Teach your children well — but not what to think

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GUEST ESSAY | By Advocatus Peregrini |For WestVirginiaVille.com | december2021

I was born as an intellectual in 1974, when at ten years old, I was in the middle of the Kanawha County Textbook Insurrection. My father was among those who attacked the schools and the textbooks, claiming that they had the right to be the exclusive teachers of morality to “their” children, and that the schools were teaching dangerous — Satanic — things like racial equality, women’s rights as human beings, and the right of homosexuals to live in peace.

That was when I started reading books. If books were so dangerous that my father was leading movements to burn them, they were obviously important and powerful.

By trying to make me a copy of his prejudices and outdated worldview, he inadvertently launched me on a journey through “dangerous” books that has taken me here, today. The mistaken notion of my father and his kind is a simple one: the idea that children are the possessions of their parents — a tool and vehicle for their “legacy.”

Your children are not your property. They belong to the future, and will BE the future that we will all must live in. You cannot make them duplicates of your opinions, values and habits. And if you did manage to beat them into that mold, life would soon break them, teaching them that the ideas and understandings of the last generation do not serve the next.


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Don’t try to teach them WHAT to think, as your knowledge is already anachronistic. Instead, teach them HOW to think.


Your children do not belong to you. They belong to the world they must soon direct — a world so unlike yours that your knowledge and folkways are as obsolete as your eight-track, cassette player, CD player. They belong, even now, to THEIR children, who must carry us all forward. And they will parent those children, to some degree, in the way they were parented. That is your legacy, down the generations.

Don’t try to teach them WHAT to think, as your knowledge is already anachronistic. Instead, teach them HOW to think. Knowledge becomes obsolete. Wisdom never does.

Teach them how to reason, and that compassion is strength. These things will always be true. Teach them to read, and to weigh what they read carefully. Teach them to listen, but to reserve judgment. Teach them how to change their minds, and acknowledge that they were wrong — by example.

Above all, teach them that anyone who tries to tell them that obedience is morally superior to compassion, or that their “duty” requires them to sacrifice their autonomy or their honor, is obscene and a source of social contagion.


Photo by Marisa Howenstine on Unsplash

If you can raise a child who understands that strength is shown by compassion, not cruelty; that reason opens the door to understanding, and study is the key to reason; that following a leader or an ideology is no moral justification for any sin, and that they bear responsibility for their actions; that they can leave a mark on history, rather than a stain, and that you love them with all your heart and soul, even when you don’t understand them, then you will have done your job.

The world will have been better for you having brought this child to the future. And that benefit, however small, will roll down the generations.

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7 Comments

  • admin

    How we raise up our kids is never a dated subject in my books. An arcane, mysterious art, it is!

  • Errol+Hess

    Isn’t this a little dated? My daughter, Danielle Hess, was attending that school when the textbook fight happened.

  • Marshall McKinney

    Having grown up in a fundamentalist, Southern Baptist, small-town Texas home, the words ring painfully true for me. On the other hand, the love and stability can only be described as anchor points from which to launch my personal journey.

  • Andrew Brel

    What awful parents some of us had. How lucky our children are to benefit from the books we read.

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