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.
The trouble with the idea of rights is that you can justify almost any postulate about children from the idea of ‘rights’ if you want to.
Children very much need our love and protection, our care and attention, fun and play, support and vast amounts of engagement with their ideas and interests. They are not born able to survive and thrive without us. Only in the case of children do people think that needing support, protection, assistance, information and other things implies not having the same freedom, rights, respect and control over their lives as others.
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.
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.
What a moral person would do, and want, depends, among other things, on what he believes the rights of the various people concerned are. And the consistency of this moral background, helps the parties to interact with each other non-coercively.
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.
I and others believe that coercing children is harmful to them. We also believe that not coercing children is a desirable and possible lifestyle which also is nice for the parents. Please tell me how these views might be altered by correctly taking into account who my house belongs to.
Herbert Spencer argued that children have equal rights with adults. In his Social Statics, written in 1850, Spencer boldly states that every child “has claims to freedom—rights, as we call them—coextensive with those of the adult.”
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.
If you are using language decently you do not use the word ‘rights’ for things that are compulsory for the person. Rights are supposed to be something we want, not something we don’t want.
When I criticise parental coercion, parents sometimes complain that I am violating parents’ rights—the right to interact with their children according to their own conscience. Children too should be free to act according to their own conscience.
The standards used to judge legal competence differ when it comes to children. How could the law take children more seriously without disastrous consequences?
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’.