Top scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss advocate for children, arguing children should be allowed to develop as critical thinkers and be protected from religious indoctrination.
Speaking with The Irish Times, Dawkins, a leading biologist, and Krauss, a leading physicist, defended a child’s right to a proper education.
There is a balancing act and you have to balance the rights of parents and the rights of children and I think the balance has swung too far towards parents. Children do need to be protected so that they can have a proper education and not be indoctrinated in whatever religion their parents happen to have been brought up in.
That means parents have a limited — it seems to be — limited rights in determining what the curriculum is. The state is providing the education, it’s trying to make sure all children have equal opportunity.
And parents of course have concerns and a say, but they don’t have the right to shield their children from knowledge. That’s not a right any more than they have the right to shield their children from health care or medicine.
And those parents that do that are often tried and imprisoned when they refuse to allow their children to get blood transfusions or whatever is necessary for their health. And this is necessary for their mental health.
Dawkins, Krauss, and other intellectuals make an interesting and compelling claim: forcing children to accept the religious superstitions of their parents can be a form of child abuse. For example, teaching children Biblical creationism as a legitimate scientific alternative to the theory of evolution is a form of child abuse.
Yet if we are to accept this claim, what are the implications for social policy? Should the government step in and protect children from the religious superstitions of their parents?
Or should parents retain the right to force their religious beliefs upon their children, even when those beliefs are demonstrably harmful to the education of the child, as is the case with teaching creationism?
And what about religious schools, as well as homeschoolers, engaged in the explicit task of indoctrinating children?
How does society protect children from the damaging excesses of religion?
How does society defend a child’s right to a proper education, even if that education violates the sincerely held religious beliefs of their parents?