Taking Children Seriously

TCS Theory

What (according to TCS) is educational theory?

Educational theory is about the conditions under which human minds do and do not thrive, and about how people learn and how knowledge is created, and about the implications for human creativity, relationships and interactions.

I thought educational theory was about how to get children to perform as well as possible in educational tests. What does that have to do with creativity and relationships?

If you don't want to be confused by our terminology, bear in mind that we take a very broad and unified view of what education is. Check out the Short Glossary for a quick summary of what we mean by “education”, “coercion”, “theory”, “problem-solving” and other relevant terms.

TCS is a theory about what to do in the face of conflict. Building family relationships based entirely on consent, rather than coercion, seems to us to be the only approach that offers a solution to the problem of conventional coercive child-rearing. The problem? People get hurt. As a result of this hurt people are unable or less able to solve problems in their lives. The idea of people hurting each other is, according to conventional wisdom, part of everyday life. But we think it is caused by people devoting their ingenuity to hurting each other and thwarting one other's attempts to solve anything. TCS non-coercive educational theory is a way of addressing such problems wholesale, by setting up a different framework in which they can be solved more easily.

TCS is an educational philosophy. TCS is part of the rationalist tradition, holding that it possible for human beings, through conjecture, reason and criticism, to come to know (tentatively) and understand truths about the world. TCS is also part of the fallibilist tradition, holding that human beings make mistakes, and that fallibility has important implications for parenting and education. TCS highlights the importance of consent in human relationships, and explains how coercion impairs creativity, which is the ability to think, learn and solve problems in the widest sense. TCS represents a profound criticism of prevailing theories of education and parenting, and provides a positive alternative.

How is TCS Different from other “non-coercive” parenting strategies?

TCS advocates, but is not defined by, the absence of coercion. “Permissive parenting” is often associated with ‘neglect’, and may sometimes be carried out in a way that really is neglectful (and indeed coercive, by our standards), TCS is the opposite of neglect! (See also this post.)

The term “permissive parenting” is often associated with self-sacrifice on the part of parents. But TCS views self-sacrifice as bad (self-coercion) and to be avoided.

TCS is characterised by a style of decision making that bypasses coercion in favour of finding common preferences (unanimous consent). With the TCS approach, children spend their childhoods without anyone making them do things against their will or anyone doing things to them against their will.

TCS rejects the “discipline is an expression of love” dogma that permeates conventional coercive parenting. Feeling love for another person does not confer the right to act towards them in a way that would be wrong if you did not love them. Love is no justification for tyranny.

TCS also provides the theory behind the practice that allows parents to persevere in the face of difficult situations where they would otherwise be tempted to choose coercion.

More about TCS Theory

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