“Who will protect the children?”
Some form of that question has been used to justify all manner of bigotry along the lines of race, sexual orientation and gender, just to name three.
But so few seemed to be willing to stand up for the opposite way of thinking. Namely, what about the harm that is done to children when they are taught that closing one’s mind off to critical reasoning skills is a way to ward off evil spirits, and that too much schooling can be a bad thing? Who will protect the kids from adults who traffic in myths and bigotry?
If the Trump ascendancy teaches us anything, it’s that America is failing to teach its children to think critically, which makes them easy marks as adults for all kinds of charlatans, including political
Now there is a group which hopes to compete on equal footing where it is possible in order to offer an alternative to parents who want something more for their kids.
Meet the good folks at Young Skeptics:
The mission of Young Skeptics is to promote and facilitate critical thinking and evidence-based learning among the youth of local school districts. We believe in discovery through tangible problem solving and the scientific method, and refrain from offering supernatural explanations for occurrences in nature. Young Skeptics is committed to teaching children how to think, not what to think.
Young Skeptics was started to counter groups that were going into public schools and proselytizing young kids, all with the approval of local school districts:
Young Skeptics is sponsored by The Better News Club, Inc. (BNC), an incorporated non-profit organization run by a board of directors consisting of unpaid volunteers.
The BNC/Young Skeptics was created first as an alternative to the Good News Club, a Christian evangelical group who enters public schools to proselytize to children and, according to their own materials, declares them all sinners in need of salvation. The BNC/Young Skeptics feels the approach of Good News Club is a form of psychological abuse, akin to telling small children they’re flawed or evil, and must subscribe to a dogma in order to avoid eternal punishment. It’s a fear tactic that accompanies extremism and is a dangerous, albeit effective, technique when performed on children who trust adults and believe what they’re told. This is why Young Skeptics originated at Fairbanks Elementary School in Churchville, NY, to give children (and parents) an alternative to the Good News Club that is operating there.
Young Skeptics operates in stark opposition to the Good News Club’s philosophy, understanding it’s more important to teach children how to make belief decisions for themselves, rather than accept claims presented to them without thinking critically about those claims. In Young Skeptics sessions, children are encouraged to ask questions, make discoveries, and challenge the ideas presented to them.
Despite the reasons Young Skeptics was created, the organization has blossomed into something unique and exciting. Our curriculum is based on science, critical thinking, evaluating evidence, and navigating through the misinformation that kids are surrounded with today — and has nothing to do with religion or irreligion. Religion is not discussed in Young Skeptics sessions, nor is atheism or any other belief system. We believe such discussions belong in homes and churches, and not in public schools.
Young Skeptics is relatively new, but it is managing to get a growing number of school districts to agree to let them come into their systems, with local parental approval and supervision, to offer something that encourages kids to use their minds.
This would not have been possible not long ago, since the rights of religious leaders to proselytize freely in schools was pretty much unquestioned on official levels, and any opposition to dogmatic religion was muted.
Now with the rise of non-believers in America, or at least the increase in the number of people who see much of organized conservative religion in America as the mouthpiece of the Republican Party, this kind of effort seems possible if it is handled correctly.
Don’t make it about being against religion. (Young Skeptics does not make that their focus in any way.) Be in favor of education and more information and science. Let kids and their parents handle religion while we teach how to think critically and make up their own minds.
You can contact them here.
Note also that they need help and they need donations.