If You Teach Critical Thinking, Will Your Kids Become Secular? – Wendy Thomas Russell



so Wendy Thomas Russell is here today to talk about this and some of these questions and other questions especially as they pertain to the teaching of children teaching of critical thinking to children wendy is an award-winning journalist who writes for the secular parenting blog natural wonders on the pantheous faith network and she also writes a column for the PBS Newshour her book which she has out here today and we will be selling and she will be signing is called relax it's just God how and why to talk to your kids about religion when you're not religious so we'll be selling that afterwards so please welcome Wendy Thomas Russell can you all hear me all right in the back just you know raise your hand if you can't okay all right how's that good perfect so thank you for having me here as part of the Future brain series I hope that after I leave you'll still think of it as the future brain series and not the damage your brain series or fill your brain with worthless information series but even if you do then at least I will know that you are in fact thinking critically about what you hear and that is that's that would make me proud because this is about critical thinking and what I'm saying is that is that if you end up thinking everything I say here today is then really that means that I've done a fantastic job um so I can't really lose here um but thank you for coming and thanks to Jim and Bob for inviting me I'd start I'd like to start off by talking a little bit about Common Core I don't know if you're all familiar with Common Core but it is the the new K through 12 national education standards and they have been adopted in California and most other states it's mainly about just setting academic goals that are you know for each grade loved that are the same throughout but it goes deeper than that common core signals a paradigm a paradigm shift in the way that we are teaching our kids you might have heard the new above the new math and this is sort of giving kids a different way of figuring out the answers to math questions it all looks very foreign to us it's not how we used to do things but but it's trying to make sense of math trying to tell you not just what the answer is but why that answer makes sense but I'm going to talk about the the curriculum as it relates to reading comprehension because that's the part that it really interests me now in my day and maybe yours too when we were asked to do a reading comprehension you know segment for for school we would have there would be an essay and then it would be followed by a group of questions and you know you could you could really read you could really read the Google straight to the questions and invariably you without actually reading the essay you could pretty much answer those questions you would just go back to the essay maybe it would say what is the what is the topic of this essay and you would go and you would read the first sentence of the essay and it would pretty much tell you what the topic was and you would just copy it down and the other questions were quite similar to that you'd sort of you could go and scan it very easily and find the answer so for instance if if it was a story about how stars died then the first sentence might be our galaxy has billions of stars and every one of them will die someday and you would and then if the if it was what is the topic sentence you would go back and you would write write this story is about how our galaxy has billions of stars and every one of them will die someday and then you'd go down to question two and it might say why do stars appear to twinkle and you would scan the essay for the word twinkle and when you saw that you would say stars appear to twinkle because bla bla bla and you would get an A like not an A and that but but you wouldn't have to think about what you were reading really you could answer the questions without even really using your entire brain and that's what I did a lot of times I remember specifically like just not really comprehending what that had to say but you know doing fine anyway so compared to common core my daughter's in the third grade and she has Common Core homework packet and I didn't bring that today and I'll explain why later but in her homework or essays followed by questions exactly like when we were children but these store these it works in a strikingly different way because you know you you'll for instance I'll just give you an example um this one essay that she has is about a little boy who likes to paint and his name is benjin Benjamin West and he grew up a Quaker and the story talks about how Quakers weren't really supportive of painting and how he had limited opportunities to paint but finally his father bought him a set of paints and how the Native Americans and that lived nearby they sort of helped cultivate his interest in painting and finally he left home and he got so good that the King of England had him come and become a painter there so it's very successful and the question after the essay is what is the main point of the story but nowhere in that essay does it say the main point of the story you actually have to read through the entire thing to get at the main point of the story the if you if you were to scan the particular essay you might think this story's about a little boy who likes to paint or the stories about the Quakers or the stories about his friendship with Native Americans or about how he left home but because I read the entire thing I can go back and I can see that's it that's a journey story it's about and this is a multiple choice question so this is one of the answers it's about a boy who aspires to and becomes a famous painter and that's the and that's the it's nothing is spelled out okay so it's it's it's sort of like in order to get the answer you have to read the text and think about the text and look back at the text this is critical thinking this is not rote memorization it's not copying it's not you know scanning it's not repetition it's actually analyzing what you're reading and then applying it to something completely different it's good stuff and it's not easy and my daughter's homework