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Ray Girn, The Self Made Child: Maria Montessori's Philosophy of Education

Ray Girn, The Self Made Child: Maria Montessori's Philosophy of Education

(these are paraphrases after the > unless in quotes, because it's from audio and he chose not to offer a transcript for better discussion.)

> (5min) presents a concept of reason and says purpose of education is to impart this to child so he can be a reason-using adult.

i disagree. there's no conception here of the child disagreeing, or of error-correction of the parent/educator's conception of reason. there's no concept of it being the child's life, and his decision what ideas to accept. the parent should offer these things, but rely on persuasion. the goal should be to help the child, not to decide before the child is born what ideas the child should have in his head when he's 20 and then figure out how to get that result. that kind of predetermined and not-open-to-disagreement parental agenda ends up meaning trampling all over the child as an autonomous individual with a mind and rights.


> advocates parents using force to limit TV, and takes that for granted as right. puts it in the same category of as helping child not get run over by a car or die from guzzling lighter fluid.

note the key difference: the child does want to watch TV, but does not want to be hit by a car or be poisoned by lighter fluid. the child is not actually trying to commit suicide and doesn't want that. but does want TV. so the examples are completely different. but Girn mixes them together as the same thing, as cases where he thinks parental force is clearly OK.


> says you can't compel THOUGHTS (as opposed to using compulsion for ACTIONS like drinking poison), can't force a child to have certain ideas, like how you shouldn't force people to read Atlas Shrugged

ok


> Montessori idea is, instead of freedom, to offer the child prepared freedom – design an environment to channel and leverage child's nature (instead of using compulsion)

yeah, it's all manipulation for the predetermined parental agenda. no fallibilism, no error correction of parent's agenda, no full freedom for child, just (this is common today) trying to find ways to control child without it being force.

> (14min) quote "the child will receive a lesson from the adult, a demonstration of (this is probably a 2.5 or 3 yo child) this activity, and then will be left free to kinda explore and repeat at his leisure"

notice how the child is explicitly free AFTER the lesson – NOT free about whether he wants this lesson. that's not an accident of wording, it's the child being compelled. he goes on to say things like "children work through activities like these" – it's decided in advance before the child is born and he doesn't have a choice. that is force.


> nothing in the mind that doesn't come from the senses

emphasis on training senses


> various activities, like blocks and number rods

the numbers stuff is trying to connect sound, symbol, amount. the activity itself sounds just kinda painfully awful and unpleasant, something i would have hated. there's an element of taste here and some people would like it better, but it's not presented as this thing for 20% or even 50% of kids, it's presented as what the kids do at Montessori. (i'm sure they have some choice if they hate one particular activity, but i think they get offered a bunch of activities which, in certain ways, are all similar, are all coming from the same kind of design philosophy. choice is limited and someone who doesn't like one activity of this style could easily dislike most of them).

these activities aren't open ended. they are designed to have a single outcome, and if child does it a different way that he thinks is better, he gets corrected. it's not like real life where you're doing exploration and coming up with your own goals and it can lead to other things. it's all predetermined and setup to go a specific way, like people at regular school doing the science experiment in the textbook in order to get the already-known result they are told to get, rather than as part of following their interests.

like my friend's kid tried to make a train out of blocks at a Montessori school, and then got corrected cuz that wasn't how the blocks were supposed to be used. that's mean. and it's not just some aberration at that school, it fits the Montessori way of thinking. the audio lecture was just saying how the activities are self-correcting, the toys are designed to only work one way and if the child does something else it doesn't work. meaning the adult already has in mind his mind a specific way the stuff should be used, that's the intended point he's trying to ensure happens. so of course that kinda perspective isn't friendly to deviance or innovation. the whole prepared environment thing is trying to do things like take away distractions, and decide which things a child should learn, that's the whole design here, not to let the child pursue his own interests and goals (like making a train out of blocks instead of learning the adult's lesson).



> curriculum not offered by teacher but embedded in world the child explores

this is dishonest. the teacher set up the curriculum in an indirect way, then pretends it's just child exploring the world.

and it's so controlled. the child doesn't get any non-Montessori toys, isn't allowed to have other stuff he might want like iPads or legos. so then the child, given only Montessori stuff, ends up doing some of it, rather than nothing. then parents see that as evidence the kid likes the stuff.



> (22min) materials are selected by what's enticing to child, what child directly needs, what child indirectly needs to gain something else, and then they're all set in order. then it plays this clip of Maria Montessori saying the choice of what to do is up to the child and the teacher is in the background.

but the teacher is deciding what teacher thinks child needs to accomplish teacher's agenda that was set before child was born. teacher is deciding what teacher thinks entices children (not what they actually find enticing like more TV watching). teacher is totally controlling the child's environment to control the child, and this is all on purpose, and then at the same time teacher is claiming to merely be in the background.


> (23min) Maria Montessori says b/c the curriculum is embedded in the materials, whatever the child chooses he ends up working on the curriculum

so you see the child has no choice, it's work on the curriculum or work on the curriculum. he's heavily controlled.

then Maria Montessori elaborates that even that isn't enough control. for example, if the child chooses geography stuff over and over, then she'll come up and push math on him in a way where she doesn't feel like a thug but she makes sure to get her way...

