links for 2009-11-26


14 responses to “links for 2009-11-26

  1. You seem to have completely misunderstood the posters. At least you’re consistent: you misunderstood the first poster too.

    The recent poster says, “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself.” Behind the main text are various labels that might be applied to children, such as “Buddhist child”, “Agnostic child”, “Protestant child”, “Atheist child”, “Muslim child”, “Catholic child”, and so on.

    Now you can disagree with the poster’s argument that we shouldn’t label children. What you should not do is claim that it is ironic that a poster making this argument contains pictures of children who have been so labelled. It is ironic only if you accept the premise of the poster, and you have made it clear elsewhere that you don’t.

    I’m genuinely shocked that people like you and Ruth Gledhill could have so utterly failed to understand the poster. All you had to do was read 12 words.

  2. How are people supposed to make a choice when they know nothing about the alternative? Why is explaining a world view to someone “labelling” them? And finally please give me proof that Christians don’t let their children “grow up and choose for themselves”. Oh, hang on. You are the proof.

  3. I despair. I wrote a comment explaining what the poster actually says and how you had, therefore, misunderstood it; I thought you might engage with what I was saying. Instead you respond with a series of irrelevant questions.

    But to try to avoid any additional misunderstanding on your part, I will answer your questions anyway.

    Of course people should have the alternatives explained to them so they can make an informed choice. I have never said otherwise and the poster doesn’t say otherwise, so I have no idea why you ask the question.

    Explaining a world view to someone is quite clearly not labelling them. I have never said otherwise and the poster says nothing of the kind so, again, I have no idea where your question comes from.

    Why should I give you proof of something I have never claimed and don’t believe? The poster doesn’t claim that either. I painstakingly went through what the poster actually says in my first comment; I thought that if you read it through you might understand that it’s not about any particular belief system or ideology.

    Let’s be clear: I haven’t said that I agree or disagree with the poster. All I’m asking is that you report fairly on what it says. If you want to criticize what it actually says, or what I actually say, I encourage you to do so.

  4. I apologise for my misunderstanding. Essentially you are saying the point of the poster is for all of us to relate to children equitably regardless of their religions and belief systems?

    But that instead they should be left to grow up and label themselves for themselves.

    Please explain exactly what you think it means for me.

    PS I haven’t asked you to prove anything you are living proof that someone who has spent a long time in church situations has the power and intelligence to think whatever they want and not be restricted by what others have tried to tell them.

  5. I think the poster is saying that children should not be labelled according to the belief system of the school they go to or what their parents believe: that the child of two atheists is not an atheist child but just a child. Then, yes, they can grow up and label themselves however they like.

    I don’t know what you think it means in general, but your description of it as “hilarious” that the children pictured have Christian parents suggests that you may have thought it meant something like: “children will be much happier if you bring them up as atheists – like these smiling atheist children here”. But that is only a conjecture and I would be interested to hear what you do think it means and what you think of what it proposes.

  6. I haven’t seen anything in the poster that indicates that it’s about schooling. There are no references to education on it that I have found. I thought the meaning was not specifically about atheist vs religious – as they have clearly placed “atheist child” in the underlying words – but about “imposing” a belief system on children. However, since it was a poster paid for and delivered by the Humanist Society there is obviously an agenda here and the children look happy and free, and are meant to be giving that message of don’t impose a belief system on me I am happy without a set system of beliefs and can make up my own mind. And that’s ironic, because the implication is that unless you don’t have a belief system “imposed” on you you can’t be happy but these kids have been made to look happy and now it transpires they do have a belief system.

  7. No, the bit about schooling and parents is my inference from the poster. These two seem to me the main routes via which children acquire such labels: most children in Britain go to school and have parents. How else would you usually get the label of, for example, “Catholic child” if you didn’t have Catholic parents and/or go to a Catholic school?

    Your interpretation of the poster is purely eisegetical. Yes, you can make anything ironic if you invent a subtext for it out of whole cloth, but that doesn’t contribute to anyone’s understanding of the issues with which your blog is concerned.

  8. The fact that you inferred that it was about schooling and parenting is equally eisegetical .

    I found it ironic for the reasons I outlined, hardly and invented subtext – actually the point of the poster – and that’s valid reason to put it on my blog. After all, one aspect of play is frivolity.

