7.21.2014

Secular Parenting in a Religious World - A Book Review

There are far too few parenting books that address parenting from a secular point of view. So when I was asked to take a look at McKerracher's recent offering into the parenting book realm, I was immediately intrigued.

There is a strong argument to be made that the secular values of knowledge, reason, logic, kindness, honesty, and love make for a great guide in raising tomorrow's youth. Compared with many religiously motivated guides of mostly authoritarianism and fear based parenting, McKerracher shows exactly why both religious and nonreligious parents can benefit by only presenting religion to children in an objective and unbiased manner leaving them to make their own decision about what they believe once they reach a developmental age at which they are capable of separating what is real and what is not.

In one chapter, she tackles the myth that I often hear regurgitated by religious apologists that children are innately believers in a god. By pointing out the logical fallacy in a couple of books championed by purveyors of that belief including The Religious Potential of the Child and The Secret Spiritual World of Children, she puts to bed the ideas behind the major points in those books and those views.

McKerracher goes on to discuss the changing nature of morality in our world with the most recent and forefront example of homosexuality which was considered synonymous with insanity a mere fifty years ago. But this can go on with ideas about civil rights and slavery, all of which are condoned in much of the 2000 year old so called moral guide that is the Bible, and indeed still championed by the more fundamentalist of Christians. Sure, there are those who will cherry pick the ideas that are held as good by modern society, but at that point are you getting your morality from the Bible or despite a lot of it?

The book discusses ideas and her personal anecdotes to raising well-adjusted, self-respecting, and critical thinking individuals. It raises points about discussing things that those of us raised in a religious manner did not have the benefit of. Things that may seem uncomfortable to talk about such as an honest approach to sex, death, and even healthy masturbation. There are helpful suggestions to boost critical thinking using logic problems and teaching kids to solve their own problems by getting them to put forward their own input in any given situation. By teaching our children to question everything and having reason and evidence to back up their facts and their ideas, they have a strong foundation to build upon.

One part of the book that is particularly interesting to me, seeing as I have a five year old entering the public school atmosphere, was the section on building a school of tolerance. As a secular parent in the Midwest, it will be likely that the separation of church and state will be tested and I will have to be willing to stand up for the benefit of my kids as needed. It was helpful to hear of her own struggles in this area and how they were dealt with.

There are many parts of our society that are so coupled with religion from laws to holidays and everything in between, that religious literacy is key. McKerracher discusses many ways to make sure major religious beliefs are presented to kids without being preached. She also discusses the options about to what extent, if any, your secular family many celebrate those holidays which have some roots in religion.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to any parent. Especially those who come from a religious family and may need some input as to what might need to deviate from their own upbringing so that they may be raising free-thinking, questioning, knowledgeable, self-sufficient, happy, and healthy kids.

7.20.2014

Alfred

Yesterday morning while at the park with the boys, Jupiter suggested that we play superheroes. Since he was wearing a Batman shirt, Jupiter wanted to be Batman. In keeping with the theme of the moment, Tsunami decided to be Robin. Jupiter then asked which hero I would choose to be. I told him that I wanted to be Alfred.

"We are playing super heroes, dad!" Jupiter replied.

I argued, "Alfred is essential to the hero that is Batman. In fact without Alfred, I do not think there could even be a Batman as you know and love."

To be honest, I had never actually thought of Alfred in this way until the moment I made the argument. But I think it holds true. How many times has Alfred been there for Batman in ways that were essential to his task? I think plenty.

Without Alfred, I do not think that millionaire, Bruce Wayne, could keep his identity a secret. Alfred has covered for him often. There have even been instances where Alfred has put on the bat suit in order make an appearance in situations where both Batman and Bruce Wayne need be present.

It goes without saying that keeping a mansion and a highly tech savvy cave in order while Bruce Wayne/Batman is away doing what he does would not be possible without the assistance of his trustworthy butler.

Furthermore, Alfred helps out with all manner of detective work. Be it looking something up on the bat-computer, analyzing evidence using any of Batman's several bat-whatevers, or helping to solve a complex riddle using only his unique insight that neither Batman nor Robin possess. The Batman and indeed the Dynamic Duo would be quite crippled without the help of Alfred.

It is commonly thought that there is a version of Batman without a sidekick. Before Dick Grayson joined Batman's cause, the hero worked in public as an individual vigilante. However, it is obvious to me now that Batman has always had a sidekick in crime-stopping. Though he is a silent and hidden assistant, Alfred has always been at his side.

I presented these arguments to my son. He thought about it for a second or two and agreed that if we are playing super heroes, Alfred was an essential part of Batman. I was then allowed to take on that role.

7.18.2014

LEGO Ghostbusters

Jupiter is currently building the Ecto 1 thanks to Grandma Ernie and Grandpa Pat.

I am really loving these LEGO Ideas sets. I applaud LEGO for bringing community involvement to their retail products. I am sure it is no easy task as there must be licensing hoops to jump through as well as making sure the products meet a certain degree of structural integrity. The Back to the Future set was equally fun to build.

One thing that I really like is that, aside from unique paint on some of the pieces, these all seem to be built from preexisting pieces. There are seemingly no new molds created because, for example, a certain Star Wars vessel has some particular need.

Maybe one day we can submit one of our own creations to LEGO Ideas to be voted on as a potential product, but for now we have been more than satisfied with what the community has come up with.

Now if only we had some of that Hi-C Ecto Cooler that I loved drinking in the late 80s, we could really get the nostalgia flowing.