> freedom for child to engage in reasonable forms of activity, not anarchy

so it's: you have freedom as long as you don't deviate too much. you can disagree as long as it's within the scope of what the authority considers a reasonable disagreement and allows, but nothing more.


> (29min) ground rules

> can't interrupt unless you follow a politeness procedure

> only may use materials if you receive the presentation (b4 that, off limits)

and if the child wants to use a material but not receive the lecture? then the RULES are enforced by FORCE, right? gentle force if possible – trying to guide the child, ask him to stop, put subtle pressures on him. (just like the government doesn't send armed men to collect taxes, they just mail you some forms to start with, most people never see the guns)

(concretely, what they frequently actually do is kick kids out of the school to dodge the issue. if the kid is noisy, doesn't obey some rules about what materials he can use, stuff like that, and their pressure doesn't work, then the kid can just get kicked out, which is pretty common.)


> talks about uninterrupted time

actually there is a preset schedule which interrupts the children, even if they don't want to be interrupted, a few times a day. (how? what if child doesn't obey? you take it from there)

> says how adult is guide, comes in now and then (yes, during "uninterrupted" 3 hour work period), not directing the process, shows a learning period video

this is dishonest. the adult is controlling everything indirectly. does less directly. then talks about not directing things because his control is indirect. it's just a rationalization of control, and they keep talking about it like it isn't control.


> (41min) says how child is learning to be free in this citadel of knowledge where nothing is accidental, it's all lovingly selected. rich knowledge designed for purpose of "allowed" child to learn how to live well.

how to live well according to parent's concept of living well, which child is not free to disagree with.

> (44min) says to prevent 10 year old from playing video games all day or drinking a bottle of whiskey

prevent by force. why do those particular things justify force? what's so bad about video games? it's just convention, it's saying stuff lots of people believe, not doing philosophy. and there's an element of whatever children like is assumed to be bad: http://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/video_games_a_unique_educational_environment

> says something about engendering curiosity

Girn has this concept that the child kinda sucks. he has to be carefully controlled to get good. he doesn't have curiosity at birth, you have to find some way to make him curious. he's not rational, you make him rational.

this contradicts my understanding of Atlas Shrugged where John Galt is a **normal man**, and the reason other people aren't like that is because they are broken. you don't have to do something special to get a John Galt, you just have to not break the kid. but Montessori isn't about making sure not to break the kid, it's trying to do all this special stuff.


> (48min) wonders how much education should emphasize transmission of integrated body of knowledge, deep knowledge of the "Western canon". Girn is unsure

> if child won't learn it voluntarily, it's our problem as educators (to figure out how to get him to learn it voluntarily). says stuff about cultures of learning, respect for intellect, role models, inspiration, resources, materials, lessons which give motivation

as long as the end result is predetermined and inflexible, no amount of trying to make it voluntary will ever make it actually voluntary.


> classical education prioritizes gaining knowledge, loses importance of it and applications

> progressive education ignores that child needs knowledge

> Girn advocates third way between classical and progressive. mentions that child is left "completely free"

i think it's notable this "third way" doesn't reject the existing continuum and reconceive of education, it's just, by his own account, in the middle, trying to get the good stuff from two different schools of coercive education.

> (60min) what about consent? Girn knows it's important but hasn't been able to figure out how it affects these topics.

sigh. yes, consent is a big deal when you're trying really hard to control human beings. if they'd respect consent at all times, they couldn't do lots of what they do.

10 year olds don't *consent* to be forcibly prevented from playing video games they want to play. kids don't *consent* to being forcibly prevented from watching TV they want to watch. kids don't *consent* to having access only to Montessori materials, not iPads. Kids don't *consent* to being forced to have to do a presentation thing before using some materials even if they'd rather use those materials now.


> (65min) questioner asks about explicit training in mind self management, and generally about updating Montessori to teach newer stuff. Girn says they do some stuff like that

the whole premise is the educator deciding what the child does, rather than offering things to child that child might want and can make a choice about. it's authoritarian.


> (68min) question about whether/how to teach Objectivism. Girn says he doesn't really have an answer. says if kid is exploring it on their own then they can do a bunch, but if you're imposing it be more conservative.

so, you can impose some stuff on child, at all, ever. he's fine with that.

at the beginning it was like everyone agreeing not to make Atlas Shrugged required reading. but here he is being OK with imposing some Objectivism on kids, if you're like careful or something he hasn't worked out clearly.

> (76min) Girn says how some people have Montessori preschool, then regular school, then at University it's like Montessori again with choice.

given my view of universities, this is damning.



big picture: the whole thing is how to control the child while also thinking you aren't a thug. there's lots of stuff like this today because many, many parents want both of those things. but they contradict and this whole thing is irrational – it assumes the educator is right, doesn't concern itself with disagreements or with any error-correction of educator's ideas, and it doesn't respect the child as a real person.

Elliot Temple on October 6, 2015

Comments (18)

> advocates parents using force to limit TV, and takes that for granted as right. puts it in the same category of as helping child not get run over by a car or die from guzzling lighter fluid.

Montessori died in 1952. what did SHE actually said about TV, if anything?

i have the impression lots of modern educators take on her name for prestige and fill in the gaps with their own common ideas to make them sound more educated and important than they are.

like o'ists do with Rand.

[just read it all through and realized this educator is an also o'ist, right? lol.]

