Initiating Young Freethinkers
#1
I was a believer till the age of 14. I could have been spared many years of ignorance and wasted time if I had figured out sooner rather than later how the science that I was studying in school better explained the universe.

There are many ways we can approach the subject of initiating people into freethought. Essentially, we are talking about reaching to a young audience when they are most likely to question the brainwashing that they have probably been subjected to. So our first question could be: What do you think is the ideal age for the education programs to target?

Once we identify a particular age group, we can try and isolate other variables and then use the information to discuss solutions to the problem.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#2
I think the teens are the best age to target education programs. It is usually the time when parents loosen their lease and allow their kids to get email addresses and online identities. It is the time when they are exposed to a lot of stuff online that is not in total control of their parents, like social websites, online comics, youtube, etc. It is also the time when they begin to question things encouraged by the basic scientific thinking taught in schools. If their latent curiosity does not pick up on questioning god at this age, its probably difficult later on as they will be thinking about other things like college, work, love, marriage, social obligations, etc.

I am of course only talking about urban kids, who are likely to have internet access. But I think the general observations about school-going kids should apply more generally.
Aditya Manthramurthy
Web Administrator & Associate Editor
Nirmukta.com
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#3
I agree with donatello. Early teens seem like a good time. It is when schools start teaching physics, chemistry and biology. That should give them a good framework to understand the world around them.
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#4
I have a kid brother who at 10 is asking questions about evolution, and the Big Bang. He once asked me if I believed in God and when I said no, he asked why. I was so fucking amazed at him. Even though he goes to Sunday School, and says his prayers before bed, I know that there is hope for him. And I wish there was a place where he could be introduced to freethought in a child friendly way. Maybe 10 is too young, but pre-teens who are just started to see the world thought the lens of puberty!! LOL. I think once you realize that all those 'feelings' you've had since you were a kid were actually sexual feelings, and NO ONE TOLD YOU WHAT TO DO WITH IT, you start questioning adults and why they aren't telling you the truth.
(I don't know if that made any sense, so please ignore if that was gibberish to you)
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#5
Here's a simple idea. In science and mathematics curricula, teach kids:

1. Rationality
2. Scientific Method
3. Method of mathematical proof

Consciously de-emphasize:

1. Scientific facts (these will follow once kids have a good appreciation of the methods of science, in my opinion)
2. Mathematical calculations
3. Rote learning of any sort

I don't have much experience in such pedagogy. Are there any studies or suggestions for teaching methodologies?

I'm only aware of:

1. Stanislas Dehaene's work on the neuroscience of mathematical learning and recommendations that follow from it. (e.g. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/...ntPage=all )

2. Some recent research about how kids are born scientists: http://www.scientificamerican.com/articl...fic-method

Please continue this thread if you have some information about more empirical evidence about instruction methodologies that 'work' to the effect of what is mentioned in Ajita's opening post.

[Edit: oh my totally wrong link. Before this edit, I linked to Richard Hammond (Top Gear guy)'s article about kids being natural-born scientists: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20...tists.html which is nice (paywall, PM me if you want the text), but not the article I wanted to link to.]
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#6
Oh yes, and do away with spelling bees and quizzes, and instead we should design games for children that reward logically sound arguments and penalize logical fallacies.
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