Taking Children Seriously

Questions About TCS

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What is TCS?

TCS is a philosophy of non-coercive education and child-rearing. Discussions centre on a paper journal, Taking Children Seriously, an internet List (the TCS List) and a web site (this site), all of which are run by me, Sarah Fitz-Claridge, with a lot of help from friends and colleagues.

What are the core ideas of TCS?

We believe that it is possible and desirable to bring up children entirely without coercion (i.e. without doing things to them against their will, or making them do things against their will), and that children are entitled to the same rights, respect and control over their lives as adults.

We are critical rationalists, fallibilists and libertarians.

In my opinion, these ideas are closely related to the philosophy of Karl Popper. However, it is a mistake to think that Karl Popper is responsible in any way for TCS. It is by no means clear that he would have agreed with TCS; he certainly didn't create TCS, as some have suggested (perhaps misunderstanding things said on this site).

On the TCS List and in the Journal, you often write “we” this or “we” that. Who is “we”?

The TCS journal emerged from discussions between David Deutsch, Kolya Wolf and me. It was Kolya who suggested the name “Taking Children Seriously”. I had previously been running a newsletter oriented towards home education and practical matters arising from it. But I was beginning to find this unrewarding and wanted a forum where non-coercive education (which for me was the principal motivation for home education) could be discussed in depth.

The idea of non-coercive education has existed in various half-baked forms since Rousseau and Godwin. But I think it was David Deutsch who first advocated it in a full and explicit form, and it was certainly he who first understood the connection with Popper's epistemology.

Since the TCS journal and list began, a steady trickle of people totally opposed to coercion in education have subscribed, some of whom have contributed to this FAQ. I suppose you could call such people the “hard core” of TCS. But none of them has the authority to tell the others what to think. The important thing is not which ideas have the official right to call themselves TCS, or “non-coercive” or whatever. The important thing is which ideas are true.

Who is the “keeper” of the “TCS philosophy”? That is, if it is to evolve, who decides whether an evolved version is still TCS or not?

I own the TCS list and the journal. But there can be no official definition of what it means to take children seriously, just as there can be no official definition of what it means to be a Conservative, a Liberal or a Socialist. No one “owns” such labels. Various thinkers and writers, who want to apply such labels to themselves, simply have to enter the fray in the field of ideas and try to persuade others that their version is true.

So to answer the question directly, “who is to decide whether an evolved version is still TCS or not?”, the answer is no one. Or anyone who wants to.

Copyright © 1997, 2003 Taking Children Seriously

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