Inoculating Our Children (Ideas, not Measles)

Dear Reader,

This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed philosophy theology of education. You can find all the posts here.

At some time or another most Christian parents are faced with the question: Do I expose my children to some particular evil idea or shield them from it? Of course the immediate answer will depend upon the specifics, not least of which is the age of the child. But, since life-long isolation is an impossibility, there will be a point at which the child has to know what’s out there, from homosexuality to abortion, from the very real temptations to fornication to just plain bad theology. Sometimes these things come into our lives unexpectedly. But occasionally, we are given time to prepare and introduce ideas in a thoughtful way.

In two books I have read recently, I have come across the same model for introducing wrong ideas. It may be called the inoculation or immunization approach. In A Reformed Christian Perspective on Education (Grand Rapid: ChapBooks Press, 2011) Donald Oppewal presents a model for exposing students in a Christian school to “bad influences”:

“Seeing the classroom as an immunization center would seem to be more productive . . . The better strategy would be to plan deliberately controlled exposure to bad influences, after the manner of inoculations . . .  Applied to the classroom, the inoculation strategy would require tat the teacher expose the students to carefully controlled doese of ideas, lanuage and life styles that are not ideally Christian. . . . the teacher himself/herself can use the devil’s advocate method, and thus insure that the point-of-view gets an adequate hearing.” (p. 236)

Chap Bettis addresses parents in his book The Disciple-Making Parent (Diamond Hill Publishing, 2016). He refers to a study by psychologist William McGuire which showed, through a series of studies, that “[a] person can best handle an assault on something he believes to be true if he hears the arguments against it in a safe environment” (p. 213). Just as Jesus warned his disciples that there would be attacks to come, so we need to prepare our children by letting them know what challenges will come their way. In practical terms, this means letting them know what arguments they will hear.

Nebby 

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