Sum Ergo Cogitabo

Taking Children Seriously

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Taking Children Seriously is a philosophical school that treats children as autonomous moral beings with the same rights as adults. One of the core beliefs of TCS is that children are just as rational as adults, they just know less (hence them making more obvious mistakes and being wrong more often.) As a consequence we should never force children to do anything against their will (this includes things like going to school or brushing their teeth.) Here is the website for more information

http://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/

What are your thoughts on the truth of this theory and its compatibility with Objectivism?

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From a quick look at the website, TCS seems fundamentally opposed to Objectivism.

"We think that there is such a thing as truth, and right and wrong, and that through conjecture and criticism, human beings can come to know and understand truths about the world, including moral truths. But what we can never get is authority, or proof, that any particular idea or belief is one of those truths." -- from Introduction to TCS page

"In my opinion (which is not shared by all Popperians, note) TCS could quite accurately have been called “Taking Karl Popper Seriously in the field of educational theory” – something that Popper himself never did." -- from TCS and Karl Popper page

"Popper is known for his attempt to repudiate the classical observationalist / inductivist account of scientific method by advancing empirical falsification instead, for his opposition to the classical justificationist account of knowledge which he replaced with critical rationalism..." -- from Karl Popper page on Wikipedia

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Taking Children Seriously is a philosophical school that treats children as autonomous moral beings with the same rights as adults. One of the core beliefs of TCS is that children are just as rational as adults, they just know less (hence them making more obvious mistakes and being wrong more often.)

That's true.

As a consequence we should never force children to do anything against their will (this includes things like going to school or brushing their teeth.) Here is the website for more information

http://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/

That's ridiculous.

What are your thoughts on the truth of this theory and its compatibility with Objectivism?

One thing Objectivism holds is that a person is responsible for the consequences of his own actions and one of the consequences of that is that parents are responsible for the welfare of their children. A parent is obligated to act for the child's welfare and hold the child's rights in trust for him until he is capable of exercising them on his own. This is very similar to what happens to money when you put it into a trust. It's yours, but you can't spend it without the trustee's permission.

There are many things a parent must do that fly in the face of letting a child do whatever he wants to do. Protecting his welfare means that he has to get immunization shots even if he doesn't want to or get an education even if he wants to stay home and play video games. It is very important that a child learns that things have limits and that whim-worshipping is a losing strategy in life.

Among the proper limits in the world are the rights of others including the rights of the parents. There were plenty of times I reminded our son that he had to follow our house rules like picking up his clothes and not playing baseball in the living room. We told him "It's our house. Your Dad and I pay for it, and we let you live here. When you have your own house you can do what you please, but as long as you live here, you have to do it our way."

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When children are "taken seriously" in the way suggested by your description of this philiosophy, they rarely achieve happiness in their lives, because they have to make every decision without the ability to foresee or fully understand the outcome of those decisions. Their entire lives are a struggle against teachers, counselors, and eventually law enforcement officers.

Parental authority is not arbitrary. It is done out of love for the child. Parents and teachers attempt to share with children the benefits they have reaped from their own experimentation with life. When kids trust their parents and make decisions based on parental wisdom, they make the right choice more often and avoid dangerous and costly mistakes.

Also, why should children be taught that the impulses of their will should be their guiding force in life? Maturity means having control of those impulses to the point of being able to coexist peacefully with other rational people and being able to make logical choices even when they conflict with the impulses of our will.

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What Betsy said!

The movement you refer to spouts a mixture of truths, half-truths and outright falsehoods. Following their advice would be disastrous. But the truths in question have long been advanced by others.

Taking children seriously (in a rational sense) has been espoused by Maria Montessori, Rudolf Dreikurs (Logical Consequences, Children: the Challenge), and Haim Ginott (Between Parent and Child), all of whom I recommend (the latter with strong reservations--to his shame, he accepts some of Freud's bizarrely irrational theories).

Long ago, as a Montessori teacher, I told someone that people usually speak to children as though they were experienced, but stupid. Whereas they need to speak as though children are inexperienced, but intelligent. When training classroom assistants, I drilled into them that children are to be treated as persons--e.g. if I accidentally got in a 2-year-old's way, I said "Excuse me" and got out of their way.

But contrary to, say, the Summerhill approach (which the group you mention seems to agree with), children NEED intellectual guidance. Teaching in Montessori classrooms was one of the most intellectually challenging and enjoyable things I ever did--as I constantly had to weigh in my mind what would be best to help any particular child become stronger and more independent. Two slogans I kept in mind: "Give as little help as necessary, then get out as soon as you can," imparted to me by a Montessori headmaster during my student training (1974-75); and (2) by Maria Montessori herself: "Any unnecessary help is a hindrance."

It's knowing how and when to give the right kind of guidance that's challenging. Guiding children properly is never routine.

They need to be offered choices--choices that, given their context, they can handle. See the books mentioned above.

If I had children of my own, I would discuss with them at least once a year that it was their job, in the coming year, to take responsibility for more and more choices in their life. (Knowing, of course, that progress is not always linear. Guiding children is an art, not a science.)

[Karl Popper is a mini-Kantian, a radical subjectivist at war with objective reality. That any movement would mention him as an influence is a dead give-away that it's poison.)

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Nice post, Bill. I particularly like the idea of giving as little help as possible. That's always made sense to me, but I've never heard it expressed explicitly. Most teachers like being "needed" more than they like teaching children to be independent. Unfortunately, this is encountered at all ages - even in college.

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