Saturday, September 3, 2016

Parent and child

.... A young mother remarked to me, ' I don't want to teach my child any religion. I don't want to influence him; I want him to choose for himself when he grows up.' That is a very ordinary example of a current argument, which is frequently repeated and yet never really applied. Of course the mother was always influencing the child. .... The grown-up person cannot in any case escape from the responsibility of influencing the child, not even if she accepts the enormous responsibility of not influencing the child. The mother can bring up the child without choosing a religion for him, but not without choosing an environment for him. If she chooses to leave out the religion, she is choosing the environment—and an infernally dismal, unnatural environment too. The mother can bring up the child alone on a solitary island in the middle of a large lake, lest the child should be influenced by superstitions and social traditions. But the mother is choosing the island and the lake and the loneliness, and is just as responsible for doing so as if she had chosen the sect of the Mennonites or the theology of the Mormons.

It is entirely obvious, to anybody who will think for two minutes, that this responsibility for determining childhood belongs inevitably to the relations of child and adult, quite apart from the relations of religion and irreligion. But the people who repeat these fragments of phraseology do not think for two minutes. ....
G.K. Chesterton: (excerpt) Illustrated London News, Feb. 18, 1928.
One of the results of the attack on September 11, 2001, was a Wisconsin statute requiring schools to either play the National Anthem or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. One of my colleagues refused to do anything when the anthem was played over the PA arguing that to do so would pressure his students to participate. Of course his non-action was at least as influential.