Last summer in a talk entitled “The Harmony of Contemplation,” author and educator Tracy Lee Simmons briefly contrasted the educated mind with the propagandized mind: “[What is] the difference between the educated and the propagandized mind? The one is prompted to think, the other is anesthetized to thought. The one is given the greatest questions, the other is supplied with canned answers. The one seeks a measured and rational view of oneself and others, the other can be lulled into satisfaction with caricatures.”
As our children grow, we parents are often faced with questions that baffle us, stump us, and ultimately, humble us. As this occurs, remembering Mr. Simmons’ three comparisons can help us educate our children as opposed to merely propagandizing them.
The one is prompted to think, the other anesthetized to thought.
Often the questioning of our teenagers, especially if there are several in the home, can become overwhelming, and eventually, frustrating. We often misjudge the tension we feel from their questioning as rebellion, when often it may be genuine inquiry. The recognition between the two takes wisdom. However, the assumption that most questions are rebellious questions would create an atmosphere which anesthetizes thought rather than prompting it.
The one is given the greatest questions, the other is supplied with canned answers.
The catechism of our little ones is often referred to pejoratively as a “drill and kill” technique, and if we imagine that the short answer to the catechism question contains the fullness of human understanding for that particular question, then the opponents of catechesis would be correct. However, if we recognize that these great catechetical questions can result in even greater questions, then the short answer will not become canned. It will become a seed that matures into a vine bearing fruit, each of which contains more great questions for the next generation.
The one seeks a measured and rational view of oneself and others, the other can be lulled into satisfaction with caricatures.
As we enter into the campaign for the next U.S. President, we are frequently reminded that America has not been educated; we have been propagandized. Every candidate is a caricature of this or that ideology, and America is satisfied with choosing their favorite caricature from the available choices. Neither the parties nor the voters have received an education, so the propaganda floats to the top, satisfying all those involved.
As we listen to our children and hear their questions, we can either foster “a measured and rational view” of humanity, or we can fill their minds with ideological caricatures and canned answers. The choice is ours every time they ask a question.