Educational Systems Should be Changed

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Discussion by: Salman

Before I begin writing my Discussion, I'd like to point out that English is not my first language and I'm also new to the Richard Dawkins foundation community. This is my very first post.

Greetings everyone. My name is Salman and I'm from a small country called Bahrain (very close to Saudi Arabia). I've recently become an atheist (about 8 months ago) and I'm obviously in the closet, as its dangerous to be out.

I'm a high school graduate from a school that follows the British curricula (Cambridge International Examinations) and soon I'll continue my education in Europe in the field of medicine. In my studies, I've realized that the education system in the fields of science is horrible. We were made to memorize the notes that were only relevant to the syllabus. Free discussion and asking thought provoking questions were discouraged, as there was no time to accommodate anything other than the syllabus.

I really don’t know how exactly the educational system in the Arab community (and elsewhere in the world) should be changed, but I do know that education is the critical component to eradicate religion, and thus it is urgently necessary to change it. In my opinion, I believe that if we had to choose one choice between converting theists to atheists vs. instilling logical reasoning, scrutiny and other necessities of the mind in children, the latter is of greater importance. To vaccinate the children at an early age against the faith virus would eradicate this disease of the mind for once and for all, in a single generation, if done successfully.

There are two questions to be asked: Firstly, assuming that the person in charge the educational system in schools of a country has all the power to change it without any backlash, how the educational system should be changed? From the way I see it, the formal education should encourage children to be skeptical of their beliefs. After all, skepticism helps in weakening religious belief. 

The second question is: How the educational system should be changed in order to accommodate skeptical thinking? Should it be through the sciences? How the syllabus of the sciences should be framed to encourage active and healthy questioning, rather than plain memorizing?  The biased reasoning that stems from religious belief should be abolished, and scientific reasoning should replace it. Education should help in installing the scientific reasoning.

I am in no position to change school education and if I were, there are obvious challenges, such as how exactly it should be done and preventing backlashes from the religious parents of the pupils but I’ll leave those questions for the time being. I'm asking these questions purely for the sake of knowing more. I’d love to hear your opinion on what should be changed in the system of formal education, and correct me anywhere if I’m wrong (I’m doubtful of my own opinions and beliefs regarding this topic).  Also, if you have any interesting ideas to add (regarding what should be changed and how to change the formal education in your country and/or worldwide) then please do. 

59 COMMENTS

  1. 1st question: religion should be eliminated from the curricula. There is no other way.
    2nd question: skepticism alone won’t protect people against the virus of religion (and may I say it’s not just religion that worries me; astrology, homeopathy, and all other superstition-related crap). It’s important to understand that we have the tendency to believe in the unreal, we are fascinated by it. Some people read a novel, some write music or poetry, some go to church or buy astrology magazines, or do both. A solution may be replacing the mistery of religion with the one provided by art.

  2. Memorization, problem solving, experimentation (i.e. scientific method), and a little science history.

    1. Memorization: No getting around that you need to know the current state of knowledge
    2. Problem solving: This is the “homework” type problem solving skills. Applying current theories/math.
    3. Experimentation: These are the science lab type experiments – physics, chemistry, biology
    4. Science history: I think this is largely left out of curriculums, which is a serious blow to critical thinking. Current theories are presented “as is”, without any understanding given to how our theories of the world have changed over time, and why. For example, once upon a time, all Western geological theories were rooted in a Biblical understanding of the world. “Catastrophism” therefore ruled, since you had to form all the rock layers, and all the fossils, and all the mountains, in a very short period of time. Today, we look at Young Earth Creationists as fringe wackos. But not too long ago, all the great scientific minds held the same belief. “Uniformitarianism” (call it “old earth” geology) was still not universally agreed upon at the time of Darwin. Debate over Biblical catastrophism and current uniformitarianism took centuries to finally be resolved, through the slow accumulation of evidence until it was just too overwhelming to deny.
  3. If you’re in a position were nonsensical dogma limits free thinking; then education in the West will be for you a metaphorical Paradise!
    Learn to live in a free speech society voicing your own non restrictive ideas.

  4. As a US teacher, I wish the system would change as well. However, my wishes are JUST a little different from yours.

    Most of my students stay up too late, never eat breakfast, and do not do their homework. This means that their parents are sending a tired, hungry, unprepared student to school The worst part is, when the kids underperform, my talent and dedication are called to question.

    Most of my students have their lunch bought for them by the taxpayer. It is the only meal that they are guaranteed. Most of my kids, however, are wearing 150 dollar sneakers and sporting an iPhone 5. It is about priorities and those of us who value education will get out of education more than we put in. And those of us who show up to sell dime bags of herion and pick fights with teachers who simply ask the kid to sit down… well… they won’t.

    I would like to talk about OBLIGATION. As a teacher, I am obligated to show up on time and prepared and deliver the instruction that the school board (or board of education) has deemed proper in both content and grade level. How about the obligation of the parent and student?

    I’d like to remind everyone that the education of a child is 90% at home and 10% at school (I made up the percentages — but the lions share of molding a child is the obligation of the parent).

    Where are all the parents?????????

    • In reply to #4 by crookedshoes:

      As a US teacher, I wish the system would change as well. However, my wishes are JUST a little different from yours.

      Most of my students stay up too late, never eat breakfast, and do not do their homework. This means that their parents are sending a tired, hungry, unprepared student to school The…

      Many studies have shown that one of the best ways to predict a students success is to measure the parents involvement in their education. Having a parent that values education and supports and encourages the student is very important for most young people to succeed.

      I also wish parents would stop storming into teachers offices demanding that marks be raised for reasons unrelated to the work done.

      A curricula that balances memorizing basic facts, learning science and math principals, how to use reason and logic, and reading and writing is important.

  5. We tend to think that western education is an unqualified plus. It has a few problems:

    1. It makes people abandon their families and villages and agriculture. They have no clue how to run the family farm.
    2. it glorifies western consumerism as the purpose of life.
    3. It is pretty much the same the world over. We are destroying diversity in thought.
    4. Its purpose is to provide docile employees for corporations.
    • In reply to #5 by Roedy:

      “It’s purpose is to provide docile employees for corporations”

      This comment reminded me of one of my father’s strongly held opinions. He maintained that the only reason we were granted the right to an education was so that we could operate machinery for the capitalists. At least we could read the instructions! Anything extra was superfluous to their needs.

