A Little Child Shall Lobby Them

This little girl was one of dozens of children brought to the Ohio statehouse last week to speak on behalf of the “heartbeat bill” that, if passed, will ban abortion past six weeks (to put the time frame into perspective, the day you miss your period you are technically already four weeks pregnant). These children also passed out teddy bears that play the sound of a fetal heartbeat to each Ohio congressman. This could have been me. No wait, strike that, this was me.

I began marching the political campaign trail before I can even remember. From when I was a very young girl, barely in grade school, I went door to door, worked the polls, attended rallies, marched in parades, and manned the phone banks. Political activism was a normal part of my life, just as it is for many other young people in conservative Christian homeschool families, especially through organizations like Generation Joshua and TeenPact.

I think political activism is a great thing to teach kids. However, there is a major problem with the approach taken by my parents and other like-minded parents throughout the country.

I wish I could just say “children are too young to have informed political opinions” and leave it at that. However, I think the reality is more nuanced. When presented with a variety of issues and facts, a seven-year-old may be able to take a semi-informed position. Some kids are surprisingly astute. However, regardless of his or her maturity a seven-year-old will almost certainly not be able to completely grasp the gravity of adult concerns issues. In contrast, by the teenage years a child can most certainly form informed political opinions.

The problem is this: The girl in the picture above is not forming her own political opinions. She merely serves as the parrot of her parents’ views.

My parents never laid out all the facts and sides and arguments on issues like abortion. Instead, when I was quite small they simply told me that abortion was “killing babies before they are born.” They showed me (not quite accurate) pictures of what fetuses look like, told me they have fingers and brains and hearts just like me, and told me that abortion was murder. They told me that women who have abortions are selfish and cold, and that abortion doctors kill babies for money and participate in “a holocaust of murdered babies.”

Small children don’t have the ability to completely grasp political issues, but to the extent that they can they need even explanations of the facts and arguments, not propaganda.

My parents took pride in how young we children were able to express ourselves politically. They smiled to hear a child of five or seven or nine explain that property taxes were slavery, that abortion was murdering babies, or that gay marriage is wrong because every child needs a mommy and a daddy. They spoke of how politically aware we were, how confident and intelligent we were. Did they realize, I wonder, that we were merely parroting their own views, and not actually forming views of our own?

I would like to say that this changed once I became a teen, but it did not. The simplistic understandings my parents gave us as young children were never amended. At thirteen, fifteen, and seventeen I had still not heard any political side but that fed me by my parents and the resources they used to educate and inform me. Every political magazine, every economics book, every Bible study, it all gave me a completely one-sided picture of every issue. Abortion was still about “murdering babies” and I continued to parrot my parents’ views, uncontaminated by any other source of information or perspective.

My parents took us children along with them to score political points. They openly talked about how powerful it was to have a three-year-old hold an “I’m A Child, Not A Choice” sign while participating in the annual Life Chain, or to have a young teenager be the one to speak to reporters at (traditional) marriage rallies. They would intentionally push us forward to answer questions or spout out our formulated positions, smiling proudly as we performed.

What my parents didn’t realize was that this sort of behavior actually turns some people off. Here are two quotes from Ohio state senators:

“I’m not at all supportive of the bill, and I’m not supportive of them sending kids into my office with a teddy bear that mimics a heartbeat, either. I thought that was a very cheap exploitation of kids. I would rather them come in my office and ask to sit down and talk about it, rather than send a kid into my office.”

“It is an emotional kind of tactic, bringing young children in and having them bring teddy bears. I think that’s a little low.”

As I read these quotes today, I couldn’t help but think of my own childhood experiences. I was that child, trotted at age ten into my state senator’s office to tell her how much I loved being homeschooled and how important it was for homeschooling to remain legal. I wonder, now, what my state senator thought.