> - Montessori idea is, instead of freedom, to offer the child prepared freedom – design an environment to channel and leverage child's nature (instead of using compulsion)

seems cheaper to expose the child to a real environment and help the child with that. some montessori things seem cool, like child sized furniture and tools and etc. and taking the child's competence in learning to do real things seriously like using a knife.

> and it's so controlled. the child doesn't get any non-Montessori toys, isn't allowed to have other stuff he might want like iPads or legos.

what do you think of osmo? it has an element of appeasing but seems cool to play with.

> says to prevent 10 year old from playing video games all day or drinking a bottle of whiskey

well, drinking a bottle of whiskey can kill.

> at the beginning it was like everyone agreeing not to make Atlas Shrugged required reading. but here he is being OK with imposing some Objectivism on kids, if you're like careful or something he hasn't worked out clearly.

did you see that video where some o'ist was happy that AS was required reading in some schools? i remember Liberty (lol does she live up to her name) saying that given that schools are going to force reading books anyway, it was better than forcing karl marx.

Anonymous at 6:07 PM on October 6, 2015 | #3626
Ray Girn is an Objectivist, I got the lecture from the Ayn Rand estore, see the link at the very top of the post. It was recommended to me by an Objectivist who endorsed the content.

I have not researched how well this corresponds to Maria Montessori's original views.

I'm not familiar with osmo or the video you mention.

> well, drinking a bottle of whiskey can kill.

and the video games can't, so why are they being lumped together?

Elliot Temple at 6:20 PM on October 6, 2015 | #3627
>> well, drinking a bottle of whiskey can kill.
>
> and the video games can't, so why are they being lumped together?

i guess they think video games kill the brain slowly or something?

like sugar causing diabetes type 2?

or maybe it's to create confusion. it was often used as an argument that tcs was impossible because you have to coerce a toddler who wants to cross the road out of an incoming truck.

osmo: https://www.playosmo.com/

Anonymous at 6:34 PM on October 6, 2015 | #3629

Anonymous at 7:57 PM on October 6, 2015 | #3644
https://goo.gl/UAe671

my comments to the comment of one guy in that thread.

> A child, until he reaches full independence, can only be partially autonomous.

Why?

> This is why the Objectivist position is that children are not legally entitled to exercise the right to liberty. Children are categorized as being incapable of doing so.

Arbitrarily?

> And in a sense, it's true. You can leave a child to his own devices

This was not suggested.

> and allow him to set the agenda

This is different from "leave a child to his own devices"

> The child, just like everyone else, can make mistakes, and his profound lack of knowledge makes it almost inevitable that he will be up the creek without a paddle in his attempts to navigate a world too vast and complex for him to sufficiently comprehend.

"Just like everyone else" doesn't mean the child is an exception who should have different privileges.

Why do you think coercion is the best way to help children navigate the world?

> From my perspective, the child lacks rationality, independence, and he lacks the means to explore and understand the world around him except in the most primitive, rudimentary way.

It's not about whose perspective, what idea is true to our best of our knowledge.

And you're not explaining why you chose this perspective and rejected the others.

> He lacks the capacity to meaningfully understand how to draw the distinction between right and wrong. If the child were rational, independent, capable of operating on the full conceptual level, the parent's job would be finished, and there would be no question of how to raise him, he's raised.

Why do you think it's a problem of capacity? Adults often can't tell right from wrong either. Adults make mistakes, you said it yourself. All of us make mistakes all the time. And you don't accuse adults of not being rational.

> The whole problem to be solved here is how to give the child an environment which is optimally arranged for the development of the self, so that he can one day become capable of choosing his own path in life.

Elliot criticizes the liminations of a Montessori environment versus a richer environment with TV, iPads, etc.

> Now, it's true that there are consequences, grave consequences, of making a child do something against his will. The parent ought to make every effort to convince the child of what is right through rational argument. If that fails, the parent may try to seduce or manipulate the child into choosing correctly. And if that fails, the parent may confront the child with the absolute nature of their parental authority. If that fails, the parent may threaten to serve unappetizing meals, or shut off the internet connection or disable the television. If that fails, the parent may threaten to withhold other privileges. If that fails, the parent may threaten to take away the child's personal possessions.

Why do you think it's OK to be a tyrant?

Do you force your friends to do what you want, when you think they are wrong? Why not?

If the parent is wrong, wouldn't that be disastrous for the child and also the parent, who refuses to correct his wrong ideas?

> One thing that I would like to point out here is that the parent, being possessed of much more knowledge and intelligence, will generally, with enough time and creativity, be able to convince the child to cooperate.

How will the parent know if the child genuinely agreed with the parent's idea or just pretended to in order not to be punished? What is the advantage of the child to pretend? That's teaching a child to be second-handed.

I guess it explains why O'ism today fails to have prime movers.

Anonymous at 11:36 PM on October 6, 2015 | #3648
Ok, I have a few comments to make. First of all, I think that a lot of our prior discussion on this subject is still relevant.

Elliot has a vision of child-raising wherein the child's autonomy is respected in the same way that we would respect the autonomy of a friend, colleague, or romantic partner. In many respects, autonomy is just another way of saying freedom.

Elliot is correct to point out that generally, people, myself included, are uncomfortable with the idea of parents forcing their own vision of an ideal life upon a child against his will. We would all much prefer to deal with a child the same way we deal with our peers, by voluntary persuasion.

