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When Your Kids Think For Themselves

Dennis Prager is concerned. He’s concerned about all those conservative parents out there who raise kids to be God-fearing, gun-toting, platitude-loving conservatives only to have them turn out to be — gasp! — liberals. And as usual, he sums it up with a cartoonish simple-mindedness:

So it is sad when a parent who believes, for example, in the American trinity of “Liberty,” “In God We Trust,” and “E Pluribus Unum” has a child who believes that equality trumps liberty, that a secular America is preferable to a God-centered one, and that multiculturalism should replace the unifying American identity.

Well if your beliefs are little more than trite cliches like this, it’s no wonder your kids reject them.

It is sad when a pastor or any other parent who believes that the only gender-based definition of marriage that has ever existed — husband and wife — has a child who regards the parent as a bigot for holding on to that definition.

Perhaps those parents should think back to their parents and how, quite likely, they were opposed to civil rights for blacks, desegregation and interracial marriage. And how they thought their parents were unenlightened squares who cared more about their religious beliefs than actual equality and justice. This is a pretty common theme, by the way. Every generation goes through it. My generation can’t believe that our parents and grandparents could once have believed that whites-only drinking fountains were acceptable; today’s generation can’t believe their parents oppose equality for gays and lesbians. Welcome to reality.

That this happens so often raises the obvious question: Why?

There are two reasons.

One is that most parents with traditional American and Judeo-Christian values have not thought it necessary to articulate these values to their children on a regular basis. They have assumed that there is no need to because society at large holds those values, or it did so throughout much of American history. Villages do indeed raise children. And when the village shares parents’ values, the parents don’t have to do the difficult work of inculcating these values.

But the village — American society — has radically changed.

Yep, it has. It’s changed technologically, allowing kids today to get to know people all over the world, people of different religions, races and sexual orientations. So they are a lot less likely than their parents to rely on jingoism and tribalism to divide themselves from one another. They’re less likely to “otherize” those who aren’t just like them. A reasonable person would think this is a very, very good thing. Which is why Prager is so bothered by it.

Which brings us to the second reason.

Virtually every institution outside the home has been captured by people with left-wing values: specifically the media (television and movies) and the schools (first the universities and now high schools). In the 1960s and 1970s, American parents were blindsided. Their children came home from college with values that thoroughly opposed those of their parents.

And the parents had no idea how to counteract this. Moreover, even if they did, after just one year at the left-wing seminaries we still call universities, it was often too late.

Here’s a thought: If your beliefs are threatened by education, you should probably reconsider your beliefs. My old French teacher told me, when I left for college, “education is the process of disillusionment.” And at its best, that is exactly what it is. When I left the cocoon of my home in a John Hughes-esque suburb and began to actually learn about the world, I pretty quickly discovered that it was nothing like I had been taught. Again, this is a good thing.

Comments

  1. iknklast says

    I was one of those kids. My dad still sends me regular e-mails to try to change my ways, because there is nothing more convincing than an e-mail in fright caps with lots of exclamation points that has been forwarded to hundreds of people, and you happen to be on the latest string.

    My father wanted me to be educated; now he seems to want to un-educate me!

  2. Doug Little says

    If your beliefs are threatened by education, you should probably reconsider your beliefs.

    Yeah, exactly this. At no time in history has it been easier to share information between each other regardless of geographical location, this does not bode well for people who build groups based around hate and fear of outsiders.

    More than anything else the internet (easy access to information) will eventually “win the war” in the middle east as it inevitably seeps into the culture regardless of how the powers that be try to curtail or stop it.

  3. Larry says

    Their children came home from college with values that thoroughly opposed those of their parents

    In other words, they became adults, able to hold opinions different than those of mommy and daddy.

  4. rq says

    I dunno, my dad articulated those values rather well throughout my childhood, and still does, and yet, here I am – not like him. Who’d ‘ave thought I’d have my own opinions?