Today, I do think this sort of political use is exploitative. First, you should not use your children to make a political statement. Why not, like one of the state senators above suggested, just go to your senators or representatives and make your case? Injecting kids into the issue is nothing but an emotional appeal and it allows parents to step back and let their inexperienced child do the talking for them instead of doing it themselves. Second, you should not turn your children into politically propagandized robots. Sure, you can tell your children where you stand on an issue, but whatever happened to letting children and adolescents explore and make up their own minds? A small child does not have enough experience or understanding to put together mature political positions, and should not be expected to. A teen is quickly gaining the necessary maturity, but should be allowed to explore all sides unhindered and to form his or her own political opinions.

A child of any age who only receives one side of an issue, that of his or her parents, and then echoes that, however vehemently, is not mature or politically savvy.

There is another thing, too. If I had suddenly endorsed liberal political positions, or even moderate ones, I would have faced consequences within my family. My parents would have been angry, would have treated me as an erring and rebellious child. They would have begun a one-sided information campaign to bring me back to their views, and resorted to emotional manipulation until I did. It was not just that I didn’t have access to other political information or arguments, but rather that my parents’ home was not a safe place emotionally in which to explore alternate viewpoints or experiment politically. And this is not healthy.

Sally is not a Democrat or a Republican. She is not pro-life or pro-choice. She is not liberal or conservative. Sally is a child, she is not old enough to understand the world of politics, and I don’t expect her too. As Sally grows, I want her to understand the arguments for each side of an issue, because no matter what all it is, one thing politics is not is simple. I want her to understand that these are complex issues. I will absolutely not tell Sally that one political position is “right” and all the others are “wrong.” As she grows into her teenage years, I want Sally to be able to form her own political views, and to feel like our home is a safe place to do so. If Sally comes home from school someday and tells me she’s a libertarian, that’s fine.

I don’t expect Sally’s political views to be a mirror image of mine, and I don’t expect her political views at the immature age of seven to be the same as at the more mature age of fifteen or at the more seasoned age of twenty-three.

I don’t intend to stake my success as a parent on what political views she adopts. You have to understand that that for parents influenced by the ideas of the Quiverfull movement part of the rationale for having large numbers of children is to raise a (rhetorical) army to “retake the country for Christ.” The idea is to gain a larger voting block, to raise conservative politicians, campaigners, volunteers, and interns. I kid you not, that is the whole point. That’s also a large part of why they homeschool – to remove their children from influences that might teach them other ideas and instead train them up in “Truth” with a capital T. If a child raised in a Quiverfull family turns away from this “Truth” and become moderate, liberal, progressive, or politically apathetic, that child is seen as a failure.

Personally, I don’t stake my success as a parent on Sally adopting any one political view, let alone mine. I don’t stake my success on Sally echoing my religious beliefs, or lack of them, either. Sally’s mind, after all, does not belong to me. It belongs to her. I do care whether Sally grows up to be fulfilled person, and I care whether Sally grows up to be a loving and caring person. But I do not intend to stand over her as an ideological policeman, judging whether or not her beliefs are acceptable.

I have to confess, I did take Sally with me to a rally for Planned Parenthood once. I worried that this was using her as a political tool, but then I realized that I was bringing her there to say something about me, not to use her as an emotional weapon. Namely, I wanted to make the statement that being pro-choice does not mean being anti-child. I wanted to smash the image that feminists are all childless single women who “selfishly” flee the attachment of children. I would never have pushed Sally forward to make some sort of canned statement, because it wasn’t about Sally, it was about me, and who I was, and why I was there. There was another woman there with a baby, and she told a reporter that she was there because she wanted her daughter to grow up to have access to the same reproductive resources she had. I don’t think that’s the same as simply using your child as an emotional tool either. I mean, if that’s all the parents at the Ohio statehouse were saying – say, that they didn’t want their young daughters to grow up to have access to abortion – I wouldn’t have had a problem with that either.

