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Is a tabula rasa a board that has NEVER been written on, or is it a board that has been written on but the writing has been erased?

90% of Junior schools in Ireland are under the control of the Church (especially the Catholic Church). Over the last few years this situation has been constantly contested because, it is said, children are being indoctrinated in them.

I have been a teacher all my life using chalk and blackboard. Some may remember them. Those blackboards were written on over and over for a hundred years in some cases. Can they be called a tabula rasa?

Now, I ask myself, is a child born with a tabula rasa, or has everyone both a good inclination and an evil inclination from birth and the free will to choose between them. Are these inclinations built into nature?

I’m not sure I understand tabula rasa. Are all attitudes and behaviours the result of external conditioning or is human nature to be considered separate from our behaviour? I’m inclined to think that Christianity would hold this latter belief since the soul is new at birth. With each new being comes a new soul and thus a new mind to be shaped. How does this occur?

It is unethical to tell children anything that is objectively false (unlike ordinary fantasies of childhood like Santa Claus) and may lead to long-lasting beliefs in falsehoods. It is important for the child to understand what is true and what is not, e.g. that some groups of people in some irrelevant way, should be treated differently and should not have the same civil and human rights as everyone else. The question then arises, should children be taught about a personal God who can influence our lives. Can this be considered ‘indoctrination’? Perhaps a parent or a teacher could cope by saying; ‘well, some people believe that . . .’  'other people believe differently' and add ‘now can you think of a way to find out which is true’? In other words teach them the skills of enquiry.

For me, being a Christian is like having visited another country that other people deny the existence of. The Kingdom of God is, as it were, a place I have been to, so I don’t fear discussing it or feel threatened by people’s arguments. 

I'm sure all this is utter rubbish!


It certainly isn't rubbish, although I would admit to always having had problems with faith schools. My own sect had them and decided to pull out of their running some years back.

I was brought up around a CofE protestant ethos but had to pull out to find my own way which, as you know, led me to Quakerism.

I think we need to let kids think for themselves on such issues.
I read recently that the Catholic Church is infallible whereas the Church of England is always right.
There's something in that too! :o)
I agree that young people need to make their own decisions on religion and belief, just as they will on other things.

What I don't agree with is the people who then feel that the answer is, therefore, to not allow them to learn anything about Christianity - for how can they make a decision as to whether they are believers and whether they want to be part of this church or that, if they know nothing of it?

Which is to say that, on the whole, I am with you on this - for if they are not taught about the existence of a personal God how much more difficult it must be for them to recognise Him.
Is 'formation' of a child different from 'indoctrination' of a child?
It is a good question - I'm sure the answer is yes - but also feel that the lines between informing, forming and indoctrinating would be drawn in different places by different people!
The one thing the church always neglects to consider, because it was never fond of science, is the effect of DNA on humans.

If you accept that the planet is 4.5 billion years old, and that life has existed in one form or another for the vast majority of that time, and if you accept that DNA exists and that it has been passed down from generation to generation for all those hundreds of millions of years and that each human possesses a copy of our own unique DNA in each and every cell in our body, that much of our nature may derive from the biological programming in that DNA. There are people born with a predisposition to addiction. Some people are blessed with greater intelligence, whether academic or social/emotional intelligence.

What controls our behaviour may be found in what triggers the brain's own reward and punishment system.

Why the church has not tried to reconcile its teachings and philosophy with biological facts is troubling to me, but understandable.

I mean this with respect, or rather with no intent to insult your beliefs, but I find that faith relies upon ignorance for its existence. It fills in where facts cannot be found to provide an explanation, and explanations are missing when knowledge is suppressed. To deny a fact does not make the fact go away. Facts have a way of surfacing at inconvenient times. The church should find some way of reconciling itself with this fundamental truth.

Edited at 2016-08-09 23:31 (UTC)