Thursday, March 23, 2006

Reason v. The Pearls

From the comment section at Shannon's Blog, we have a defense of the indefensible.

Deep breath, calmly: a refutation of a couple of choice points:

Dani wrote:

"As parents, we have to diligently teach and train our children to obey."

No, I don't. I teach my kids to think: to test their theories against the available data, to see if their theory contains explanatory force, to see if it is internally consistent and logical, to see if it is consistent with other good theories, to see if the theory actually works, to throw any other pertinent criticisms at it that they can think of, and above all to hold their theories tentatively. They may be wrong! Better theories may exist.

Teaching my children to think rationally seems to me to be the best way of helping them not to do stupid things just because someone who is more powerful than them tells them to. Home Education, of all educational methods with it's potential for free thought, could be about that.

"Children are not capable of thinking 'rationally' about a situation, but they can associate pain with bad behavior".

To the writer of the above I would say: just think about that sentence for a little bit. Take it seriously for a minute or two. Is it internally consistent? And just in case you don't get it - no it isn't, which all rather suggests that it is not the children who are being irrational in this instance.

(I am seriously worried that you may still not get it. Just in case this is so: if children are incapable of thinking rationally about a situation, how is it that they can associate pain with bad behaviour, since this is clearly quite rational under the circumstances you defend?)

"That point is that the small pain they feel now will prevent them from feeling great pain by the act they are committing, which could cause them loss of their lives in some cases. For instance, if a child tries to run across the street, using 'natural' and 'logical' consequences could cause the child be run over by a car and killed."

But my unsmacked children haven't been killed in a car accident, despite walking on unpavemented roads practically every day of their lives, since they could first walk. Miraculous? No. I just helped them enact their preference not to die. Rational choice all round, facilitated with explanations and without smacks.

Please think again. Violence in this context is utterly unnecessary. My guess is that you aren't in favour of murdering apostates, despite this being called for in certain sections of the Bible. So think again about this other issue concerning violence that has been implicated in the death of a child.


COD said...

You are wasting your time with Dani. She haas been littering the comments at my blog with her vile hatred of anybody that disagrees with her choice to beat her children.

I can only hope the proper government agents in her area are onto her.

Carlotta said...

That is an awful shame. And yes, I didn't hold out much hope that this particular person would understand the argument. More that the argument is there for anyone to see.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I think that that kind of fury can suddenly give way to insight, though I admit this happens very rarely, and usually only after sustained argument.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Why don't they just tell the truth about their motives? Confess to the pay off? Such as:

- maybe i smack because I was smacked and I want to get my own back/justify my parents behaviour/feel like God...

- I like the power

- I get a thrill out of hurting people

- I own my kids, so smacking them is no worse than hitting my car would be

and so on...

This dishonesty, 'Oh it's for their own good...' is so sickening, especially when it is SO EASY to see why inflicting pain on others is not a way to help them reason.

I do think that we should go and smack them all with piping across their buttocks so they can finally reason properly! The humiliation and pain would make everything suddenly so clear...or do you think they might get turned on?


Clare said...

Flopsy stays on the pavement when I remind her that cars travel really fast and might hit her if she goes on the road on her own...she's been understanding that since she was just 2 (she's now nearly 3). Of course children are capable of rational's frequently shown as babies: "mummy's not here, she might have been eaten by a bear, must cry to alert people about this disaster and to help me out"; as they get older: "I can't see Mummy, but that doesn't mean she's gone...I won't cry just yet as she usually comes as soon as I let her know I'm concerned"; as they get even older: "Oh, I've just realised Mummy's not here...oh well, she'll be back in a minute...back to chewing this label while I wait". Of course, all this rational thinking is only possible if the babies are respected in the first place and their needs met quickly. Maybe babies who have lost this ability to think rationally by being consistently left to cry on their own do need some more adult assistance as they grow older...? Of course, I don't think they should be beaten, but I just wonder if they really are as automatically capable as children who, as babies, were nurtured respectfully from day 1? Maybe they just need rather a lot more gentle guidance from their parents?


Anonymous said...

Hi Carlotta. I am on your side on this one, of course, but people that are not accostumed with TCS language will not understand you.

Actually, I doubt being that you are not a believer and therefor a sinner in these people eyes, they will not care to listen, you will be the confirmation that not hitting is Godless.

It has to be someone that is Christian reaching this people. As they are very closed minded in how people should live, I doubt anyone can.

The road example is not proof, your children are not all children. You were just lucky. I know I did TCS back in the day and had many frustratings with the road issue and having parents bragging how their children knew road rules since they were crawling didn't help at all.

It would have been better to pick this bit:
"You don’t have to teach them to steal a cookie from the cookie jar, lie to get out of trouble, cheat, throw a tantrum, or talk back because all of those things come naturally to children born with a sinful nature."