As Sally grows, I do want to teach her the importance of political activism. However, I will not push her forward to spout off formulated positions, I will not feed her my political views boiled down to simplistic formulas that fail to capture the complexity of political issues, and I will not put labels on her. If a reporter or politician comments on her presence, I will say that I think it’s important for her to learn about the political process, not that she’s a good little [insert here]-in-training. And more than that, Sally will know that her political decisions are her own to make. As she grows, if she does not want to come to a rally or a parade or whatever it is I’m participating in because of my political views, I won’t make her.

Sally is not my tool. Sally is a wonderful little person yet to form her own beliefs. Rather than try to make her bloom into the species of flower I want her to be, I intend to let her bloom without hindrance. I will always be there to hold her hand or answer her questions, but I will not use her as a political shield or as my political mouthpiece.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Anonymous

    As I read this, I'm reminded about a picture I once saw that essentially said:an acorn is not a treean egg is not a chickena fetus is not a childThat's always stuck with me. Pair that with my biological knowledge that most embryonic animals (including humans) look pretty much identical to a point…and I formed my own opinion. My parents thankfully let me choose for myself, even if they don't agree with those choices. Of course that doesn't mean they LIKE those choices. My mother thinks I'm crazy, and I think she is. Just because we think the other's view of something is wacky, doesn't mean we disown each other.That's part of what bothers me so much about this culture. I'm glad I found your blog. It's helped me understand the people from the IBF type church that show up at my door a few times a year. And that I should just not answer. Now if only they'd stay out of my backyard when I don't answer.

  • jose

    Shocked by the horror stories as always. Still good to know, of course.Conservatives did the same here in Spain to protest against gay marriage in 2005. They took their kids with them and gave them signs and had them recite slogans and arguments.

  • http://carpescriptura.wordpress.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    I've always been suspicious of emotional appeals. To me, that says that this person doesn't have a solid enough argument to appeal to me rationally, so they have to bypass my ability to think by tugging at the heart strings.

  • http://carpescriptura.wordpress.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    As for bringing children to rallies, I took my son to a pride parade last summer. He was only a couple months old, so part of the reason was of course that it was the only practical way for me to attend!But part of the reason is that I want him to grow up seeing gays, and knowing them as people. I wasn't using him to make a statement to others, I was using the others to make a statement to him – that his mother supports equal rights for the LGBT community, that his home and his family are "safe" if he someday turns out to be anything other than straight or cis, and that people can be different from him and still be beautiful and worthy of love.I know that there's a lot of debate in the atheist community about whether we should be "indoctrinating" our children or not, and, frankly, I do reserve that privilege. I won't hide my opinions from him lest I sway the formation of his own as some atheist parents do. I will tell him flat out that I do not believe in God, that gays deserve equal rights, that women deserve the right to choose to be pregnant, etc.But where I draw the line is the total echo chamber you describe. I won't hide my views from my son, but I won't hide opposing views from him either. I'll never tell him that he must believe as I do, but rather I will engage him at an age-appropriate level to explain to him my reasons for believing as I do. And, perhaps most importantly, I will always love him no matter what he chooses to believe (although I reserve the right to be an annoying mom who keeps arguing over the dinner table).

