Just Respect and Obey November 26, 2010

Just Respect and Obey

I had to sit through the whole thing. Now it’s your turn:

As a teacher (and perhaps eventual parent), I kind of want to say “Yes, those are good ideas.” You should just listen to the adults and do what you’re told.

Every other part of me wants to scream, “GO BREAK THE GODDAMN RULES!” And “Fuck tha Police!”

So where do you draw the line?

George Carlin said it so well when he spoke about the commandment, “Honor thy father and mother“:

Obedience. Respect for authority. Just another name for controlling people. The truth is, obedience and respect should not be automatic. They should be earned. They should be based on the parents’ performance. Parents’ performance. Some parents deserve respect; most of them don’t. Period.

It sounds so easy to tell kids: “Hear what the authority figures have to say and decide for yourself whether it’s worth following.” But when you’re young, you think parents and pastors all have your best interest at heart. How do you separate their good advice and information from, say, the lies you might hear in a church?

What’s the best way to teach a child to tell the difference?

(Thanks to Laura for the link!)

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  • maddogdelta

    I didn’t watch the video yet, but I was in a position where I was supposed to give a lesson on “respect for authority” to my homeroom class. I couldn’t follow the script. I’m a physics teacher who had been trying to get my classes to not believe what they are told, but to find out for themselves.

    So I waffled through the presentation

  • Tony

    I managed about 12 seconds, it was awful. And were they playing it on those PaperJamz pretend guitars?

  • Best way to teach them the difference is to instil the value of asking questions. If the authority figure has good answers then great, but keep asking questions anyway. Always keep probing. If they say “erm, well, it just IS that way and that’s the way it’s always been, so there!” then chances are they’re full of shit. Likewise if their only response is that it says so in one book and one book only.

    And yeah, as a teacher sometimes I regret telling my students that asking questions is a good idea but see when one of them sticks me with a really tough one? It makes me kinda proud…

  • What’s the best way to teach a child to tell the difference?

    Deliberately lie to them about something. Not in a harmful way but in a neutral way. Santa is a great example. When they find out that you lied about one thing then they will question whether you lie about other things and whether other people lie.

    You could also make mistakes. Fortunately I am so good at this that I don’t even have to do it deliberately.

    Don’t know the answer to every question. Say “I don’t know” when you don’t know. It is a legitimate answer and you can always follow it up with “but I know where to find out”.

    Finally teach them that the question “why” should never be answered with “because I said so”. If they ask why then have the decency to provide an answer or say “I don’t know”.

    That song was like being brainwashed by munchkins. Please make it stop before I turn into a robot.

  • gsw

    I always found that “Distrust anyone who claims you should respect them just because, respect should be earned.” Together with a general evaluation of whether disobeying is worth the hassle. Save your rebellion for real things, like when someone is trying to hurt you or force you to do something which you know is wrong.

    Nobody has the right to hurt you – whatever they say
    We (my children and I) also had a code word, which meant “Danger, jump, just do what I say now, don’t argue, we can fight about it afterwards“. I can recommend this method, but if you use it, it is absolutely imperative that, in the follow up discussion, the justification of use of the code word is valid – else the code word looses its ‘magic power’.

  • Oooh! That was creepy.

    I think authority is just a personal embodiment of experience. When we say, for example, that Stephen Hawking has authority to speak about physics, we mean it based on a common understanding of his experience in the field.

    For a child, the parent/teacher etc provides a placental authority until he/she can build up a suitable store for themselves.

    But – the child can discern after an incident whether the authority figure can be trusted.

    The only thing they really need is to know that someone will enforce justice and fairness, after the fact.

  • i found the best way to teach my child reasoning skills and to gain her respect was to not only tell her that she should or shouldn’t do something, but to also tell her why. this, from when she was a toddler, always at a level where she could understand.

    the downside is, now she expects it from me all the time, even when i don’t have a good reason 😀

  • Philbert

    But when you’re young, you think parents and pastors all have your best interest at heart

    Until you hit 13

  • Daniel

    Teach them critical thinking!

    I’m a university lecturer at a very good university. I get teenagers and people in their early twenties who can’t do it.

    Critical thinking will help stop mindless obedience like in the video (poor girls!) and if kids are taught to not only learn critical thinking, but to teach it to others and their kids, maybe in a generation or two, the world won’t be so nuts.

