Tales of DragonCon: Heidi

By Phil Plait | September 11, 2008 2:34 pm

At DragonCon, I met a woman named Heidi, and liked her instantly. She had that particular southern tone of voice that is no-nonsense, snappy, and fun. I didn’t get a lot of chances to talk to her, but she suggested we do more in the skeptical community about teaching critical parenting skills, and I agree. I’ll be looking into that for the future.

But that’s not why I’m writing this. I wanted to publicly thank her: she knows why. She left us a wonderful note at dinner the last night there. Heidi, we were all overwhelmed with your generosity, and it’s we who thank you. It’s folks like you who inspire us to trundle on through the mire.



Comments (17)

  1. Yet another curiousity-spiking entry that will apparently leave us all hanging.

    Anybody have any guesses as to why she’s being thanked?

  2. Ivan

    awwww yeaaaaa… details Phil.

  3. Andy

    “teaching critical parenting skills”

    What, exactly is entailed by “critical parenting skills?” Because as a parent, skeptic, and critical thinker; I’d be particularly interested in the subject matter. And as someone who lives in an area where people (even complete strangers) seem to have no problem letting you know what they think the proper way to parent is, I’m not too keen on the verbiage. It sounds precariously close to “teach parenting.” I’m assuming I’m reading it wrong.

  4. I smell an opportunity to plug my blog.

    Ok, my blog is mostly anti-mormon stuff, But personally, I was a mormon up until last year, and Now I’ve gone atheist.

    Your comment about critical parenting skills made me think of this post on my blog: http://rfmorg.wordpress.com/2008/07/15/kids-and-skepticism/

    It’s a list of books that are designed to help kids become skeptical, and develop good critical-thinking skills.

    At least, I think that’s what you were talking about. If you meant critical in another sense, as in, critical skills needed for parenting, I’m way off base.

  5. Could you please gives us the details? I don’t get a thing.

  6. Colin J

    Am I to assume that this means using critical thinking in parenting decisions, or helping my children learn to use critical thinking in their decision making? Either way, sounds like it would be a fun conversation to have. My 5 year old daughter asks WHY? a million times a day, does that make her a natural skeptic? Perhaps we need to use the idea that children are naturally curious and skeptical and help that grow.

  7. gopher65

    Children are naturally the opposite of sceptical due to their complete, implicit trust in their parents. They need to be taught not to simply accept things, but to question and think for themselves.

    But I have no idea how to do that :-). It took me ~20 years to figure it out on my own, and I still have trouble with it even today. The “I Want To Believe” phenomenon is hard to overcome, and whether you are believing in religion or in aliens (in both cases for no good reason) it is ultimately caused by the same thing: lack of critical thinking skills.

  8. I think there’s quite a lot of us interested in promoting both parent-led skepticism and educational projects.

    I think I have nearly thirty posts on the topic, here: http://podblack.com/?page_id=330

    The series on ‘Skeptical Books for Children – Part One; Part Two and Part Three and Part Four – An ongoing series for parents, educators, authors and those enthusiastic about outreach to the younger years’ is third on the list.

    Certainly parental concerns will be an important part of my presentation at the Australian Skeptics conference in Adelaide, coming up in November – ‘On Sex, Smarts and Where The SkepGrrls At’. Let me know if you want a transcript. :)

  9. Oh, nearly forgot:

    Here’s the booklist I have on my site – for children, teenagers and the ‘new to skepticism’. And a few academic paper links.


  10. For the Aussies have you heard how Hillsong is trying to sneak proselytization into government schools with lunch time concerts and events?


  11. Charlie Foxtrot

    Hi Shane,
    Yeah I read about that the other day – is that just a Sydney phenomenon, or are they trying it on in other states?

    My daughter starts prep next year – if Hillsong try this on at her school I may have to get out my special Fundy-Slapping hand…

  12. The article only mentions schools in NSW – about 40 so far have registered. Oh mate, I thought kids would be protected from this in a government school but this is outrageous. If they do this sort of thing it may even be safer to send kids to a Catholic school – at least you know what to expect and you wouldn’t get fundegelicals at lunch time.

  13. Colin J:

    My 5 year old daughter asks WHY? a million times a day, does that make her a natural skeptic?

    When my now-9-year-old daughter was younger, she used to ask “why?” all the time as well. Unfortunately, it was the defiant “why should I” type (“why should I?”) rather than the “I would love to have an explanation” type (as in “why does mixing vinegar and baking soda make all that fizz?”) Fortunately, she is now in the very-curious-about-the-world-around-her stage, and we’re encouraging her as best we can.

    She’s a very intelligent girl (totally unbiased opinion, of course), and when she puts her mind to something — look out. We see our job as to get her to use her powers for good, rather than evil.

  14. shane”

    For the Aussies have you heard how Hillsong is trying to sneak proselytization into government schools with lunch time concerts and events?

    Well, if the Christians can have their “Exo days”, just allow every religious group the same privilege. Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Druids, Pastafarians, etc. See how well that suggestion goes over. (Does the phrase “like a fart in church” sound appropriate, and ironic, at the same time?)

  15. Regarding Hillsong – absolutely. Read the book ‘People in Glass Houses’ by Tanya Levin?

    Been keeping an eye on it for a while and you should check out the site ‘Sean the Blogonaut’ too. You may also be interested in the operations of the ‘Mercy Ministries’, which in my opinion is the ‘Magdalene Laundries’ of the modern age.

    My own studies on the efforts to get fundamentalist religion into schools have focused on a publishing group called Creelman that produces ‘study guides’ in three states. But certainly, Hillsong has been working for some time. Check out their ‘Shine’ program…

  16. JennyW

    I would love to participate in any endeavor regarding teaching children to think critically and to think for themselves. I try to work that into as many parts of our schooling as possible (I’m a homeschooling atheist).

  17. I’m fairly certain he means “critical thinking for parents” when he says critical parenting skills. As he said in a previous post, it “means showing [his daughter] how to think. Not what to think, but how.”

    At the risk of linkbaiting, this is the focus of my site >domestic father, and a few others, like parentingbeyondbelief.com and Mainstream Parenting Resources.

    Skepticism is great, but only when put to a practical purpose, beyond debunking bigfoot and UFOs. Using critical thinking skills as parents, and teaching our children to do the same, is vital for anyone who wants a future free from superstition and ignorance.


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