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Liberalism + Popper = TCS

I was asked:

How did people find out about how to find Common Preferences and TCS [Taking Children Seriously] stuff?

Here are two of the big ideas that went into TCS:

  • Karl Popper's philosophy, which is about how people learn.
  • Liberalism, which is about how people deal with each other.

Liberalism includes some of the world's most important ideas. Many thinkers and writers have tried to advocate it. And its opponents often try to steal its concepts. Some liberal ideas are peace, freedom, progress and cooperation. Today, everyone says those are great – even the people who actually hate peace, freedom, progress or cooperation.

Liberalism talks about how peace, freedom, progress and cooperation imply capitalism and free trade.

Most liberal thinking focuses on politics. It looks at topics like government, laws, rulers, production, wealth, commerce, and fighting (including big stuff like wars and genocides, and also little stuff like robberies or assaults).

Liberal ideas also have a place in families. Families need peace and cooperation, not fighting. People in families need freedom and want to make progress in their lives.

Liberalism has criticisms of authority. Families usually have the parents as the authorities over the children. And sometimes the "man of the house" is the authority over his wife, too.

So part of where TCS comes from is taking liberal ideas, and understanding them well, and applying them to families.

Popper focused the most on how learning works in science. But his ideas apply to all learning. And he knew that. But he didn't write much about children or students learning. He didn't write much about education.

TCS took Popper's ideas and worked out what they mean for education and parenting. We looked at what the implications are.

Popper's ideas contradict authority. They don't fit with having authorities.

Popperian philosophy says to judge ideas by what the idea says, not by who said it. So if the child says an idea, it doesn't matter who said it, it's just an idea. You have to look at whether the idea is good, not whether a child or parent said it.

Popperian philosophy says that people have to think in order to learn. The learner has to do most of the work. You can't pour ideas into someone's head like water into a bucket. The learner has to figure stuff out.

Popperian philosophy says that finding and fixing mistakes is really important. People make mistakes. So we should look for them and fix them. And to find and fix mistakes we need criticism. Criticism means trying to point out mistakes. Lots of people don't like criticism, but it's really helpful. Parents should be happy to get criticism from their kids, but usually they aren't.

If someone understood liberalism and Popper really well, and then they thought carefully about education and parenting, they could come up with some ideas similar to TCS. Maybe not all the details, but a lot. It'd be really different than regular parenting. But people don't do that, instead they hurt their children's ability to learn.


Elliot Temple on May 4, 2017

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