“The misconception that Taking Children Seriously assumes or requires that children are born with perfect moral knowledge arises out of the conventional (coercive) educational theory which mistakenly holds that children learn moral knowledge through coercion, and that no one would have any interest in improving their moral knowledge unless forced to do so.”
– Sarah Fitz-Claridge
“Surely children are not born knowing right and wrong?”
Of course they are not. The idea that Taking Children Seriously implies or assumes or requires that children are born knowing right and wrong, or that children can do no moral wrong, is a misconception. The idea that children are born knowing right and wrong implies that they are born with perfect knowledge in the sphere of morality, or that they guess the truth the first time. But that is no more likely than that they would guess the true theory of physics the first time. Or the true theory of anything else.
Children are bound to make moral mistakes, no matter how they are raised. They do not have perfect moral knowledge, any more than we adults do. It is important to understand this, otherwise you will be failing to give your children the benefit of your moral wisdom, and the results could be catastrophic.
The idea that there is such a thing as right and wrong, and that we should all strive to do right (and indeed that we are trying to do right), is important in Taking Children Seriously theory and practice. So is the idea that we are all, parents and children alike, fallible (i.e., we can make mistakes).
The misconception that Taking Children Seriously implies, assumes or requires that children are born with perfect, inerrant moral knowledge, arises out of the conventional (coercive) educational theory which mistakenly holds that children learn moral knowledge through coercion, and that no one would have any interest in improving their moral knowledge unless forced to do so. So anyone who rejects coercion must, from that mistaken conventional perspective, be assuming that children are born already knowing right and wrong. Actually, coercion impedes and impairs learning, including of moral knowledge, and the vast majority of people including children are trying to do the right thing and trying to improve, including morally, and no one has perfect moral knowledge.
- Is it necessary to reject authority?
- Memes survive by being good at getting themselves replicated
- Mistakes and what to do about them
Sarah Fitz-Claridge, 2022, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘Surely children are not born knowing right and wrong?’, https://takingchildrenseriously.com/surely-children-are-not-born-knowing-right-and-wrong/