  • The way I tried to teach my kids good lessons on authority vs. rebellion was simply to show them that I respect legitimate authority, and also to show them different people living differently from us. The social diversity around us packs a lot of life lessons already, just waiting to be witnessed by students of life.

    I took them to libraries, coffee shops, public parks, museums, and yes, I also took them to churches. It’s important for kids to compare and contrast their own lives with the obviously very different lives of other people. Too many kids grow up with too little exposure to the broad diversity that exists in the human species as a whole. When young people see alternative ways of thinking, it expands their ability to look at a situation, and then find the most reasonable approach to solving problems. The more exposure to other ways of thinking, the more they can think. That’s my belief anyway.

  • I’m looking forward to muggle’s comment on this one.

  • I totally agree with toomanytribbles. We try really hard to give our kids real answers about why we want them to do/not do something. And we encourage questions by modeling questioning of our own and by being open about our disagreements with others.

    I think there’s a level of respect for people’s basic humanity that should be inherent and we try very hard to show that and to expect the same from them (in other words, no name calling ever, please). But obedience? That to me is a whole different thing. I don’t like when the two are lumped together, because I think they are two vastly different ideas.

  • the little boy in the band totally looks like he knows what bunk he’s being forced to “sing.”

    frankly, most kids are a lot smarter than the adults who produced this video are. seriously, this is so lame, i can here the pre-teens i know laughing their insides out, should they be subjected to it. that’s the thing with the fundies- they are so clueless about how poorly their visual and cultural product competes with what’s out there.

    as i like to say: want to make a fundie’s kid a skeptic? give them some vampire Shinto manga, take them to a dinosaur museum, and give them some moon walker robot lego kits. nothing in fundie subculture can compete with any of that, for most kids.

  • Grimalkin

    If you have to tell people to respect you, you don’t deserve it.

    I’m with Carlin.

  • Luciferadi

    Yes, so many great comments on this. I agree with Daniel about the importance of teaching critical thinking, particularly evaluating sources of information. I consider it the most important part of my junior high curriculum. A lot of specific, subject-related information falls out of students’ heads over the summer / during high school / after high school, but the habit of thinking critically and making reasoned judgments will stay with them. And they can apply their CT skills when dealing with authority, especially when viewing the authority figure as just another source of information.

  • Saint George was spot on, as usual.

  • I’m looking forward to muggle’s comment on this one.

    Hey, I had every intention of keeping it short this time. Really I did.

    Basically, I don’t have to rant because hoverfrog said it for me. I agree with him 100%.

    To that I’ll only add, anyone who thinks you should honor your parents should have to endure 18 years of mine. How in the hell can you even ask kids to honor, respect and obey adults who are abusive? And why would you want to unless you are an abusive asshole yourself looking for willing victims?

    Always question authority. Questioning authority doesn’t mean rioting. It means questioning whether or not what authority asks is justified and reasonable. If it’s not, there’s utterly no reason not to question it. Just look at what TSA’s getting away with in the name of security in airports! That should utterly be questioned. Want to fly in America these days? Be willing to be molested by strangers.

    I raised my daughter knowing I was as perfectly capable of being authoritarian as anybody, of thoughtlessly giving an order for convenience sake. So I told her, if you don’t understand why mommy tells you to do or not do something ask her why, if I can’t give you a reason, the rule goes. I’d like to say this never happened but, of course, it did. I’m just happy it was pretty rare.

    My grandson? Hell, sure I repeat that but it’s really not necessary. You can’t stop that boy from questioning everything. He has a bright, curious mind and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Oh, yeah, and that video was not only creepy as hell, it was hypocritical. You know, given that they weren’t respecting the authority of those parking spaces they were usurping. Bet they didn’t give a flying fuck about anyone needing to park either.

    the little boy in the band totally looks like he knows what bunk he’s being forced to “sing.”

    I got the same impression. And, fortunately, you are right about kids. Arbitrary rules just can’t compete with the fun that reality is.

    OK. So I meant to keep it brief and failed. At least I didn’t rant on about my fundie nutjob mother. 🙂

  • So many (Dawkins, et al)have pointed out that there’s an evolutionary/adaptive advantage to listening to your parents and that this may be how we are wired to be receptive to religious woo. This makes sense to me. As a young child, you don’t have the experience to know what is or isn’t dangerous. Those small ones inclined to listen to their parents when they told them to stay away from the forest’s edge at night didn’t get eaten by tigers and were able to pass on their genes.
    Too bad there isn’t a way to switch that behaviorally advantageous trait OFF once the child is old enough to think for themselves and it no longer conveys an advantage.
    So many of the terms, doctrines, etc., associated with monotheism emphasize an imaginary parent-child relationship. Consciously adhering to religion is in a very real sense, refusing to completely grow up and accept responsibility for themselves.