is terribly more difficult than my mind was and she does struggle with it occasionally but you know so be it this type of homework for kids in elementary school it's it's teaching them to become active participants in the learning process and as they move into middle and high school then the critical thinking will really you know kick into high gear and they will start to think about various arguments and and debates and kind of suss out the truth from those and they'll think be able to think more independently and have confidence in their own abilities and and they'll find solutions to problems or learn to find solutions to problems and that's a big deal numerous studies correlate critical thinking to intelligence and problem-solving and I think we can all agree that there are a lot of problems in our world that need solving so I'm not saying that Common Core is the gods God's gift to the world and I'm an atheist so I would never say that about anything but I am pointing out that the Common Core has these undeniably beneficial aspects to it so why is Common Core so controversial and particularly among the religious right do they not want their kids to be smart don't answer that question I read an article recently that quoted a woman named Alice Linehan and she's a Texas mom whose anti-common core or common core like curriculum and she she complains that or she she opposes Common Core on the on the basis that it's a radical that they're trying to in they're trying to implement a radical social justice agenda she complains that teachers are facilitators rather than authority figures and at lessons focus on subjectivity feelings emotions and beliefs rather than hard American facts like the Declaration of indepen and the US Constitution and good old-fashioned phonics she said quote I want my children to know that 2+2 is 4 that there are no absolutes that there are right and wrong answers these kiddos are not developmentally ready for this deeper rigorous thinking now to be clear I've never seen anything in Common Core that suggests that 2+2 is anything other than 4 or that there are no right and wrong answers at the multiple choice question that I had there were 3 wrong answers and one right answer we still you know give kids a through F Common Core has not turned public schools into one big Montessori program which may be preferable but that's for another lecture Linea was particularly incensed with the thought that kids might be told about the Arab Spring she is and this is because of a time article that ran at the time she was quoted as saying what does the Arab Spring have to do with the declaration of independence in the Constitution now I don't know about you I tend to think that Linehan could have benefited from Common Core because her thinking seems to be really awful anyway what is the actual problem who cares if my kid learns about Arab Spring it's you know it's just another aspect of our world and our civilization and isn't that a good thing it's not as though we need to choose American history over world history or vice versa it's not an either/or but then again I believe that young kids are capable of independent thought and their brains are they're undeveloped for sure but they're absolutely capable of of thinking deeply and rigorously as Linehan says and they're not going to get any better if they're don't have an opportunity to practice that skill the brain is a muscle you know it unless you exercise a muscle it doesn't get any stronger might even atrophy so pushing kids to think about things they don't understand is necessary to make them smarter and elementary kids should absolutely be asked to think rigorously and this is an important difference between me and Alice Linehan you know I think that she believes and may maybe others too I'm sure others too that you know certainly until a certain age kids brains are kind of like vessels that we just that we just fill with kind of absolutes religious or otherwise and you know if if I believe that if I believe that that were true that I might very well be feel threatened by things that my child was picking up if if all it took to turn my kid into a card-carrying gun-toting member of the NRA was to expose her to the beliefs of the NRA then I might not ever let her leave the house but the truth is that for some people in in the religious light right the problem isn't that common core wants to teach critical thinking to kids who are incapable of thinking critically the problem is that Common Core wants to teach critical thinking to kids who are perfectly capable of thinking critically about others beliefs and about their own and that that is the real threat I think because where there's skepticism and doubt there is the possibility that kids will change their minds and adopt other beliefs that differ from their parents where there is critical thinking there is the distinct possibility that kids will leave the religion into which they were born so does this mean that critical thinking is the death knell of religion before I try to answer that let me back up once upon a time I used to be a reporter for a newspaper I covered all kinds of things from Crime and courts to business and and an entertainment politics and education was always the beat I went out of my way to avoid I found that hanging out with criminals was far more civilized than PTA meetings people just tend to get cuckoo you know when there when it comes to their kids education they tend to overreact and complain really bitterly and an obsess over stuff that seems so dumb like like what their kids are gonna wear to gym class or what the school lunch menus are and then I became a parent and my own kids started to go to school and then sudden they totally got it I was I mean I could talk a lot about the school lunch menu at my kids school but no one is over and no one is is is is is above overreacting to things that involve their children when when our kids are involved we just we all have have a potential to go a little cuckoo so but an atheist mother once related a story to me which is in my in my book as well and and she said she had she'd sent her daughter to school and that the teacher began telling the kids the story of Easter and the little