  9. I think you’ve replied to my comment without posting it.

    The British Humanist Association has several pages explaining the posters, which talk extensively about parenting and schooling. I think my inference is simply common sense but if you want evidence then here it is.

    On these pages the BHA specifically denies the interpretation that you claim is ‘the point of the poster’. For example:

    ‘The posters are about the practice of labelling children and “claiming them” for a faith. The posters are not about parents expressing their own religious, philosophical, moral or political views or even involving their children in their religious rituals.’ [emphasis original]

    Whether or not you agree with the posters, it’s clear from the above that no fair-minded person could conclude that the fact that the posters show children whose parents involve them in their religious rituals is in any way ironic.

  10. It’s impossible to take children to church, mosque, synagogue etc without being in a position of “labelling” them. And how else would you propose they are educated. It is supremely naive to assert as the pages on the humanist website do, that children don’t get labelled with things such as Marxist, socialist etc A trip to the USSR pre-1989 would quickly blow that out of the water.

    That’s not the point. The point is that the person that chose the happy looking children to represent a humanist campaign chose not two “unlabelled” children but two who had clearly been “labelled” as conservative Christian, and they did it unconsciously. They didn’t know. They were chosen because they look happy – or perhaps you are trying to say that they did know and that it was done deliberately to make a point about Christianity?
    I don’t think that’s what happened.

    Incidentally I showed this advert to some friends of mine to see what they thought it was about just to sense check myself and they thought it was about not giving kids food with additives in. So it’s obviously a slightly flawed creative approach to the problem.

  11. Now you’re doing, in paras 1 and 3, what I’ve been asking you to do: critiquing the actual argument. Broadly I don’t disagree with you. As I said at the end of comment 3, I’m not defending the posters but only their right to a fair hearing. If someone on a humanist blog put a false construction on a Christian statement that you made I would defend you in the same way. As it happens I don’t agree with the posters because, as I said in our argument about what it means to be a Christian, I think going to church regularly makes you a Christian, even if you’re an atheist or a baby.

    They got the pictures from stock photography. I don’t think it’s ironic that the children look happy because the poster is not saying that you can’t be happy if you’ve been labelled; that would be an absurd claim anyway.

    Imagine a poster campaign against child abuse that showed an unhappy-looking teenager. If the person in the picture then said that in fact they had never been abused in any way, would that make the poster ironic? I think it clearly wouldn’t.

  12. Well my contention is that that is exactly what this poster is implying and as you have remarked that it is absurd, this would suggest that my construction of its meaning isn’t false.

    Fair hearing implies the possibility of critique, my critique isn’t unfair, it just doesn’t chime with yours. And I still maintain that it is ironic that they chose happy- looking, labelled children to illustrate that children would be happier unlabelled. Your child abuse analogy isn’t appropriate. We know that if the children used in such a were to be abused they would not be happy, it would be damaging to them. Therefore the question of whether they have or haven’t been abused is not pertinent to the value of the poster as a communications mechanism.

  13. Am I right to understand that it is your contention that the poster is implying that you can’t be happy if you’ve been labelled? And that, further, my description of that idea as absurd is actually supporting evidence for your contention?

    Is it also your suggestion that the poster designers went through stock photos of children deciding that the happy-looking ones must be unlabelled because labelled children are unable to look happy in photos? And then when they found out that the happy-looking children were offspring of prominent Christians they were as dumbfounded as if they’d met a horse who teaches calculus?

    If that really is a fair summary of your position then I can have nothing further to say, except that I’m as dumbfounded as someone who’s just met a horse who is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.

  14. my contention is that the poster says that children shouldn’t be ‘labelled’ by being part of a belief system, that it is unconstructive and that they would be happier and freer if allowed to make their own choices about their beliefs when they are older . This as you point out is absurd because children often choose beliefs themselves for themselves which they may later change.

    re your second point – No that’s not my contention. What I am saying is that everyone brings prejudices to their work, they wanted to show happy carefree children, their work implied that labelling was improper for them and draws you to the conclusion that they will labelling is wrong, that it will make them unhappy. This is just the semiotics of advertising – which I admit to being immersed in , in my current job.

    Yours Dobbin the Lucasion Professor of Mathematics

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