However, when one considers the general issue of children coming into conflict with their parents, a certain problem arises. The child is not independent. Whether he chooses to recognize this fact or not, the child needs his parents for certain things, including but not limited to food, clothing and shelter.

A child, until he reaches full independence, can only be partially autonomous. This is why the Objectivist position is that children are not legally entitled to exercise the right to liberty. Children are categorized as being incapable of doing so.

However, I do not think that Elliot is making an argument on the basis of *legal* principles. There are reasons why it makes sense to consider the child's wishes in any number of areas.

I think that the central issue under debate here is illustrated by this quote:

"Girn has this concept that the child kinda sucks. he has to be carefully controlled to get good. he doesn't have curiosity at birth, you have to find some way to make him curious. he's not rational, you make him rational.

"this contradicts my understanding of Atlas Shrugged where John Galt is a **normal man**, and the reason other people aren't like that is because they are broken. you don't have to do something special to get a John Galt, you just have to not break the kid. but Montessori isn't about making sure not to break the kid, it's trying to do all this special stuff.

Elliot, am I correct to infer from this that you interpret John Galt as being differing from those around him mainly because he was raised differently? I do not see how you could have come to that conclusion. The plot of Atlas Shrugged does not arise from the fact that one man happened to have been raised differently. That would raise the question of why he was raised differently.

I think that I have a very different view of human nature than you do. You seem to think that the child starts out rational, and the limitations of his capacities are due to a lack of knowledge, not a lack of virtue. Based on a number of her statements, I think it's possible, though by no means certain, that Ayn Rand might have agreed with that, but I do not.

It is true that it is the child who has to create himself, and that no parent can force his child to be rational or to learn or force his mind in any way. However, your perspective, which dictates that parents have no moral licence to prevent a child from watching television, arises from the premise that the child is capable of shaping his life on his own initiative.

And in a sense, it's true. You can leave a child to his own devices, and allow him to set the agenda, but a problem arises here.

The child, just like everyone else, can make mistakes, and his profound lack of knowledge makes it almost inevitable that he will be up the creek without a paddle in his attempts to navigate a world too vast and complex for him to sufficiently comprehend.

From your perspective, the child has rationality, independence, productiveness, curiosity, etc. and the parent can either protect him from threats to his liberty to explore the world with his mind or become his jailer.

From my perspective, the child lacks rationality, independence, and he lacks the means to explore and understand the world around him except in the most primitive, rudimentary way. He lacks the capacity to meaningfully understand how to draw the distinction between right and wrong. If the child were rational, independent, capable of operating on the full conceptual level, the parent's job would be finished, and there would be no question of how to raise him, he's raised.

The whole problem to be solved here is how to give the child an environment which is optimally arranged for the development of the self, so that he can one day become capable of choosing his own path in life.

Since the child does not have a way of understanding what's best for him except in the most vague, incomplete way, it is the responsibility of the parent to make all of those important life decisions for him until he is able to do so himself. This necessitates not giving the child a choice if he disagrees, in many cases.

It's true that this perspective only works if the parent actually knows what's good for the child, and many parents make tremendous errors. However, someone has to decide, and in my estimation, that someone cannot be the child.

Now, it's true that there are consequences, grave consequences, of making a child do something against his will. The parent ought to make every effort to convince the child of what is right through rational argument. If that fails, the parent may try to seduce or manipulate the child into choosing correctly. And if that fails, the parent may confront the child with the absolute nature of their parental authority. If that fails, the parent may threaten to serve unappetizing meals, or shut off the internet connection or disable the television. If that fails, the parent may threaten to withhold other privileges. If that fails, the parent may threaten to take away the child's personal possessions.

However, with increasing severity of punishment, there is an increasing risk of escalating conflict between child and parent. It's not pretty, but ultimately, the child will come to understand that he has no choice but to tolerate his parents and conform himself to their demands (within reason) until he reaches the point where he can go out on his own.

There are many cases in which attempts to make the child do something he doesn't want to do will be unproductive. The more time the child spends doing things he doesn't want to do because he has to, the more likely that he will develop an increasingly duty-premise psychology. However, it is sometimes necessary for parents to put their foot down, particularly concerning serious health issues.

One thing that I would like to point out here is that the parent, being possessed of much more knowledge and intelligence, will generally, with enough time and creativity, be able to convince the child to cooperate. Patience, in particular, is an asset the child generally has yet to develop, and this can leveraged to great effect.

Too often, parents resort to unnecessarily extreme measures because they do not wish to take the time to understand the child's reluctance to cooperate and address those concerns at the child's level. The child, sensing the parent's dismissive attitude, will become increasingly rebellious in response.

So, to an extent, I think we agree that raising children is a challenging and complex art. However, I hold that the parent must set boundaries and choose the agenda for the child's life, and you think that the child should be left free.

EG at 12:08 AM on October 7, 2015 | #3650
>Elliot is correct to point out that generally, people, myself included, are uncomfortable with the idea of parents forcing their own vision of an ideal life upon a child against his will.

if you are uncomfortable with it, then why do you spend much of the rest of your post defending it. do you think it's the lesser of 2 evils? it sucks, but not as bad as the alternative you've imagined?

Well, TCS explains a better alternative - an alternative which you don't understand yet. But you can learn it! Yay! And this should THRILL you because then you can learn and tell others about this alternative which does not suck and will not make you uncomfortable.

