As parents, our greatest roles are to educate our children, help them build character, and get them ready for life in the real adult world. Educating our children, even for those of us who value liberty and critical thinking, tends to be more indoctrination than actual education.
This is something many of us struggle with, even if we do not think we do it, it happens to some extent or another. We might not even realize that it is happening. Can we educate our children without indoctrinating? Do we so strongly believe in the ideas of liberty that we would indoctrinate rather than teach how to think for themselves?
The obvious answer, to me and others, is that we would rather our children think for themselves rather than simply believing what we say. We should encourage our children to question everything they read, see, and hear. They should seek to prove all things. Don’t just believe the minimum wage causes job loss because they read it but guide them on where to find out why this happens. Instead of forcing them to read Mises, guide them through the different philosophies of economics and help them evaluate the arguments. Letting them work through these problems by themselves and just offering guidance rather than giving them the answer you think is right will do much more for them than simply making them read Rothbard’s essay “Anatomy of the State”.
What would happen if we don’t push these ideas?
This is a common objection I hear. The issue is using authoritarian means to expose children to the ideas of liberty. If you follow your child’s passion, you can guide the discussion to subjects on based on your child’s passion. Your child might like the movie Zootopia. You can, if your child is mature enough, guide the discussion on affirmative action. This gives you the chance to explain what it is and then help guide the discussion. You can guide your child in a logical manner to where it leads. There is no need to tell the child that the government doing this is a horrible idea and that it should be opposed at all cost. This does, however, allow you to point out the consequences of these policies. This could lead into a further discussion on the broader subject of government intervention. Let your children think these through to their conclusion and you might be surprised how well they take to liberty.
Should we avoid this? It could help build a more free society.
I value a free society more than most. With that being said, we should focus on getting our children to question rather than accept information from an authority figure. This just gives us the same type of people we have now with a slightly less inclination towards authoritarianism. This does lend itself to authoritarianism, though. If the children do not grow to learn how to think for themselves and how to question and weigh arguments to see what is a good one and which is bad, then they can easily be swayed toward accepting something less than liberty. The ability to think and liberty are similar to the family and society. The family is of more importance than is society but both are valuable to humanity.
How to avoid indoctrinating your child.
This is a difficult one. The only answer I really have is to guide your children rather than preach to them. Guide them and live out your principles. Show them in real life the Non-aggression-principle. When they have a question, try not to answer it but show them the steps to figure it out themselves. How will this look in practice will be different for every parent as every child is different and every parent know best how to handle their children. Let children help other children. This goes a long way in the child learning, both of them, and helps them work on their social skills. This is especially true when it is children of different age ranges. These interactions will provide all children involved the ability to think for themselves in groups of various age ranges, also hone the skills of conflict resolution without aggression if possible.
Should we ever push our principles on our children? I think it will inevitably happen no matter what. We can limit it though so our child’s education is not just a different form of indoctrination. A dear friend of mine once told me, and I am sure I’ll butcher this quote, “ Shawn, if your child can think for themselves and turns out to be a socialist, you will have to love him anyway”. I laughed at first but she was right. What matters is that they can think for themselves, not what I force them to believe.