  6. Thanks for your feedbacks. I’d like to first update on what I wrote. I have found this interesting video of Lawrence Krauss called “Differential Pay Scales for Teachers in Science and Math” where he addresses some issues in the education system and how to solve it. Please watch it on bigthink.com. Here’s the link: http://bigthink.com/users/lawrencekrauss

    With regards to the psychology of religious beliefs, where can I read more on this? I am interested in understanding what happens in the minds of the religious fanatics and what techniques can be used to strip them off their beliefs and replace them with scientific reasoning. I’ve read “A Manual for Creating Atheists” by Peter Boghossian and he makes convincing points as well as cites research that deals with that type of psychology, but I don’t know where a person can look further to read more on psychology of religious beliefs. Anyone can give me some links to articles or research sites that have that type of material exposed for free?

    I’d now like to reply to each of the comments.

    To paulconstantin,
    To your answer of the first question, I don’t know if removing religion from the curriculum would benefit the children into becoming atheists. I think the students should be exposed to all the major religions at school. As for the second answer, I don’t know what precise mental processings are needed to weaken religious superstition. However, I do know that I used to be extremely religious once upon a time ago and now I am do not place my confidence in any beliefs without proper evidence backing it, so I am an example of a person who underwent that transformation.

    To downshifter,
    I like your fourth point of “science history”. I do agree that teaching the history behind science and not to present it “as is” is crucial to promoting critical thinking. How the scientists arrived to the discovery, their persevering fascination, how the scientific method is used all help to wake them up from their religious fantasy by provoking them to think the alternative, i.e, the scientific way of evaluating and not the biased way of thinking that stems from religious belief (confirmation bias).

    To Blasphemyman,
    I will abuse the freedom of speech and expression in the West to the maximum possible degree. I hate it here and I would do anything to have that freedom which most of you Westerners take for granted.

    To crookedshoes,
    How come I didn’t realise this? Obligation to study is extremely important. However, most students do not take their education seriously. What should be done? How can the parents convince (not force, as it will be pointless) their children to take responsibility and study? I happen to be one of those few students who take my education seriously, so for me to understand the other side is quite difficult as I can’t empathize.
    And yes, the point you made about the parents’ role is convincing. I honestly have no idea how parents should raise their children to value education, so I can’t speak on that matter.

    • In reply to #6 by Salman:

      Thanks for your feedbacks. I’d like to first update on what I wrote. I have found this interesting video of Lawrence Krauss called “Differential Pay Scales for Teachers in Science and Math”

      Hi Salman,

      Firstly I really like Laurence Krauss, However I have seen the video you pointed to and I firmly disagree. Teachers do not become teachers because they are likely to become significantly financially remunerated. And devising some sort of pay scale associated with student outcomes is problematic.

      I think it is a way for politicians to to try to get more from teachers without having to address the real problems which are going to be significantly more difficult to deal with. I am a teacher and in my country they are heading in this direction to my horror. Australia has a small population around 20 million for the size of the US, many teachers therefore have to teach in remote and difficult locations. They get cheap housing and some love it but teaching in poor rural communities is frustrating.

      I taught in an area where the only students who’s parents were not on welfare were those who were employed by the school itself. Adult literacy was low, alcohol and drug abuse high, violence against children was high as was sexual abuse etc. This all had an impact on outcomes as would be expected. Or what if I am teaching a streamed class of low ability maths? Or alternatively a high streamed class? Do I by default get paid more because almost all my students get an A? or do I stand to loose thousands a year because my percentages change, perhaps a new kid comes into my class (because the others are full) and my students GPA drops? Any number of complex circumstances effect my results many are beyond my control. Or do you pay Science teachers thousands of dollars more per year than similarly qualified history teachers?

      To answer your original question. Teach kids to be literate and numerate and then teach critical thinking, in all subjects. Make them literate of the scientific method and how to tell likely dodgy science from good science. And let teachers do the job they were trained to do! Every change of government results in years to re-writing every damn work program, time taken from refining what you are doing! I would personally take a pay cut to teach in a system that respected what I did rather than try to blame the teaching profession for every social ill. This problems is the whole of society’s to solve.

      • Nicely put.

        In reply to #23 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #6 by Salman:

        Thanks for your feedbacks. I’d like to first update on what I wrote. I have found this interesting video of Lawrence Krauss called “Differential Pay Scales for Teachers in Science and Math”

        Hi Salman,

        Firstly I really like Laurence Krauss, However I have seen the video y…

      • In reply to #23 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #6 by Salman:

        Thanks for your feedbacks. I’d like to first update on what I wrote. I have found this interesting video of Lawrence Krauss called “Differential Pay Scales for Teachers in Science and Math”

        Hi Salman,

        Firstly I really like Laurence Krauss, However I have seen the video y…

        Hi Reckless Monkey.

        Firstly, the points you made against the idea of differential pay scale based on student performance are sound. This system of pay is complicated and does have its share of problems, and I’m not going to discuss that topic as I can’t really talk much about it.

        Moving on to your answer, you mentioned that students first should be literate numerically and scientifically and then critical thinking should be introduced in all subjects as well as be taught to differentiate between bad and good science. My questions is, at which grade should critical thinking be introduced? This is a concern as delaying this stage of teaching critical thinking would mean that the students from religious backgrounds would be indoctrinated by their parental religious beliefs for a longer time, and thus it would be more difficult to expose them to the alternate world of reasoning which is science. Teaching them at an earlier age would be of greater benefit as the kids can defend themselves against the religious indoctrination by using their own reasoning.

        This tactic is difficult to implement as the education system in its current form already has alot of problems and usually its issues are different from school to school, across different countries. However, I’m currently interested in knowing what would be the ideal age to introduce this, assuming no other factors are affecting the educational system negatively.

        Talking from my personal experience, critical thinking as a stand-alone subject was not taught at my high school, but we were taught the formal, physical and life sciences in great depth, comparatively to other schools in my country. This aided me in thinking critically and guided me to the truth of what really is religion. I just recently became an atheist, and it took me a lot of time to analyze the loop holes of Islam and to swallow the fact that Islam is not the truth. What’s more, allah said that any infidel leaving the religion must be stoned to death, and suffer in eternal hell. I was dead scared at that time, and I was equally suspicious of the teachings. Thankfully, I no longer need to suffer from the evils of Islam.

        Basing on my personal experience, I believe that teaching the kids to reason would destroy islam and the other abrahamic religions which are extremely dangerous and immoral. Of course this method has alot of complications, and I’d like the teachers on this discussion to highlight some of them.

        • In reply to #26 by Salman:

          My questions is, at which grade should critical thinking be introduced?

          I just wrote a long screed and deleted it because while I feel strongly about my opinions they are that, opinions. I do teach but other teachers may disagree. Critical thinking is not automatic and needs to be built up in everyone. Like common sense – it is far from common. What I would suggest is an education system that divorces itself from dogma. Teachers who don’t claim knowledge they don’t have and encouraging questioning and above all if a passion for learning is not priority number 1 you will loose the students before you begin. Make your teachers happy and they will do a good job – they want to. That means train your teachers well and then bloody well trust them to do the job you trained them for.

