Answering Children’s Questions

End Hereditary Religion profiles an intriguing book:

“The War for Children’s Minds” is a brilliantly clear and convincingly argued defense of liberalism in moral education. Stephen Law examines and demolishes all the arguments in favor of authoritarian ways of teaching, and shows that in spite of the insistence of popular commentators from the religious right, a liberal and rational examination and discussion of moral questions does not lead to moral relativism and the decay of moral behaviour, but can in fact be the best defense against them. This book won’t be read by popular journalists: they will attack it without reading it. But it should be read by every teacher, every parent, and every politician. What’s more, it should form the subject for discussion in every church, synagogue, mosque and religious youth group. It’s one of the most engaging as well as one of the most necessary books that I’ve ever read in the field of moral education. — Author Philip Pullman

Stephen Law’s point is that children must be given free reign to ask and discuss any and every question. Which is what I have emphasized over and over again in my posts. Children are naturally programmed to ask questions and they love why questions the most. Why is the sky blue? Why did my dog die? Why did we bury him in the garden? Instinctively it seems, children know that why questions are at the heart of understanding their world. Unfortunately for parents why questions do not lend themselves to quick and easy answers all the time. It is precisely the type of question that harried parents don’t want to answer because we are into philosophy now and there is no ending a discussion that turns philosophical. So typically, parents bow to the pressures of the day and downplay openings their children have given them to have meaningful conversations. This is what Stefan Molyneux explains in his book, On Truth: The Tyranny of Illusions.

I have argued that children are going to innocently wander into sensitive areas that are considered heretical or blasphemous, not to mention sexual. If they are met with frowns or exasperated eye rolling how better to vividly teach them they are not to think for themselves?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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