  • children truly learn by observing the way those around them act.

  • Bob

    I was blessed (raised Catholic, so the adjective applies in both a religious sense and one of general good fortune) with parents who taught me critical thinking skills. Discussions of why myself or my siblings should adhere to certain standards of conduct were never reduced to, ‘because I said so.’

    But if this is what is passing as education in some places, why is there so much opposition to Obama? He’s an authority figure, right? Or is obedience and respect to authority one of those white Christian things that us dirty frackin’ hippies don’t get?

  • Ayesha

    My parents and I were once discussing a similar topic and my dad said jokingly, “Just think, I could have had kids who just did everything I told them to!”

    My mother pointed out, “And you’d have been bored with them within a week! At least your kids are interesting and debate with you.”

    And she was right. He loves it really, loves that his kids have a bit of fire in them and stick up for what they think is right even if he disagrees with their analysis!


    ok, that was creepy. Almost as much as the creepy Prussian Blue twins.

  • Karen

    Wow, that video is not only very creepy, it’s a great way to set kids up to be sexual abuse victims.

  • Aaron

    I have very little to add to the conversation except for some Pennywise


  • roxanne

    Did anyone else notice that this video was posted by “breedministries1” and that the name of the band is “X-tReMe PoWeR”?

  • Matt

    That video made me want to throw up it was so sickening. I’m with Carlin on this too. Respect is earned. Does an abusive father deserve respect?

  • Well, the thing is, it’s not about the kids, it’s about the adults. If a child is under the control of adults who do not value curiosity, questioning and critical thinking, then they are kind of stuck until they can get out of that situation.

    The focus might be better spent on helping young adults understand these things, preferably before they have their own kids.

    One person who is doing interesting work in this area is Stefan Molyneux of freedomainradio.com

  • it’s a great way to set kids up to be sexual abuse victims.

    ding ding ding! we have a winner, folks.

    my father is a retired judge, and he spent many years on the bench in the most religious and conservative part of this state, which was also almost entirely white. when he retired, we had a conversation about his experiences, and i asked him what was the most common problem he adjudicated. his answer?

    incest/rape/domestic and child abuse of a sexual or control-oriented nature. of course this is only one judge’s perspective, but he was really blunt to me about it. “it’s the biggest problem our society has here, and the least known or discussed.” that was a long time ago; i suspect the problem is only worse today. all the pedophile and other sex crimes on the part of clergy we read about today? well, i believe they are only the tip of the iceberg, in most fundie communities.

  • James

    If you want to watch some good ideas about teaching and how we need to change education watch the “RSA animate” videos on YouTube. There are some excellent topics including motivation, drive new ways to inform in the modern economy.

    Enjoy 🙂 J

  • For those of you here that have met my boys, you already likely know I don’t support this line of thinking.

    After all, tragedies such as the abuse of children by the catholic church lasted so long because people were obeying and respecting authority instead of speaking out and demanding justice.

  • Miko

    The best strategy is to treat so-called authority figures the same way you’d treat a raving lunatic on a street corner: with no respect, with pity, and with caution.

    Listening to what they say is optional and generally a bad idea.

    And “authoritative” and “authoritarian” are not the same thing.

  • Claudia

    Wow, it’s like George Orwell’s dim younger brother decided to produce an amateur video.

    I honestly can’t understand why some parents have this notion that the only two options are “obey the authorities” and “fuck the authorities” and they have to choose which ones their child follows.

    Is it so hard to learn that you should treat people with a default of respect, unless they prove to be unworthy of it, through dishonesty or ill treatment? Also that it’s not disrespectful to ask questions in good faith. Yes it’s good to teach children, particularly young ones, that you should pay attention to what police and firefighters say, but for fucks sake, you don’t have to turn them into robots!

    It’s counter-productive on many levels. A child reared to obedience and “respect” (I dispute that there can be respect without understanding) will be more vulnerable to abuse (physical and emotional). Also, kids reared to blind obedience, if they realize they’ve been had, may tend to go too far in the other direction. After all, you’ve been taught that the options are absolute obedience or absolute disobedience, neither of which is influenced by critical thought. I fear kids who decide to finally disobey may take things too far (not murder, just things like leaving school and such) since they have no sense of scale.