  5. alanb says

    It’s changed technologically, allowing kids today to get to know people all over the world, people of different religions, races and sexual orientations. So they are a lot less likely than their parents to rely on jingoism and tribalism to divide themselves from one another.

    This is true for the people who choose to seek it out. However, technology also allows people to seek echo chambers where they become more tribal, not less. In college I was forced to share a dorm with some people who were racist and conservative. This is not a group I would have sought out on my own. Getting to know them provided a study in psychology and an understanding of human nature that was much greater than I could have gotten from reading books. Had online communities existed back then I probably would have interacted with those people much less than I did.

  6. hunter says

    “Perhaps those parents should think back to their parents and how, quite likely, they were opposed to civil rights for blacks, desegregation and interracial marriage. And how they thought their parents were unenlightened squares who cared more about their religious beliefs than actual equality and justice. ”

    This is Dennis Prager’s audience we’re talking about — they probably still believe those very same things.

  7. colnago80 says

    Virtually every institution outside the home has been captured by people with left-wing values: specifically the media (television and movies) and the schools (first the universities and now high schools). In the 1960s and 1970s, American parents were blindsided. Their children came home from college with values that thoroughly opposed those of their parents.

    Of course, if clowns like Prager sent their kids to piece of shit schools like Bob Jones, Liberty, or Regent, they wouldn’t have to worry about their getting “wrong” ideas.

  8. DaveL says

    @8 – That’s why I refer to those institutions as “anti-universities”, as their purpose is to prevent students from encountering the broad range of competing ideas they would encounter at a real university, or even just from living as an independent adult in the real world.

  9. says

    That this happens so often raises the obvious question: Why?

    My answer is better but it has more to do with social psychology and neurobiology so you will probably not like it. Unsurprisingly Mr. Prager is explained by the content of the answer.

    One is that most parents with traditional American and Judeo-Christian values have not thought it necessary to articulate these values to their children on a regular basis. They have assumed that there is no need to because society at large holds those values, or it did so throughout much of American history. Villages do indeed raise children. And when the village shares parents’ values, the parents don’t have to do the difficult work of inculcating these values.

    Periodic maintenance of cultural values. I could say brainwashing, but that would be dishonest because people whose beliefs reflect reality do the same thing for general community bonding.

    You see the things they believe are not believed because they reflect reality, they are believed because the culture reflects the beliefs at each other. When the beliefs reflect reality that makes the periodic maintenance much less necessary. When a culture needs repeated reinforcement to keep it’s people believing something that should be a warning sign. Instead they threaten you with hell and other psychological tricks with just as little evidence because emotion and simplicity is the point, not structured thought leading to conclusions about the world.

    Virtually every institution outside the home has been captured by people with left-wing values: specifically the media (television and movies) and the schools (first the universities and now high schools).

    Part two is the rationalization. In this case it takes the form of a conspiracy. They can’t let themselves consider the terrible possibility that what they believe does not reflect reality outside of their social sphere, so there must be an enemy (simple dichotomous thinking style and standard primate logic). The way our community feels about things heavily effects what we individually think about things. In authoritarian communities this is much more of a factor and on top of it fear-based thinking is common. After all if there is something to be afraid of you can more easily justify authorities.

    It takes a community that cares about being able to justify its values independent of itself to create strong people. Because these religious communities can’t maintain the walled off moral chambers as effectively anymore they are experiencing a slow (increasing?) leak as what they believe becomes increasingly irrelevant to modern living, and more obviously inconsistent with reality. At some point I am worried about the most paranoid among them doing something stupid. Will we ever see another US civil war? Probably not but I am expecting more very scary stupid in the near future.

  10. shouldbeworking says

    I had no idea E Pluralibus Unum meant everyone had to have the same thought. Did gawd repeal her divinely created 1st amendment?

  11. scienceavenger says

    …most parents with traditional American and Judeo-Christian values have not thought it necessary to articulate these values to their children on a regular basis

    Right Dennis, because if there is anything that marks the personality of right-wing conservatives, its their absolute silence on such matters. If only they would preach MORE, things would get better!

