Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A homily on teaching and guidance.

Thank you to JSB for his comment below; I’m sorry it took me so long to respond.

I think it is important that any guidance of a child starts from an acknowledgement of that child’s autonomy. We can offer our best theories; if we fail to convince our children, then it is time to reassess our theories, look for the theories’ flaws, and help our children to achieve what they are aiming at in ways that do not harm them.

If a child acts in certain ways which contravene society’s social codes, se will find it hard to realise hir goals. As a parent, why would I not share my best theories about the effects which my child’s behaviour might have, and give advice, when sought, as to more profitable ways of interacting with the world? The only difference between my view and that of JSB in his comment below is that where he thinks

“The trick is finding the line between making your child do something that is generally appropriate and not making your child do something that is your own personal preference”

I think the trick is not to make one’s child do anything against their will. Authority is a poor basis for persuasion (“Eppur si muove” said Galileo, allegedly, under his breath).

I do not subscribe to the bucket theory of knowledge, where we pour our wisdom into the heads of children and they emerge as knowledgeable adults. The acquisition of knowledge and understanding requires one to crave that understanding oneself. No amount of well meaning advice or instruction will permeate the mind of someone who does not want to know. If my ideas are any good, and the child is interested, then bingo.

As parents, if we are brave enough to trust our children, to trust their intellects, to be their advocates and advisors, and to be prepared, with our children, to contravene the basic rules if we cannot rationally justify them, then there is no reason why we should “all have to do things that we don’t like to do”.

We only do things against our wills because we haven’t yet been creative enough.

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