Most of these are actually learned and straight from the discipliners. It also comes from negative interpretations of children's actions. Children don't steal from the cookie jar, they are just taking a cookie. Confusing curiosity with evil is very sad.

Carlotta, you make a mistake I think, in saying associating pain with behaviour is rational. It's not, it's seen in animals, it's how they are trained.

The best argument would be perhaps, if children are not rational, how do they come to be? Nobody never trained a dog to be rational.

Anonymous said...


I must say it is wrong and unfair to put your own interpretations on these people and do psychology on them. Let's pick on what they say, not in what we think they feel.

I do not know many parents that believe in discipline that actually get a kick out of it in the manner you discribe.

Carlotta said...

Hi Leo,
Interesting crits all, and you are possibly right that someone who hasn't been down the critical rational route will have probs with this...I don't know. Would be interested to hear from anyone who hasn't read Popper, or any Taking Children Seriously literature, or some such, whether this made any sense to them!

The reason why I still think it useful to take reason seriously when talking to Christians, is that, you know, most Christians I know are reasonable chaps. They realise they still need to think, even in a relationship with God, because His word is often inscrutable and requires them to think about it hard in order to try to understand what He is saying.

I don't use my children as proof that all children will be able to avoid death on the roads if they are not smacked. I use them to refute the idea that it is inevitable that a child will be killed if they are not smacked, which is not the same thing, but which is probably pertinent in a refutation of the arguments of a pro-smacker, certainly in the way they were phrased in the original piece.

Incidentally, I don't think that simple explanations will necessarily be sufficient to saving the life of a young might, with common preferences, and reason, also hold their hand...

re: rationality being pre-conscious. I accept this premise. Behaviour has been shown to be generated prior to consciousness about it, which suggests to me a problem with the notion of Free Will, but not a problem with the notion of rationality, since all behaviour, whether rational or irrational stems from this unconscious source.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Leo, it was a tongue in cheek comment and I should have refrained from saying it. (However, I do have a certain amount of insider knowledge with regard to such 'mauvaise foi'!)


Anonymous said...

Just noticed, Leo, when looking more closely that you say the people who want to discipline their children - often through smacking - frequently 'confuse curiosity with evil'. This is a key issue.

If they saw their child as born curious and 'good' they might suddenly see that there was much less reason for discipline in the first place. But how would that argument be presented?


4 girls and 3 boys said...

People who beat their children do it cos they want to cos it makes them feel powerful, cos thy are bullies who can't control their tempers, sadistical, abusive - whatever. Not cos "God told them to." The spare the rod and spoil the child verse of the bible is what these people quote at you when challenged and is the most misquoted and misunderstood verse. It means the rod was a staff with a hook and the staff was to guide sheep so they didn't fall over off the path - not to beat them with!!!

I saw Dani's blog ( what while Iam here is a "hardened lesbian?")

Yes Leo they do get a kick out of it. Noone could do the stuff they do without being sick otherwise.It was the way I was brought up. I don't see my family anymore. Not all Christians are like it but in some places the radicals think it is normal. I call it child abuse.

Carlotta said...

Dear 4 girls and 3 boys,

Thank you for your personal testimony. I have read several others now which bear similar witness to the damaging effects and the highly questionable motives of those who profess to be disciplining their children in the name of God.

To take others always on their professed motives is often to be deceived, and by way of another twist, it may well be that the motives of the so-called religious child batterers is inscrutable even to themselves!

Ron R said...

I saw COD's link earlier. Based on the 3 quotes you picked out, I am so glad I did not go and read it. Excellent job of refuting obvious nonsense.

Anonymous said...

D, you said:

"If they saw their child as born curious and 'good' they might suddenly see that there was much less reason for discipline in the first place. But how would that argument be presented?"

It comes as "obvious" to me, so I can't quite explain it. Evil, as intent to do harm, comes from a complex set of feelings and thoughts. It is not a simple thing, it requires a sofistication young children are yet to learn. There are always reasons bound to evil. Even a baby that pulls hair is not hurting intentionall. He can't possible know it hurts! He sees mum goes "ow" and it's quite fun to see her pulling faces. He will learn later that other people hurt like he does too, but it takes time.

An open minded person living full time with young children in their first years will witness that they have no evil. They can't even play hide and seek properly at first. They don't know how to hide! They say "I'm here" and run to their mothers.

It takes some years for children to figure out they can lie and they will do it at first just out of experimentation, playfully. They don't know the uses of lying and paradoxically, the parents that are so keen on obedience, are the first to encourage them how to. They give their children a motivation and a use for their skills. A child that was lying playfully might find that it's a good way to get out of trouble.

The simpler version: evil requires knowledge.

Anonymous said...

This is a great convincing argument to offer! I remember so clearly being baffled by mothers (not necessarily religious ones either) telling off children for being children - I only wish I had said something...