Monday, June 8, 2020

The Battle Of Peer Dependence: Chapter 4 - Part Three

 People's responses to cognitive dissonance fascinate me.

When I was doing research for a Master's degree before my son was born, I discussed in semi-formal interviews with students their understanding of various laws of science.  The class I was working with could be used for a general education credit or towards the biology majors/minors so there was a mix of biology majors, biology minors and non-majors.   All of the students were familiar with the biological definition of species.   The biological definition of a species is that any organisms that can breed to produce fertile offspring are members of the same species.    To explore how the students dealt with the many, many exceptions to the biological definition of species I introduced an example that flouted the biological definition of species and asked the students to discuss how that example affected their understanding of the biological definition of species.

Now, prior to getting into this area of research, I assumed that the more exposure a person had to advanced biological concepts the more likely the person would be to reject the biological definition of species (which is a more advanced understanding of the nature of science) as being flawed while people with less exposure would be less likely to reject the definition.

Oh, I was so wrong!  Non-majors sometimes needed a refresher on the biological definition of species - but when confronted with a clear exception to the definition of species - the non-majors generally stated that the definition must be wrong if there were clear exceptions to the definitions.

Compare with the non-majors, the major and minor students would wrap themselves in circles trying to reconcile the exception to the rule. 

The same discrepancy happened around the idea of the scientific method.   We teach kids and teens that the scientific method is ordered, has discrete steps and moves linearly from beginning to end.   It's a nice teaching tool - but actual scientific research doesn't work like that at all.  Hypotheses change, experiments morph and data shows that a completely different process is going on.   The group for whom this cognitive dissonance was most severe was college-students who had participated in scientific research themselves.  These students would give highly detailed descriptions of their research which didn't follow the traditional model of the scientific method.  We'd talk a bit about the model of the scientific method which the majors had heard a lot about and I ask if their research experience matched the scientific method taught in schools or not.   Most students would say that their research experience followed the scientific method - and then the students would retroactively shoehorn their research activities into the method.

I bring up cognitive dissonance because Chapter Four of Marina Sears' "The Battle for Peer Dependence" has plenty of moments where Marina Sears morphs her family's history to fit the husband-leader model of CP/QF family. 
Before moving to Arlington, while at my parents' home in Montana, God convicted and motivated me to begin home educating the children. As I started our second year of home education in Texas, I began to wish that Jeff was still alive so I could receive direction from him concerning the children's spiritual and academic courses. Remembering that God had promised me that he would fill every need in my life, he prompted me with the Scripture, " I know the plans I have for thee..." Jeremiah 29:11 made me realize that God knows my children's beginning and their end. He has fashioned them with strengths and weaknesses, abilities, and faith in order to accomplish his purposes in and through their lives. Suddenly I realized that I could ask him what he desired for them to study, and what character qualities, Bible verses, and academic subjects they needed to learn. (pg. 45-46)
Honestly, I hadn't noticed that the Sears' children had been in traditional schools prior to Jeff's death until I was doing the prep work for this chapter - but while Jeff was alive, the kids were in a traditional school.  In fact, in the previous post, Mrs. Sears' father fixed the oldest boys bike tires because Chris asked him to while Marina's father was driving Chris and David to school.

This means that Jeff Sears may have objected to his children being homeschooled when he was alive if Marina had been lead by God to start homeschooling.   Obviously, we'll never know - but there's a possibility that Marina's insistence on homeschooling would have been objectionable to Jeff.

In CP/QF land, though, a woman can never, ever make a decision for herself.  In Marina Sears's case, God made the decision that the Sears kids needed homeschooling and Marina was simply following God's plans for the kids.  By displacing all control onto God - with occasional wistful wishes for Jeff's guidance - Marina Sears does a masterful job of hiding the fact that she's personally choosing what her kids are learning.    There's a very different feel to "God is telling me how to educate my children" than a more honest "I feel overwhelmed at the idea of planning an educational curriculum for two children!" 

There's a darker side-effect that starts to appear once Mrs. Sears is certain that she's doing God's plan.  It's hard enough as a mere mortal to accept criticism of parenting choices.  Once parenting choices become mandated by God, however, Mrs. Sears develops an instrangent and prickly response to any adults who choose to raise their kids differently.  For most of us, differences in parenting choices are part of what makes life interesting; for Mrs. Sears, it's a sign that other people are failures as Christians.

As we move through the book, we will see other examples of the problems that can start when Marina's personal choices run into conflict with other adults - and her insistence that she's only doing what God wants - and therefore everyone else is wrong.