Nowadays, pluralism and democracy are firmly perched at the apex of the Western world's value system. As a corollary of these principles, the parent may well ask himself whether he has the right to impose his own, personal values on his children. Isn't each person entitled to define his own truth, as he himself sees it? By instilling his own values in his children, without giving them the opportunity to weigh, examine, accept or reject each one, isn't the parent denying his children one of their basic rights, guaranteed by the constitution?
If we are to accept this approach as valid, it follows as a corollary that educating our children to our own set of values is tantamount to brainwashing them. We are, indeed, denying them their constitutional rights. After all, we are inculcating our youngsters with rules for right and wrong without asking their opinion or giving them a chance to decide for themselves. Wouldn't it be more democratic to postpone value-education until the child is older and can decide for himself?
Philosophically speaking, there may be some logic behind this. Why implant values in our children if those values may eventually prove unjust in their eyes? Going one step further, no parent or teacher has the right to impart moral values to his child or pupil, because the child is yet too young to examine the concepts presented to him and to come to an independent conclusion as to their validity.
Another question: If we accept the above argument as valid, what remains for the parent to do? Are we here only to provide our children with food and shelter, pay their tuition and medical bills? What should be the role of the parent and teacher in a society which embraces democracy as the ultimate goal?
According to the pluralists, parents are there only to develop the child's intellect, so that he will learn to think logically. It is their responsibility to train their children to be open and tolerant of people's differences, and to be flexible enough to adapt to new situations readily. This will equip their offspring with the ability to make their own decisions once they grow up.
Democracy is the magic word of the twentieth century. It has won the loyalty of millions of hearts. Most of the globe bows to it, in deference to the sublime, supreme value it represents in their eyes.
The concept of Democracy has revolutionized the world. The old world of autocracy has collapsed and crumbled into oblivion, to be replaced by a new reality in which each man is an aristocrat. In the view of the twentieth century, each individual became the lord of his own private castle, entitled to his own, independent “territory” of thought, values, and deed. Each of us is free to choose the value system to which we will adhere, and no man alive may deny us that “sacred” right.
Previous generations accepted – at least in theory – the dogma of a universal absolute truth. Not so, “modern” man, who declares “Each man and his own truth.” Once we assume that this new, modern approach is valid, we can no longer impose our values or truths on others. If my blood is no redder than yours, neither can the Truth I have chosen for myself be any “redder” or truer than yours. If so, who am I to impose my own definition of truth or good on others, even my own children? It follows quite logically that no man-made dogma or “truth” can be enforced on the public for the very reason that their author is no more than another equally fallible human being.
Rudolf Duikers' popular book, “Children: The Challenge,” develops this concept into a philosophy of education based on the principles of democracy. The principles Professor Duikers sets forth topple the foundations of all previous dogmas of the philosophy of education.
In the first chapter of his book, Duikers writes:
Children are particularly sensitive to a social climate. They have been quick to catch on to the idea that they share in the equal rights with everyone. They sense their equality with adults and no longer tolerate an autocratic-dominant submissive relationship.
In short, autocracy is a phenomena of the past. Father once ruled the roost; children obeyed without question. A mother's command was just that: the command of a sovereign, and the child had no choice but to comply. A teacher's demand was fulfilled without question.
Welcome to the new era. Authority is a feature of the past. The revolution is upon us.
"Parents, too, vaguely realize that their children have become their equals and have lessened the pressures of the “you do as I say” form of child-raising" (ibid).
Today's child is the center of the world, the axis around which the rest of us must revolve. How shall the parent react?
Duikers analyzes the situation:
"Thus, we are faced with our present dilemma."
In other words, we have a problem on our hands. Democracy has undermined our position as responsible parents who have authority over their children. The borderlines defining the roles of parent and child have been blurred, sometimes beyond recognition. Even Duikers admits that the situation is grave. He writes: "However, there is a wide-spread confusion about the application democratic principles. As a result, we have frequently mistaken license for freedom and anarchy for democracy." (ibid. pg. 9)
Despite the fact that he is aware of the great difficulties involved, Duikers recommends replacing the old, out-dated philosophies of education with modern, democratic methods. In other worlds, he advises us to adopt democratic policies despite the fact that it is quite foreseeable that they will lead to disaster. To his way of thinking, it is more important that parents be “up to date” (meaning, “democratic”) than that our children should, indeed, receive a decent education.
Many parents accept his opinion, and are willing to risk their children's upbringing in order to go along with his ideas and ideals. The main thing is not to risk being labeled queer, out of step, or old-fashioned. With all due respect for Dr. Duikers (we're up-to-date, and respect the opinions of others), we would like to point out that there are other – and, in our opinion, better – ways of meeting the challenge.
For further discussion of this topic, see the next article: "Honor Your Father and Mother".