  • http://janeyqdoe.com Janey

    although I reserve the right to be an annoying mom who keeps arguing over the dinner table We are already thinking as one. I may argue their ears off if my kids end up gay-hating right-wingers, but I'll never disown them. I may also pointedly hang gay flags about my house and just keep insisting that I like them for their chirpiness and the colour they bring to the room…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    I don't think telling your kid you disagree with her if she comes up with a view that you consider wacky or wrong is a problem. The problem is that in a family like my family of origin, this disagreement would be combined with a keen sense of disappointment meant to invoke guilt in the child, an emotional distancing based on this disappointment, and basically a completely shredded relationship. Everything would change, and I mean EVERYTHING. I've been through that and I've seen it happen to others in my situation as well. Disagreement is fine; emotional manipulation and heavy helpings of guilt are NOT. But I think you understand that distinction. :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    This is something I've been realizing more and more of late. I now can't quite understand why my parents and others like them think that bringing their kids into it is such a good idea. I was really struck by the state senator above's comment about how she'd rather they just come in and sit down and talk about it, rather than sending their kids in. How true! Using your kids as a shield lets you get out of having a rational discussion on the issue!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    I think there is a difference between "indoctrinating" and "educating." Indoctrinating involves only giving one side of an issue, filtering other opinions, and looking for one pre-conceived output. Educating means exposing to various opinions and arguments, encouraging critical thinking, and making your goal understanding and knowledge rather than one pre-conceived output. Yes, I plan to tell Sally what I believe, and that I believe it strongly, and why I do so. But like you say I don't plan to hide other views or tell her how she must believe. The way I see it, if my views are really as right as I think they are, an educated, critical thinking person raised in an open and honest environment will naturally share at least the basics. This is what I have been wondering lately with regards to families raising their kids the way I was: if their views are so very right, why do they have to hide or distort opposing information and arguments? If the only way I could get my kid to share my views was to hide everything contrary to them, I would seriously question my views. And that, quite simply, is a big part of why I won't do that to my kid – if my views are really that fragile I shouldn't hold them, and I wouldn't want her to either.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    That's simply a puerile and disgusting tactic they use. I don't know how they don't feel repulsed, instead of proud, of using their children as tools…

  • Caravelle

    I don't know what to think of this. As you say I think teaching political activism to children is important, and if you are politically active, like going to demonstrations and things like that I think you should bring your children. It's often fun for them, and learning how to participate in politics is surely an important part of becoming a citizen, whatever the age. I don't think you need that much soul-searching about what Statement bringing a child to a demonstration makes.Misinforming your children is bad. Not allowing them the leeway to make up their own opinions is bad. And pushing your children forward in an artificial way as a form of activism is manipulative. But I don't think that having your children participate in your own political activism is bad at all.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09921433991972562829 Joy

    I had the opportunity to discuss abortion (the fact that it existed) with my kids recently, and I am pro-choice. They were horrified. Listening to their reaction, I think most children would naturally gravitate to the pro-life position because it fits more closely with a child's limited worldview. They see themselves and their siblings and friends in these terminated pregnancies. They really don't see it from an adult viewpoint at all, they just see that someone might have tried to kill them. I think this is a position they often grow out of as they see themselves as potential creators of an unwanted pregnancy during the teen years, but small children are really fertile ground for pro-life propaganda because it is a natural fit to their child's interests and perspective.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13930917517196516292 Jason Dick

    Yeah, this is one issue where I'm not sure if I've found the middle ground I'm going to occupy as a parent (I am not yet one, though I expect I will someday…).The issue, as I see it, is that there are simply a lot of ideas out there that aren't in any way rationally defensible. Either they rest upon bad logic, or bogus evidence, or both (young earth creationism comes to mind as a particularly egregious example).So I think that whatever views my child (or children, depending) end up espousing, I think I would expect them to be able to defend those beliefs in a rational, evidence-based manner. They don't necessarily have to agree, but they had better be able to back up their statements.As a result, I do not think I would be okay with my children being, for example, Libertarian, because Libertarian ideology is not rationally defensible (as regards to economic philosophy specifically, it is pretty trivial to show that a less regulated market is not necessarily a better one, whereas the Libertarians seem to argue for less regulation no matter what…social Libertarianism is a different matter).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09921433991972562829 Joy

    I think it might be a bit much to ask children to defend their beliefs in a logical, rational manner when that kind of reasoning isn't fully in their developmental sphere. Assuming we're talking about those small people fully capable of throwing a tantrum when they don't get a lollipop or can't find a bike helmet, and not about teenagers. And even so, I know plenty of adults who can't defend their beliefs logically…

  • http://janeyqdoe.com Janey

    You know, I just can't even begin to imagine how that feels. My father and I had complete opposite political views- he was super conservative and a little bit racist and I am leaning so far to the left that I' almost falling over. We had some great arguments over it, and every time our lefty Prime Minister came on TV, Dad would joke about 'YOUR Prime Minister'. That's it. A normal source of difference in a family. Grown ups having different views as grown ups do. My distinction is much like my Dad's- I won't manipulate you but, as your parent, I reserve the right to mock you mercilessly for it. Of course, as a grown up, you are also well able to mock me back. God times.