  • Canadian Atheist, Eh

    I have that frigging stupid/creepy tuneless tune in my head now — and I can’t get it out!

    Thanks, Hemant. Very “friendly” of you!


  • Vanessa

    I wish I could unsee that video….

  • cat

    Can’t help but think that there is a copyright violation here, given the clear (very poor) attempt to rip off the song Respect, made famous by Aretha Franklin…

    That video was positively vomit worthy and not just aesthetically (thought that too). While there is a middle ground between authoritarian and anarchist, if I had to choose between the two, I’d pick the latter. So I’m going to go wash my brain with some punk music…

  • Carlie

    That reminds me of the actual hymn “Trust and Obey”. The chorus goes “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.” Talk about indoctrination.

  • gsw

    James Says:
    If you want to watch some good ideas about teaching and how we need to change education watch the “RSA animate” videos on YouTube. There are some excellent topics including motivation, drive new ways to inform in the modern economy.

    Spock is still the authority – “Bringing up children in a difficult time”
    Hard to believe the man wrote it when the birch was still being used in British schools!

  • During the whole video, I kept hoping that it was satire.

    I’m not a parent, but I think toomanytribbles has a good point. I was usually more willing to listen to my parents if I could understand why what they were telling me was actually a good idea. (For example, they explained to me how I could have a better future if I did well in school, instead of just telling me that I had to get good grades because they said so.)

  • Sweet Jebus

    This vid reminds me of that incident a few years ago where a prank caller calls the manager of a local MacDonalds and tells him that he’s a cop coming to arrest a thief. He then instructs the manager to conduct a strip search of a teen girl employee which is all filmed by the CC camera. The poor teen did exactly as instructed and removed all her clothes and submitted to a cavity search by a MacDonald’s manager! You can probably find it online.

  • It seems like conservative fundamentalist and evangelical Christians put an inordinate amount of emphasis on obedience and submission. People on the outside might find that puzzling, but it’s not so strange if you consider their ultimate goal. They want to raise these children to accept their deity and their holy book as inerrant, absolute authorities. They don’t want them doubting or questioning God or the Bible. So it makes sense for them to instill that character trait early, by making it a point to tell children that they must obey and respect their parents, teachers, and religious leaders.

    Oh, and if anyone wants a few more indoctrination earworms, try the Cedarmont Kids. Those songs are catchy. You won’t be able to get I Am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N out of your head. They sing a song about obedience, too, but I couldn’t find that one on YouTube.

  • Hunny

    You know… The people in Milgram’s experiment obeyed authority, and (hate to invoke godwin here but…) The Nazis also respected authority.

  • Arnold

    According to the gospels Jesus didn’t respect his time’s authorities.

  • Mark

    It appears that the school system and whatever religious dogma they have been taught has worked in spades.

    There has never been any progressive change in this world by people that subscribe to this 1984’ish propaganda.

    War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength. But it will all be OK……

  • Emily

    We (my children and I) also had a code word, which meant “Danger, jump, just do what I say now, don’t argue, we can fight about it afterwards“.

    awesome idea. Also, hoverfrog’s so spot on but I love the idea of lying in non-harmful ways. Start young, and make ’em obvious. How far away is the sun? Six-and-a-half feet, child, dontcha know?! NOPE. Any child with a ruler can tell you you’re wrong. Any kid asking the question in the first place with access to a computer/library &c. can tell you how you’re wrong. Teaching kids to depend on themselves to validate information is AWESOME. And can be quite fun too.

  • Was actually discussing something similar about parenting on Facebook the other day. Here’s my take on it:

    It’s our job as parents to GUIDE our children, not treat them as lesser human beings. When you raise a child as an authoritarian, your child will either rebel or never question authority. Both of these things are bad. Instead of forcing children to do something because you feel you have authority over them, we should be teaching them right from wrong and how to do the right thing because they WANT to, not because they are afraid of authority.
    That’s the problem with parents, they act like authoritarians and our kids grow up never questioning authority, as they should. You know why? Because all human beings are created equal, and no one person is better than another and therefor has no right or authority to exercise power over another.

    Great blog BTW, I am going to add you to my blogroll.

  • StrangerWithCandy

    Great job kids! Now get in my van!

  • mcarp

    Those kids are going to be sooo embarrassed when their college roommates find this video in about 6-7 years.

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