Scepti-kids – Well done Mr. V.

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Here’s a nice little story to warm the cockles of an old skeptic’s heart.

This is an example of ground-up skepticism, albeit with a gentle push provided by Richard Saunders of the Australian Skeptics. It is an example of a teacher taking on more than they get paid for, in order to help young people deal with the world with their eyes open. It’s an excellent age to set a foundation of skepticism; and if not skepticism as such, at least the ability to ask the right questions rather than take things as given.

I know that the Australian Skeptics have been doing things in secondary schools for quite some time, and it’s an area I’ve personally tried to develop.

But we can’t take this sort of thing for granted. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dept of Education decided to shut it down, although what the kids get up to at lunch time is a matter for them.

Here’s an idea. To counterbalance the Woo-ligious Education component in schools, why not have a Reality Education subject, in which to cover all manner of skeptical thinking? If we got enough penetration however, the consequences would be diabolical. Sales of Blackmores non-medicines would plummet, and several university chiropractic departments would have to close their doors.

One can dream.

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9 thoughts on “Scepti-kids – Well done Mr. V.

    luxinvestor said:
    January 8, 2012 at 2:29 am

    I have a lot of teachers to thank who took the same type of initiative. And my Dad, for undoing the Sunday School damage each and every week. πŸ™‚

      rationalbrain said:
      January 8, 2012 at 7:49 am

      Great to hear. Can you tell us more about the process of ‘undoing the damage’? It’s always good to get some success stories.

    luxinvestor said:
    January 8, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Well, having a mom who grew up in the church, you can understand her believing that her child possibly burning in hell was a true fear for her. God was a big part of my youth. Every Sunday morning and Wednesday night at the Mega church (actually built in the shape of a crown, on the top of a hill mind you) spent being told to be good or else burn for eternity.

    But, what I saw as just fun time with Dad the engineer was really learning to question everything. Even Sunday school teachings. To understand the why’s to what my eyes see everyday. My questions were rarely answered by him. I was directed to a primitive Google, known as the library. If my answer was still wrong, I was sent back. That taught me how to properly research and not just believe the first answer that seemed right. And, to show my work. Despite a few calls to poison control, I was still allowed to experiment freely. πŸ™‚

    He fostered a love of science and critical thinking through PBS afternoons, Carl Sagan specials, science fiction stories (Still my favorite genre of books) and a life long subscription to Popular Science/Mechanics. It was fun. It didn’t seem like I was being taught. Unlike the hell fire and damnation of the church.

    Needless to say, the Pastor of my mothers church found me exasperating. I demanded to know how these “miracles” were possible. “Have faith” just wasn’t cutting it. Once I was old enough to decide church wasn’t for me, I did investigate the “spiritual” sides of life, herbals and all other types of pseudo-science. Who wouldn’t it? It’s sounds awesome! So easy, you don’t have to learn anything. Until you realize it’s complete crap and would probably kill you.

    I am thankful to have been given the gift of thinking for myself and to never be afraid to demand proof. He opened the door but let me make my own evidence based choices. These lesson I still use everyday.

      rationalbrain said:
      January 8, 2012 at 9:42 am

      Thanks – great story – I can see why you’re a regular reader! Oh, and aren’t engineers wonderful? πŸ˜‰ Did you follow in your dad’s footsteps?

    luxinvestor said:
    January 8, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Yes they are! They make for very fun dads! But I went into computer Nerdom (programming and database) and we both do Real Estate along side our geeky pursuits.

    And yes, I love seeing your posts in my inbox. You have a permanent regular reader. πŸ™‚

    MyBrainHurts said:
    January 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Why do students need a separate ‘reality education’ subject when current pedagogy encourages students to think for themselves in across learning areas? eg Inquiry-based learning.

      rationalbrain said:
      January 8, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Two things. 1. I was half joking. and 2. How is Religious Ed inquiry-based learning?
      To be more serious for a moment, what you describe as inquiry-based learning perhaps teaches kids how to do research, look things up online etc. But you can get any number of cancer cures online. What they need is a way to evaluate what they are reading, seeing and hearing, and I don’t believe this is taught. Otherwise why is Mr. V wasting his lunchtimes? Let’s do a thought experiment. If Mr. V had instead set them an inquiry-based assignment to write an essay about chiropractic, what proportion of the kids do you think would have identified that it contains a large percentage of quackery? I’ll bet very few. Most would have visited some university chiropractic faculty site, copied all the good words, and for extra marks, relate a story about how Aunty Joan was miraculously cured by a chiropractor. They probably would have written that the theory of chiropractic relies on ‘subluxations’ of the spine, which cause all manner of ills, but would not have gone the extra step to find out that there is no such thing as subluxations, which was a word invented by the inventor of chiropractic, Samuel Hahnemann. What Mr. V did instead is to talk about classes of faulty thinking that lead to us being taken in by wishful thinking and people trying to deceive us. That would be reality education.

    “The gift of thinking” « rationalbrain said:
    January 10, 2012 at 1:09 am

    […] response to the post on the Scepti-kids, regular correspondent Luxinvestor was moved to relate her own similar experience in which some […]

    “The gift of thinking” « rationalbrain said:
    January 10, 2012 at 1:09 am

    […] response to the post on the Scepti-kids, regular correspondent Luxinvestor was moved to relate her own similar experience in which some […]

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