This is my column in today’s Greenville News!  I hope you enjoy.

Edwin

One of the fun things about home-schooling is that we read to our children; a lot.  Of course, they’re excellent readers, but my wife and I love to sit down and read, discuss and enjoy different books with our three sons and daughter.  It’s a time of bonding, laughter, questioning and sometimes deep consideration.

Unless it’s just for fun, like the time I read the horror story they all begged for, and at the end grabbed my youngest son and said (as the book suggested), ‘I’m here for YOU!’  The other kids and I didn’t learn a lot that night, except that if you scare an eight-year-old well, he’ll jump, then fall over as if dead.  Oh, and we learned that if you laugh hard enough, you can’t breath.

Still, our reading serves a higher purpose than giving the children the shivers.  A great deal of the reading we do with them is designed to form their minds and hearts, and shape their world-view.  We read stories of courage to make them bold, mercy to make them kind, adventure to teach fortitude and stories of sacrifice to illustrate the cost of love.

We take them far into our formative and vital cultural heritage by reading the Bible, Greek and Norse mythology, classic stories, fables and poems.  We are trying, in the best way we know, to create greatness in our children.

Their treasure-trove of knowledge and perception is growing every day.  They’re becoming critical thinkers, capable of looking at different sides of a question within the framework of their own beliefs.  That’s exactly what we want.

Of course, Jan and I don’t have lots of free time in the evenings.  We don’t watch a lot of television or movies, and when we finally sit or lie down we usually fall asleep.  But it’s worth it, because we know our children better, just as they know us.  And we are getting a kind of classical education along with them.

The reality is that everyone’s thoughts, opinions, tastes and distastes are formed by outside influences.  Left alone in a room for an entire childhood, a child will not suddenly become a free-thinking, progressive individual unsullied by others.  That child will be a dysfunctional, frightened human with no concept of organized thoughts, and none of the gifts of creativity or higher ideal; no visions of grandeur or hope, no beauty of language or expression.  These are things we develop in conjunction with others humans, who teach us in person, or through the various media to which we are exposed.

Everyone is formed by their families, faith, peers and culture.  When we read to our children, we aren’t doing anything that doesn’t happen to every child.  We aren’t doing anything different except that we’re consciously directing our children’s minds and hearts in the way we deem best.  That’s a thing too many parents have tragically been convinced to avoid.  You know the line; ‘I don’t want to force my opinion on them.  I’ll let them decide for themselves when they grow up.’  The problem is, all of their beliefs are influenced by others.

We do well to remember that everyone’s opinions are complex and influenced by many others.  We must accept that our teachers, politicians, scientists, businessmen, pundits and all the rest did not wake one day and have fully formed viewpoints, liberated from outside pressures.  There are, it seems, no real ‘free-thinkers,’ whatever we might like to believe.

Considering this, I’m always a little surprised when politicians are attacked for having any religious influence in their opinions and policies.  Religion is one of the most formative forces in life.  Anyone who is raised in a religious home will have their views of life, death, humanity, goodness, evil and everything else shaped by that faith.  The same is true in a home where faith is not welcome; that is also formative.

Everyone, it seems, has a religion.  That religion may be a traditional one, it may be science (which actually does require a kind of faith), it may be socialism or capitalism, materialism or naturalism, but ‘religion’ is ubiquitous.

As so many persons rush to expunge religion from the public arena, I wonder if they consider where the ideas of our leaders will originate.  Is it so bad that a politician is shaped by an organized moral system, a belief in the value of all mankind and in the certainty of higher accountability?

I hope not.  If it is, I guess I’m educating my children out of a political career.

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