  • minuteye

    Well, child-logic is going to look a bit different from adult-logic, but that doesn't mean they can't (sometimes) articulate a motivation for what they believe. Asking a child why they think something, even if you don't get a cogent answer, at least teaches them that the opinions that they hold are important enough to ask about, and that beliefs should be held for a reason.

  • Caravelle

    I was pro-life when I first heard what abortion consisted of. I wasn't a little child granted, but I didn't see it at all as the idea someone might have tried to kill me. I just saw it as ending a life, and by default I figured killing is always wrong ("by default" being very relevant here – I always avoided killing even mosquitoes, but I never even flirted with vegetarianism).I think children being reflexively pro-life might have more to do with the fact that when they are taught about how babies develop, it's always clear that it's a human life at every step. And children are taught early on that killing is wrong. On the other hand the very concept of privacy rights and bodily autonomy are much more complex, and not only aren't they taught explicitly much to children, they'll often get the opposite message just from the way they're treated.

  • Lionel

    Okay, I do sincerely hope you know the difference between hiding your child from the opposing point of view, and telling your child that that point of view is incorrect. For many, or it may be safe to say, for most people, their point of view is directly influenced by their idea of morality. For example, I am pro-life. This is because I believe abortion is murder and murder is wrong. I am not going to tell my child that "To me, murder is wrong, but that is just my opinion, you can murder if you would like. Whatever you choose i will support you." That would be absurd! That is completely compromising what I believe. That only shows my child that I don't have confidence in my believe or morals. If I believed, wholeheartedly, wouldn't I stand up for it? Not to mention, I cannot, without internal guilt, point out that belief as possible ethically correct. Are you going to tell your child, if she punches a kid at school for not sharing, that your child was right if she thinks she is? Or that John Wayne Gacy was okay for killing the children he did because he thought it was okay? Or that she may torture her little brother/sister. I may be wrong, but I do not believe so. Please explain to me how this is any different from "filling their heads with your one sided beliefs." Also, as a side note, I do not believe that political rallies with children involved are intended to emotionally appeal to the political leaders. These men and women are obviously used to objectively looking at each point of view, trying to avoid any emotional attachment, to make the most fitting decision. I think they are more directed towards the average citizen, who will choose said political leaders based on their spoken beliefs/stances.

  • Anonymous

    I am intrigued as to how you portray your own personal feelings as logic. It seems to me that you have formed opinions contrary to your upbringing simply because, in retrospect, you feel you were robbed of the right to bear your own opinions. A parent naturally wants their child to have mirroring views of what is, in the parents mind, right and wrong. Any parent with a true sense of morality wants their child to be, in their opinion, a moral human being. Do you want a child who believes murder is appropriate? My guess is not. You will most likely train your child that it is morally wrong so that the child will oppose it. Now, for a parent to train a child to take a political standpoint, which to the parent may be as important as the immorality of murder, is in no way abhorrent. Obviously you were in no way harmed or permanently "brainwashed" or you wouldn't be so vehemently projecting a viewpoint contrary to your upbringing. The fact is, all throughout life, and even as a juvenile, we are taught things from a less-than-candid viewpoint, and even taught to defend these less-than-candid beliefs. However in time, with the maturation of ourselves in adolescence, we are able to explore viewpoints of our own regardless of what we are taught. Using the logic of a liberal, if a child grows up with out any "political exploitation" or "brainwashing" and into adulthood forms the personal opinion that they should raise their child as you were raised, would they be wrong? What intrigues me is that liberals beckon for open-mindedness and consideration of all beliefs, until it is a belief they deem closed minded and then it is "repugnant." It is a paradox. And to the point of the rallying of children as exploitative propaganda. if a citizen is not able to see past the pretty smile of a child to the actual viewpoints being projected, it is their own fault for being swooned by such superficiality. It's the citizens' fault if they allow themselves to be blinded by emotional appeal.–Candidly Uncandid

