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Disclaimer: I’m an intern for the Secular Student Alliance. This blog article, posted here on the MU SASHA blog, represents my own opinions and does not necessarily reflect the views of the SSA. I receive a stipend for my internship; however I am not being paid nor receiving anything for writing this article on the SASHA blog.
Hello, Dave here.
This morning, Jesse Galef, the Communications Director for the Secular Student Alliance, appeared on CNN in a segment about “Millennials” and their growing doubt about a god’s existence. The interviewer, Carol Costello, made this comment to Jesse:
Well, some Christians might argue that because such groups are in high schools, you’re indoctrinating students in a time when that’s not proper, because they’re not old enough to really handle questions like that.
Let’s break down what she’s saying here: Some Christians (what about Jews? Hindus? Sikhs? Muslims?…) might argue that high school is an improper time (what is the proper time?) to introduce students to critical thinking, because they’re not old enough to handle questions like the existence of gods. (She was contrasting this with college groups at the time).
I think Christians are perfectly welcome to argue that if they want to, but I want them to understand how ironic and hypocritical such an argument would be. It’s ironic because, as a fellow Redditor points out, religions do this more-or-less from birth. In some cases, the indoctrination begins with genital mutilation; in other cases, with deliberate near-drownings. As the bumper-sticker says, “A religion is just a cult with more members.”
The SSA advocates critical inquiry, the process of asking digging questions using logic, reason, and evidence; Christians (and other religious groups) are actually the ones indoctrinating students. Indoctrinate comes from the Latin word doctrina, -ae (teaching), which even the most passingly-interested etymology fan will recognize as the root of “doctrine.” We expressly advocate asking questions instead of teaching doctrines. What we do is as far a polar opposite of indoctrination as one could possibly argue.
The “old enough” part is really what bothers me, though. Go to YouTube and search for “child preacher” and see how many videos come up. Many of these young people clearly have no idea of the meaning behind their words; they just enjoy the attention of the congregation. Their parents have simply coached them in what to say.
Four-year-olds ask these questions. Is Carol Costello really saying that high-school students aren’t old enough for the answers—that according to logic, reason, evidence, and science, there is probably no god?
Is Costello arguing that students should wait until college to learn about critical thinking? Really?
Does she really believe that teaching someone how to ask questions—how to think critically (and self-critically)—counts as indoctrination?
Here is the video:
What are your thoughts?
Dave Muscato is Vice President of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A junior at Mizzou studying economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, Dave posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday and twice monthly for the Humanist Community at Harvard. His website is http://www.DaveMuscato.com.
and don’t forget… other SASHA members! We are here for you, too!