>We would all much prefer to deal with a child the same way we deal with our peers, by voluntary persuasion.

Then you'll <3 TCS.

TCS (which you don't understand yet) offers a way to do this. How awesome is that?!? does that seem unimaginable to you? does that seem too good to be true?

TCS is good and true, which is why it's crucially important that people learn and talk about it and spread this super valuable knowledge. As someone who values philosophy, this should be of great interest to you.

Ask questions about TCS and learn about it!

EM at 6:35 AM on October 7, 2015 | #3656
>The child, just like everyone else, can make mistakes, and his profound lack of knowledge makes it almost inevitable that he will be up the creek without a paddle in his attempts to navigate a world too vast and complex for him to sufficiently comprehend.

which is why the parent needs to HELP the child. TCS explains this.

I agree that children are born dependent, fallible, and lacking in lots of knowledge. So one question is "how to help kids learn stuff and become independent?"

TCS says persuasion. You say force (if necessary). TCS allows for the idea that the PARENT could be wrong and allows the PARENT to correct errors. You do not.

Now you also say:

>It is true that it is the child who has to create himself, and that no parent can force his child to be rational or to learn or force his mind in any way.

So why do you choose force when you understand that "no parent can force his child to be rational or to learn or force his mind in any way."?

TCS philosophy doesn't have contradictions like this.

>Since the child does not have a way of understanding what's best for him except in the most vague, incomplete way, it is the responsibility of the parent to make all of those important life decisions for him until he is able to do so himself.

can you give an example?

And if one of goals is to help a child become independent, then how will making all important life decisions for him help a child learn to *independently* be able to make those choices?

Again, this doesn't mean kids are left to their own devices with no help, input, criticism from the parent. Kids needs LOTS of help.

But concepts like help and persuasion and consent and autonomy and MUCH different than force, which is what you explicitly advocate.

EM at 6:53 AM on October 7, 2015 | #3657
I think we disagree about parenting in a BIG way, there's a large difference in philosophical perspective, and the stakes are very high – it's really important. So I hope you'll have the interest and patience to discuss at length.

For simplicity, let's discuss 7 year olds first. When we talk about a child, let's have age 7 in mind. If we make some progress in the discussion, we'll do younger children later.

I went back over the previous discussion per your recommendation.

There's lots of issues, but I'm working on writing something focused. Preliminarily, I want to clear up two points.

1) Do you think parents owe food/shelter/etc to a child for free, for nothing in return? Or do you think the child is beholden to the parent in return for the food/shelter/etc?

2) You asked, "Elliot, am I correct to infer from this that you interpret John Galt as being differing from those around him mainly because he was raised differently?"

No. Galt's upbringing/education was unspecified. Presumably conventional. Some people (like Ayn Rand herself) survive that, like discussed in *The “Inexplicable Personal Alchemy”*.

I'll clarify what I was trying to get at, and you can tell me if you still think it's a central disagreement.

Atlas Shrugged: "don't make the mistake of thinking that these three pupils of mine are some sort of superhuman creatures. They're something much greater and more astounding than that: they're normal men—a thing the world has never seen—and their feat is that they managed to survive as such."

I think the educator should aim to never hurt the child, help the child survive, and give access to knowledge. I think that's enough for Galt-quality results.

I interpret Girn as believing there is something other than ignorance making most children far inferior to Galt. And so he favors doing **Something More** – taking some special steps beyond what I propose – to make the child better (more curious, rational, virtuous, etc).

Girn thinks that **Something More** is needed to create Galt-quality people. I think pursuing **Something More** is a major driver of using force, hurting children, breaking them, and preventing them from being Galt-quality.

Elliot Temple at 9:50 AM on October 8, 2015 | #3742
> Some people (like Ayn Rand herself) survive that, like discussed in *The “Inexplicable Personal Alchemy”*.

Why do you think Ayn Rand's education was conventional? It seems to have been better than most.

When Ayn Rand, as a child, showed a distaste for Russian children's books, she ordered her a French comics magazined. Parents don't usually go as far as to help their kids like this.

Anonymous at 10:44 AM on October 8, 2015 | #3750
Tons of parents do a hell of a lot more than import some reading materials. That doesn't change the basic philosophical category their parenting falls under (coercive, rather than non-coercive).

Anonymous at 10:50 AM on October 8, 2015 | #3752
What makes you think Ayn Rand's mother was coercive?

Leo at 12:08 PM on October 9, 2015 | #4089
that people can be so impressed by the idea of importing a comic shows how low parenting standards are

Violator of the Moratorium on Brains at 8:32 PM on October 9, 2015 | #4111
1. Yes. Parents must provide food, clothing, and shelter, regardless of the child's choices and actions. It is categorically abusive to withhold these things from the child.

EG at 5:46 PM on October 25, 2015 | #4284
I think the central issue is that you allow irrationality into education (in pursuit of the **Something More** I talked about earlier), and I don't.

> It's true that this perspective only works if the parent actually knows what's good for the child, and many parents make tremendous errors. However, someone has to decide, and in my estimation, that someone cannot be the child.

The statement, "someone has to decide" is begging to set up an authority. It's making the question who should be the authority.

No one should be the authority who decides. Instead, what should do the deciding is *rational methods*, rather than a particular person.

