How anti-rational memes sabotage culture, education and the Enlightenment.
When a child WANTS to learn mathematics, the learning is effortless and remarkably swift.
Plenty of children who have lived free lives as children at some point choose to get credentials and pursue paths requiring credentials, including ending up in academia. Such children just have not wasted most of their childhood locked in an institution bored out of their mind instead of doing something more interesting.
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.
Dead Poets Society is not taking children seriously. Taking children seriously is not just being a bit kinder to the inmates, or being a tiny bit rebellious against an authoritarian system you nevertheless continue to work in, it is a different thing entirely. It is about children actually being free.
Unwanted criticism can cripple thinking, destroying the means of error correction and the growth of knowledge.
People sometimes say explicitly that they are fallibilists, but inexplicably they are ‘saying’ that they are infallibilists. They say people are fallible and not omniscient, but they act as if they think people see the truth yet are wickedly choosing evil.
If, when you were five, your parents had told you that you would thank them later for the coercive education to which they were subjecting you, would you have believed them or not? And what would have made you think that they were lying to you?
If it were true that maths is boring at the beginning and only becomes interesting later, then no one would ever have discovered all the mathematics that has been discovered, because it could not have been being forced on children before it had been discovered. Each bit of maths was formed by somebody who had not been taught it but who did it purely because it was interesting.
We may subscribe to the values of rationality and taking children seriously, but when it comes to detail, we may well be mistaken about particular aspects of it. So instilling anything, including those ideas we most value, is a mistake. We want our ideas to be corrected. We want our children to be able to correct our errors, not be saddled with them.
Drop the second guessing and scrutinising and judging. It is as toxic for us as that kind of thing is for our children. If you are not feeling free—free to think, free to be and free to act in accordance with your own ideas, your thinking flying free as a bird—it might be that you are seizing up your thinking with scrutiny and judgement, objectifying yourself as a parent.
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.
he idea that criticism of others is always good is a mistake, just like it is a mistake to think that education is always good. It may be good if it is wanted, but not if it is unwanted. Coercive education is not and never has been Taking Children Seriously.
Taking children seriously means taking a child’s wish/decision to go to school seriously too.
Pretending that the road to improvement lies in receiving punishment, or in exposing one’s life to public scrutiny so that one won’t dare do the wrong thing is just horrible. A grave mistake. It really can’t help, and for the same reason doing that to children can’t help, only hinders their improvement.
John Holt was so critical of school that sometimes he appeared to suggest that even children who want to go to school should not do so.
Why schools like Summerhill and Sudbury Valley can’t actually be non-coercive.
The homeschooling mentality turns education into performance—the semblance of education. This interferes with learning.
Learning is different from looking at one’s learning. Objectifying education as a thing to look at and judge interferes with learning.
The assumption that there are things all children must know provides the justification for the provision of standard academic subjects and their non-curricular counterparts. As soon as a child is expected to devote time and attention to those, there is coercion.
This author has some good criticisms of overt coercion but spends about 200 pages advocating more covert coercion. Not Taking Children Seriously.
Learning science could include conversations, reading, thinking. It might or might not include experiments. Experiments are tests of theories—so first you need a theory to test. Theoretical physicists do no experiments at all. They think. The same could be true of a child.
What non-coercive, curiosity-driven mathematics education looks like in real life.
It is a mistake to seek evidence of children’s learning, because that can have a significant destructive effect upon the learning that is going on. They are then highly likely to switch from addressing the problem they were addressing, to the new problem the teacher has introduced, of how to perform and provide evidence for the teacher.
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.
Popper’s work provides an epistemological critique of the teacher-directed learning model, although it appears that Popper himself never made this connection.
If children are not made to write essays, will they ever learn? Does the hoped-for end result justify the coercion? An argument with a coercionist college professor.
Having pessimistic educational theories like ‘not everything that is useful is (in itself) interesting’ suggests there are things children need to learn that they will not willingly choose to learn, therefore educational coercion is necessary. That is a mistake. Educational coercion impedes and impairs learning. It does not help.
My re-wordings of what people say about a child, usually to make it about an adult, but in this case making it about learning to breathe instead of whatever the poster was saying children need to learn, aims to show the reality of what is being proposed.”
Instruction is usually not a very good way of learning things, because it does not address the immediate moment-by-moment concerns and questions of the learner.
It is educational coercion that sabotages learning, not teaching per se. WANTED teaching is different from unwanted teaching.
Unschooling or home educating parents often draw distinctions between what they are doing versus what a school teacher or homeschooling parent would do, but I often see little difference between schoolish educational coercion and what they themselves advocate. There is a pedagogical agenda in both cases.
The primary function of teachers is to hold innocent people against their will (in other contexts known as “imprisonment without trial”), to force them to do things they don’t want to do, to stop them doing things they do want to do, and to “train” (coerce) them to conform.
Most people hate school but do not feel entitled to say so, and many can’t bear to think about it so they hardly even know how they feel. Children are not the problem: coercion is the problem. Being forced to go to school is the problem.
Television is a wonderfully educational medium. How can anyone possibly compare the richness of television with workbooks, let alone compare it unfavourably?
You may think you are helping your child learn when you answer your child’s burning question pedagogically, with a question, such as ‘What do you think?’ or ‘How might we find the answer to that?’, but it is more likely to annoy them so much they avoid asking you questions in future.
For every one person who ends up loving music after being coerced to learn an instrument in childhood, there are countless thousands for whom playing an instrument is ruined, for whom playing music will forever be associated in their minds with all that pain and anguish, countless thousands whose ability to play music has been handicapped by such coercion, not helped.
Many unschoolers have a very narrow definition of ‘education’ and hold an incoherent theory in which the putative ill-effects of coercion only apply to areas deemed ‘education’. They range from ‘never offer, never refuse’ (not interventionist enough imo) to having a pedagogical agenda, or in some cases they get their children to do projects.
Parents and teachers do far more to oppress children than the laws do, and could perfectly legally desist from most of this oppression if they so chose. There is no legal requirement upon parents to punish their children for a wide range of perfectly legal activities, yet they choose to anyway. There is no legal requirement upon parents to insist that their children live with them, and yet parents whose children seek other guardians usually invoke their legal right to force the children to return. There is no legal requirement to deny children freedom of association, and yet many parents do deny their children that. There is no legal requirement to assault children, yet, in the name of discipline, many parents do so. There is no legal requirement to deny children access to information in the home, yet many parents go to extreme lengths to do so. There is no legal requirement upon parents to subject unwilling children to extra-curricular activities such as piano lessons and Girl Guides. Indeed, there is no legal requirement for parents to force their children to go to school, yet most do.
This 1989 workshop advocated taking children seriously, not just ‘autonomous learning’.