Thursday, November 28, 2013

Don't squash a child's critical thinking

Today I saw a commercial for a local theme park, and I have to admit it ticked me off a little. The commercial opens with a child, about 10 years old or so, making some astute observations about the Santa Claus myth. It's something most of us go through, realizing the stories and details associated with Santa Claus don't make much sense when looked at logically. He asks questions such as, "How can he fit down a chimney? What if there isn't even a chimney? How can he get all of those presents in one bag?" etc.

For most children, the realization that Santa isn't real is their foray into critical thinking. They look at the myth, compare it to everyday life and come to the correct conclusion, that Santa is just a made-up character to make the holiday more exciting. 

If parents embrace this realization and nourish their child's quest for knowledge, then the child could be free of superstitions and indoctrination. But in the commercial, the parents take the child to this theme park where there's a special Christmas exhibit and Santa is there. The mom tells the child to ask those questions of Santa himself, and the kid looks at the chubby fellow in awe. The kid, at 10 or so, is certainly old enough to not believe in St. Nick, so I'm not entirely sure why these parents would want to have a child still believe in this story as he heads for puberty. But then again, if the parents are Christians then the answer is clear.

I'm not against kids believing in Santa Claus, even if it is another method of control through lies. But when the boy figures it out, don't perpetuate the lie; let him know he is becoming an adult and that you're proud of him because he used his mind and figured it out by himself. 

But, Santa Claus these days is serving as a prep course for just another magical lie: god. His story is linked to Christmas, the "birthday" of Jesus, so it's a conveniently short step from believing in one magical character to another. 

If the child doesn't believe in Santa, however, and he uses the same critical thinking when it comes to religion, then he might just become a free thinker for life and indoctrination will be a thing of the past.

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