Not everything we think is true is actually true, even if we feel 100% sure it definitely is true. No matter how strongly we feel that we are right about something, we might well nevertheless be mistaken. The subjective feeling of certainty is no guide at all to whether or not something is true. We can feel totally certain about something and yet be totally mistaken.
The school system isn’t wrong in the sense that it’s further from the truth than Karl Popper. It’s wrong like the Catholic Church was wrong in refusing to accept Galileo’s heliocentrism and in locking him up so as to protect their worldview.
The trouble with the idea of rights is that you can justify almost any postulate about children from the idea of ‘rights’ if you want to.
Subjecting anyone of any age to coercive education (unwanted criticism) is not taking them seriously. Nor is it even taking the valuableness of criticism seriously! Let alone taking the growth of knowledge seriously.
Taking Children Seriously is a new VIEW of children—a non-paternalistic view: children do not actually need to be controlled for their own good. An Oxford Karl Popper Society talk.
A discussion about Karl Popper’s epistemology, reason, the growth of knowledge, relativism and certainty.
The point of Taking Children Seriously of course is not to have the children “rule” the parents—but it is unavoidable that that is how it will be seen from the worldview of an authoritarian society. To an authoritarian worldview, the question is not “is there an authority in this situation” but “who is the authority in this situation.” In any situation where there is no authority, one will be invented or imagined.
We believe that it possible for human beings, through conjecture, reason and criticism, to come to know and understand truths about the world, including truths about the human condition and about specific people, and including truths about matters that are not experimentally testable. We do not believe that we possess the final truth about any of these matters, but we do believe that our successive theories can become objectively truer—with more true implications and fewer errors.
In this heyday of scientism, all sorts of experiments are performed to back up every conceivable view of education, and people simply cite the ones that confirm their prior beliefs and ignore the rest. Hence they are asking other people to abandon their opinions in deference to a type of ‘evidence’ which they themselves would (quite rightly) not pay a moment’s attention to if it had gone the other way.
Those who believe the conflict-of-interest theory alleging that problems are not soluble will always be puzzled when they find a situation that looks like an inherent conflict of interest but turns out not to be, as commonly happens when people start taking their children seriously.
An Objectivist reevaluates Karl Popper after discussions with Popperian people taking children seriously.
Karl Popper’s theory prevails because it solves problems other theories of the growth of knowledge fail to solve, it is a better explanation than its rivals, and it unifies ideas previously thought to be unconnected.
Once one begins to see how extremely general this notion of conjecture and refutation is, then it begins to seem much more likely that learning always follows that pattern.
Understanding that knowledge grows through creative conjecture and inner criticism facilitates non-coercive interactions.
Creativity is not caused by problems, otherwise anyone who had a problem would solve it straight away. The only way to solve problems is through a creative rational process.
One of our best theories (the framework theory of evolution) is not scientific, but that it is none the worse for that. And all scientific theories rely on a philosophical framework.
Popper’s work provides an epistemological critique of the teacher-directed learning model, although it appears that Popper himself never made this connection.
We are always dealing with our theories of what is happening, never something more ‘pure’. ‘Observed behaviour’ is shorthand for ‘our theories of observed behaviour’. All observation is theory-laden. Sometimes theories’ apparent failures in empirical tests are no such thing—we just made a mistake. Science does not have any special status.
There is no point demanding testability of an educational theory. What one can do with philosophical theories, is refute them by argument. Empirical testing is just one of a number of types of intersubjective criticism, and the vast majority of all criticism is by argument, even in science. Most scientific theories are refuted before they even get to the stage of empirical testing.
How you think people learn informs all your interactions with your children. If you view learning as a creative act in a critical-rational process, you will value highly the idea of consent in decision-making. If you believe people learn through divine revelation or by having knowledge poured into them, that will inform your interactions in a different way from if you think that they learn though conjectures and refutations: you may well think coercion necessary.
When people ask about a child staying at a friend’s house with no parents, do they want not only to know how they might handle it, but why that way, and why not the conventional way. Those whys are philosophy—ideas. That is why we get philosophical.
What if our whole policy of maximising our children’s welfare is mistaken? We parents cannot maximise our children’s welfare without modifying our ideas and practices when they seem mistaken.
Traditional education can be looked at a massive, standardized operation aiming to stuff the allegedly passive bucket minds of children.
Ideas of what constitutes taking children seriously are open to criticism and revision in the light of new knowledge. I am under no illusion that my ideas are The Final Truth.
There is nothing in the statement “I am fallible” that prevents me from being right some of the time or even all the time, or on any particular occasion of taking into account the fact that I may be right.
Any rational system has virtually no knowledge compared with what is possible. The whole point of rationality is what to do in the face of ignorance. It is not what to do when one already knows everything.