The Effect of Pedagogy Without Prejudice

From Theodore Dalrymple’s In Praise of Prejudice, chapter five, “The Effect of Pedagogy Without Prejudice”:
Anyone who has observed a mother in a shop of supermarket solicitously and even anxiously bending over a three- or four- year old child to ask him what he would like for his next meal will understand the sovereignty over choice that is now granted to those who have neither experience nor powers of discrimination enough to exercise it on the basis of anything other than the merest whim, without regard to the consequences. By abdicating their responsibility in this fashion, in the name of not passing on their own prejudices or preconceptions to their children, and not imposing their own view of what is right upon them, they enclose their children within the circle of their childish tastes. In the name of the struggle against prejudice and illegitimate authority, they instill a culinary prejudice that, though self-evidently harmful, is far more restrictive in the long run than any they might have instilled by the firm exercise of their authority; for, in the absence of experience, children will always choose the same thing, the thing that is most immediately attractive or gratifying to them.

The precocity encouraged by too-early an assumption of the responsibility for making a choice, as if children were the customers of their parents rather [than] their offspring, is soon followed by arrested development. A young child, constantly consulted over his likes and dislikes, learns that life is, and ought to be, ruled by his likes and dislikes. He is not free of prejudices just because he is free of his parents’ prejudices. On the contrary, he is a slave to his own prejudices. Unfortunately, they are harmful both to him as an individual, and to the society of which he is a member. (pp. 19-20)

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