So, I wrote an answer (-3/+2 I think, or -4/+3) which sparked some disagreement and I am trying to understand whether answers of this type are actually unwelcome or whether this is just an issue of people not liking certain things I am saying.

Let me just summarize what the answer does and what my thoughts are.

  1. I used the first part of the post to put the question into perspective and to some extend attack the premise of the question (first 2 paragraphs)
  2. As this in turn allowed me to answer the actual question (third paragraph: the problem might not be there in the first place). Whilst doing this I probably stepped on a certain painful issue which people do not like to hear about which I also backed up with a source: the part where indoctrination is part of education (yes, the source was Wikipedia, but then again, this is the kind of fact you will only find in encyclopedias and Wikipedia is the highest quality encyclopedia out there).
  3. And then I finish of in the fourth and fifth paragraph with practical advice how to handle issues like these practically, whilst dismissing points from the answer that was then highest voted (last line, fourth paragraph).
  4. And then I have an 'unimportant post script' where I call out the author for calling certain behaviour bullying and making the claim that certain things proposed in comments/another answer are more bully-like.

Now, what I am trying to figure out what the reason is that I got so many downvotes? Let me just list what I have been able to think of myself, but honestly, I don't know.

  • The best reason is if people simply think the advice given in the fourth and fifth paragraphs are bad parenting advice (if so, that's a reason I am perfectly fine with!)
  • It might be because attacks on premise are really in general unwelcome on parenting.SE, in that regard I got pointed to this question.
    • My 'attack' however is regarding verifiable fact (which is why I sourced it), but through the 'attack' I am able to answer part of the question, thus 'just' a comment seems hardly sensible. Is my understanding wrong here?
    • People are indoctrinated in western post modernist thinking and thus do not realize how strongly the question is written from such a view point and are thus confused by my answer (see the top comment). In this case my question would be whether such a question should only be answered by other western post-modernists? I very explicitly made sure not to push any specific world view in my answer and only tried to make clear that it's not a case of "us vs the religions", but "just different world views" and how to raise a child in such a world.

So, concluding, I am mostly genuinely curious about one thing: are answers like this actually unwelcome or is this just a case of people disagreeing for... 'political' or emotive reasons.

  • I downvoted you because you took about three thousand words and ignored the actual question. This post is also weirdly long.
    – DanBeale
    Mar 18, 2015 at 1:25
  • @DanBeale I am not sure you read this post in that case, because the very reason this post is so long is to prevent baseless attacks like "ignored the actual question" which I directly discuss in this post in points 2 and 3. Additionally I would like to know where you found the other 2400 words that are supposedly part of my answer? Or are those just an creation/exaggeration of yours to attack my post? Mar 18, 2015 at 1:45
  • @DanBeale - please review the Be Nice policy. You are always welcome to disagree. However, being civil has great benefits for everyone. Mar 21, 2015 at 15:11

3 Answers 3


I don't downvote for content, so one downvote you got was from me because of the framing of the answer. Given the OP's comment on your answer that he felt it attacked the premise of the question, that is a likely source of a second downvote. A third was for "ignoring the actual question" (ref. DanBeale's answer below). So that's at least 3/4 because of the question's structure, not its content.

What are you truly asking? is pretty much textbook "disagreeing with the premise of the question." Regardless, it's a blunt way to start off any answer, and on its own would be better as a comment. If you really want clarification on the purpose of a question, comment on the question:

What are you truly asking? It sounds to me like what you seem to be asking is "How can I indoctrinate my child with a post modernist world view?" -- if you could clarify whether that's your intent, I have some thoughts that I'd love to expand into an answer.

As Joe has effectively outlined, you did end up answering something fairly different than what the OP intended. And I honestly think it still needs editing and rephrasing; even with your edits, it's still just not addressing what was asked.

I didn't read his question as a need to shield a child from all religions, but rather from belief structures that are not the same as his family's. I realized while writing my own answer that this could be an overreach on my part, since the struggle of raising a child among a majority religion that is not our own resonates with me. However, given the OP's comment to your answer, I don't think that interpretation was all that wrong.

  • This is not true given my experiences here. I had a question of mine heavily downvoted based on people disliking the question's premise - and 2 of them were since a new answer was posted 2 days ago. Whereas the answer that was FAR more antagonistic and dismissive of my question's premise got 4 upvotes in a couple of days and no downvotes exept mine. So the active community here does NOT frowns on this - reaction is 100% based on agreeing with content.
    – user3143
    Mar 16, 2015 at 20:58
  • I said that I don't downvote for content, I can't speak for my peers ;) Thanks for pointing that answer out, I flagged it.
    – Acire
    Mar 16, 2015 at 21:04
  • Fair enough. My point was that this seems to be contrary to observed site behavior, and as such not a good general explanation for the reason that the OP got downvoted overall (I observed many such data points when I was still active here).
    – user3143
    Mar 16, 2015 at 21:10
  • I understand your point, and I also dislike the fact that voting is a lot more based on content than question structure (it's harder with a more subjective/emotional topic like Parenting than other topics). In this specific case, there is evidence that 2/3 of the downvotes were for the cited reason, not for disagreement with the content. I'm not sure what a solution for this problem is -- heavily moderating dispute-the-premise answers can help somewhat, but not necessarily teach users what voting is really for.
    – Acire
    Mar 16, 2015 at 21:13

Answers that disagree with the premise of the question, as per this meta question, are inappropriate. IE:

How can I avoid religious indoctrination?

