How anti-rational memes sabotage culture, education and the Enlightenment.
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.
Babies are full human beings with astonishingly amazing creative minds. They are absolutely fascinating. Enjoy every precious moment with them.
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.
Focus on having fun playfully solving whatever problem you have in the present moment, and move forward from where you are now. Notice just how brilliant and amazing you are and how much you have achieved, alleged impairments notwithstanding!
Life can be messy for all of us. Sometimes when we try to make improvements, part of our mind panics, and that can hurt.
Babies are obviously nothing like pigs, because fast forward a year or two and one is talking to you whereas the other never will. And they are talking to you because of something that happened in that year or two, and it isn’t something that happens in pigs, ever. This is not a small difference, it is a radical difference.
That’s like saying: “The police force should respect human rights except on important issues”. I’d rather say “let’s have a police force whose ethos embodies respect for human rights”—and know that there will be some failures to respect human rights—than have an ethos which embodies systematic disregard for human rights in some areas. Similarly, with our children, having systematic exceptions to the ethos of taking them seriously instead of coercing them, makes the whole idea incoherent.
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.
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.
If my child wanted to drive, I would find a way to teach her to drive safely and legally, such as on the private farmland of a friend.
We parents sometimes imagine that we can teach our children to be sensitive to others’s wishes by being utterly insensitive to theirs, but actions speak louder than words, and our children are more likely to be kind and thoughtful if we have been kind and thoughtful to them.
We look at our respective reasons for wanting what we initially want, and we create a way to proceed that we all prefer—a new idea that did not exist at the outset.
Being fallible implies that we can be mistaken including when we feel certain that we are right. And because we are fallible, there is no reliable way to know who is right and who is wrong. Disagreements can either be resolved through reason, or they can be dealt with coercively. So no, feeling that we are right does not justify coercion.
Coercion impedes progress by impairing error-correcting processes. “The right of the parent over his child lies either in his superior strength or his superior reason. If in his strength, we have only to apply this right universally, in order to drive all morality out of the world. If in his reason, in that reason let him confide.”
The slight asymmetry is because the parent has chosen to put the child in the situation in which the child finds herself, whereas the child has not chosen to be in that situation or to put the parent in the situation.
Taking Children Seriously is a new VIEW of children—a non-paternalistic view: like other groups of human beings, children are people, not pets, prisoners or property. Full people whose lives are their own, not a different kind of person – full, equal humans who should no more be coerced and manipulated and moulded and shaped by others than we adults should be.
Ultimately, we all (including our children!) have to do what we ourselves think best, what feels right to us ourselves, not what someone else says is right. We are all moral agents in our own right. When we self-coercively override our own wisdom and do what someone else thinks we should be doing, we are acting wrongly by our own lights. No good can come of that. Treat this site as a source of speculative guesses and interesting arguments, not as an authority you should obey.
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.
A discussion about Karl Popper’s epistemology, reason, the growth of knowledge, relativism and certainty.
Coercion tends to cause a coerced state of mind, and can impair the child’s ability to reason about the thing in question.
Taking Children Seriously is neither utopian nor revolutionary. It is fallibilist and respects tradition as well as the growth of knowledge.
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.
Children’s behaviour is not random. It is meaningful. Therefore there was a reason for this incident.
Once one begins to see how extremely general this notion of conjecture and refutation is, then it begins to seem much more likely that learning always follows that pattern.
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.
One of our best theories (the framework theory of evolution) is not scientific, but that it is none the worse for that. And all scientific theories rely on a philosophical framework.
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!
Coercion is stressful because it conflicts with most people’s wider ideas about morality, human relationships, and how to run a society, etc. Unless one mentions children or parenting, everyone agrees that consent-based solutions are better that coercion every time. That theory is held on some level by most people. They just suppress it in their parenting.
Reason keeps a child safe because the child has the correct theory (that the stuff is dangerous); coercion is risky because the child’s theory is not based on the reality of the substance, but upon the possible punishment for an infringement of the parental rule.
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.
Any differences in reasoning you may think there are, are an artefact of the differences in knowledge, not any actual differences in reasoning.
Traditional education can be looked at a massive, standardized operation aiming to stuff the allegedly passive bucket minds of children.
Why it is a mistake to think that you are seeing evidence that reason only develops later in childhood.
Any rational system has virtually no knowledge compared with what is possible. The whole point of rationality is what to do in the face of ignorance. It is not what to do when one already knows everything.
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.
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.