girl got up and she accused a teacher of indoctrinating her and she stormed out of the room and the mom and relating this was really kind of proud and she was like I was proud of my daughter for having confidence and for having you know being sure in her own beliefs to you know stand up to this teacher know confident yes but Shirin sure of her own beliefs in elementary school that is doubtful that is more likely the child was parroting what she had heard at home which is that when people talk to you about religion they're trying to indoctrinate you now certainly if this teacher was in violation of the law by teaching religion in a public classroom that's not okay I'm not advocating that at all but just from the facts of the story it sounds as though she was just telling the kids about Easter and what that was and it is a national holiday in America and and I think that it's not that big of a deal of kids know the backstory of national holidays so after after I left journalism in 2008 I but before I became a secular parenting writer in 2011 I had the opportunity to write a few books for the Girl Scouts the Girl Scouts and they were all focused on getting girls to key into their own strengths and aspirations was all about self-esteem building and I wrote one geared toward middle school students who and it was all focused on media literacy kind of around media literacy getting kids to think about what they're seeing in the media and and think critically about it well somewhere in the editing process of that particular book someone added the name of Media Matters to it's a website that fact checks conservative misinformation and they added that to a list of media literacy resources that were offered to the children and after the book was published a mom girl Scout's mom reported that to the Glenn Beck people he has a website the blaze guys run across that I'm so sorry but after that a minor shitstorm broke out and Fox News featured the issue on several segments and a bevy of internet commenters had a field day especially after they discovered my blog of her atheist which which I'd started two years after writing the Girl Scouts book but among other pleasantries I was called a notorious atheist who infiltrated the Girl Scouts and I was like into a serial killer so no overreaction there but I do have three names so that was their young but the Girl Scouts as an organization got it much worse they were accused of being a propaganda machine trying to indoctrinate young girls into liberalism and opponents demanded the books be removed from the bookshelves the insecurities being masked by all that seething anger was hard to miss the conservatives were up in arms because of one link in one book my husband said of the dust-up if conservative values are so frail that they can be completely undermined by exposure to a single slightly progressive website those conservative values can't be very strong see why they married that guy the saddest part was that despite the amazing opportunities and self-esteem girls received from the Girl Scouts many uber conservative conservative parents were just taking them out in mass because you know they were they were afraid that they were gonna see the name of a website because they thought they might actually click on the website and see what it had to say oh my god crash BAM boom they saw they saw another ruined little whores liberal conservative religious non-religious a whole lot of parents out there are guilty of running away and hiding their kids from things they don't agree with sheltering our kids from political and religious views that scare us is universal and yet it's so much what I'd like us to move away from because if we parents really believe in the strength of our values and beliefs then we ought to be confident they'll compete well in the marketplace of ideas we ought to be comfortable enough to let our kids see the world as it is and people as they really are so critical thinking is not the opposite of in dr. Ansari the opposite of religion but it is I think the opposite of indoctrination now indoctrination want to talk just a little bit about this it's a loaded word and and there are about a million different definitions out there for it from formal teaching on the one hand to coercively causing people to act or think on the basis of ideology as a practical matter and they help to think of indoctrination as the halfway point between simple suggestion and outright brainwashing and for our purposes or for my purposes you can we can be reasonably assured that we're indoctrinating our kids if we do two things one is if we teach them that our way is the only way to believe sorry the only right way to believe and to the people who disagree with these beliefs are less moral less intelligent and less worthy of our respect so the first one your way is the only right way to believe in this context I mean right as good I mean right means good it does not necessarily mean true this is because most people assume that what they believe is true and there's nothing wrong with that the truth doesn't always equate to benevolence though or decency it's okay to think that other people's beliefs are wrong but it's another to assume that they're bad people the second part is people who disagree with these beliefs are less moral intelligent or worthy of our respect this concept moves past personal belief to actively disparaging people who who see the world a different way and suggesting to Children that those who believe differently are lesser than in a universal sense so you can see right off the bat how religious people might run the risk of indoctrinating their kids by suggesting that religion is synonymous with morality but anti religious people run the risk as well and particularly when they suggest to children that people who believe in the supernatural are less intelligent or they lack they lack reason if you if you read my book you'll see that unlike many of my atheist counterparts I'm not I'm not really anti religious I'm a huge advocate for religious literacy and religious diversity and religious tolerance but what's not included on that list is religious indoctrination it religious indoctrination makes me twitchy in the extreme and here's