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    I don't know if you've read the complete blog but if not I would encourage to do it.It's pretty different to teach children than indoctrinate or brainwash them. I would thought it obvious that indoctrinating a child or using them as your "loud speakers" is wrong. I'm not even going to dignify the abortion is murder so you are teaching your children that murder is okay argument… I think people with a better written expression and more English knowledge than me will come to rebuttal the 2 posts above me.

  • Caravelle

    See Lionel, you're doing it wrong.Of course you shouldn't tell your kid "To me, murder is wrong, but that is just my opinion, you can murder if you would like". What you should tell your kid is the truth, which is that abortion is a controversial issue and that while you are against it because abortion is murder, a lot of people support it.Obviously your child will ask you why people would do such a thing. To that I can see two answers. Either you actually know and understand the pro-choice position, so you can explain it to your child while also explaining why you don't agree with it. Or you could admit to the kid you have no clue why anyone would be pro-choice, and suggest they look it up if they're interested.Given your comment is seems clear you have no idea what people who disagree with you even think, let alone why they think it, so I'd suggest going with the second option. Why wouldn't you ? If you're right then actually understanding the other side's position shouldn't affect your opinions at all, and your child will likely come to the same conclusions you did.I mean, is there a *reason* you think children torturing their siblings is wrong ? If so, you can explain that reason to your children and thus explain why you won't let them do it. That's not inculcating beliefs, it's explaining yours and laying ground rules. And if you can't think of a reason why children torturing their siblings is wrong, all I can say is wow, really ?

  • Caravelle

    "Using the logic of a liberal, if a child grows up with out any "political exploitation" or "brainwashing" and into adulthood forms the personal opinion that they should raise their child as you were raised, would they be wrong?"Um… yes ? An opinion's rightness or wrongness doesn't depend on how you were raised, it depends on the opinion."What intrigues me is that liberals beckon for open-mindedness and consideration of all beliefs, until it is a belief they deem closed minded and then it is "repugnant." It is a paradox. "Not at all. "consideration" doesn't mean "adoption", and "open-mindedness" doesn't mean "take on any beliefs with no quality filter whatsoever" (although some people unfortunately think it does).Some beliefs are correct. Others are wrong to varying degrees. Someone close-minded is someone who sticks to whatever beliefs they currently have without even trying to understand the other beliefs that exist out there. This is bad because everyone is wrong on something, and not examining one's own beliefs or learning about different beliefs means that the most important avenues for changing one's mind are gone, which means one's beliefs can't become less wrong.The caricature of open-mindedness is someone who learns all about different beliefs, and adopts them indiscriminately or randomly or through some filter that isn't related to how wrong the belief is. This is also not very good for having correct beliefs, because although you're able to change your mind, there is no reason for what you're changing your mind to to be better than what you believed before.Effective open-mindedness is about understanding all the different positions and points of view, and being able to judge how correct they are and why. Someone who does that right will also be wrong on tons of things, but they'll become less and less wrong as time goes on and as they learn more. Such a person will NOT think that all opinions are equal and equivalent; quite the opposite. They are more likely to have a nuanced view of the world than someone close-minded, simply because their view contains more information. But that doesn't mean they won't think some beliefs are "repugnant" – indeed, not only will they probably still think some beliefs are repugnant, they'll be able to explain how repugnant they are and why at length because they actually thought about that belief in depth.They will also not change their minds at a drop of a hat, unless they're just starting out with critical thinking and learning about other beliefs and realize they were very wrong about everything. They'll only change their minds if they've been convinced there is a belief that's less wrong than their current one.Of course that's a bit of a platonic ideal; actually changing one's mind is quite hard :http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/How_To_Actually_Change_Your_Mind

