Thursday, April 26, 2012

Get them while they're young

Lately, I've been reading some of the essays of the 19th century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer.  This quote about the indoctrination of children strongly resonated with me.
If, in early childhood, certain fundamental views and doctrines are paraded with unusual solemnity, and an air of the greatest earnestness never before visible in anything else; if, at the same time, the possibility of a doubt about them be completely passed over, or touched upon only to indicate that doubt is the first step to eternal perdition, the resulting impression will be so deep that, as a rule, that is, in almost every case, doubt about them will be almost as impossible as doubt about one's own existence. Hardly one in ten thousand will have the strength of mind to ask himself seriously and earnestly--is that true?
Religion: A Dialogue, an essay by Arthur Schopenhauer.  Read the essay here

He expressed similar sentiments in another essay entitled Studies in Pessimism:
There is no absurdity so palpable but that it may be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to inculcate it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity. For as in the case of animals, so in that of men, training is successful only when you begin in early youth.
Read the essay here

Schopenhauer clearly describes my upbringing.  How I managed to escape from the indoctrination of my youth is still a mystery to me.

What's wrong with indoctrinating children?  I like this observation from the 4th Century:
Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles and poetic fantasies.  To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing.  The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after years relieved of them.
Hypatia of Alexandria.

I personally understand the mental trauma that a person goes through who has been indoctrinated as a child in a false worldview.  I don't blame my parents.  They were only teaching me what they believed.  However, I can attest to Hypatia's observation that relieving oneself of false ideas can be extremely painful.

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