The various conflicts between the parent and child are *disagreements of ideas*. These should not be reinterpreted as Something Else – a tantrum, children being stupid or ignorant, willful sin, human nature for children, just how life is, etc

*Problems are soluble*, and there are no inherent *conflicts of interest* between parent and child.

So: Every conflict between parent and child involves a clash between some ideas, and can be resolved in a win/win way.

When a win/win outcome happens, no authority is needed. Everyone mutually agrees. It's only when people proceed with a win/lose outcome that an authority would be relevant to decide who wins and who loses.

The focus should not be on who loses when failures happen, it should be on rational methods capable of solving disagreements in win/win ways. People do not normally conceive of education in this kind of way, and don't talk in a philosophically serious way about how to achieve win/wins.

How can you tell if your methods are rational? They should have properties like: if two people disagree, and someone is right, and knows it, and explains it, then the issue is never settled contrary to that truth. Any form of setting up an authority with final say won't have this property.

Rational methods are designed to seek the truth, allow mistakes to get corrected, to be good at finding mistakes, and to utilize the knowledge of all participants. Choosing someone to be the authority is not particularly good at any of these.

What happens when people fail to find a win/win?

Note that means the parent/educator failed too. Despite his superior skill and knowledge, he was no more able than the child to figure out a win/win here. So given this *symmetry*, no I don't agree with the parent putting his foot down (using force) at this point.

(Yes, I understand your idea is that the parent only uses the minimal force necessary to win the conflict.)

When people disagree and neither knows how to solve it, they should look to do the same thing reasonable adults normally do with each other – leave each other alone.

The difference here is they are entangled with obligations. They can't go their separate ways like strangers. Note this comes up with adults too, like with coworkers, spouses, people who make promises or have contractual obligations, etc.

The parent owes the child food/shelter/etc, and must continue to provide those. But other than that, to the extent parent and child are unable to agree, it's better if they leave each other alone then proceed irrationally by having the designated authority (parent) force a win/lose non-solution.

A win/lose outcome where the child loses is not good for the child. He'd be better off being left alone about that issue.

A win/lose outcome where the parent loses is not good either. If the parent tries to self-sacrifice to benefit his child, that's not going to work out well for them.

Leaving people alone isn't all or nothing. It can be done by degrees, and it can be done on specific issues.

Unresolved disagreements should lead to a gradually backing off and lowering of expectations about how much cooperation will take place. If something isn't working, back off on cooperating enough to to avoid fighting and force. Selective non-cooperation is better than hurting each other or any sort of irrationality.

Elliot at 5:58 PM on October 25, 2015 | #4285

Spare Notes

Here is some additional text I wrote while working on my main reply (one comment above). I think it'll be interesting and helpful to my audience, and maybe communicate my perspective in a more full way for Evan.


> Elliot has a vision of child-raising wherein the child's autonomy is respected in the same way that we would respect the autonomy of a friend, colleague, or romantic partner. In many respects, autonomy is just another way of saying freedom.

i agree. this doesn't mean all the practical details are identical. but i think the methods and philosophical concepts (like reason, non-initiation of force, how to approach disagreements) are the same. i think education is NOT a special exception with a new set of rules, new epistemology, etc

> Elliot is correct to point out that generally, people, myself included, are uncomfortable with the idea of parents forcing their own vision of an ideal life upon a child against his will. We would all much prefer to deal with a child the same way we deal with our peers, by voluntary persuasion.

i agree

> However, when one considers the general issue of children coming into conflict with their parents, a certain problem arises. The child is not independent. Whether he chooses to recognize this fact or not, the child needs his parents for certain things, including but not limited to food, clothing and shelter.
>
> A child, until he reaches full independence, can only be partially autonomous. This is why the Objectivist position is that children are not legally entitled to exercise the right to liberty. Children are categorized as being incapable of doing so.

(true or false, i don't think the position you are expressing is specifically Objectivist. i'm not aware of it coming from Rand, and I don't agree that it's implied by Objectivist philosophy.)

> However, I do not think that Elliot is making an argument on the basis of *legal* principles.

agreed

> I think that I have a very different view of human nature than you do. You seem to think that the child starts out rational, and the limitations of his capacities are due to a lack of knowledge, not a lack of virtue. Based on a number of her statements, I think it's possible, though by no means certain, that Ayn Rand might have agreed with that, but I do not.

i think Ayn Rand considered people to be born tabula rasa, ready for reason but lacking knowledge, and with no need for someone to impose virtue on them (kids do need advice, explanations of virtue, knowledge of virtue, but not to be controlled until the parent puts virtue into the kid). i agree with this. though i don't think it's too important to argue about Rand's particular views, and she didn't write that much about the topic.