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15654013636892916062 Erika Martin – Stampin’ Mama

    What you said about being labeled as a failure and rebellious if you had views opposing your parents is SO true in P/QF families! My brother and sister are now atheists and when people ask why they professed Christianity way back when, the answer is that they wouldn't dare NOT to. There was no option. Life would have been an even worse hell for us if we opposed our parents' views and religious beliefs.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17967070182847617840 kisekileia

    I don't really think it's okay to mock your kids, even in adulthood. There's too complex a power dynamic for it to be truly fair and equitable, and it tends to hurt the kid regardless of the power issues.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17967070182847617840 kisekileia

    I don't really think it's okay to mock your kids, even in adulthood. There's too complex a power dynamic for it to be truly fair and equitable, and it tends to hurt the kid regardless of the power issues.

  • Lionel

    Caravelle,Forgive me for my late response, and thank you for your reply. What you are saying seems very logical and I think, from either standpoint on the issue, the right thing to do. However to say that I don't understand the other side's point of view, or why they believe it is completely off base. I do entirely, however it doesn't mean I agree with it. My point of posting was that it seems to me Libby is saying that rather then telling your child that, say, abortion is wrong, and it is murder (if this is what you believe), you should tell them that you BELIEVE it is but that's just what you believe next to a thousand other beliefs, and this is where I disagree. It's like people expect everyone to be open-minded and accepting of ALL beliefs, but then those same people are NOT open-minded to close-mindedness or the non-acceptance of other beliefs as right. It's a double standard. If you believe something is wrong I see no problem in teaching your child that it IS wrong rather then that you simply believe it is. As for your last comment, of course I can think of a reason that is is…never said, or insinuated that I couldn't. The way I see it, if you can't think of a reason why abortion is wrong, all I can say is wow, really? Now tell me the difference.

  • Lionel

    "Using the logic of a liberal, if a child grows up with out any "political exploitation" or "brainwashing" and into adulthood forms the personal opinion that they should raise their child as you were raised, would they be wrong?"Um… yes ? An opinion's rightness or wrongness doesn't depend on how you were raised, it depends on the opinion"Now now Caravelle, you aren't being open-minded here. That person made their OWN belief through exploration of many beliefs that such legalism was the correct way to raise a child. Why is it wrong now, because YOU say it is? It sounds like your not taking your own advice, like your way to raise a child is the only right way.