why it is at its most successful religious indoctrination takes advantage of children's undeveloped minds it treats it teaches them what to think rather than how to think and it treats fact and and and belief is indistinguishable and all of this carries the potential to lower a child's self-esteem and self-confidence and self-worth and these are the very attributes that will enable them to make wise decision throughout their those very tumultuous adolescent years and to resist peer pressure when it comes to things like early sex and drug use and criminal behavior so there's a strange dichotomy going on in the world today on the on the one hand critical thinking seems to be essential an essential component to the childhood experience we parents are constantly religious and non constant ly advising our kids to you know to resist peer pressure and to bring reasoning and analysis to their school studies and to be skeptical of what they encounter on the Internet these lessons and discernment start very early when children are barely out of diapers we start stressing the difference between safe strangers like police officers unless you're african-american in which case even they aren't entirely safe and strangers to be wary of like everyone else yet despite the constant focus on critical thinking millions of parents good parents nice parents leave their children no no choice at all when it comes to religion instead many children are taught to put their faith in one particular God to dress to trust that the Lord has a plan for them that Mohammed paved a way for them that that Jesus will save them that the saints are watching over them and the devil may tempt them to do bad things for which they will be eternally punished that many religious people do this with so little concern as to how it might affect their ability to critically think is just a testament to the gaping dichotomy that of expectations that we that parents have for their youngsters think for yourself they seem to be saying unless it comes to religion and then religion gets passed so religious folks aren't the only ones indoctrinating their kids or struggling against their natural instinct to indoctrinate their kids a couple of months ago I was on a podcast for the friendly atheist and during the talk one of the interviewers told me that although she didn't have kids yet she was fairly sure that she would be really bummed out if her kid grew up to join a fundamentalist group and she asked me if I had an answer to that kind of anxiety and they didn't answer it very well at the time but I'm gonna rectify that by telling you now so the answer depends it depends first you have to ask a follow-up question why does it bother you why does it bother you that your child would belong to a fundamentalist group is it because you don't want your child to join a group that subjugates women or speaks out against homosexuality or opposed is the separation of church and state because all of those are very understandable and valid points but the answer to that is use the child's first 18 years of their life to teach tolerance and kindness and compassion and open-mindedness and if you do that and if you and if you model that then when they grow up even if they do gravitate toward some kind of a religious group then it won't be one that runs counter to everything else that you have taught them all the values that you have already taught them but if the problem isn't about having your child join a specific group that does nasty things but it's more about having your child believe things that you don't personally believe to be true well that problem is solved much differently that problem is solved by not having children um for parents who have black and white views of the world and believe their facts and their perspective are the only ones worth knowing then you know they're there they're most certainly and they operate on kind of a an you know an either-or level indoctrination is going to win out it's going to win out for them but for the vast majority of secular parents I've met and and even progressively religious parents honestly a lot we value choice and genuinely want our kids to reach their own conclusions you know about what we believe and as you've probably already ascertain by now critical thinking is an essential part of that so before I tell you some of the best tactics for creating critical thinking kids I should say that I'm not a parenting expert I'm not even a religion expert as it turns out in fact I you may be asking yourselves why I was invited here in the first place and all I can tell you is that like I flashed my diploma from the Gary conservatory class about five and they were like sure come on you can speak I'm kidding I'm a journalist you can believe everything I say so what is a critical thinker let's give give it a definition just to be completely clear a critical thinker asked questions and keeps asking questions until she gets a real answer she analyzes problems from a number of different perspectives she thinks independently and values her own opinions and point of view she looks for evidence and other people's claims and she considers the source of claims and and and and why that source may want to disseminate that particular information what motives do they have she understands that one set of facts may be open to a variety of interpretations the difference she understands the difference between reason and assumption she understands the difference between fact fiction and belief and she's flexible and open to changing her mind she's fair and balanced when drawing conclusions that all sounds great doesn't it I mean that's how I want I want to raise my kid like that that's that's it in a nutshell so what can we do at home to encourage that and sort of supplement the small ways that they're learning critical thinking in school number one let them question us it is a common misconception and the free thought movement that children learn to be skeptical by being told what to be skeptical about in reality children develop skepticism by being allowed to think independently and ask questions for themselves not being told who to question of what questions to ask the irony is that the best way to make sure