them delusional, or questions their intelligence and strength.

  10. #20
    Senior Member Sahara's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FMWarner View Post
    It's exactly like love, only no one speaks condescendingly to someone in love, calls them delusional, or questions their intelligence and strength.

    Only if the love doesn't bring pain, or isn't dangerous, which it can be. The minute it becomes a case of love causing nothing but pain, close friends will speak down to you in an attempt to make you leave the bad love alone, they will question your intelligence and your strength, call you delusional, stupid, pathetic etc.

    Same as with religion, if it brings nothing but goodness then no one will say anything, but when it brings pain and suffering, confusion and danger, then of course the comments will start.

    I can't really help with your dilema Ivy, as it's not christianity tales I need to worry about, I do know that if I start hearing muslim stories being repeated by my kids, and being believed to be true, I would have to make my belief known, and wouldn't feel able to leave them to make up their own mind.

    I don't know though, I also have issues with creationsim and again think I would be too ready to go "mental mummy lecture" on my kids. (I have already started steering my son to evolution, which he finds easy to understand anyway)

    I really don't want religion to play any part in the ideas they form growing up.

    "No one can be free of the chains that surround them"

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