  • Caravelle

    Hi Lionel, thanks for your reply. If you're still reading:When I said you don't understand the other side's point of view, I wasn't talking hypothetically. I was talking directly about how you frame Libby Anne's argument, which I think shows you misunderstand her position. And you do it again in this last comment: it seems you think she'll tell her children that all beliefs are equally valid. If I'm wrong on this please correct me.Libby Anne quite obviously does NOT think all beliefs are valid, and nowhere in her post does she say she will tell her children this. She talks about how her parents created an environment where she was unable to form her own political opinions, and how she wishes to create a different environment for her children. And she talked about how she will try to make her children understand complex issues in all their complexity, as opposed to telling them what her position is and making it seem as though that's all there is to the issue.You also make it clear you don't understand my own position, as you repeat this bit: "It's like people expect everyone to be open-minded and accepting of ALL beliefs, but then those same people are NOT open-minded to close-mindedness or the non-acceptance of other beliefs as right."For one thing, close-mindedness isn't a belief, it's an attitude. But more to the point I explained that open-mindedness to me isn't about accepting all beliefs, so either you aren't talking to me at all, or you should address what I actually said."If you believe something is wrong I see no problem in teaching your child that it IS wrong rather then that you simply believe it is. As for your last comment, of course I can think of a reason that is is…never said, or insinuated that I couldn't. The way I see it, if you can't think of a reason why abortion is wrong, all I can say is wow, really? Now tell me the difference."The difference is that you apparently didn't get where I was going with that argument. I was talking about explaining the reasons for YOUR OWN positions when explaining them to your children, not the opposing side's. The idea being that you presumably have good reasons for having the positions you do, and the better the reasons the more you should trust your children to agree with you once they've worked the question out from all angles like you have. (of course it's also important to know the arguments for the other side, since that's the only way to work out a position "from all angles", but it wasn't what I was talking about in that particular sentence) As it happens I can think of a few good reasons to oppose abortion, and quite a lot of bad ones, and if I were to explain abortion to someone I would certainly bring them up.Now if something is a complex issue that good, reasonable people disagree on then it's less obvious that your children will end up sharing your opinion once they've thought it through… but then it's less of a problem if they don't either, for reasons that should be obvious.Ultimately it's less about beliefs and more what they're founded on. Do I want my children to have the opinions they do because they decided for themselves those were best, or because they're copying my own opinions ? We all want our children to share our values and beliefs (to some extent) and superficially the latter position would seem best for that… But aside from not being half as reliable as you'd think (look at how Libby Anne turned out !), I think it shows a lack of trust in one's children's reasoning/emotional capacities… and by extension in one's own capacity to form opinions, because I'd think someone who was confident in the rightness of their own position and the process through which they came to that it would over-estimate the likelihood of others independently coming to the same conclusion, not the opposite.

  • Caravelle

    "Now now Caravelle, you aren't being open-minded here."By what definition ? I explained my own, and it's shared by a whole lot of "open-minded" people I know and respect. It's true that there are those "open-minded" people who think it means "accept everything" but for one thing even they don't "accept everything" (tend to reject materialism and critical thinking, for two), and well I'll just namecheck Tim Minchin's "If You Open Your Mind Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out (Take My Wife)" and leave it there. You want to talk to those people, no need to do it in responses to me.I do believe that opinions are right or wrong, or rather that every aspect of each opinion has a specific degree of rightness/wrongness. And a position is right/wrong on its own merits, nothing to do with how one person came to it. Hence, if we think that raising children the way Libby Anne was raised is wrong (and for the purposes of this conversation I do), then it's wrong regardless of how the parents in question were themselves raised.Anonymous's question wasn't very well-formed; I answered as if they were asking whether the child was wrong in their parenting opinions or not. Another interpretation could be they were asking whether the parent's parenting technique would be proved wrong by the fact the child came to a wrong opinion despite it. The answer to that would be more complex (which is why I picked the easier-to-answer literal reading), but really it comes down to this: there is no such thing as the perfect parenting style, just as there is no such thing as a perfect epistemology (a way of forming beliefs that would only result in absolutely correct beliefs; while perfect reasoners with perfect information and infinite time could theoretically attain that, humans satisfy none of those conditions). But that doesn't mean some parenting styles and some epistemologies aren't *better* than others, i.e. more likely to result in less flawed adults and less wrong beliefs.But seeing as perfection isn't attainable, even the best reasoner in the world with the best upbringing in the universe will be wrong on some stuff.So basically if a child of mine ended up having opinions that are abhorrent to me, while I would certainly re-think my choices and question my parenting ways (I certainly wouldn't assume I provided the best upbringing in the universe), I might or might not end up concluding I did something wrong. No way to tell in advance.What IS clear is that Libby Anne's parents' parenting methods aren't a sure-fire way of getting children who agree with you either, so arguing against her by giving hypotheticals of children turning out badly doesn't advance things much. Either you come up with a perfect adult-copying method (I recommend reading "Cyteen", by C.J. Cherryh, on that), or you make an actual argument that one method is more likely to make children turn out badly than another.

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