our children are both able and willing to organize and formulate their own arguments is not by telling them what to challenge but by letting them challenge challenge us and letting them win it's you know letting them know that they're that their voice matters and that they are capable of you know Linna hands deep and rigorous thinking and that they are truly free to reach their own conclusions that's a wonderful gift to give a child several years ago and this is a minor tangent but several years ago I took a parenting class that sort of changed my life and my outlook at least my outlook one of the most mind-blowing things I learned in that class is that kids will seek out what feels natural to them in adulthood they will create lives that they feel in which they feel similarly to how they felt as children so I knew I mean I knew long before that you know from common sense that kids will emulate their parents they model their parents so if you were beaten as a child the chances are better that you're gonna beat your own child it just that's the emulation thing but a lesser known fact is that kids will create environments that emulate those they grew up with in a general sense that's why you will notice that girls who were over PI overpowered by their fathers at home are more likely to be abused by their husbands and boyfriends in adulthood it's not because it felt good to be overpowered or because they're weak it's because it feels familiar that feeling it feels familiar and sometimes familiar feels right it's the same reason that children who grow up in chaotic environments will grow up to live chaotic lives they may not necessarily caused the chaos themselves but they will naturally gravitate to it as a fruit as a thought exercise think back to when you were six seven eight years old do you recall how you felt during those years did you feel generally independent and happy respected by your parents and now look at your life now can you can you see how you've created a life where those feelings are generally in place as an adult or or maybe you felt powerless or put down or invisible and went on to build a life in which those feelings still well up in you inside this is why therapists are in business it's it's okay but what I'm getting is that these early years of childhood 3 4 5 all the way up to 10 I would say these are critical times these are these are years when parents need to work their hardest to empower their children to trigger their self-confidence and to show them that you know how much they're loved and to allow them to exercise independence to make to make sure that their opinions are heard and respected and to appreciate all they bring to the world these are also unfortunately the years when our kids can be real assholes and they're just learning to say no and they say it all the time there they push our buttons at every conceivable point and they and they just push us as far as they can go it's it's developmentally appropriate but it doesn't make it easy and and it's hard to be a parent you know a parent in a forward-thinking way sometimes and be patient when that's the case so number two and I'm sorry I was a bit of a tangent but number two that was all under let them question us by the way number two is define critical thinking tell them what critical thinking is and why it's important we can use examples of a situation in which you know person failed to think critically and how that didn't work out or we can do the opposite and tell them here's a situation where a child did think critically and it worked out great but you know hold those things up as examples and you know there was a there's a story that I that I shared in my in my book and it it's called can the Bible help kids think critically and I just thought that I would share that with you on this particular note and if anybody has any examples of of a child that that was critically thinking I'm happy to hear that too but once upon a time I would have choked on the idea buying a children's Bible for my daughter the way I saw the Bible was an indoctrination tool I no more wanted her to crack open that book than I wanted her to get baptized or that I wanted to plan her barment bat mitten Bat Mitzvah or is he sure to pray toward Mecca five times a day it was all the same to me in my mind it was you know only believers read the Bible but times have changed and today I don't equate the Bible with religion I equate the Bible with religious literacy it's the quickest and most effective way to expose kids to Western belief systems when it comes to knowledge of Judaism and Christianity and to a lesser extent Islam you can't do better than to read some key Bible passages Judaism relies heavily on Moses and the book of Exodus you know Christianity revolves around the Gospels of Matthew Mark Luke and John and central force in Islam is Abraham of Genesis so when Maxine was about five we began reading her the Bible we bought her a Bible it wasn't like the Bible but it was like a version of the Bible for small kids it was far more pictures than words it was really not well written it was really whitewashed it wasn't very good I wouldn't recommend it but but the and the book did oversimplify things but the stories you know they they at least got her familiar with these characters and then they in a general way they introduced herself to some ideas that that I wanted to introduce her to so Maxine had her her children's Bible for years and would kind of get it out once in a while and then suddenly I think it was around age 7 she just started reading it all the time in the car in the back of the car and and she would look at it and she would she was fascinated was particularly with the moral aspect of each tale and I think it was some point all kids go through this like policing kind of sorry you guys in the front cannot see me at all should have moved this back sorry about that it's too late but but she she was sort of into this policing thing where you know you're looking at sort of the moral tale and maybe making you're making your own decision as to what is right and wrong very black and white but the shocking thing about it all was that contrary to common assumption reading the Bible seemed to help hone her