How anti-rational memes sabotage culture, education and the Enlightenment.
Babies are full human beings with astonishingly amazing creative minds. They are absolutely fascinating. Enjoy every precious moment with them.
Unwanted criticism can cripple thinking, destroying the means of error correction and the growth of knowledge.
We may fear that a given problem requires coercion or self-sacrifice on our part, but if we nevertheless assume that our fear is mistaken and have fun coming up with possible solutions, often, that can-do attitude can make a difference.
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.
Having a rule which overrides your reason is at best going to entrench bad habits. How do you know the thing you are forcing yourself (or your child) to do is actually right? If it is right, why can’t you (or your child) feel good about it?
When you struggle against or take a coercive approach with another person, the natural response of that person is to defend their corner and fight back. The same happens inside our own minds. When you are fighting a part of your own mind, that causes the part you are trying to stamp out to dig in, to entrench itself, to defend its corner more vigorously.
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.
How to be emotionally-intelligent in our dealings with these anti-rational parts of our mind, meeting them where they are, at their own problem situation, seeing how it feels for them from their perspective, rather than just barging in with the critical arguments that seem so rational and unanswerable to us from our (or another part’s) perspective.
There is every reason for hope! And the fact that we have noticed that coercing our children is problematic is progress compared to how things were in the static society of the past. (And hey, maybe the fact that coercionists these days seem to feel more need to justify their advocacy of coercion is itself progress?)
Life can be messy for all of us. Sometimes when we try to make improvements, part of our mind panics, and that can hurt.
Children are no less creative and rational than adults, whether or not they yet have the explicit language in which to express themselves.
Suffering does not help people learn. It impedes our ability to think. It impairs our creativity.
Losing sight of others’ good intentions is a mistake. Reacting badly, as if truth is obvious and we ourselves are in possession of it, tends to be coercive.
Creativity is what makes us human—our capacity to create new explanations, to solve problems, to come up with new ideas.
Meet the aggressor where she is, without resistance, as opposed to disapproving from above; see it from her PoV; what was this about?; what led up to this? How can we proceed positively from here?
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.
Can one be taking children seriously if one defines ‘a good relationship’ in a way that is independent of how the children feel about it at the time?
What if the thing that the child wants to risk is specifically a matter of not being able to easily get out of the situation? What if Jane wants to go pack-packing in the wilderness without a phone or radio? What if she does not want an escape route?
Innocence, properly conceived, is a positive attribute. It is the ignorance that comes from a voluntary decision not to engage (or not to engage yet) with a particular area of complex knowledge. Innocence in that sense is essential for all genuine learning. Compulsory teaching is the destruction of innocence, forcing the victims to waste the opportunity, which comes only once in each lifetime, to encounter that knowledge for the first time.
Like many parents new to these ideas, Brooke was initially shocked by Taking Children Seriously, but two years in, much has changed. This is her story.
For any human being who is not actually facing death by starvation or the firing squad, the hardest thing in life is not getting what you want—far from it—it is finding out (or rather, creating) what you want. That is what we deprive children of when we channel them into ‘keeping their options open’. It looks as though they are keeping their options open, but at each stage they are actually presented with only one option—the option where you do the standardized thing: something you can do without being human, by sacrificing the human part of yourself, the individual part.
Overt coercion is less likely to corrupt children’s interpretation of what is happening to them. But given that part of our self respect as parents taking our children seriously comes from being non-coercive, it might well be that the coercion we inadvertently engage in is interpretation-corrupting double binds. So we need to be particularly aware of the subtle mind-messing forms of coercion.
Learning is different from looking at one’s learning. Objectifying education as a thing to look at and judge interferes with learning.
Videogame players are learning not just knowledge of the overt subject-matter of the game, but inexplicit knowledge that applies in all creativity in the world. In a way, they are (mainly inexplicitly) learning how the universe works.
Parents call punishments ‘natural consequences’ when they are unwilling to accept responsibility for the unhappiness that is being caused, but accepting responsibility may be a necessary step to solving such problems.
When one is the victim of a great injustice, there is a tremendous temptation to define oneself, and one’s life, at least partly in terms of this injustice. The victim mentality is a terrible mistake because it sabotages the vital process of learning how to have a happy life, solving problems as you go along.
David Deutsch explains why he says that he could not be very productive without also being untidy.
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.
Creativity, knowledge, happiness, unhappiness and coercion: how we parents inadvertently kill our children’s creativity.
Creativity is about solving problems, and every single area of life there is involves solving problems. The alcoholic, the drug addict, the person whose relationships are destructive, the person who is unable to support himself—all these people lack creativity in those areas. Coercion causes a lack of creativity. Let’s try not to impede and impair our children’s creativity!
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.
Children are not born knowing the truth, so we should tell children our best theories, explain why we advocate certain forms of behaviour and not others, and try to persuade them through reason of the truth of our own ideas, but not coerce, manipulate or in any way pressurise them into enacting our theories. For our theories may be false: even becoming a parent does not confer infallibility upon us!
Learning involves changing preferences. Resolving disagreements involves changing preferences. People’s preferences are not fixed: they naturally change all the time. Problems are soluble!
People’s notion that young children are irrational or that teenagers are obnoxious colours their view of what is happening in reality. They see irrationality/awfulness where none exists.
Why it is a mistake to think that you are seeing evidence that reason only develops later in childhood.