Thursday, May 16, 2013

Don't over do it.

I had a conversation some time ago about home schooling. One person remarked that the kids she had known who were home-schooled were not as socially aware of street wise as school educated ones. Now this person is a friend whose opinions I think worth hearing, but there is a value judgement in what she says there. She is saying that home schooled kids are worse off because they do not have the same apparent worldly savvy as school attenders, and I'm wondering: is that necessarily a bad thing? Are we assuming that what is NORMAL is BEST? It may not be so. Kids of this age, early 21st century, are more informed superficially about the world, more confident in general, but are they also prematurely cynical? To use an analogy here: the age of puberty is decreasing. In 1850, one study found that the average age of puberty in girls was 17. (Seems almost unbelievable, late teenage kids still presexual!) By 1950 the average age had decreased to 14, by 1970 to about twelve. So kids grow up more quickly, and that CAN have problems. Too early maturation can coincide with health problems later in life. So accelerating the maturing process is not necessarily a good thing. Emotionally, some high school kids seem like world weary middle aged people who have been through a divorce and a bankruptcy, and it's all a bit of a drag, and this before they've finished school. Could it be that, as they say, school puts old heads on young shoulders in a superficial way, before those young shoulders can carry the weight of age properly. Does the experience of high school sometimes leave people jaded and worn out before they have had a chance to appreciate life and get the best out of it? This has to be treated carefully. I'm not suggesting that we keep young people ignorant, stop them finding out things that they will have to know sooner or later. It is possible to insult the intelligence of a young person by thinking they're not old enough to know something, when the fact is they can't help knowing it. I recall getting really annoyed by adults who thought I should still believe in Santa Claus because they were scared that they could not scare me into behaving the way they wanted me to. It is pointless, and sometimes really insulting, to treat a young person as an idiot. That being said, sometimes people can't help seeing what they see and you can't sell them convenient bulldust. So where is the healthy balance? Adults are sometimes frightened of kids finding out things in case they can't keep their minds under control they way the want. But then some people pretend to know something, or think they know something, when they've only heard things from others and have not got a proper understanding at all. Then they can fail to see the good in things, or at least understand why they are like they are, and become too disillusioned for their own good. They lose hope of getting or seeing any good in life, at least without being ruthlessly self seeking. That can cripple a person, turning them coldly self centred because they don't believe anything else works. If kids take a bit longer to get their heads round adult understanding, that might give them a chance to adjust less abruptly. It can hurt sometimes to see how shocking the world really is, so let a person be ready for it without forcing it on them before they can cope. Does school really help people learn quickly or does it force them to develop superficially adult ways when they are not adult and don't really know what they are doing? Some people whose lives are very privileged by the standards of this world are the angriest, most bitter people on earth. Did they see too much too quickly, or get too much too easily, and become jaded rather than wise and informed? Too much hardship can stunt people, spoiling their development, that's why we forbid child labour. Can too much intellectual exposure, sustained too quickly, spoil a person's mind, so that they lose faith in life having had to deal with too much before they can cope? It can be dangerous to keep things from children or youth, when they are going to have to know certain things eventually. But it might also be dangerous to overload them, so that they are old in the head before they have had a chance to enjoy being young. School is a human invention, not a naturally occurring thing like the family or clan. Schools should not, I believe, supplant the family as the main source of child nurture. And sometimes it seems to be doing that, especially if apathetic parents find it convenient to let the school raise their offspring for them. Families should raise children. I can see why people are opting out of school for their children. It can be a bad place for some people, and it can start taking over what is not really its role. I would not propose to ban it, our own kids all went to school. But I can see where the home schooling movement comes from. I do not condemn it at all. For some people I believe it is better.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tower of Babel revisited.

