Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Episode 77 Every Thought Captive

A broad secular education can undermine dogmatic religious faith. Knowing this many conservative Christians choose to isolate their children intellectually through homeschooling or enrolling them in religious private schools and Christian colleges. Such children can reach adulthood without ever being challenged to think critically about their religious or political beliefs. In some cases they are recruited directly from Christian colleges into republican politics for that very reason. For this episode the doubtcasters examine this process of indoctrination and argue that it is a threat public education as well. Also on this episode: the religious right's reaction to the U.S. midterm election results and a counter-apologetics segment debunking "beatific vision" theodicies. We also introduce and a brand new segment on mythology called "polyAtheism"

To download this or any previous Reasonable Doubts episode click here. Find the episode you want and right click the "play now" link and select "save target as..."


davor said...

This episode was packed with great stuff. Dominionists to Ducktales. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the podcast. Enjoyed it a lot. More fun than many of the recent podcasts, which have been good, but serious.

Just one thing... you said you'd post a link to this crazy website. Where was it?

Anonymous said...

Like you guys, I attended Christian schools and college and later rejected religion. I am now old enough that my kids are in high school and college (all secular), but many of my friends have kids headed for Christian college. I am torn whether to say anything to the kids or parents about it. On one hand, it's none of my business, they are not my kids and I might piss off the parents for undermining their wishes.

On the other hand, I have come to despise these institutions for stunting the intellectual and moral development of promising students. Even "reputable" colleges like Calvin deprive their students of exposure to exciting, potentially life-changing ideas and people, just to avoid disturbing the precarious faith installed by their parents. I think these schools tend to turn interesting kids into well-trained, but boring drones. The kids who have grown up knowing only the Christian worldview don't know what they are destined to miss by choosing a Christian college, and it seems like somebody should tell them.

Fletcher said...

Here's the link to the Benben Stone Conspiracy site.

Pither said...

For some reason when I see your podcast on iTunes it shows a date of 22.Dec.10. If this is not your intention, then something's wrong with your podcast production process. If this is correct, the you must be from the future! Would you mind telling me the score of the Michigan vs Ohio State game so I can make some money on that?

Erik Harris said...

Can you provide a link to the home schooling study you discussed in the podcast? After such a lengthy discussion in the show, I was disappointed to see that there's no mention of it in the show notes.


Anonymous said...

I second Erik Harris' request!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, it really depends on the type of religious college. If we are talking a Pepperdine (Church of Christ) or Bob Jones, that is one thing. Both schools are essentially fundamentalist breading grounds, actively restricting intellectual exploration to preserve belief.

I attended kindergraden through college (went to public university for my JD) in a catholic environment (a Jesuit order's High School, a Christian Brother order's college) and received a pretty damn good education. I am now convinced that most of the Jesuits are atheists, my Jesuit priest teachers actually thought the old testament as myth and redaction criticism. Similarly, the Christian Brothers are legitimate scholars in their field first and only secondly men of real faith. I still find my knowledge of scripture to be a intellectually rewarding skill, even as non-believer.

I think it really depends on the type of school. Private education is superior in most respects, as long as the school isn't merely attempting to enforce religious belief at the cost of intellectual honesty.

JA said...

I have to disagree with the guys in this episode. They criticize private and charter schools and are very pro-public school but public schools can often be very very Christian. I knew a woman who had grown up in Tennessee. She said that the public schools she went to were not too far from being Christian schools.

I read a study once that said about half of all high school Biology teachers are creationist. I used to actually know one. In fact, a lot of atheists who homeschool do so because they feel that there is too much religion and proselytising in the public schools.

I personally think that our public schools are doing a terrible job when it comes to giving our children the knowledge and skills to need to think critically. Most Americans have graduated from public schools. Yet most reject Evolution. Most don't know that America was founded as a secular nation with separation of church and state. You can't blame homeschooling or private schools for widespread ignorance when the vast majority of people in this country have had a public education. If anything, our lousy public schools are probaby one reason we are such a religious nation. Our public schools are failing the give us the knowledge or skills to think critically about religious claims.

I really wish this episode had focused a little on the widespread influence of religion in even our public schools. I know that this has been addressed a little in other episodes but it would have been relevant in this one. Instead this episode made it seem like our public schools are bastions of knowledge and critical thought when they are very far from that.

Californian said...

I live in California. A lot of school districts here offer homeschooling programs. It seems to me that if someone wants to compare the performance of homeschoolers and public schoolers, they could easily compare the test scores of the two groups.

I talked to a teacher who works with homeschoolers for one of the school districts. She told me that the homeschoolers are definitely way ahead of their school counterparts. Of course, this is one district and it would be interesting to see an indepth comparison.

Anyway, this teacher said that when the school assigns an abridged novel, a lot of the homeschoolers will instead read the unabridged. She said most of the homeschooling parents don't like the district's math curriculum because they say it doesn't emphasize mastery, so a lot of these kids also do another math curriculum (such as Singapore Math) in addition to the school curriculum.

She said when the school assigns Science or Social Studies topics the homeschoolers go into far greater depth than what the district requires.

She said that when she talks to parents about why they homeschool they usually say that the schools don't have high enough expectations or they don't have enough services for special needs kids. She said a few of the parents are foreign Ph.D students who are stunned by how little our schools teach and how little they expect.

She said that religion doesn't seem to be a factor in homeschooling for any of the families she deals with. They have purely academic concerns.