> It is true that it is the child who has to create himself, and that no parent can force his child to be rational or to learn or force his mind in any way. However, your perspective, which dictates that parents have no moral licence to prevent a child from watching television, arises from the premise that the child is capable of shaping his life on his own initiative.

while i do believe something like that, i wouldn't put it as my primary reason. it's not what i would emphasize.

for the TV thing, what i want to focus on is: parent and child disagree about the value of TV. how can this disagreement of ideas be resolved rationally?

i think what virtually everyone does is refuse to regard this conflict as a disagreement of ideas, and not even try to resolve it in a truth-seeking way.

one way to look at methods of approaching disagreements, and their rationality, is by taking example scenarios and seeing what result they lead to.

suppose, hypothetically, in some particular TV dispute, the child is right, and knows it, and the parent is stupid and confused. they both try to explain themselves, and argue, and it doesn't get anywhere because of the parent's folly. and the parent thinks he's rational, knowledgeable, clearheaded, etc, about this issue. this is a possible thing that can happen in the world with a 7yo and a parent.

now let's apply to this scenario a parent-is-always-right type method. or an educator-with-an-agenda type method. or whatever method you'd advocate. what happens? the child is forcibly prevented from watching TV in the way he wants to.

i consider that outcome irrational. the child was right, the child had arguments, and force was used against the child anyway, contrary to the truth of the matter, despite someone involved knowing the truth.

the parent's error wasn't able to be corrected, despite the child knowing better. an error was forced on someone who knew better, imposed on his life. try to think, from his perspective, how truly awful that is.

i think one needs better methods which handle scenarios like this better.

so: do you think this kinda scenario exists? are you fine with the conception of having general repeatable methods of dealing with stuff and then checking what outcomes they get like this? do you agree your methods fail this? do you agree my methods pass? do you see why the different results here matter? do you think this is an advantage of what i advocate, but then i fall down in other areas? or do you think your way is better in this specific area?

do you think there are some scenarios where the methods i advocate will fail badly? i guess you do. maybe an example or two, and how your methods pass, would help, and i could comment on how i handle it. one thing that could reveal is whether

1) i accept a different outcome than you and call it good

or

2) whether i think my methods get a similar outcome to you in a different way. but you deny my methods would achieve the results i think they do.

those are two fairly different sorts of ways we could disagree.

(btw: parents know more and are right a lot of the time. but in the specific times when there is a disagreement, it's much more questionable to assume the parent is right. when there is a disagreement, it's the times the child (who is aware of the parent's general superiority in many ways) thinks he knows something the parent doesn't about that narrow issue. and the child may well be right, because, for example, he often has better knowledge of his own preferences. e.g. child might more accurately know how much he wants to watch TV, and the parent might be underestimating that.)


> And in a sense, it's true. You can leave a child to his own devices, and allow him to set the agenda, but a problem arises here.
>
> The child, just like everyone else, can make mistakes, and his profound lack of knowledge makes it almost inevitable that he will be up the creek without a paddle in his attempts to navigate a world too vast and complex for him to sufficiently comprehend.
>
> From your perspective, the child has rationality, independence, productiveness, curiosity, etc. and the parent can either protect him from threats to his liberty to explore the world with his mind or become his jailer.

parent needs to help! offer advice, knowledge, etc! children want help, not to be left alone on the equivalent of an uninhabited island (even an island with food/shelter)

> From my perspective, the child lacks rationality, independence, and he lacks the means to explore and understand the world around him except in the most primitive, rudimentary way. He lacks the capacity to meaningfully understand how to draw the distinction between right and wrong. If the child were rational, independent, capable of operating on the full conceptual level, the parent's job would be finished, and there would be no question of how to raise him, he's raised.
>
> The whole problem to be solved here is how to give the child an environment which is optimally arranged for the development of the self, so that he can one day become capable of choosing his own path in life.

children don't know how to do everything, and don't try to. one can recognize one's limits. children can do that too. they don't think they can do everything.

when a child thinks he can do something he can't, AND is hostile to parent's advice, then that'd be an example of a more notable situation. if child is wrong, why is he overreaching his limits? was he BORN that way? i don't think so. so the problem isn't the child is too ignorant. the problem is totally different. if the child's wrong, which is not guaranteed, the problem is a bad idea the child created after birth, NOT ignorance.

and it's not just that. why doesn't child drop the idea when parent explains child is mistaken? if child is wrong, and parent knows it, why is communication breaking down, or child getting stuck?

i think it's not ignorance, but IRRATIONALITY – refusal to accept good ideas that are communicated to you, b/c you're stuck on a misconception and won't listen, won't change your mind – that children are being accused of. and i don't think that is inborn or something ppl just kinda automatically do. (and btw i think Rand is with me on this.)

it's not the lack of knowledge by the child that's the problem here. if the child is receiving information that should be persuasive, and resists it, then that's due to bad ideas he has (e.g. arrogance, laziness or disinterest), not a lack of ideas. and even then, parent ought to give the child more helpful information that addresses his problems (including the arrogance or whatever).

and many times parents think they gave a good enough explanation and it should be persuasive, but they are wrong. lots of times the parent is irrational, terrible at communicating, etc, etc. i think that's quite common. most adults are quite stupid and bad at thinking in lots of ways, terrible at judging argument quality, etc, etc

the sorta nightmare scenario where there's this dispute, and parent is right, and child won't listen – this is not a matter of child's ignorance. and the same thing can and does come up if the child is 15 or 30, or they are just friends instead. person A is right and gives a perfect explanation, person B is irrational and rejects it. and then what do you do? FORCE????????? noooooooooooooo!!!!!!

being forced to the right answer is psychological identical to being forced to the wrong answer. from the perspective of the person being forced, who thinks the idea being forced on them is false, it's the same experience as having a false idea forced on them. it's just as awful, damaging, etc.