        • Salman,
          This point you make about the “timing” of introducing critical thinking and playing it against the indoctrination from home is a valid and very astute observation. Unfortunately, there is a clear disconnect in almost every person when it comes to “school learning” and carrying that learning out into the world, NO MATTER what the age of the student.

          This has never been more apparent to me than when a statistics TEACHER made the claim at the lunch table that “everything happens for a reason”. Now, here is a trained professional whose math intellect is very keen. He teaches a class that stresses that events are most certainly NOT linked (some are; some aren’t). I was like “no, EVERYTHING does NOT happen for a reason, you mean to tell me that the second time I flip a coin and get heads was because the first time I got a tails?”

          He replied “You know what I mean.”

          No I don’t and NEITHER DO YOU.

          I mean, it is like a doctor who specializes in treatment of lung cancer smoking two packs a day. People do not process everything through a consistent lens. And, to those of us who do, it is very puzzling.

          In reply to #26 by Salman:

          In reply to #23 by Reckless Monkey:

          In reply to #6 by Salman:

          Thanks for your feedbacks. I’d like to first update on what I wrote. I have found this interesting video of Lawrence Krauss called “Differential Pay Scales for Teachers in Science and Math”

          Hi Salman,

          Firstly I really like Laurence Kr…

          • In reply to #31 by crookedshoes:

            Salman,
            This point you make about the “timing” of introducing critical thinking and playing it against the indoctrination from home is a valid and very astute observation. Unfortunately, there is a clear disconnect in almost every person when it comes to “school learning” and carrying that learning…

            What pity. The fact that such people exist scares me. Why are they like that? Is it some type of cognitive dysfunction that arises from their genetics or is it because the way they were raised? I read this interesting article about China engineering genius babies genetically. http://www.vice.com/read/chinas-taking-over-the-world-with-a-massive-genetic-engineering-program

            Why I’m mentioning this article is because this genetic engineering of human IQ could possibly banish religion. My reasoning goes like this: This technology opens doors to genetic engineering of other traits, possibly a trait that is responsible for an increased level of superstition in an individual. I don’t know if this example of trait I mentioned truly exists, but if it does I’m sure this technology will wipe out the genes responsible for increasing a person’s degree of superstition, and once that goes, religion will go away with it.

            I know this is all wishful thinking and it’s highly unlikely that this would happen, but just merely thinking of the possibility that this can happen give me some hope. If education can’t completely remove that type of dysfunctional psychology, then can genetic engineering remove it? Lets wait and observe what happens in the future.

          • Salman,

            Why I’m mentioning this article is because this genetic engineering of human IQ could possibly banish religion.

            I do not know what your situation is in your part of the world as far as availability of movies is concerned, but I think you’d really enjoy a movie called GATTACA. Notice all the letters of the title are the letters of the 4 nucleotides in DNA?

            It is pretty cool sci fi and well acted.

            In reply to #43 by Salman:

            In reply to #31 by crookedshoes:

            Salman,
            This point you make about the “timing” of introducing critical thinking and playing it against the indoctrination from home is a valid and very astute observation. Unfortunately, there is a clear disconnect in almost every person when it comes to “school le…

          • In reply to #46 by crookedshoes:

            Salman,
            I do not know what your situation is in your part of the world as far as availability of movies is concerned, but I think you’d really enjoy a movie called GATTACA. Notice all t…

            I read a small part of the storyline from IMDb.com and it invoked my interest. I’ll watch it soon one day.

    • In reply to #6 by Salman:
      “I don’t know if removing religion from the curriculum would benefit the children into becoming atheists. I think the students should be exposed to all the major religions at school.”

      “Atheist” is not something that you become. Atheism is the expression of critical thinking, of rational thinking. When you say “I’m an atheist” you don’t actually say “there is no God”, you say “there’s no proof for a god therefore I think we shouldn’t believe in it’s existence, but if someone, somehow proves god’s existence using scientific methods and arguments, I’ll be the first to say a prayer”. Atheism is not a club – this is how religions are born (!).

      Religion should not be studied in schools as religion. You can learn about Christianity, talk about the Bible just like you talk about The Old Man and the Sea.

    • Well said, Salman. I am 61, but abandoned the belief in the supernatural when I was in high school, because I read a lot of books by Isaac Asimov in which her explained a lot of the recent discoveries in science at the time. My father’s text books from his university days also explained a lot of everyday stuff, like the infernal combustion engine, and the generation of electricity etc. If history is written by the victors, then science should be well represented.In reply to #6 by Salman:

      Thanks for your feedbacks. I’d like to first update on what I wrote. I have found this interesting video of Lawrence Krauss called “Differential Pay Scales for Teachers in Science and Math” where he addresses some issues in the education system and how to solve it. Please watch it on bigthink.com. H…

  7. Things I would remove:

    1. lists of battles, dates, who won.
    2. arithmetic fundamentals (times tables)
    3. script writing

    History would be history of a period — everything not just what the king did. What houses looked like, daily life, food, mores, clothing.

    Projects where you collaborate, research. Use many different skills.

    We want to get away from teacher spouting facts the kids regurgitate. Facts are not that important any more. You can find them on Google as needed.

    Writing clear, unambiguous instructions. Test them on other students.

    • In reply to #8 by Roedy:

      Things I would remove:

      lists of battles, dates, who won.
      arithmetic fundamentals (times tables)
      script writing

      History would be history of a period — everything not just what the king did. What houses looked like, daily life, food, mores, clothing.

      Projects where you collaborate, research….

      I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the future of learning ‘script writing’. Many schools issue laptops or even tablet devices to kids on entry to kindergarten. I see this as the ‘ paper and pencils ‘ of yesteryear. I’ve been wondering how relevant an ability to physically ‘write’ will be to the upcoming generation. No doubt it will still be taught long after the need to write has passed as we don’t give up our old skills without a fight.

      This is of particular interest to me as I have an eight month old grandchild and I wonder what the future holds for him.

      • In reply to #13 by Nitya:

        I’ve been wondering how relevant an ability to physically ‘write’ will be to the upcoming generation.

        Indeed, I’ve been thinking about this too. I do so enjoy taking notes in cursive with my beautiful colored pens in my gorgeous, expensive notebooks, but I recognize that this dates me terribly. I’m so mired in subjectivity here that I can’t see the issue clearly. But I wonder, can we truly dispose of memorizing math facts as Roedy recommends? That makes me much more nervous than trashing cursive writing does. Maybe it’s all archaic trash. What say you?

        • In reply to #14 by LaurieB:

          In reply to #13 by Nitya:

          I’ve been wondering how relevant an ability to physically ‘write’ will be to the upcoming generation.