Centuries ago, the human race got together and started to build a tower, intending to reach the heavens. It was a power grab, an ego trip, an intended demonstration of human might and genius. The Scripture tells us that God saw it and knew the vanity behind it, so He thwarted the scheme by altering the language the humans spoke. Up to that time all people spoke one language, and we had since the landing of the Ark. Then after God intervened, different languages existed for the first time. That was the point from which the different languages spoken today all came from. This act of God was to prevent the race conspiring together in a way that was bad for them, because it involved challenging God. Some thinkers resent the idea of God setting us back, controlling us and setting rules for us, but then some people think the human species is better than it actually is. Given power, we too often use it vainly or foolishly, for our own benefit and vanity more than the good of all. The Tower of Babel was not built in an attempt to reach out to God. It was meant to challenge Him, an act of defiance or rebellion. Previously God had had to wipe out all the human race except Noah and his family, to put a stop to the depravity and barbarism that it had descended into. He was more forbearing this time and simply stopped people being able to conspire together. The trouble is, humans keep trying to build the Tower of Babel, in different ways, trying to equal God and deny that we need Him. It's being going on since the Ark landed - literally! In past ages, different races built up huge empires by conquering those around them, taking their land and using them as they chose. The Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Persians, the Romans, and on and on it goes. It's all about power, one tribe or people trying to safeguard and enrich themselves by controlling others. So it's still more of the same power grab and ambition to control, and be answerable to no one. It's still happening. The tragedy of this is that some things, benevolent in themselves, become attempts to take power which can be misused. It was a great day when human healers learnt how to inoculate people against diseases. Hideous things like smallpox, polio, diphtheria and a host of horrors like that could be prevented; and even less terrifying things like measles and chickenpox could be held at bay. All good! Why would we not prevent death and suffering where possible? It's just so sad that, given the power, some people were not grateful, they were arrogant. The attitude became "Who needs God? We can do it ourselves!" Bad idea. I don't believe that the God of the Bible is egotistic and cruel. Rather He is aware that human beings will always blunder into traps and bring pain on themselves or others if they know enough to be dangerous. Right from the beginning, the first two of our kind were told they could have and enjoy anything in the world around them except the fruit of one tree. That tree's fruit was, the knowledge of good and evil. To some people, that means God was trying to keep us ignorant so that He could control us. Another view is that God was protecting us from ourselves. If we don't want to be protected from ourselves, we don't have to be. God does not keep us in chains. He offers to keep us from harm we could bring on ourselves. If this idea outrages anyone, and that person decides they would rather die from doing their own thing than live without it, then I think they are mistaking what liberty really is. Liberty to kill yourself or others is not freedom, it is indulgence of the ego. We keep on trying to build our Tower of Babel. The pyramids, and mummification of the dead, were an attempt to beat death. The Roman belief that a person could be declared a god or goddess, and made immortal, was another attempt to beat mortality. When the Titanic was built, it was said "Even God cannot sink this ship." God did not sink the Titanic, as far as I can tell. Human vanity sunk it, by means of a natural phenomenon well known the that ship's builders. They knew the risk of ice bergs. They just thought they could escape that risk. The attempt to be all powerful came crashing down in horror. Antibiotics are a God send, I really believe. A doctor was enabled to find a way of counteracting infection, and millions of lives have been saved, possibly my own included. All good - unless some vain fool thinks, 'There we are, we don't need to pray to God for help and protection anymore. We have that power ourselves'. Thinking that, some individuals then thought they could trash the rules and do things that can expose them to infectious disease. For indulgence, thinking venereal diseases were 'so last century', people did what God urged them not to. Now we have on Earth, antibiotic resistant strains of STD. Weapons of defence empower people, rendering them safer than they would be without them. But weapons can be turned back against us. So the power we accumulate, the Tower of Babel we build, becomes another risk to us. The Twentieth Century was the century of the social sciences. Some intellectuals, or wannabes, claimed that we have worked out for ourselves what caused disease, mental and physical. We can deal with it ourselves, we have the understanding. So they reckon, 'Who needs God? That's an outdated superstition.' So what do we get? Mental health disorders become more common. The serial killer is a concept unknown before human technological change spawned large cities, with the problems that lifestyle can cause. We learn to fly, then find out international flight can spread disease more rapidly. We find out that we can travel to other planets, then realize we could come into contact with hazardous material from those planet. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that flying exists as a way of travel. The point here is this: never think we can equal the power of God, never think we will not need Him. That is a shocking mistake to make. Cryogenics is another attempt to beat death. Some people are now in suspended animation, the hope being that they can be returned to life and beat the limitations of the flesh. Scientists are finding ways to delay the aging process. Some of them even suggest that in the future we humans will be able to live for thousands of years. We keep on thinking we will do away with the need to acknowledge God. We keep finding that we need Him as much as ever, even though so many people hate to admit it. It will probably continue that way until the Second Coming.