You shouldn't, you should indoctrinate religiously.

This would be an inappropriate answer. See this meta question for what to do; it advises downvoting and leaving comments. We do not explicitly prohibit the answers, nor will they usually be deleted (unless very low quality).

Specifically for your answer, then, the question is, does your answer fall into the category of "Disagrees with the premise to the question", or if it falls into another similar category with a similar resolution, or not.

I will start by saying you don't know why the downvotes are there necessarily (well, other than the one that was announced by the OP); they could be there because they disagree with your restatement of the question, or some other reason. Adding the final sentence to your question above is a bit indicative of your opinion, I think; people can disagree for reasons not political or emotive.

But, addressing whether your answer disagrees with the question's premise, I think it does. The question asks, "How can I shield my children from religious indoctrination", and while I sympathize with you on the possible ulterior motives, the first half of your answer is telling the OP his question is wrong, and the second half is (sort of) answering the 'right' question. That's textbook disagreeing with the premise of the question.

You are not disagreeing with a verifiable fact; that was intended to be something like a name or a place (who wrote a book, where a battle occurred, what grade in american schools a 13 year old is in). You're disagreeing with the wording and approach of the question, and with whether it's possible to defend a child from indoctrination. That's not a fact, at most that's a theory.

However, I think if you tone down the disagreeing with the OP, the second half of your answer - and even the first part, to some degree - are usable and a good answer. It's not wrong to say that an effective defense against indoctrination is indoctrination, for one; and for two, your answer really talks about teaching children to think for themselves, which is really answering the original question as provided. Almost all of the answer is fine as is: just remove the part where you actively disagree with the question, that's all.

  • But the core of my answer is that the biggest 'defense' against indoctrination is exactly what is already happening: the child being indoctrinated by parents and exposed in a non indoctrinating way to other world views. Now, I don't know whether the OP wishes to blindly indoctrinate their child, though his fear for religious world views does suggest such a thing. Mar 9, 2015 at 22:38
  • I indeed refused to directly answer how to blindly indoctrinate a child indeed, but I did try to explain the overarching situation and how to non-blindly indoctrinate a child well. With just the last part it would be like handing out weapons without explaining their dangers. Do you really think that's so bad? Mar 9, 2015 at 22:38
  • That's fine. Then say that - that's my last paragraph! Just don't also disagree with his premise.
    – Joe
    Mar 9, 2015 at 22:39
  • 2
    The majority of the first part (indoctrinate in your own ethics) is fine. Just remove the condescending disagreement where you say 'you really meant to ask...'.
    – Joe
    Mar 9, 2015 at 22:41
  • Okay, I guess I really didn't write that answer well enough then. My disagreement was meant to allow one to take a step back and thus allow a better understanding of the situation. The premise that there is a non-indoctrinated child that needs to be defended against outside indoctrination attempts is totally wrong. There is an indoctrinated child which is exposed to other world views, that's what I was trying to explain. Hmm~ I wonder how I should rewrite that/make it clearer, but thanks, this is definitely helpful~ Mar 9, 2015 at 22:45
  • I don't think you're wrong really in most of what you wrote. I think that you will have a fine answer with a little rewording. (I also am curious what others will think. This is meta, not Ask Joe, so at least wait some for others to chime in. )
    – Joe
    Mar 9, 2015 at 22:47
  • Yeah, but you did definitely help me see some issues with the post I didn't see before ;-) After all, that's what I am here (@meta) for, to learn how to better communicate. Do say, do you think the last edit makes the answer better? Mar 9, 2015 at 22:52
  • @DavidMulder I think Joe's answer sums up the situation pretty well. Your tone was a bit harsh, and I suspect resulted in some downvotes. The tone, plus the way your answer deviated into sidebar discussion, kept me from up voting what is otherwise what I'd consider a helpful answer. I didn't see sufficient reason to downvote, but obviously others did.
    – user420
    Mar 12, 2015 at 18:32
  • "Answers that disagree with the premise of the question, as per this meta question, are inappropriate" - then why did this answer get 4 upvotes and zero downvotes in 2 days, AND my own question got 2 more downvotes since it was posted?
    – user3143
    Mar 16, 2015 at 21:00
  • Votes are votes, you aren't obligated to vote under any particular policy - and if the general community (particularly, of active users) agreed this was wrong, it could change. I think the drastic difference between votes for my comment (17) (which is the correct way to express disagreement with the question premise) versus net votes for that answer (2) shows most people do not want to upvote an answer disagreeing with the premise of the question.
    – Joe
    Mar 16, 2015 at 21:11

Your answer was rude and defensive. You ignored the actual point of the question and used your answer to attack some other thing. You also took very many words to do this.

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