ability to think critically she read the stories with genuine interest and serious consideration but without the reverence that is that is so often associated with Bible based or Christian based or religious based Bible classes it was remarkable really especially when I think back on the pure lack of critical thinking that I employed when I was that age reading that particular material one day for example while reading the car she got the tenth of the 10th commandments and read aloud never want what belongs to others and then she stopped and and took issue with Moses and she said well you can want what belongs to others but you just can't have it you have to buy one for yourself in the story about Joseph's Dreamcoat the passage read Joseph was one of Jacob's twelve sons joka Jacob loved him more than all of his other sons Maxine looked at me and she's like that so mean when Joseph is thrown in jail and one of the other prisoners asked Joseph quite out of the blue to decipher his dream Maxine was all well how would he know what that means and when Abraham tells his son Isaac that he must marry whoever God chooses Maxine declared that to be dumb and explained to me that of course Isaac marry whoever he wants but my favorite bit was when when her Bible told her that goodly people go to heaven and Maxine said I am a goodly person but I do not want to live in heaven and then she said where do all the badly people go so I you know is there anyone else who has another example of critical thinking children religious or non maybe junior high age might be not for elementary but it is a wonderful book about teaching the stories of the Bible that sounds wonderful thank you okay I will check it out yes what I did is because we lived in a small town I took them to a church denomination but I did not say anything to them yeah that's a good that's a good theory I do think that it's a matter of you know we can influence our children in their critical thinking we just you know but we have to introduce it and then make that you know encourage that in our kids but it does remind me there was a of another incident where Maxine was critical critically thinking at a very young age because you know you hear that you know critical thinkers you you know they you don't become children don't become critical thinkers until they're 11 or something so you know don't even bother to talk to him but there but she went to kindergarten when she was five and she she came home from school one day and she said mommy sure her teacher's name was mrs. Flynn and she said mommy um mrs. Flynn says that great minds think alike but all Minds are great and all Minds don't think alike and I just thought well that's genius you know take that Alice Linehan but I need to encourage that yeah I think exactly I mean the kids when there are three they start saying why why why why that's critical thinking you know and and the best we can do is to encourage that and not say because I said so so let me let me move on you go ahead one more oh can you wait till the end for question is that okay we're gonna have a question-and-answer time okay thanks so the third and I'm almost done here but the third is to let children experiment will you know with with their clothes with their hair with their faith whatever it is whenever you see them exercising independence applaud that you know you're doing something right number four ask open-ended questions and respect the answers that come try to appreciate when you're when your kids come to different conclusions then you do that also means that you're doing something right don't solve problems for your kids that's number five let them figure out their issues for themselves to the extent possible unless they specifically need your help by Malenko can let them watch you work through your issues get them involved in the decision-making process and let them see how that works number six read to your kids this seems like a no-brainer but it's essential I talked to Lori gray a woman who runs a company called Socratic parenting and she told me regardless of what you read when you read with your child you can engage him in a meaningful dialogue don't just read for content enjoy the stories and explore the elements the key is to ask open-ended questions and really listen to what your child says some helpful open-ended questions are what did you think what did you like about that what else might the character have done number seven is encourage outside the box thinking and the pursuit of further information say things like how else could we solve that problem or hey we don't know the answer to that but your Uncle Frank does or let's go see Google what can you know what does Google say about that number eight never say because I said so or because it just is Dale McGowan who's a fellow secular parenting author and he wrote a book called parenting beyond belief and a really good one called raising free thinkers talks about this in his workshop he said my kids heard from a very early age that they always have the right to know the reason for a decision and to question it if they feel it's wrong I told them I couldn't just say because I said so and the few times I've said that they've lethally called me out on it I've made a point of changing my mind out loud when they have a good point that does more for their growing autonomy than almost anything else I can do I can attest that the result of all this is not chaos but a pretty smoothly functioning home with scads of mutual respect lastly let your kids say no let him say no to you I told you earlier that I was gonna bring my daughter's Common Core homework well I asked her if she'd mind if I brought her Common Core homework today and she said no you can't I said why and she said because we leave those at school over the weekend we don't bring them home so you can't have it over the weekend and I said well could you bring yours home this weekend and she said no and I said okay because I did ask a yes-or-no question and it was a fair answer and I want my child to know that it's okay to say no to anyone it's important that she say no to me because if she can say no to me she can say no to anybody and her friends her peers in order to teach children