Saturday, December 8, 2012

More Things You Shouldn't Teach Your Children

In a previous post I offered the view that the sad state of religion today has been severely abetted, if not principally caused, by teaching religion to children. I want to expand that to other areas.

It's not unusual to spread lies to our children in many areas, but typically they are corrected when the child becomes an adult. From Santa, to George W. never telling a lie, to Columbus discovering America, we later teach them the fine distinctions of what first was presented as simple truth.

The reason religion is such a problem area is that, while we may take advance math or history, ninety-nine per cent of us never take advanced religion. As I said earlier, we get stuck with the child view.

But while it is pervasive in things religious, it causes problems in other subjects too. Unless you are a college physics major, you most likely have not been taught, and will not be taught any physics that has been developed since 1865! Yes, 1865. Imagine all the lies this fills us with. Thank goodness this is not true for other areas of science.

For example, were you taught that gravity was a force of attraction between the masses of different objects? I was. Do you believe it still? It's a lie; a popular misconception. The problem, again, is that we don't teach the adult version because…well, I'm not sure why…perhaps, like religion, it would be too difficult, or that many aren't interested.

No serious scientist believes gravity is based on mass. You can easily grasp that the notion is silly when you think about gravity's affect on light. Everyone knows about light and black holes; but light has no mass. Actually the source of gravity, at least as we understand it today, is not mass, but energy and momentum. Newton's Law of Gravitation is just an approximation. It's 'good enough' for most purposes. But it helps to have the 'adult' versions of things.

OK, the title of this post is a child's view of the subject. We can't really stop teaching children childish things, but we should try not to teach them things that are flatly wrong without continually reminding them with every lesson:
"This is not exactly right. It's wrong, but it's somewhat understandable. Hopefully, you can use it. Build on it. But, most importantly, continue to discover all the wrongness in it, and correct it. Whatever you do, don't believe it as gospel."


Big Myk said...

I confess: I have no idea what gravity is. Just like I have no idea what money is, or why it works.

James R said...

Admission—that's the most important first step. But we are always going to have that image of two big massive bodies (perhaps, the earth and the moon) pulling on each other as the source of gravity. That is the problem with child learning, we never totally forget.

Pete will always remember the lame things said by that priest. I'll always remember the nun's picture of a soul on the blackboard. All of us will forever retain the memory of gravity as the force between objects of mass. Our teachers meant well, but we are all victims of AA—Adults Anonymous.

It's left to us all to
1. Admit the problem
2. Be honest that we can never fully escape from our childhood notions
3. Take responsibility by acknowledging we continually need help in increasing our understanding.
4. Make amends.

As to money, over Thanksgiving I started asking an Carnegie Mellon economics professor about the current fiscal situation and the meaning of some of the solutions I had heard. Before I even could finish with my questions, he said, "No one understands this stuff." So you are not alone.

Big Myk said...

James: Admission—that's the most important first step.

Lucy Van Pelt: Well, as they say on TV, the mere fact that you realize you need help indicates that you are not too far gone.

Big Myk said...

We're now in Nicholas of Cusa territory. Nicholas said that "truth is not something
more or something less but is something indivisible." Another way of saying this is that everything is interconnected and affects everything else. So, as Huston Smith so keenly observed, "You can’t understand anything unless you unless you understand everything." Because we are not all-knowing, Nicholas says that our intellect "never comprehends truth so precisely that truth cannot be comprehended infinitely more precisely." He goes on to say that "[t]he consequence is that every positive human assertion of the truth is a conjecture...."

This isn't subjectivism. We can improve our understanding, and some views are further from the truth than others. But we will always be infinitely far away from the end of understanding.

How to get children to understand this is something else entirely.