|This is really a fascinating back-and-forth between Sharon and Michael. Excellent posts, both of you.|
I have read many of your other posts in other threads and I must say I absolutely admire, and share, your obviously unbridled passion for raising wonderful, Objectivist children. No job, for me, will ever be as important (I have a fantastic teenage son, Jake; he recently joined this site on his own, as a member.)
However, I must agree with MSK's argument...allowing your child access to common culture doesn't have to be harmful. I would add that it can actually provide for endless learning opportunities (in the Objectivist sense) for the child; at least, this was my experience. What better way to point out how ridiculous most of it is, than to allow your child to witness it, and then discuss it with him at length?
When my son was young, we would watch TV together, and if an idea was presented (say, in a sitcom) that I had a problem with as an Objectivist, I would make a point to ask him, "What do you think about what (random character) said/did?" And he would answer, and I would continue on, helping him to reach an opinion or idea of his own that was well-informed, and rational, because l would (gently) present the Objectivist side to counter the (usually) the collectivist, altruistic, religious, etc. idea of a "hero" that was featured in the story. The idea of allowing my son to only absorb what garbage there is floating around (passing for "ideas") without giving him the full context was unacceptable; but so was censoring what he saw, because I feared it would "influence" him...if I did my job as a parent correctly, then I would have taught him how to reason, how to think about what he is witnessing. (I had no desire to "keep" anything from him, or "protect" him from it...I let him see it, and then I teach him how to judge it for himself.)
When he was very young, he believed in Santa Claus, sort of. He was aware of the myth, and knew what other little kids believed in, but I never "built up" the fantasy for him...so he wasn't exactly traumatized to discover it was all bull. In fact, I once took him, at around the age of 7, to a my company's Christmas party for employees' kids, and Santa was there, line of waiting kids and all. When he got to sit on Santa's lap, he only told him one toy he wanted for Christmas. (Every other child had a list of 20 things, at least.) "Santa" was shocked: "That's all you want, young man?" Jake said, "Yeah."
I remember being so proud that my son had such simple desires, that he wasn't some greedy little monster who wanted everything in the toy store. Now, in retrospect, I think it is probably a more realistic assumption that he figured that guy wasn't really some magical man who could give him everything he wanted, so why bother listing it all? (He wasn't exactly peeing his pants over seeing "Santa"... he didn't mind or anything...but he just didn't have that squirmy excitement over seeing the supernatural Father Christmas. (This was the last time I ever took him to see Santa anywhere; he never asked again.)
As I said before, I've never been one to "build up" fantastic ideas to my son, even the ones in common culture; I feel that when parents do that, they are relying on this sort of thing to help raise, or even control their kids ("Be good, or Santa will bring you a lump of coal at Christmas" is as bad as "Remember...Jesus can SEE everything you do!" in my opinion), and I find that tactic, in terms of parenting, lazy at best, immoral at worst. So I would never actively try to fool my kid, but I wouldn't keep the ideas from him, either. I suppose I just always felt I'd have enough rational ideas to put into his head to keep him sane, and that would allow him to "have fun" with the gobbledy-gook, if he felt like it. The ability to think rationally and objectively is like armor for your child's mind; with it he can afford to indulge in silly stuff, and it can't possibly damage or traumatize him. (To explain further, see Ethan Dawe's post #29; he sounds like my son as an adult.) He doesn't have to be shielded from popular culture---the really stupid things, he will avoid on his own, without you needling him, because his tastes and opinions are shaped by rational thought (For example, Jake is well aware of Britney Spears (and everyone like her); he just finds her completely boring and unimpressive.) :-)
Edit note: I wrote this post before reading what Sharon had to say regarding the minds of VERY young children, who are not in a position to possibly distinguish fantasy from reality. As I said above, I find that purposefully instilling bullcrap in your child's mind when they are very little is a bad idea, and usually represents laziness or immorality on the part of the parent. The reality, and the teaching of how to learn and understand what is real HAS to come first; fantasy is okay after the child has been, for lack of a better term, armored. :-)
I think I see valid points of view from both you and Sharon...are you two really as far apart on this issue as it appears? (On that note, are you and Ed and the Rev that far apart, either?) It seems that the problem concerns rational parents versus irrational parents; I know for a fact that Ed Thompson's main issue is that his parents were irrational; they not only taught him irrational ideas at a young age---they believed in them themselves. Ridiculous ideas were presented to little Ed as no different from fact. To steal Sharon's phrase, he was the "innocent victim" of his parents' irrationality (whereas my son, Jake, is a "victor", thanks to my more rational approach to parenting.) This helps explain Ed's passionate views on this issue. (I do not know Rev's story. He will have to explain, if he wishes to.) And even Ed agrees with me that, if given the proper tools for understanding reality FIRST, fantasy is not necessarily a bad thing. So you tell me...is there actually common ground here that we are all just missing by inches?
(Edited by Erica Schulz on 9/12, 10:13am)
(Edited by Erica Schulz on 9/12, 11:29am)