Erecting Walls; Opening Horizons

Parents on the whole sincerely care for what kind of life their progeny will have ahead of them. Most have high hopes for how the child will “end up” as an adult. And, because they care a lot about it, they “do their best” to lay a foundation. They know it remains to be seen how it all will turn out.

In a sense, the parents (or guardians) are stakeholders in the child’s future. They invest in the present without knowledge of what lies ahead for their offspring.

As far as their own understandings go, parents invest to varying degrees in the transmission to progeny of how they themselves (the adults) interpret life, and meaning. Some who care deeply about a child’s development will attempt to inculcate their own cognitive accounts and traditions with regard to “life understanding.” Others may devote far less attention to consciously influencing their child’s course.

Some are far more willing than others to leave open opportunities for the child to develop and learn through the experiences the youngster encounters. But, even the more consenting will (to a large extent) arrange for experiences. They will see their role as one of influencing in a positive vein. It won’t be simply protecting the child from exposures they view as likely to be detrimental to the child’s welfare.

Early Experiences
Among the stakeholders in the process of any youngster’s development, whoever most controls a child's early environment will likely be most influential in directing the developmental course and bringing about desired ends.

Stakeholders can hope to produce a preferred outcome by exposing a youngster to selected experiences and instructing him or her by way of narratives and rituals (along with related plaudits, censure, etc.).

A conformist indoctrination process also may involve screening out of alternative worldview narratives and experiences, or at least careful managing of a youngster’s acquaintance with them.

Even a broad-minded liberal approach, one that does not seek to restrict exposure to alternate assumptions or images, will involve instilling certain "interpretations" and offering up "guidelines." Conveyed as "helpful" (for understanding the universe, living life well, gaining meaning of it all, etc.), the parental intent is that they frame the child's outlook thenceforth.

“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree” is a maxim that expresses well the significance of early influences on the worldview of any person. But as long as life continues to be lived, a “life understanding” is susceptible to alteration.

Intrusions
For concerned stakeholders within a household, the picture is more complicated than was customary in times past. Rapid cultural changes today are bringing many more factors to bear. Complexity intrudes.

No longer can a family as readily control major interactions of the child within a general locale, with the family acting as a unit to accommodate its outlook to local mores.

Unless forbidden (perhaps, even if proscribed), the technological developments that abound will increasingly hold sway in shaping of a youngster's thinking about life and meaning. Today, it is not only television. The computers and smart phones and other electronic media present youngsters with fresh options at a fast-moving pace.

These, along with changes in society at large, have broadened the reach of additional stakeholders (e.g., advertisers) into the household.

Education
There have been changes in schooling as well.

Even the most liberal of parents/guardians can be challenged by an inability to adequately channel experiences for their progeny toward what they hold in mind as a hoped-for outcome. And certainly, the contemporary situation presents intense conflicts for those parents who seek a high degree of command over the shaping of their child's worldview. Some may opt for greater control through private schooling or resort to home schooling.

In addition to household stakeholders, a nation signals its own warrant through the process of education conducted in its publicly-supported schools. This warrant ideally is neutral across the varied worldviews, ensuring an equitable treatment for the up-and-coming citizen from any household. But, again, there are intrusions from political forces that exist in the community or society.

For brights generally, the standard in “public” education entails schooling in a secular fashion. The curriculum concentrates on means of interpreting the world according to authenticated standards of knowledge (broad inter-subjective validity). Conduct is molded around common values of civilized society. There is a concomitant respect for the individuality of personal conscience.

Depending on locale and context, including economic factors, this educational ideal may not be adequately met in practice.

Action Arena #2:



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