          Indeed, I’ve been thinking about this too. I do so enjoy taking notes in cursive with my beautiful colored pens in my gorgeous, expensive notebooks, but I recognize that…

          I agree with you about number facts. There are some things you just need to know! It makes life easier not to have to go through the rigamarole involving in ‘understanding’ the fact, or consulting a pocket calculator or phone. To have that fact at the ready when need be is so much easier!

      • In reply to #13 by Nitya:

        I’ve been wondering how relevant an ability to physically ‘write’ will be to the upcoming generation.

        With the cheque book becoming obsolescent, adults will soon be able to live day-to-day without even signing their name. However, learning to write by hand seems to contribute to learning to read, so until Reception teachers can teach reading reliably without it, I think we had better keep it in the school curriculum.

  8. Hi Salman,
    Your question about education is interesting and very important because millions of people in your region are directly affected by the state of affairs in schools. I’m not a teacher so I don’t have advice on curricula but I want to say that I feel very badly about how young people like you have been let down by their governments in many ways, education being one of them.

    I’ve never been to Bahrain but I have lived in Algeria for some years and made observations on the system there. It sounds like it might be similar to the one you grew up in. My view of the situation was that compared to the public school education I received here in the States (which was not too terrific mind you) it appeared to be cruel, punitive, and designed to quickly identify the struggling, academically challenged students and kick them out of school. These kids were left with no job training and faced a life of poverty. The students who managed to continue their studies might make it to the end of High School, and even some of them might pass the BAC test and go on to University. A friend of mine summed it up like this, “Algeria does everything it possibly can to kick kids OUT of school and America does everything it can to keep kids IN school.” That makes me very sad for the young people who are trying to cope with such a cruel system. I wonder if this is similar to the system that you came through or does Bahrain do a better job of giving a general but not perfect education to most of the young people there?

    When you think about it, who is really benefiting from such a broken system? No one. With all of the smart, ambitious young people in the Middle East and Africa that I know, both male and female, what a waste of humanity it is to block them, aggravate and frustrate them and abuse them with physical and psychological brutality in school when most of these governments have it well within their means to substantially correct the problem and could really turn things around in a very short time. Let’s face it, the places we’re talking about have mountains of oil money at their disposal.

    I commend you on your academic achievement and I hope that you do study medicine in Europe and pursue a career in medicine. I also hope you will return to Bahrain and practice medicine there because you will have such power to make changes if you do that. I want Muslim women to have better health care and especially in the field of reproductive rights there is a dire need for progressive Doctors who will provide care and advocate for them. Also, don’t forget that some day you may have the opportunity to teach at University or High School level and remember that sometimes all it takes is one inspirational teacher to set a student on the right path.

    Something else I would like to know is how much freedom might one teacher have to present the free discussion and thought provoking questions that you stated above are missing from your system. Is this prohibited and dangerous or is it that these teachers are just perpetuating the exact same thing that they were subjected to themselves? Sometimes people don’t know that there’s a better way of doing things and then are very surprised and a little disoriented when shown that there may be a new idea of how to do things. Try not to be too discouraged when they react with hostility to new ideas. Let it sink in a little for a while and then circle back from time to time and gently nudge these people toward progressive ideas and sometimes you’ll be pleased to see the old stalwarts making subtle concessions. I’ve even seen some of the elderly Algerians claim that these ideas were theirs in the first place! When things start moving in the right direction I think we should take improvements any way we can get them. :-)

    I think you already know what needs to be changed in the science curriculum there and I agree with those ideas but I would also recommend that a course be taught at various grade levels on Ethics. I wonder if this wouldn’t fly under the radar of the fundamentalists since it’s not taking place in the science classes. All fundamentalists know to watch science classes closely for material that conflicts with their holy books – we have this going on with Christians here in US too. But Ethics usually is listed in Philosophy or Humanities departments and this can be a powerful introduction to ideas that reveal religion to be barbaric and cruel in comparison. I think I remember an article that came up on this website a while back about France having the intention to include material on Ethics and Humanist thinking into the public school curriculum in response to certain problems they’re having there. I want Ethics taught more aggressively here in the States too.

    When your frustration is about to boil over try to remember that you’re not alone in this. Seek out like minded people as you have done here but keep yourself safe. Things will not change over night and trust me when I say that change IS happening in your part of the world and those of us who are older have a wide historical perspective that you lack and in certain ways things are moving in the right direction. These are very exciting times to be a person of your age. Embrace that.

    • In reply to #9 by LaurieB:

      Hi Salman,
      Your question about education is interesting and very important because millions of people in your region are directly affected by the state of affairs in schools. I’m not a teacher so I don’t have advice on curricula but I want to say that I feel very badly about how young people like yo…

      Hi LaurieB. You addressed many issues in one post, so I’ll answer each one separately.

      With regards to your first question whether Bahrain gives better education comparatively than other countries in the region: it depends. I never went to a public school funded by the government so I cant speak on their quality, but I went to a private school that followed a British curriculum called CIE, and the school must meet a few standards to be qualified to be able to follow that system. In my opinion, the school that I went to was horrible as it just barely met the standards. The teachers were not skilled except for a very few, very small choice of subjects to choose from and even the basic facilities such as providing toilet paper in the restroom and providing real food from their canteen were not given.

      The next point I’d like to clarify is that I am not able to return back to Bahrain after studying in Europe. I can’t mention the reason why (some family issues) but I do genuinely have the urge to fix some issues in my country.

      I certainly agree with the additional information that you have given (that deals with improving education), but I think I have to first get a degree in the branch of social science which is education to be confident on what must be done. When I am done with my medical studies, I plan on earning that as well as learn more about psychology of religious beliefs, if it is possible.

      Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. I really appreciate it.

  9. The most basic thing has not yet been brought up: SAFETY: assuring that any kid may ask ANY question (including religious issues), without taboos, without being bullied for it. Besides this, life at school should be organised based on some very few and clear rules, such as: each kid must be commit him/herself to learning; besides this commitment, personal freedom is only limited by the other persons’ freedom (e.g. don’t bully others, don’t disrupt classes).
    And only then comes the methodology and content of teaching – teaching respect for data but also their critical analysis, logical thinking and how to avoid logical fallacies in reasoning, experimenting, critical analysis of texts, being able to look at things from a different aspect (e.g looking at historical events from the enemy’s point of view); at least one foreign language including its culture (to get an outside view of your own…), basic physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy and ecology, basic social and cultural history, basic history of philosophy (including ethics), maths including statistics; later on some epistemology (too early, it might be frightening and counterproductive).

    (Sorry, this is not my native language…)

  10. Hey, count by 7′s. Count by 9′s. Count by perfect squares. Recognize the Fibonacci sequence. One of the things that scientists are trained to do and pretty much must be good at is pattern recognition. I fear that this could go by the wayside and become a thing that only us oldtimers can do.