> Since the child does not have a way of understanding what's best for him except in the most vague, incomplete way, it is the responsibility of the parent to make all of those important life decisions for him until he is able to do so himself. This necessitates not giving the child a choice if he disagrees, in many cases.

children aren't born with a lot of preferences or ideas. on many issues, they have no opinion. they neither agree nor disagree. then, parent may decide for child. no problem. and that's common and covers a lot of ground.

to the extent child does form ideas and preferences – not ignorance – then they should be treated as such in the normal way, not dismissed.

why do you expect child to disagree with parent on topics child knows nothing about? what is the motive?

i think what really happens is child disagrees on stuff that affects things the child DOES know about – e.g. child resists something the child knows will be painful or unpleasant. for example, parent has the idea "feed corn cuz child needs nutrients and calories" but child hates corn. child does not disagree about things like nutrients or calories being needed for life. child doesn't disagree with the entire idea. child just disagrees with the exact form involving the corn. and in this case child is right – he shouldn't be fed corn; parent ought to feed him some peas instead.

by this kinda mechanism of child disagreeing in ways related to knowledge child actually has, and parent treating it as a real idea, then the problem the child was having can be solved. (a big reason ppl disagree with perspectives like this is they think SOME PROBLEMS CANNOT BE SOLVED and YOU JUST HAVE TO SUFFER IN LIFE SOMETIMES – which is NOT Objectivism)



> It's true that this perspective only works if the parent actually knows what's good for the child, and many parents make tremendous errors. However, someone has to decide, and in my estimation, that someone cannot be the child.

no, you don't have to appoint a person as authority to decide.

what should decide is a rational PROCESS – there should be METHODS used which do not simply always do what any particular person/authority thinks.


> Now, it's true that there are consequences, grave consequences, of making a child do something against his will. The parent ought to make every effort to convince the child of what is right through rational argument. If that fails, the parent may try to seduce or manipulate the child into choosing correctly. And if that fails, the parent may confront the child with the absolute nature of their parental authority. If that fails, the parent may threaten to serve unappetizing meals, or shut off the internet connection or disable the television. If that fails, the parent may threaten to withhold other privileges. If that fails, the parent may threaten to take away the child's personal possessions.
>
> However, with increasing severity of punishment, there is an increasing risk of escalating conflict between child and parent. It's not pretty, but ultimately, the child will come to understand that he has no choice but to tolerate his parents and conform himself to their demands (within reason) until he reaches the point where he can go out on his own.

tangentially, i think it's generally preferable if the parent puts his foot down without trying to seduce or manipulate first, because it's more honest and clear. i think the middle ground is bad. you try reason. if it doesn't work, and you're going to use force, then that's that – make it 100% clear you gave up on reason and are now using force, and are giving the child no choice at all, and just do that instead of trying to lie to the child about what's going on with manipulation.

i think most of the middleground stuff you talk about is done by parents to help the parent feel better – it seems nicer, the parent feels like he's being nicer – and it actually hurts the child more because of the dishonesty and greater confusion. it's one thing to come up against clear predictable open force. it's another to come up against force that pretends not to be force, and tries to fake reality and lie to you about your experience of being forced.

i do agree with a force-using parent using minimum force – e.g. don't punch the child when yelling threats will do the job. but i don't agree with anything to disguise force so it looks less like force.


> There are many cases in which attempts to make the child do something he doesn't want to do will be unproductive. The more time the child spends doing things he doesn't want to do because he has to, the more likely that he will develop an increasingly duty-premise psychology. However, it is sometimes necessary for parents to put their foot down, particularly concerning serious health issues.

serious health issues like watching TV, or playing with non-Montessori toys? examples?

> One thing that I would like to point out here is that the parent, being possessed of much more knowledge and intelligence, will generally, with enough time and creativity, be able to convince the child to cooperate. Patience, in particular, is an asset the child generally has yet to develop, and this can leveraged to great effect.

yes. and in the cases where that doesn't work, shouldn't those be treated as regular disagreements in which the parent may be mistaken, and rational truth-seeking methods should resolve the conflict?

the basic thing is, when parent fails to persuade, i see "ah maybe parent isn't so great about this particular thing" and you think "ok let's blame the child and it's time to use force". i think the parent's failure to persuade on a particular issue – a sign the parent doesn't understand something (either about the issue, or about the child's perspective and what would persuade the child) is an extremely bad reason to put one's foot down.

i think you consider the educational approach you're advocating something Different, but i think it's really the same old thing most people do, as far as the fundamentals go. and i think that stuff is one of the largest problems in the world.


> Too often, parents resort to unnecessarily extreme measures because they do not wish to take the time to understand the child's reluctance to cooperate and address those concerns at the child's level. The child, sensing the parent's dismissive attitude, will become increasingly rebellious in response.

yes. there's lots of room within standard parenting to be better, lots of parents do a crappy job. that's something, but it doesn't address the fundamental problems.

> So, to an extent, I think we agree that raising children is a challenging and complex art. However, I hold that the parent must set boundaries and choose the agenda for the child's life, and you think that the child should be left free.

authority isn't rational.

Elliot at 6:28 PM on October 25, 2015 | #4286
> These should not be reinterpreted as Something Else – a tantrum, children being stupid or ignorant, willful sin, human nature for children, just how life is, etc

nowadays these are interpreted as the child having special needs

Anonymous at 8:37 AM on October 26, 2015 | #4288
Where'd Evan go?

Anonymous at 8:15 PM on November 16, 2015 | #4420

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)