Brainwashing our Children

Don - March 1, 2005

I have often wondered the difference between what we do to our children and what we would call radical religious sects do to theirs.

When I think of radical religious sects I think of the Branch Davidians (David Koresh) and the People’s Temple (Jim Jones). Their members were so caught up in following their leader that they were willing to die with and or for them. The children in these groups were taught just like we do ours. They had Sunday School classes, they taught them to pray, they taught them to sing songs, they taught them to be obedient.

I taught Primary for several years, our family had fairly regular Family Home Evenings, we read the scriptures together and prayed together. I look at all that and wonder if we are/were brainwashing our kids. I think we are!

I think we justify the brainwashing by saying we are right, we have the truth, our leaders tell us we should do these things. These religious cults justify it the same way.

I’m not saying we are wrong, or shouldn’t do it, it just makes me pause….and not judge these others so much….even my J.W. friends.

1 Comment »

  1. Yes Dad. Whatever you say. You are right.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 03.01.05 – 6:18 pm | #

    Sad. Just sad.
    Peggy Cahill | Email | Homepage | 03.01.05 – 7:24 pm | #

    A fundamental difference is that we generally let our kids interact with the rest of the world. We send them to public school, we let them watch TV and movies (in moderation), and we let them play with all the kids in the neighborhood regardless of the religion (or not) of those kids. These extreme groups you mention sequester themselves from society so their kids don’t really have choices. When a Mormon kid chooses a life of faith it is because she has seen both Zion and Babylon and chooses Zion (despite the potential mocking that brings and self-denial it requires.)

    This is largely why home-schooling will never be an option for my kids. I know there are plenty of Morms that actively evangelize it, but I get over the fact that every kid I knew who was a home-schooler growing up was… well… a weirdo.
    Geoff Johnston | Email | Homepage | 03.01.05 – 7:30 pm | #

    Peggy,
    What do you refer to when you say “sad”? My dad’s thesis? His post in general? My sarcastic comment? Or the brainwashing that those cults did?

    Geoff,
    Good point about us letting our kids also be a part of regular society. Any extreme weirdness we pass onto our kids will be somewhat tempered by outside influences. I’m pretty sure I won’t homeschool my kids, but I’ve got nothing against it. I had a couple very good friends in high school who did it and one was a bit on the weird side and the other was/is completely normal.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 03.01.05 – 7:43 pm | #

    Brainwashing: Intensive, forcible indoctrination, usually political or religious, aimed at destroying a person’s basic convictions and attitudes and replacing them with an alternative set of fixed beliefs.

    I don’t believe that teaching our children our culture is brainwashing. Brainwashing implies that someone is forcing something on a person that already has their own convictions and beliefs that are different than that being forced on them.
    Jared | Email | Homepage | 03.01.05 – 9:40 pm | #

    When, as a teenage convert, I made my first visit to Junior Sunday School (to bless the sacrament, as I recall), my first thought was: My gosh, they are just brainwashing these young kids! I think maybe I just hadn’t had any prior exposure to how one teaches little kids, as opposed to teenagers or adults. Or maybe I just got used to it over time.
    Dave | Email | Homepage | 03.01.05 – 10:05 pm | #

    “Brainwashing implies that someone is forcing something on a person that already has their own convictions and beliefs that are different than that being forced on them.”

    We certainly are not providing our children with alternate religious views and then giving them the opportunity to choose. We teach them a single principle, present it as fact, and tell them all other interpretations are wrong. Since they are young, impressionable and trusting, they accept it.

    From the outside, there are similarities.
    Kim Siever | Email | Homepage | 03.01.05 – 11:58 pm | #

    For the most part, I would say that the Mormon tradition does what every other subset of the society does: we pass along our culrure and values.