    Think of a prime number. Multiply it by another prime number. Derive Avagadro’s number using experiment…. Balance an equation demonstrating conservation laws…

    Mix a 3.5 molar HCl solution and dilute it 1 to 10. Explain the logarithmic nature of the pH scale. Construct a plasmid map using restriction fragment data. Use a chi square analysis to assess whether data adheres to a certain pattern…. ANCOVA, ANOVA, t tests, f tests….

    Underlying all of these tasks is reason. Math is reason. Watch Arthur Benjamin and see the abject pleasure he takes in his mathemagic (TED talks)… I want to live in and proliferate this world. I am weary of the text message language and the misuse of “there, their, and they’re”…

    I want to be surrounded by people who are not necessarily great but TRYING to be great.

  11. I forgot to include this in in my previous post, but I can’t visit here and write in the comments section as I have no privacy. I am now sitting and typing on my family computer in the early morning when everyone is asleep and I am being very discreet. Please understand that I can’t reply to each and every one of you but I have read all of the responses and I appreciate all of them.

  12. Small update: it would be hypothetically impossible to aim for earning additional degree in educational studies as medicine in itself is extremely demanding. I hate to say this but the is nothing I can do individually to spread secularism in my part of the world.

  13. Salman,
    You are NOT obligated to spread anything. You sound contrite in your last post. Do not carry any guilt about your ability or inability to spread anything other than you owing it to yourself to go and live your life. I wish you success and peace. Go get yours.

    You will spread secularism by going about your education and doctorly duties with dignity and character and without god. Trust me, you will influence people. That is plenty.

  14. Roedy is correct. I think our school system is now just a mass idoctrination system to provide grist for the capitalist mill. We’re propagandized and indoctrinated to believe in capitalism and be anti-communist, anti-labor and pro-corporate america. We’ve got a broken country that is running on fumes but will soon run out of those fumes. Also, what better way to manipulate people than through religion. Capitalism has crawled into bed with religion (or the other way around — either way, they’ve ended up in bed together) and it is working to keep people ignorant of what’s really going on.

    Education is now sold to us. We have young people coming out of universities in the kind of debt that is foreign to my dad’s generation — even comparing that debt to a mortgage. How do we expect them to make it? And, we’re still being told and sold on the model that education is the answer – the key to being one of the elite. Critical thinking and reason are antithesis to keeping the rich comfortably seated at the head of the table. These skills are to be avoided at all costs or people will rebel. I made a comment on another website about Sarah Palin being dumb and I was attacked as a “welfare queen” and a “kool-aid drinker.” !!! Realy?? Sorry, regardless of your politics she IS dumb. It really scared me that people can’t put their politics aside long enough to think for themselves. It made me feel like we’re doomed as a nation. ok, end rant

  15. Salman, I would like to applaud you, upon your thorough and sensible article and feedback.

    What I can offer regarding your initial post is slim, but you deserve thoughts. Some thoughts I had included the following; Bahrain is not in any way alone in having a flawed educational system. Bahrain may well suffer from many of the flaws education systems have seen globally. Your will regarding Bahrain’s movement away from religion is of course valid. One pause for thought might be the varied and numerous backgrounds and intellects and upbringings of the many thousands, who make up the educators.

    There is no doubt at all that state imposed religious censorship is wrong. That children should have no choice but to be locked to one of many false and poisonous ideologies is abhorrent to all free thinkers. For the sake of balance I feel I should reiterate that many secular states have many problems in their funding and administering of education. One should also keep in mind regarding ‘memorization’,, that high school teachers, teachers of children, seek to arm, not direct. Tertiary educators, lecturers, professors are the ones (at least in the west) who seek to propose possibilities regarding direction.
    I greatly respect the way you’ve responded to my fellow members here. My mother has been a high school teacher in Australia for 40 years (English and history mostly) and has never earned as much as a train driver here. Strangely, if a train driver had over a thousand people tell her she’s changed their lives forever I’d be surprised.
    I guess this anecdote seeks to remind you not to place your nation out of contention. Bahrain may be behind leading western countries regarding educational policy. It is not out of the race however, and I’m glad you support and seek suggestions for its improvement.

    I noticed you mentioned Lawrence Krauss earlier, and am happy whenever anyone sees any of his work. Your very name, Salman, makes me want to suggest your viewing of anything by Christopher Hitchens as one of his greatest friends, Salman Rushdie was the subject of one of the most publicised ‘fatwas’ in recent history. Hitchens wrote a great deal about it, and such would almost certainly be a delight for you to read, or read more of. I wish you well Salman, and that your peers recognise your strength of mind.

    Timothy.

    • In reply to #22 by Timothy McNamara:

      Salman, I would like to applaud you, upon your thorough and sensible article and feedback.

      What I can offer regarding your initial post is slim, but you deserve thoughts. Some thoughts I had included the following; Bahrain is not in any way alone in having a flawed educational system. Bahrain may w…

      Thank you Timothy for your positive feedback and I greatly appreciate it.

      Regarding the Four Horsemen and the other great speakers of atheism, they are well known among my peers. I have some atheist friends (we call ourselves “Molhed” meaning non-believers) from high school and we share videos of these great speakers (mainly Hitchens, Dawkins and Ayaan Hirsi Ali). We are small in number but I know for sure we exist. We also have small meetings were we discuss the issues of religion and we try to find ways to solve them, but the solutions are always out of reach :-(

      • In reply to #27 by Salman:

        You’re most welcome. I am refreshed and emboldened to hear of such people as your peer group. I feel such minds are pivotal in the success and improvement of our species. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is unparalleled in overcoming hardship to exemplify ‘Molhed’ and champion reason and logic. I wish you continued success, and I trust in people like yourself and your peers, to help change the priorities of society.

      • Salman,
        ‘Molhed’, what a GREAT name for a band.

        In reply to #27 by Salman:

        In reply to #22 by Timothy McNamara:

        Salman, I would like to applaud you, upon your thorough and sensible article and feedback.

        What I can offer regarding your initial post is slim, but you deserve thoughts. Some thoughts I had included the following; Bahrain is not in any way alone in having a fl…

  16. Bravo, Salman! I have no doubt the question of how we educate our kids, perhaps, how we should facilitate their education, is the single most important question we can ask ourselves. From each of our countries I would expect different details to “fix” specific problems, but, of course, the underlying requirements will be the same.

    Young human brains are mostly empty, but their evolutionary success has been based on trying to predict the future. Our ability to identify problems and solve them, finding food, warmth, protection etc., is spectacularly the best amongst all animals. For the modern human brain this now requires accessing the best culturally evolved thinking tools.

