Does Our Rearing Determine Our Worldviews?
In the musical South Pacific, a character sings in “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” how “you’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year, it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear.” Otherwise, one might fail “to hate all the people your relatives hate.” Is this the secret of child rearing? If so, why does the character fall in love with a young island woman that his white relatives would hate? The poet Wordsworth said, “The Child is father of the Man.” Does that mean that we can’t disown our childhood? Is rebelling against our upbringing a mark of maturity, immaturity, inadequate parenting, or excessive parenting?
Tara Westover in her best-selling 2018 memoir, Educated, describes being reared by survivalists who opposed public education. Learning how to read with only The Book of Mormon, through autodidactic self-education she attended & graduated from Brigham Young University, then earned a degree at Cambridge University. She now is a research fellow at Harvard. She is also estranged from her family. How did her rearing determine her worldviews? What drove her to take such a different path from the beliefs of her childhood? Some of her siblings stayed with their parental teachings and family; others quietly also went their own way. Why did each choose the destiny he or she chose? Or was it a choice? Can even toxic upbringings be fully and voluntarily overcome, or are they their own inverse form of negative coercion — one compelling rebellion and contrary worldviews?
What about “our nature” — the genetic code our parents give us? The University of Minnesota study of twins separated at young ages found that, despite living totally apart in different environments, many had surprisingly similar traits and preferences (including even sometimes marrying spouses with the same first name). Could it be that even without rearing us, our parents limit our futures — and our future worldviews? Do we have any choice in what we ultimately believe?
At some point we become so-called “adults” — do we then take over rearing ourselves? What if our parents change their worldviews as they grow from young adults to middle-agers to elders? If they once voted for George McGovern but now revere Donald Trump, is their lifetime of rearing become less a foundation of immutable principles and more a rollercoaster ride? If our parents teach us to think for ourselves, have they only taught us how to construct our own prison? If we see them change their minds, does this teach us that we can too? If the children of devout Christians become atheists, did good come from all those years of Sunday School and church groups? If the children of freethinkers join a cult, is this just an aberration? Is rebellion from parental worldviews notable in its rarity, or in its commonality?
Parenting styles are often assigned to three categories: permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative. Permissive parenting is reluctant to impose rules and standards, preferring to let kids regulate and teach themselves. Authoritarian parenting demands blind obedience. Authoritative parenting sets high standards while being nurturing, responsive, and respectful of children’s rationality and independence. But did those who support authoritative parenting devise these definitions? Which style describes your own parenting, or your own upbringing? Do parents switch styles based on circumstance and stress? Are permissive parents’ kids or authoritarian parents’ kids more likely doomed to join either the ranks of the homeless or the regiments of the fascists? Are authoritative parents’ kids closest to having a nervous breakdown? Are all these just stereotypes, or is there truth imbedded in them? If parents read enough books about childrearing, will the result be a society of perfect offspring, or mass insanity? After all, we’re told, “Insanity is inherited; we get it from our children.”
On Monday, June 20, from 7-9 PM, Inter-belief Conversation Café will gather through the magic of Zoom to discuss whether our parents made us or if what we are is our own fault. Our agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality may guide us through both our nature and nurture. All worldviews are welcome; no matter who gave them to you!
Feel free to relive the joys and traumas of your childhood.
Once again Zoom lets people from around the US and other parts of the world meet without having to jump in a car or hop in an airplane. The Zoom link is http://www.zoom.us/j/99973128471.