    There are some areas where I believe we do cross the line: Parents coaching their kids testomies and the piece de resistance – Trek. Let’s take our kids and callorically deprive them, push them physically and then coach them to have spiritual experiances…hmmmm
    J. Stapley | Email | Homepage | 03.02.05 – 12:13 am | #

    What’s Trek? Some sort or Mormon wilderness survival deal?
    Geoff Johnston | Email | Homepage | 03.02.05 – 2:13 am | #

    Yes, Geoff – trek is the local stake’s idea of Anastazi (spelling?)

    I don’t know that you have to have one conviction and then be forced to believe something else to be considered brainwashed. I really feel that I’ve been brainwashed about a lot of things, especially in the church.

    The difference for me is that I think I’m mature enough to pray about it myself and know whether it really is true or not. Kid’s don’t so we brainwash them until they do.
    don | Email | Homepage | 03.02.05 – 2:38 am | #

    The Lord says that we should train up our children in the way they should go and when they are older they will not depart from it. But you call this brainwashing? I don’t think that is what He calls it.
    Peggy Cahill | Email | Homepage | 03.02.05 – 7:10 am | #

    Peggy,
    All Don is suggesting is that brainwashing and parenting have certain techniques in common. The same way that missionaries and car salesmen have certain techniques in common. Just because they have techniques in common doesn’t mean they have the same intentions or that they result is the same.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 03.02.05 – 1:14 pm | #

    I explained this to you on Sunday, Dad but I’ll repeat it here for the group. (Many have touched on this)
    It goes along with the argument I made for my essay test on whether the ancient Greeks were rational or irrational. From the evidence that was presented to me, I argued they were irrational because they beleived and acted without questioning their beliefs and acted for tradition’s sake. It was part of being in the family and to do otherwise was unquestionable.
    The difference for us is that the church ENCOURAGES us to question things…everything in fact. We are to find out for ourselves the truthfullness of all things through faith and also by study and the answer will be made known to us. Whether all parents are teaching their children to do it that, I doubt it or how exactly to do that at what age of the child, or whatever. Obviously a young child will not understand this principle.

    The only thing I was brainwashed into was that I must NEVER live in Utah (minus school) because it is EVIL and that any other university besides the ones in Provo and Rexburg are just not good enough.
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 03.02.05 – 1:51 pm | #

    It seems to me that the big difference is in eventually teaching our kids ot seek their own answers. If we don’t encourage our kids to seek out for themselves what is true, then we set ourselves up as a replacement for the Holy Ghost. When I teach my child that Jesus atoned for our sins, I am stating a fact. My child can then gain a testimony of this for herself if she does what is necessary.
    We couple this with restrictions on the freedom of our children at young ages because in some cases they are not yet mature enough to make the decision. If I let my 3-year-old decide whether or not to take drugs, I am not giving my child the protection it is my duty to give her. At young ages we do controll kids’ lives quite a bit because they need to obtain the skills to make the decisions they will face. But our goal is always different than the end of brainwashing. Brainwashing seeks to permanently controll the mind of hte other person. Teaching righteous principles prepares children to find their own answers and lets them make their own decisions when they are ready to do so.
    This does not mean that I have to be wishy-washy about teaching my beliefs. If I teach the atonement as anything other than fact, then I am not being honest. I teach what I know, even though it will not be from me that they know that what I am teaching is true.
    Stephen Hancock | Email | Homepage | 03.02.05 – 3:52 pm | #

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned that we are under divine mandate to “brainwash” our children, following D&C 68:25 “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”

    I also take issue with the term brainwash. Children are sponges, and soak up everything around them, without regard for the source. To not teach them the Gospel is to make the world their teacher.
    Ben S. | Email | Homepage | 03.02.05 – 5:15 pm | #

    Bret, it’s obvious you haven’t used the very principle you speak of, or you wouldn’t still be brainwashed into not living in Utah, or going to THOSE other schools. Although I still see that as teaching you correct principles!
    don | Email | Homepage | 03.03.05 – 2:29 am | #

    Stephen,
    Excellant comment!! You put what I said into a form that more clearly and more EXACTLY shows what I meant. Perfect
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 03.03.05 – 6:15 pm | #

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