    Acquiring these culturally invented abilities, language, formal logic, mathematics etc. though requires a passion, a love, a delight in their usage. Until the age of seven or so I was endlessly bored. My dad showed me that which ever way you looked, the same principles lay beneath everything, that you could predict the future because of this in some way and that if you had the will for it you could imagine a future that, with a little effort, stood a chance of coming about. He made for me an interior life that I could carry around. Wherever and whenever I was bored, I could simply look out at what was happening or dredge up some curious memory and set to work imagining why it was so or how it might be different.

    Before anything I wanted my kids to have this rich interior life they could take with them always and everywhere.

    Now, for evolutionary reasons, brains, though richly capable association machines only operate if by operating they can avoid operating in future. For survival reasons they work to reduce the amount of energy they consume (and they consume a lot). The motivating principle is one of homeostasis which applies to all biological processes. All processes work to restore states to their nominal and those states are in some sense or other lowest energy states. This works from the electrolyte levels in cells all the way up to having a full enough stomach, slaked thirst and a happy quiet brain, utterly unmotivated and ideally able to snooze under a tree.

    We have evolved emotional motors though to make us able to survive in rapidly changing or starkly different environments. Anxiety goads us to watch for threats, and the unknown is the biggest threat of all. Our brains ache to get back to the low energy state of “knowing” of scratching the “itch” of ignorance. But we want to expend least energy doing the scratching.

    Religion scratches the itch with the least effort. It is a simple dummy-explanation sold to folk in exchange for money and power.

    So here’s my point. You can’t jump straight to removing the religion from peoples lives, without first ensuring ready access to the real (more difficult!) answers. (We see in Europe for instance, whilst the non-explanation of religions has become obvious, other non-explanations, new age and alternative nonsense, rush in to fill the vacuum, to scratch the anxious itch.)

    Further, to counter the itch of anxiety (not knowing) we must not merely offer correct knowledge (as, sadly, its too complex to get to the level of scratched lame brain satisfaction that dumb religion can get to with ease) but, additionally, to make the endless journey of understanding sustainable, we need to create a new, therapeutic itch, an addiction to dopamine, the little squirt of the rewarding brain neuro-transmitter that we give ourselves with each achievement. This sense of achievement must come with each new little piece of knowledge/insight we acquire. We must feel the cumulative build and delight in the endless journey.

    Education should not be a phase in our lives but an endless, rewarding mode of living. It must become a delight in itself. Infect with this itch and the job is done, and you’ve earned yourself a (short) snooze under the tree.

    • Phil,
      I always read your posts very carefully and would like you to know that more times than not, I lern something from you. Much respect.

      In your post (#29) you say

      Before anything I wanted my kids to have this rich interior life they could take with them always and everywhere.

      This is perhaps the nicest sentence and sentiment that I have read in a long long time. I think that many many people woud wholeheartedly agree with this most noble of thoughts. However, I’d also like to point out that there would be wide disparity over what each parent would infuse into their child’s lives and deem “rich”. Many would claim that the religious infusion IS what’s best. So, these people that are actually sabotaging their children’s thinking abilities are motivated by their own sense of “right for the child”

      I do not know how to fix this one, I can just point at it and bitch!
      In reply to #29 by phil rimmer:

      Bravo, Salman! I have no doubt the question of how we educate our kids, perhaps, how we should facilitate their education, is the single most important question we can ask ourselves. From each of our countries I would expect different details to “fix” specific problems, but, of course, the underlyin…

      • In reply to #32 by crookedshoes:

        Phil

        In your post (#29) you say

        Before anything I wanted my kids to have this rich interior life they could take with them always and everywhere.

        By “this rich interior life” I intended to close the loop on “education as a mode of delightful living”, not just any interior life thought to be rich. It is this specific that is the source of a rich interior life because it is entirely an attitude and a process and may generate riches without end quite before certainty is got. A set of facts, or worse dogma, will last until you are shown their error when you can only stop or with dogma dash your own metaphorical eyes out.

        I do not know how to fix this one

        Bitching helps! Individual teachers help, as we’ve discussed in the past. I am even encouraged that Hollywood helps when it creates heroes of the educated. It may be the creation of open source educational resources (increasing all the time) and a program of voluntary mentoring.

        Working on the “older student”, my own argument with a New Labour politician and trade unionist has been of the need for TUs to focus much much more on the broader education (not just training) of its members. He agreed…at least. It is my experience as both an employer and employee that the intellectually engaged (in whatever way) are the ones to a) give a damn and b) find problems and fix them. With brains its a question of use ‘em or lose ‘em and education is one of the best mental gyms we have.

        • Bitching helps!

          Then sign me up!

          In reply to #34 by phil rimmer:

          In reply to #32 by crookedshoes:

          Phil

          In your post (#29) you say

          Before anything I wanted my kids to have this rich interior life they could take with them always and everywhere.

          By this I intended to close the loop on “education as a mode of delightful living”. It is this that is the source of…

          • In reply to #35 by crookedshoes:

            Bitching helps!

            Then sign me up!

            Again! But you’re already a fully paid up bitch… Hmm! I can see you need to hand out a double dose…

          • Then sign me up AND instead of me giving out a double dose, can I TAKE one?

            In reply to #36 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #35 by crookedshoes:

            Bitching helps!

            Then sign me up!

            Again! But you’re already a fully paid up bitch… Hmm! I can see you need to hand out a double dose…

    • In reply to #29 by phil rimmer:

      Bravo, Salman! I have no doubt the question of how we educate our kids, perhaps, how we should facilitate their education, is the single most important question we can ask ourselves. From each of our countries I would expect different details to “fix” specific problems, but, of course, the underlyin…

      Like Crookedsoes, I’m always interested in your philosophy of ‘education’. Could you expand a bit more on your notion of a rich interior life? I tend to agree, though I think perhaps my interpretation of that phrase could be slightly different.

      When I think of the term ‘education’, I think of the whole child, from the moment of birth. To me, ‘education’ is completely integrated with every aspect of life. I would have loved to homeschool our kids ( I think), but I really liked the break from the sort of intensive, hands-on parenting I provided.

      • In reply to #39 by Nitya:

        When I think of the term ‘education’, I think of the whole child, from the moment of birth. To me, ‘education’ is completely integrated with every aspect of life.

        I think, strictly, I am using the term education wrongly some of the time. When I talk of “education as a mode of delightful living”, I am talking about quite a complex set of possibilities, the expectation that a primary purpose of all waking hours is to learn more, and more unexpected things, that this will be simply rewarding in itself, that this may involve an educator but never a teacher, but most often will be autodidactic, that this will be motivated by having a near endless supply of problems that need solving, but that you won’t necessarily be aware of them yet but that just about everything you see or notice may trigger or remind you of one of those problems, that the only thing better than learning something new is to solve an old problem and the only better than that is to find a new problem.