    Virtually every institution outside the home has been captured by people with left-wing values: specifically the media (television and movies) and the schools (first the universities and now high schools)

    More specifically, every institution that deals with information. Media – biased. Scientists – biased. Historians – biased. Universities – biased. You’d think reality had a liberal bias or something!

  12. mars says

    “And when the village shares parents’ values, the parents don’t have to do the difficult work of inculcating these values.”

    Exactly. We live in a society where you need to *convince* people that your views are correct. Folks like Mr. Prager would like to be lazy, because shutting down discussion or co-opting the state to promote your view is the height of laziness.

    I may not agree with them, but I respect Jehovah’s Witnesses who are constantly confronted with birthday cakes and cards, as well as Jews and Muslims live their faith in a bacon-obsessed world. They even do the difficult work of inculcating their values. Some of their children leave the fold too, but at least they probably have those difficult conversations about “this is what we believe.”

  13. busterggi says

    hunter is right – this is the extreme right-wing evangelical former -Dixiecrat-now-TeaParty base. They haven’t evolved past 1859 at the best.

  14. alanb says

    Right Dennis, because if there is anything that marks the personality of right-wing conservatives, its their absolute silence on such matters. If only they would preach MORE, things would get better!

    The problem is that parents are forwarding all those emails to their friends and are forgetting to put their kids on the cc: line.

  15. dogmeat says

    So it is sad when a parent who believes, for example, in the American trinity of “Liberty,” “In God We Trust,” and “E Pluribus Unum” has a child who believes that equality trumps liberty, that a secular America is preferable to a God-centered one, and that multiculturalism should replace the unifying American identity.

    Well, to be fair, when your beliefs in the “American trinity” negate the actual meaning of two of the three, then yes, if you’ve done even a half-way decent job of raising someone who can even half-way articulate a thought that even remotely resembles critical thinking will likely recognize the true meaning of those beliefs you don’t seem to understand and embrace the correct intent.

    “Liberty:” doesn’t mean forcing others to act, live, and believe as you do.

    E Pluribus Unum: “From many, one,” or “out of many, one,” better describes the children’s understanding of a multicultural American society than a conservative Borg understanding of it. Heck, the original image associated with that motto includes a clutch of wildflowers of various types brought together in the eagle’s talon. They don’t all magically transform into identical roses.

    So, really, it’s quite beautiful when a kid realizes that their bigoted, fascist, right-wing parents are what they are and move on to an America that actually recognizes liberty, equality, and rights.

  16. magistramarla says

    “Villages do indeed raise children. And when the village shares parents’ values, the parents don’t have to do the difficult work of inculcating these values.
    But the village — American society — has radically changed.”

    This can go in the opposite direction, too. We’ve always been fairly progressive parents and we moved in circles with others who were also progressive parents. We even attended a church in Ohio which was a happy mix of ages, races and sexual orientations. The choir director and the head of Sunday School classes were an out lesbian couple, and if anyone had a problem with that, they were informed about the other Episcopal churches in the area and encouraged to go check them out. The church even brought in a female rector.

    Then we moved to Texas. We made the mistake of assuming that the community would continue to echo our values. We tried three different churches, finding to our horror that Texas churches, even Episcopalian ones, are homophobic, misogynistic, anti-science and fundamentalist. The schools are the same.
    After being steeped in this culture, a couple of our five children are now conservatives, especially the one who married a redneck cowboy.

    The attitudes that we’ve run into here in Texas have pushed us to become strong Atheists and to return to the strong liberalism of our youth. I regret that we didn’t do a better job of counteracting those attitudes when our children were growing up.

  17. garnetstar says

    Prgaer has a point. The chemistry departments of most universities are overrun by godless liberals, and their only goal is to brainwash chem majors.

    Why, all I have to do is challenge the students’ god-given belief that valence hybrids are the cause of expanded octets, and they’re on the road to communism.

