How anti-rational memes sabotage culture, education and the Enlightenment.
Children learn the same way everyone does when they are completely free of others’ expectations and other interfering impediments to learning. They learn by wondering about something, thinking about it, finding out about it, perhaps reading about it or discussing it or looking it up on the internet, all driven by their own curiosity.
Parents can help their child stay the rebel that society needs to stay healthy, by allowing unfettered conversations going wherever the child’s curiosity takes them.
A child who is completely free to learn and whose learning is not being monitored and assessed is empowered. Their learning is for themselves, not because an authority figure asked them to memorise and regurgitate a set of facts or ideas.
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.
“All over the world the school has an anti-educational effect on society…” – Ivan Illich, 1971, Deschooling Society
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?
There are always gaps in everyone’s knowledge. The important thing is whether or not the person is able to (later) learn what they need to know when they need to know it.
Most home educators in Britain favour autonomous curiosity-driven learning, vs formal homeschooling.
Taking children seriously means taking a child’s wish/decision to go to school seriously too.
When your view suddenly shifts, like when viewing the Gestalt two-face image, it can feel as if Taking Children Seriously has suddenly come into focus—and this paradigm shift creates a virtuous circle of positive change.
Unless taught (a lesson) children will never learn?
Taking Children Seriously is neither utopian nor revolutionary. It is fallibilist and respects tradition as well as the growth of knowledge.
Why schools like Summerhill and Sudbury Valley can’t actually be non-coercive.
Every Education Act since 1870 has clearly intended to place upon parents a substantive duty to educate their children. Therefore, if it were ever found that some legal loophole made that duty vacuous or unenforceable, Parliament would rush to plug the loophole.
The homeschooling mentality turns education into performance—the semblance of education. This interferes with learning.
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.
Learning is different from looking at one’s learning. Objectifying education as a thing to look at and judge interferes with learning.
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.
Understanding that knowledge grows through creative conjecture and inner criticism facilitates non-coercive interactions.
Popper’s work provides an epistemological critique of the teacher-directed learning model, although it appears that Popper himself never made this connection.
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 a child doesn’t want to hear what the adult wants to say, the idea that the child has a responsibility to listen whether they like it or not is a mistake.
All choices restrict future choices. The real question is whether one is learning and growing through one’s own free choice, or not.
Traditional education can be looked at a massive, standardized operation aiming to stuff the allegedly passive bucket minds of children.
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.
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.
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.
Never stop reading to your children. I remember not wanting to read to my mother even when I could, in case she stopped reading to me. Being read to is one of life’s great pleasures we can all enjoy, even as adults.
In the UK, at least thirty per cent of school leavers (age sixteen) are functionally illiterate. Taking a wider view of schools’ success and failure, I’d say the proportion of children our schools fail is nearer eighty per cent, if you consider how little children learn in schools, and how little love of learning children end up with after eleven years’ schooling.
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.
Although Popper is not commonly regarded as a writer on education, in The Open Society, he develops a devastating critique of our academic tradition.
Professor David Deutsch on why he himself values and plays video games, and why the arguments against them are mistaken.
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.