        The phrase “rich interior life” occurred to me a number of years ago when I remembered what boredom was like. Looking out of the window as a kid, rain streaming down the pane, couldn’t go out to play, banned from unscrewing any more of the wall power sockets. I was bored and bored with being bored. My dad came up and breathed on the window pane and wrote in it. He said, “Its the same stuff on the inside as the outside. Doesn’t look it, but it is. How does it get to fall out of the sky? How does it get to come out of my mouth?” I don’t ever remember being bored after that, not once. He nearly always gave problems in pairs, because, he said, problems could be easier to solve if you had a bunch that were similar. The boiling kettle was instantly a useful problem found. After a little more pump priming I could find all the problems I wanted for myself. My head was never less than richly stuffed.

        I like the root of educate- literally, to lead out. This vision of being taken out of yourself in some sense, so you can see some new thing you would never have looked at seems the proper job for a teacher. Like Richard Feynman I don’t believe people are ever taught as such. He claimed to create the impression in someone of having been taught about x or y, but that this was an illusion. Perhaps he just reduced the fear of the thing and created the impression that it was knowable, and true learning a real understanding was something you created for yourself afterwards. For me this is how it feels, I think because, knowing and finding and fixing problems is all about making fully detailed functional mental models of the world. Only when you have built your own (working) mental model might you claim to have learned a thing, discovered a missing part in a model and finally created a replacement for it.

    • In reply to #29 by phil rimmer:

      Bravo, Salman! I have no doubt the question of how we educate our kids, perhaps, how we should facilitate their education, is the single most important question we can ask ourselves. From each of our countries I would expect different details to “fix” specific problems, but, of course, the underlyin…

      Thank you so much for your detailed response. I can tell that you have invested much time into typing all of that, and I deeply appreciate it. The evolutionary explanations to how our brains work is very interesting and I enjoyed reading your comment.

  17. Salman,
    I’m interested in hearing your opinion on how widespread is the Molhed movement in the Middle East. You have a view to this that we don’t have. I expect to hear that the internet and other social media has opened this world to you and others. I know this is happening in North Africa too. I know very well what you are up against. On one hand I’m worried about all of you, but on the other hand I want to encourage you all too. Are you at least encouraged that you and your fellow Molheds are successful in throwing off the chains of religion? If you all found the way to do this then surely some others around you can do it too. By the way, the word Molhed makes me smile because when said by an anglophone it sounds like “mole head”. Maybe you can make use of this as a symbolic symbol of your group that represents your underground, infiltrating, ever expanding movement.

    • In reply to #38 by LaurieB:

      Salman,
      I’m interested in hearing your opinion on how widespread is the Molhed movement in the Middle East. You have a view to this that we don’t have. I expect to hear that the internet and other social media has opened this world to you and others. I know this is happening in North Africa too. I…

      Hey Laurie. I don’t think this “movement” of Molheds (lol Mole Heads xD) is large enough to topple Islam, but I know for sure that we exist. In saudi, for example, atheists make up 8% of the population, which is equivalent to the atheist % in the USA. I don’t have the source, but if i remember correctly, I read this from Pew Research Center.

      We don’t have large conferences of atheist gatherings like in the West, we have discussions over the internet in forums and such, and we also this arab atheist magazine: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/11/19/arab-atheists-magazine-flourishes-online/

      I don’t honestly believe that we are capable of changing anything. We gather around because we need an outlet to let out our feelings. Discussion of how to tackle religion is mostly to make us feel good. To be honest, there are other things to tackle first, such as the current regime so that democracy can take its place. Without democracy, I don’t think we are capable of changing anything.

      There are blasphemy laws which hinder freedom of expression, there are sodomy laws which prevent gays to come out, and many other types of sharia laws prevent the public to have an open mind with secular ideas.

      Oh and by the way, the actual pronunciation of “molhed” isn’t “mole head”. We arab atheists write it as mol7ed, where an arabic letter is represented by the number 7. I can’t show you how it is pronounced over the internet, but for the time being just pronounce it as “mole head”. I actually like it tht way :-P

      • In reply to #44 by Salman:

        Oh and by the way, the actual pronunciation of “molhed” isn’t “mole head”. We arab atheists write it as mol7ed, where an arabic letter is represented by the number 7. I can’t show you how it is pronounced over the internet, but for the time being just pronounce it as “mole head”. I actually like it tht way :-P

        Ha. Yes I know about the problem with that letter. It’s the same “h” as the one that starts the word “habibi”, right? Don’t worry about that. The anglophones can’t say it anyway. Mole heads is as close as we’re ever going to get! :-D

  18. I’m really pleased that you used the word ‘boredom’, as my interpretation is the antithesis of boredom. It’s the ability to draw on something when boredom is presented as an alternative. I also think of a rich inner life as having an element of creativity as well. Speaking for my adult self, I love to find out new things. I could spend all day looking things up and following a trail from one thing to the next. I consider myself very lucky to have had the sort of parents I did, too.

    The lives of children are crammed with activities and diversions now that such things are affordable in most households. I think that many young people are being short changed with the endless cycle of entertainment. I think a rich inner life has to develop over time.

  19. Small update on my previous post: I have just read that China article for the second time after a few weeks from the first reading and realised that “my reasoning” isn’t in fact my idea and was already mentioned in that article.

    Also, you may have noticed some spelling mistakes in the comments I posted this morning. The reason for this is because I couldn’t check what I wrote due to the limited time I have to read and post. The were some great comments written by others (like Roedy’s) that I couldn’t reply in the past few days for the same reason. Please don’t take it personally if I didn’t reply to your ideas.

  20. Salman, you’ve started a fantastic discussion – and constructed your first post in better English than many native speakers!

    I’ve little to add to the wonderful comments from Reckless, crooked, phil and others but I would like to partly address your worry and disappointment that you would not be able to also obtain further studies in education due to the intensity of medical education.

    First a warning: regardless of where you train, there will be a lot of didactic learning/memorisation – there is no escaping this – everyone has to have a base level of knowledge to practise safely as a doctor. However, you will have time to, indeed be required to, apply what you already know – that such knowledge is gained by reasoning from the basics: physics, maths, chemistry, biology (with some philosophy) backed up by experiment. It took me a long time to realise the point of it. I was clearly less mature then than you are now!