  18. whheydt says

    “Perhaps those parents should think back to their parents and how, quite likely, they were opposed to civil rights for blacks, desegregation and interracial marriage. And how they thought their parents were unenlightened squares who cared more about their religious beliefs than actual equality and justice. ”

    In my case, in spite of the fact that I’m older than a lot of others here, my parents *didn’t* have those sorts of beliefs. My father (if he were still alive, he’d be 103) got personal accounts of the antebellum South from his grandfather. My father supported civil rights for blacks and supported desegregation. I never heard him say a word either way about inter-racial marriages, but I seriously doubt that he was opposed.

    My mother had the great liberal influence of having parents who immigrated to the US from Denmark (shortly after 1900).

    Now I’m part of the older cohort (I’m 64) that supports SSM, as do my kids (in their late 30s).

  19. says

    …and that multiculturalism should replace the unifying American identity.

    I am not an American, but I’m pretty sure that the USA has never had a unifying identity – that from the outset it was a coalition of mostly European immigrant societies that had very different cultures and values from each other, and that a large part of the project of setting the USA up as a country was to allow them to keep their cultural diversity (even though it treated the cultures of those from other ethnic origins with contempt).

  20. Wylann says

    Virtually every institution outside the home has been captured by people with left-wing values: specifically the media (television and movies) and the schools (first the universities and now high schools).

    Wait. Which group was it that made a concerted effort from the 80s through the present, to stack the school boards with those who were sympathetic to their cause, and undermine actual education in favor of religious claptrap?

    The religious right nutters are the primary, if not sole, reason for all the State Citizens for Science groups around the country.

  21. Pierce R. Butler says

    Villages do indeed raise children.

    Somehow, Dennis Prager must have been exposed to a (gasp) learning experience, despite his best efforts.

    How else to explain his tragic decline into rampant Hillaryism?

    From now on, he must stitch a scarlet RINO prominently on all his clothing, and step off into the gutter whenever meeting a True Christian Patriot™ on the sidewalk.

    Dennis, we hardly knew ye…

  22. shay says

    This can cut both ways. My oldest sister and her husband are left-of-center activist liberals. Their daughter turned into a very devout, conservative Christian (she’s about 26 now). Nice girl, very nice girl but her beliefs drive her parents crazy.

    I can remember being on the receiving end of a monologue (it wasn’t a conversation) from my sister when said niece was in high school and already manifesting the signs.

    “We just want her to think for herself!” was the anguished cry. And I didn’t get any brownie points for saying no, you want her to think just the way you do.

  23. meg says

    Funny thing, it can go backwards too.

    Other my oldest brother, my family has all switched to the ‘left’. And my mother has slowly been changing too. I think she saw us get involved in social justice issues, and try to do things that did resonate with her beliefs. She heard us argue and discuss ideas openly. She met our gay/Asian/Muslim etc friends. And watches her grandchildren interact with people from all over the place without blinking. And the world hasn’t fallen apart on her.

    She still complains if we drive through a heavily ‘Asianised’ etc part or town (Though taking her to Sydney’s ‘little Vietnam’ once was fun. She wanted to know the names of all the fruit and veg that was new to her.) But she makes a real conscious effort to think about things from that ‘other’ point of view. She struggles, but when she told me she’d like to see gay friends of mine get married, because they really were a cute couple, it was a very cool moment.

  24. dingojack says

    magistramarla – ‘… a couple of our five children are now conservatives, especially the one who married a redneck cowboy.”
    And how is your son (and his cowboy husband) getting on then? ;)

    Kids will always rebel, and then relent. It’s just the way it is.

    Dingo

  25. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    One is that most parents with traditional American and Judeo-Christian values have not thought it necessary to articulate these values to their children on a regular basis.

    “…articulate these values to their children on a regular basis”. i.e. to hammer to point home again and again ad nauseum until the child is brainwashed into believing the same thing the parent does.

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