The Cognitive Dissonance of Parents

There is a line between fact and fiction, and part of the point of a reasonable upbringing is to learn how to differentiate between the two. So far so uncontroversial.

So when comes to a parent wishing to teach their child their values, you come to another fine line. It’s been mentioned by Crommunist that it’s an educational authority’s job to teach children facts and how to think for themselves, and a parent’s role is to teach them their values.

It’s an undeniable fact that a child will come to the realisation that theirs isn’t the only viewpoint in the world. How a child deals with this is, in my opinion, a result of how they have been raised. Strong cognitive dissonance can continue right into adulthood, sadly; and is strongly linked to wilful ignorance or an unwillingness to face the facts.

I used to be a (very weak) Anglican Christian, and part of why I was such a weak believer was due to my engagement and enthusiasm for science. At the risk of sounding anecdotal, a friend who attends the same church as I used to is an accomplished engineer working for an engineering firm in London. He has had, necessarily, an education in physical and mathematical sciences, where rigorous methods are used to work out the validity of hypotheses. Yet on being questioned as to why he knew the Bible outlined the one and only “true” faith, he simply answered “I just know”. This extends to an innate belief – seemingly held without basis – that he also knows that the Qu’ran is “false”. This wall of cognitive dissonance is the hardest to break down and requires an active engagement on the part of the person themselves; and is the reason why it is so very important that children are brought up to question what they are taught. It is only during the early years that any difference can be made, really.

So where is the dividing line between a parents desire to teach their child their beliefs, and teaching them that theirs isn’t the only one in the world? Should we intrude on a parent’s right to do that? I think that schools should teach children facts and how to deal with facts and fiction, and that should (but occasionally doesn’t) help them figure out if what their parents tell them is worth anything.

As I’m only just really starting out blogging, this post isn’t really about anything at all, merely an introductory dipping of toes into the bloggers’ stream in the hope that I can marshal these thoughts in my brain. Any comments or constructive criticism would be appreciated.


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