Does a person with more knowledge have the right to control those with less knowledge? Not with adults of course: I don’t want a nutritionist to control what I eat or a film critic to control what I watch, or the government to control what I say.
Many people undervalue what they want to do compared to what they think other people want them to do. They think that they need to be obedient, without understanding or feeling good about why they have chosen to do so. Doing this to yourself is bad enough. But doing it to someone else, such as your child, is even worse, because now it is not just yourself and your own reason you are violating and harming, it is another person.
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.
This question is in effect asking “How do I mould and shape my child into a person who believes that individuals should be free from unwanted moulding and shaping by others?”
If parents knew that they could reject the conventional approach and it would not ruin their precious child’s life, many more would do so. If you cannot see that rejecting the status quo is not only right, but also will not have any disastrous unintended consequences, it feels safer to stick with the tradition of paternalistic coercion.
Children are no less creative and rational than adults, whether or not they yet have the explicit language in which to express themselves.
Children being taken seriously are not subject to an authority from whom they need permission, so they no more ask permission than we do.
Knowledge is conjectural, and we are all fallible. When everything is open to question and we do not hold anything or anyone as an authority, we are free to correct errors that otherwise would have kept us stuck and miserable. Yay!
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.
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.
When you have decided that it is fundamentally unkind to coerce people, but an authority figure is pressuring you to coerce your child, calmly say ‘sorry but I don’t agree with your fundamental assumptions’.’ All you need to concentrate on is that this is a difference in fundamental assumptions. Both the authority figure and you want what is best, and are trying to be kind. You just see things differently, because you view children differently.
Taking Children Seriously is neither utopian nor revolutionary. It is fallibilist and respects tradition as well as the growth of knowledge.
Kohn has a gut feeling that behaviourist dog training techniques are bad, and he is quite right about that. But he has no explanation of why they are and how they are. All he has is (worthless) ‘evidence’ that they are.
Children have to do what they themselves think is right, with no pressure whatsoever—that’s what non-coercion amounts to—but they also have a right to be told morality as best we see it.
How does the alleged parent’ right of authority justify behaviours we would in other circumstances regard as barbaric, immoral, or at the very least unpleasant?
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.
The problem is that when coercion is used, it really doesn’t matter whether your reasons make sense, or whether the task is the right thing to do. They have to do it regardless. It precisely blocks their thinking in that area.