Friday, March 5, 2010

Raising Freethinkers

Since the subject came up recently on FB, here's a re-post of something I posted on my "The Secular Side" group on the TJEdOnline Community over a year ago, just after attending Dale McGowan's seminar, "Parenting Beyond Belief". It was a fabulous gig, which I attended with S (who is now involved with establishing AIR), and which kicked off the launch of his book by the same title. In my humble opinion, Dale has got it all goin' on as a parent and as a human being. I follow his blog, I just love that he's local to the Greater Atlanta Area, and I fully support his efforts to "normalize" athiesm and agnosticism in the United States, particularly here in the Deep South (even though I'm neither athiest nor agnostic, but know several, whom I adore) :)

So, here's the original post:

This is from Dale McGowan's "Raising Freethinkers" seminar, and is passed on to you with his permission. Although he calls it "Nine Best Practices for Nonreligious Parents", I think it is equally applicable to raising Freethinkers and Statesmen whether you are religious or non-religious. If anyone disagrees, please let me know. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

1. Encourage ever-wider circles of empathy. Worldview, race, nationalism, and various other chauvinisms cut us off from empathy with others. Parents should encourage their children to reach beyond such artificial boundaries.
2. Encourage active moral development. Children can and should be encouraged to develop active moral reasoning by understanding the reasons to be and do good.
3. Promote ravenous curiosity. An active and insatiable curiosity is the key to learning and the engine of a productive and engaged life.
4. Teach engaged co-existence. Religion in some form will always be with us. Our job is to raise kids to co-exist with it while engaging and challenging its adherents to make its effects more humane – and inviting the same in return.
5. Encourage religious literacy. Kids must be knowledgeable about religion without being indoctrinated into religion.
6. Leave kids unlabeled. Calling a child a “Christian” or an “atheist” is counterproductive to genuine freethought. It is just as dishonest to label a child with a complex worldview as to call her a “Republican” or a “Marxist.”
7. Make death natural and familiar. By shielding our children too completely from the contemplation of death, we set them up for a much more difficult and dysfunctional adult relationship with mortality.
8. Invite the questioning of authority. At the heart of freethought is the rejection of the argument from authority. Encourage children to ask for the reasons behind rules and the reasoning behind answers.
9. Normalize disbelief. There is no greater contribution nonreligious parents can make to their children’s future as freethinkers than to make religious disbelief a normal, unexceptional option in our culture.

So, there you have it. Some pretty basic guidelines for raising kids who think. What else could you, as a parent, need?

1 comment:

  1. Do you want to go see him again on the 21st? I'm going to see if Brian can get the day off. I am thinking about inviting my mom too.