    Medical schools (and universities in general) are full of people who think hard about how to teach rather alien concepts and change peoples’ (incorrect) assumptions. This applies equally to doctors who must learn not to trust the authority of their teachers without question and to teach their patients why something is medically a good idea and not just because you yourself will be an authority figure who is telling them so. All branches in medicine combine academia with educating others but some, such as General Practice and Public Health (in the UK at least) especially require effectively communicating reason to your patients. When you get to medical school, seek these doctors out – I’m sure some would be delighted to discuss educational theory and practise and will point you in the direction of future learning. Most medical schools I’ve heard about have some part of each week/month of the pre-clinical years allocated to a choice of potentially non-medical study – perhaps you could use this time? (I chose Japanese and Biodiversity/Ecology over 3 years) If you are especially motivated, some universities can integrate a PhD as an extension of undergraduate medical training though I appreciate course fees can be prohibitive to foreign students. There is scope at postgraduate level for formal courses in Education for doctors e.g. Masters degrees that can be allocated formal study time and not impact (severely) on your ability to earn a living, just your free time. In medicine almost everything you do will impact on the thinking of young patients and their families in some way. There’s no vocation like it!

    • In reply to #48 by Docjitters:

      Salman, you’ve started a fantastic discussion – and constructed your first post in better English than many native speakers!

      I’ve little to add to the wonderful comments from Reckless, crooked, phil and others but I would like to partly address your worry and disappointment that you would not be ab…

      Thanks for your highly passionate response.

      In response to your warning, it’s not that I want memorization to be removed, as it is necessary part of education but I wanted the educational system in high school to emphasize more on the ‘why’ with less focus on learning it ‘as is’ (just my opinion, but my opinion could be wrong). My current stance is to not bother with that anymore and leave it be.

      There are other factors that facilitate the growth of the atheist population other than education and we are surely heading in that direction. Any attempt to mass de-convert large populations would probably fail on my part (unless if I’m a multi-billionaire, then I could greatly influence people in various ways using $$$) so I’ll focus on Street Epistemology. Small number of people in my social circles would be influenced that way, but it still counts. And that’s what’s important, no matter how small.

      The reason to why I’m so worried about religion is because I hate Islam. I suffered greatly and I still do. I want the future generations to never experience what I experienced and to be able to live in harmony. It’s true that pseudoscience, new age and other religions are bad but nothing compares to Islam. I believe that Islam must be dealt swiftly, but alas it is hopeless to attempt to remove it in a short period of time.

      Anyway, I’m looking forward to become a medical student. You make it seem very interesting, and I can’t wait to start. Apart from the enjoyment that comes with learning medicine, I’m more looking forward to live in the free Western society. For me, that is of greater importance and it is the main reason to why I want to study in Germany.

  21. I haven’t said that I’m also gay, didn’t I? Oh yeah I haven’t mentioned that in my first post. Anyway, that is just a small part of my identity that I don’t really like to emphasize on.

    So yeah… I’m gay. I did undergo years of depression in my early teen years because of being in the closet, but I’m proud of it now and that no longer bothers me. That’s the primary reason to why I want to live in a Western society…

    (I made the stupidest decision of outing myself to my parents, but they didn’t buy it. I’ll escape to some free country and once I have settled and am no longer in need of financial help from them I will tell them my true identity. I’ll get disowned, but I’ll probably be able to handle that. I have faced much tougher experiences in my life before, and this won’t affect me much)

    • Your struggles have the potential to galvanize you into an excellent doctor. You seem well on your way to reaching for your “golden rings”. I respect all that you’ve said here, and who you are. GO DO IT! I am rooting for you, BIG TIME!

      In reply to #51 by Salman:

      I haven’t said that I’m also gay, didn’t I? Oh yeah I haven’t mentioned that in my first post. Anyway, that is just a small part of my identity that I don’t really like to emphasize on.

      So yeah… I’m gay. I did undergo years of depression in my early teen years because of being in the closet, but…

  22. Hello, and welcome!
    First, regarding question no.1, the establishment controlling our schools is too religious (in an unreal way) to grant anyone absolute power for changing anything at all, especially with the coalition of fundamentalists overrunning the school boards. They circle like vultures looking for the Devil’s doings. Skepticism is, I’m afraid, a thing that must come either from parents or, preferably, the child’s own scientific leanings. I’m surprised they even have Darwin in school libraries (and in some backwater areas probably do not).

    Yes, question no. 2 intrigues me as well. Of course the answer is through the sciences. That is the basis of truth as we understand it. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, “To posit extraordinary claims one must exhibit extraordinary evidence.” To my knowledge the only “evidence” that god exists is anectdotal, and therefore weak and unreliable. I was forced religion down my throat as a youngster, but for some reason, about which I am at a loss to explain, it always seemed phony in the extreme. I never believed a word of it and to this day (I am 63) I am unimpressed with anyone who does.

    My questions, paralleling your own, would be: 1): How do we get people to see the obvious (gods do not exist); 2) How do we remove or eradicate evil (god) from schools, prayer breakfasts, currency and popular culture. I don’t see it happening. I’m depressed.

  23. In reply to #4 by crookedshoes:

    I’d like to remind everyone that the education of a child is 90% at home and 10% at school (I made up the percentages — but the lions
    share of molding a child is the obligation of the parent).

    Where are all the parents?????????

    This reminds me of a subject that I would like to add to secondary school (US high school) education. Every teenager (not just girls) should learn about infant development: the amazing capabilities of new-born babies, optimum periods for acquiring perceptual and muscle skills, particularly language; also the effects on the fetus of alcohol intake and smoking by pregnant women.

  24. The scientific method, which is taught in most science classes, teaches skepticism in that science is falsifiable as new evidence is gained. Unfortunately, public education is backed by tax paying parent who hold fast to their religious beliefs. The schools that rely on tax dollars for funding are reluctant to displease the parents. Then, add in the movement to be “politically correct”. Science teachers are taught to be politically correct and embrace multiculturalism which includes acceptance of others’ religious beliefs. Science teachers are in a no win situation. In 2010, science teachers, in Ohio, were told that they needed to start preparing to teach Intelligent Design. As a science teacher, I was prepared to leave the profession if this came to pass. Fortunately, it did not.

    In preparing for my Master’s thesis in Education, I was told to write it as an individual experience because no one could discount that experience. I don’t mean to say that it was to be an account of my personal experience but rather a bizarre writing that only had meaning to me–not the reader. There is a name for this that escapes me at the moment. Nevertheless, many people were awarded Master’s degrees for these types of writings. In order to please my professor and obtain my Master’s degree, I chose a more esoteric subject and wrote it with all the evidence I could find. I passed.

    Religion is so deeply rooted in our society that it is any wonder that some make it to the side of reason. I whole heartedly agree with Richard Dawkins that we are depriving our children of an education as well as the ability to think critically and use evidence-based reason. When children do embrace science, they often do not generalize it to the rest of the world but rather compartmentalize it as belonging in the science classroom and nowhere else. Even if science is taught as it should be, we are faced with the challenge of teaching children who are so tainted by religion, myths, and the supernatural that our task is still enormously challenging.

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