The dark side of John Holt!

I have always had something of a soft spot for those organisations having a name which is impossible to oppose. The Pro-life movement, for example. Who could possibly be against this? What would that make you; pro-death? I have been reading up recently about another such group, Taking Children Seriously. Well I hope that all of us as parents do this! In fact I actually take children, within their limitations, a good deal more seriously than I do most adults. I find their opinions more interesting, I prefer talking to them and I have far more patience with them than I do for adults, most of whom I find very slow and uninspiring company. I have for a while been planning on writing a post about Taking Children Seriously, but usually get sidetracked. I am afraid that this has happened once again, this time by the very first words which caught my eye as soon as I went onto the website of this rather unusual movement.

A few days ago, I put up a link to an article about TCS. To summarise, those adhering to this philosophy feel that we should treat children as being rational beings in precisely the way that we do in general other fellow human beings. We should not seek to dominate them or impose our will upon them, any more than we would upon an adult. This is all fair enough. I have never had any use for those who feel able to strike children with impunity or even to grab hold of them and drag them by main force from one place to another. Regular readers will also know that my only concern in the debate on home education is the rights of the children involved. I couldn't care less about the imaginary rights of their parents! It might have been supposed that I would have felt a good deal of sympathy with the followers of Taking Children Seriously. So I did in the past, before I actually read the sort of things which David Deutsch and Sarah Fitz-Claridge, the founders of the movement, have to say.

Before I go on, I must mention a curious thing, which was also touched upon in the article to which I posted a link. That is that people who follow this philosophy often comment online about matters relating to childrearing and education without specifically mentioning TCS. This is because it is a controversial approach and many people simply dismiss anybody connected with it as a being a bit of a crank. One has to read between the lines and look for phrases such as 'common preference' and 'Popperian epistemology' in order to identify those who adhere to this school of parenting.

A difficulty about Taking Children Seriously is that taking the advice of its founders could end up under extreme circumstances in killing your child. On the website is a piece by David Deutsch which explores that dilemma faced by parents whose toddlers refuse to be strapped into car seats. I have had a good deal of experience of this actually. One of my daughters would have the most spectacular tantrums about being strapped into the car seat when she was two. It made no odds. We still did it. This is because a two year old cannot possibly appreciate the fact that she might end up flying through the windscreen of the car and being killed if there were a car crash. This is quite wrong according to David Deutsch; the correct approach being either to abandon the car journey or allow the child to remain in the moving vehicle unrestrained.

Now to John Holt! I am sure that readers are dying to here about his dark side. What could it be? Was he really a secret kiddy fiddler? Did he beat his wife? Spank his children? Well no, none of those actually. It's a shame, because this might have raised him in my estimation a little. He always strikes me as the most irritatingly bland and pompous individual with his interminable, folksy anecdotes about the children he has met. Hearing that he used knock his kids about would have made him more human somehow. In fact all that he did was to express regret that some child chose school over home education. Oh and he used punishment and threats to keep the kids in his classroom quiet. Even this proved to be a shocking revelation because I can't see him doing anything of the sort and having read all his books, I am sure that I would have remembered this. In fact it was just that he used to write a big Q on the blackboard and this as the signal for the class that he wished them to quieten down a little. What a bastard! It's next door to child abuse!

I recommend readers to go the Taking Children Seriously website and read some of the stuff there. I shall be writing something a little more detailed in a day or two about this.