how to think critically whether it is in school or at home we must teach our kids to think critically about what we believe to be true and that goes for religious beliefs and a whole manner of other beliefs parenting decisions and and otherwise unless it's an issue of safety kids generally should be able to question what you say at any time for any reason because if you encourage them to question you now then they will question others later and whether that's a smooth-talking evangelical pastor or a libidinous high school boyfriend the benefits are obvious and the same well not exactly the same I was poorly written poorly written scratch that out I hope not the same now back to my earliest question is critical thinking the death knell of religion no I would say not at all but it is the death knell of blind faith it's the death knell of mindless acceptance and it's impo if imposed correctly at home it's the death knell of authoritarian parenting but that's just what I think what do you think thank you and now you had a question yeah the Time magazine article was talking about how there was I don't know if it was what the context was even I don't know but they were talking about there was a something they were reading about the Arab Spring and then they were discussing it it was like a history lesson I mean as far as I gather I mean they're not there's nothing wrong with talking about religion in school it's a difference between no not necess not necessarily literature but I mean there's a difference between you know teaching a religion class or teaching teaching kids to be religious and just introducing them to you know the Puritanism and what happened when the settlers settled America and that was very you know there were religious aspects of that and I I don't like I said I'm not sure that I can answer that very well because I was just judging it from a time article but I think there's a difference oh sure sorry about that you've also teacher to be intolerant okay so the question was when they might teach tolerance do I also teach that it's okay to be intolerant and I don't put it in those terms intolerance but I definitely think that there's a very definite difference to me in my mind between belief and action and if you you can believe whatever you and this is kind of the mantra of our household believe whatever you want as long as it doesn't hurt anybody and but its actions that matter not believe so yes I absolutely teach that there are that there are bad things that go on in the world and that you know homeless homophobia is is wrong and that you know that that's not a belief it's an okay yeah okay okay so what he's saying is that you should be intolerant to certain beliefs that are harmful and I agree if they're yeah if they're if they're harmful to people then that you know that that's that's a completely different thing and I absolutely think it's okay to be intolerant to harmful things we should be we need to be as our society yeah absolutely anybody else yes recently there was a news story of a kid in the Midwest somewhere and he was he's about 12 years old and he was in a class where they were having a discussion about drug use and it was so much a dare type program and this kid was the child of a mother who's a marijuana activist who uses it for seizures or something like that and so the kid apparently the the teachers who were doing the discussion took exception to some of his questions and his comments because apparently he was fairly expert on certain things like the proper name is not marijuana it's cannabis and so forth and so he was taken to the back room and question without presence of his parents and that resulted in a raid on her home and now he's at risk of being taken away from so I guess I'm not supposed to repeat this Bob so I guess as an example of maybe we don't really value critical thinking in certain areas very much or it can get you in trouble because apparently this kid was not a raving 4/20 activist he was just questioning certain things that I think it's it's fair to say a lot of the information we've gotten from people giving that information isn't that very accurate yeah I mean that is a risk that we run but I certainly think it's worth it and they're wrong in the long run right I mean the yeah the risks are are there but it small degree yes mistake to to readily come to that conclusion if you take homophobia all right what's the effect of homophobia what goes inward it's easy to squash their thought process and asking someone by simply saying it's intolerant look it's far better to look at what are the beliefs of someone because to a fundamentalist homophobia is not in power homosexuality is why and to help a child or an adult explore that without coming to a quick conclusion yeah great point very good point in there Dumbo anybody else have an easy question reminds me James Hightower said his dad always told them always speak the truth but write a fast wait exactly or just speak it on the Internet are you completely safe anybody else thank you guys so much yeah thank you so much really appreciate it

3 thoughts on “If You Teach Critical Thinking, Will Your Kids Become Secular? – Wendy Thomas Russell”

  1. 48:04…intolerant to beliefs that are harmful…then she says yes I agree, if they are harmful to PEOPLE then I agree….we need to be as a society.

  2. What happens if the parent gives good reasons for believing that a certain religion is true? Is that indoctrination?

  3. If you teach kids critical thinking, religion is going to take a hit. Critical thinking involves facts & logic, something religions have a big problem with. There is nothing wrong with kids being secular, as long as they are raised to be decent human beings. The Christian Right (who are wrong most of the time) think believing in a God without proof is necessary to be a decent human being, and get into their heaven. But who wants to spend an eternity with a bunch of brainwashed, hypocritical, uptight anti-sex prudes that judge anyone who isn't like them? California's common core program should be lauded as an attempt at some sanity in an insane world. Would you send your kid to school in a bible belt state?

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