What about instilling values like freedom, fallibilism and the idea of taking children seriously?

“You have said we should not have an agenda for our children and that we should not be trying to instil anything. Why not? Surely we should give our children the benefit of our greater knowledge? What about instilling values like freedom, fallibilism and the idea of taking children seriously?”

We may subscribe to the values of rationality and taking children seriously, but when it comes to detail, we may well be mistaken about particular aspects of it. For example, some people think that rationality means Baysianism, and other people think that rationality means avoiding Baysianism. Some people think rationality means pretending emotions or inexplicit or unconscious thinking do not exist, or that feelings are irrational, while others think that that view is itself irrational. In the 50 years I have been thinking about taking children seriously, my ideas have changed in significant ways. (And no doubt they will keep evolving.) So instilling anything, including those ideas we most value, is a mistake. We want our ideas to be corrected. We want our children to be able to correct our errors, not be saddled with them.

But let’s look at this idea that we have a responsibility to share our greater knowledge. Whilst yes of course sharing our knowledge is wonderful to the extent that others want to hear it, having an agenda, or instilling values, is different. What does the idea that we should instil our greater knowledge imply? If I’m on a bus and I have greater knowledge than the people around me about psycho-neuro-endocrinology, say, or rugby, or chemistry, or fashion, should I be instilling my greater knowledge in the other passengers whether they want to hear it or not?

What you are suggesting is actually worse than that. Because I only have towards the strangers on the bus the duties of a fellow citizen, the same duties that they have towards me, of obeying the law and being polite etc.; whereas I actually have a positive duty to children in my care, to make them happy, not to teach them what I know more about unless they want to hear about it. We shouldn’t be instilling anything.

If Taking Children Seriously, or fallibilism or liberty is true and useful, then it should emerge in the conversations about the joint problems and the practical issues that arise. But anyone’s particular version of it will not in general be true. And we wouldn’t want to instil the false parts if we can possibly help it.

See also:

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘What about instilling values like freedom, fallibilism and the idea of taking children seriously?’, https://takingchildrenseriously.com/what-about-instilling-values-like-freedom-fallibilism-and-the-idea-of-taking-children-seriously/

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