Taking Children Seriously and fallibilism

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.

Experimental evidence

In this heyday of scientism, all sorts of experiments are performed to back up every conceivable view of education, and people simply cite the ones that confirm their prior beliefs and ignore the rest. Hence they are asking other people to abandon their opinions in deference to a type of ‘evidence’ which they themselves would (quite rightly) not pay a moment’s attention to if it had gone the other way.

Children learning science without doing experiments

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.

Punished by Rewards

Kohn has a gut feeling that behaviourist dog training techniques are bad, and he is quite right about that. But he has no explanation of why they are and how they are. All he has is (worthless) ‘evidence’ that they are.

Clarifying Karl Popper’s epistemology

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.

Educational theory: science or philosophy?

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.

Trying to turn philosophy into science is a mistake

We are always dealing with our theories of what is happening, never something more ‘pure’. ‘Observed behaviour’ is shorthand for ‘our theories of observed behaviour’. All observation is theory-laden. Sometimes theories’ apparent failures in empirical tests are no such thing—we just made a mistake. Science does not have any special status.

Philosophical theories are refuted by argument, not empirical tests

There is no point demanding testability of an educational theory. What one can do with philosophical theories, is refute them by argument. Empirical testing is just one of a number of types of intersubjective criticism, and the vast majority of all criticism is by argument, even in science. Most scientific theories are refuted before they even get to the stage of empirical testing.