It's hard to say how homeschoolers do overall, especially those who homeschool for religious reasons alone. But it does seem like a lot of homeschoolers are doing a great job based on what this particular teacher said.

Anonymous said...

Nobody was saying the public schools are golden, but rather than private schools sap the resources and best students and parents that COULD make public schools better performing.

The high performance of home schoolers and private schools is due not to the process but selection factors. Those who are more highly committed are the ones who homeschool or send kids to private school. Those who don't give a rip are the residual public school by default-ers.

I went to a private lutheran school K-9 and when we merged into public high school, our Lutherans outperformed the public school kids. Why? because the parents of the Lutherans were all highly educated, more wealthy, and more likely to be involved.

The point of the podcast wasn't that the process of homeschooling or private schooling is bad because they are incapable of educating well, the point is that they deprive resources and cherry pick out of the public system the most committed parents and funding, and that one of the things schools should do is promote a heterogeneous environment with different classes and races rubbing elbows. But of course wealthy and religious parents don't want anything that could jeopardize a narrow worldview and expose their kids to subversive ideas.

Alan said...

Why did you include so much politics in this podcast?

It was about as interesting to me as our local elections would be to you: not at all.

Anonymous said...

Gentlemen, I love your podcast and I'm looking forward to listening to it. That being said, I notice that you mention the republican party.

I'm a fellow non-believer like you guys. I only differ from you in that I'm a dogmatic agnostic and not an atheist. I am also a former evangelical/fundamentalist Christian.

Ok, on to my point. You might want to make sure you are not alienating unbelievers who favor the republican party or give the impression that unbeliever equals liberal/democrat. There are plenty of unbelievers with conservative politics. Robert Price is one example.

I, personally am not offended. I'm not aligned with any political party or ideology. My political views are all over the board. I've pretty much given up on the political system and I hate both major parties. I usually vote third party but in the next major election, I might not even vote.

Again, you don't offend me, but you are running the risk of needlessly alienating unbelievers or people on the verge of being unbelievers if you focus on politics. Other than that, you guys have a great show. Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

Nick Farris, I'd have to agree with you there, many of the Jesuits I've befriended, and some of the other brothers as well, seem to come across as, well, atheists (or agnostic theists). You're also correct in saying that it depends on what type of private school children go to, many accredited religiously-affiliated schools instruct students with little to no bias.

It's become rather awkward listening to their homilies, (though being a wishy-washy theist that wakes up every 2 out of every 9 days as an atheist, I can't really criticise them).

I've a question though, do you think the vitriol directed at atheists is directed at all atheists, 'vehement' secularists, harsh critics, or some other group?

Daniel R. said...

Is the bonus episode where you talk more about William Lane Craig still available? I heard of its existence while listening to the older episodes, but can't seem to find it anywhere. Thanks!

Martha said...

It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that I became an atheist because I was homeschooling my children. (The shiny copies of The God Delusion reaching out from behind the Barnes & Noble counter during a claustrophobic Christmas visit with my earnest, Jesuit -educated father had something to do with it too). I had (and have) a passionate desire to give my children the clearest, most truthful picture of the world that I can and so was motivated to figure out what I really did (or, as it turns out, didn't) believe. My children have friends from diverse backgrounds and involvement in various community activities both in and out of the public schools. This is generally true of the homeschooling families I am acquainted with, including the religious ones and especially including the Mormon family my son plays D & D with. To know who is getting a better education, we would first have to know what we want education to accomplish and if we engaged in that exhausting exercise, I think we would find we all want at least slightly different things. Hence the eternal vexation of the education debate. Atheists of all people should be wary of stereotypes and of using 'suitcase' words like 'education' as if we all knew and agreed on what they meant.

Anonymous said...

I second Daniel R.'s request. The myspace link is dead.

SkepticAl said...

I'm not sure if I heard correctly or not. It sounded like there was an insinuation that the SAT is automatically taken by all students in public schools. You went on to argue that SAT scores in the home schooled would be higher because only selected and motivated home schooled kids would take the SAT.

Is the SAT taken by all public students? I'm about 98% sure that wasn't the case when I was in high school (late 1980's.) It stands to reason that only those wanting to go on to college would be taking the SAT's. Which would indicate that those in public schools taking the SAT are also a "select group."

I enjoy the podcast but found this one to be overly angry. Say what you want about vouchers, but all taxpayers are forced to pay in. Those wanting private schooling for personal reasons end up paying on top of what they're taxed. I can see their argument for vouchers, religious or not.

Pithy said...


Gatogreensleeves said...

Hi, great show. I was wondering you could lead me to which actual studies by Christine M. Smith you are referring to. Thanks!

Gatogreensleeves said...

That is that squelching contrary opinions exacerbates extremism. It makes sense to me, because when dissenting opinion is removed, extremism in one direction takes root because the natural variable range of opinions within a group have no anchor to the removed neutral/negative/skeptical side of the proposition.

Anonymous said...

Here are some Smith references for minority influence on the group:
Minority and majority influence in freely interacting groups: Quatlitative versus quantitative differences.British Journal of Social Psychology. Special Issue: Minority influences. Vol 35(1), Mar 1996, pp. 137-149
This study found minorities would reduce the degree of polarization in majority members' attitudes
Adding minority status to a source of conflict: An examination of influence processes and product quality in dyads. European Journal of Social Psychology. Vol 38(1), Jan-Feb 2008, pp. 75-83. brainstorming and proposal quality were positively affected by the minority source of influence.

The general name of the phenomenon is "group polarization."

Gatogreensleeves said...

Thank you so much!