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A critique of Stefan Molyneux's Discussion with Stephan Kinsella


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#1
ChangeOfSeasons

ChangeOfSeasons
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Hello, this is not my article although I think it is a very well done piece on this subject of which I think is an important discussion.  


___


Author is Aaron0883 on youtube and the blog post was posted on the school sucks project website. 


__


Direct link to blog post - http://www.schoolsucksproject.com/blog_posts/8


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The full text is below in which I will include a comment made by Kinsella and the response made by Aaron for quoting purposes. 


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A critique of Stefan Molyneux's Discussion with Stephan Kinsella



Posted on 2010 Jul 15 by Aaron


 


I was directed to a video recently of Stefan Molyneux’s where he has a discussion with Libertarian Stephan Kinsella on parenting. Since I know a lot of the people in the School Sucks atmosphere also cross-pollinate with Freedomain Radio, I thought I would comment on the video a bit since it is likely that others have seen the video also.


For those of you that haven’t … Here is the link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zWLMTzHaJE . However, My blog should be readable without going through the whole 53 minute video.


When I listen to Libertarian Minarchists discuss ideas that apologize for the state in mild ways, I never feel it is appropriate for me to get angry, attack, or generally be a dick. I think they have wrong ideas in some realms, but they are not the ones who have an emotional drive to control my actions and my life. However, their ideas are also pretty dangerous in their own right, despite their comparative respectful outlook. I have the same feelings about Molyneux, and Kinsella. While I disagree with them, I do not feel that they are horrible people from the ideas they espouse here. Yet, I do think they have some dangerous ideas.


I will take key lines and discuss them. This may be lengthier than other posts, but I think this expresses the profound difference between an Unschooling approach vs. an approach similar to Montessori (for disclosure, I went to a Montessori School for several years as a child, and enjoyed it much more than the public school I went to afterward). I will criticize some of the language they use, and it might seem to some to be a little nitpicky, however, language in many ways defines how we think and how memes get spread.


The first question Molyneux asks of Kinsella is. 
“How do you manage the behavior of pre-rational creatures?”(3:26)


One of my strategies in sniffing out unequal or one sided relationships is to always shift the players around. Lets say a politician asked the question “How do you manage the behavior of the people?” Your response would likely be something like “Who are you? I am not your subject to be managed!” Of course you are probably thinking, well this is the difference between a young child who lacks experience and mental capabilities and an adult. I would somewhat agree, but also have strong disagreement. There is a little bit more subtlety at work.


If a person is okay with how they are and live for their own happiness, they don’t need to be managed . Let me give an example: if I am assisting my Grandmother as she goes on the internet to look for an image of a happy chicken and starts typing “Gay cock” in Google …I don’t need to manage her emotions because they’re perfectly fine. What might help her is information and guidance from someone more knowledgeable, not emotional management.


When we desire to manage someone else’s emotions it’s assuming that their emotions are problematic and are in need of control. Children’s emotions are perfectly natural and healthy and don’t require management. What they do need is someone to offer them guidance and information that they don’t have.


Later on Kinsella introduced the concept of “positive discipline” in commenting on the Montessori system (7:00 onwards).


To me, the concept that a child must be controlled and managed has yet to change. They have a less blatant attempt at controlling people, but it has yet to leave the discussion. Curiosity and great empathy towards the child is not the main focus in positive discipline, but rather controlling the child to be what you think it should be albeit in a less abrasive way. It is still assuming the child is dysfunctional and has behavior problems that need to be controlled rather than understood and worked with at a deeper level to see what causes the behavior. In researching positive discipline for this blog it seems like th authors use more friendly language to disguise controlling, disrespectful behavior on the parents behalf. Here is a link to the Wikipedia page on Positive discipline for your own reference. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_Discipline


At 10:10 Kinsella talks about how much better the homework is at his son’s school since it isn’t given day to day, but rather has a system that gives it a week at a time and the child is expected to arrange that into his own schedule so he can learn the skills of self-scheduling and self-discipline.


Stefan Molyneux makes a beautiful example of free range cows in his most popular video True News 13: Statism is Dead – Part 3 – The Matrix (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P772Eb63qIY). In it, he talks about farmers give cows more freedom to increase their productivity so they can be more productive to the farmer. He uses this to show how the state gives people limited freedom to take the product of the people’s labor.


In the discussion, Kinsella does the same thing for the child. He doesn’t give child more freedom because he should be free or because the child should live for their own happiness, but rather because it will increase the amount of what he think the child should learn. While it isn’t as vile as what the state does in intent (since he probably does think it is in the child’s self-interest), his child’s emotions and thoughts are ultimately disregarded and must live to the ends that his teachers and parents ultimately dictate.


The greatest education that could be given to a child (or better put, not taken away) is foremost, to have respect for his own desires and thoughts. In a system where a child must subjugate his thoughts to the desire of parents or teachers he might learn some stuff, but it will be at the cost of his own self-respect.


At 14:30 they talk about letting the children experience consequences by refraining from giving information they might desire.


While I have no problem with a child experiencing consequences, I do have a problem with knowingly not giving them information that they would likely appreciate. However, the bigger problem I have with how they are speaking can be shown by using our earlier experiment.


If I said “I believe in letting my wife experience consequences.” That would sound like I am teaching my wife in an unequal relationship. If I had information that she would like and I didn’t share it with her, and she experiences consequences as a result and finds out that I could have provided it, she would naturally think I’m an ass.


A child doesn’t have to learn every mistake on their own. We all try to learn information from other people. Let them know the stove is hot, but if they are persistent you don’t need to nag. You can say another warning if you are that worried, but otherwise give them the freedom and don’t be a jerk if he does get burned. Sometimes we want to experiment despite the warnings for various reasons.


In discussing the Montessori approach at around 17:00 Kinsella talks about how children are believed to have different development periods at different ages, and says “What they say is your mind is developing each of these [developmental periods], you have different interests different social needs , or whatever. So they sort of arrange an environment around the children in which the child can learn or teach themselves”


Assuming (for argument sake) that these developmental periods do exist which produce certain desires, I’m not sure why their environment needs to be centrally planned in order for them to learn. If they desire certain stimuli wouldn’t they gravitate towards what they desire? If you just make different environments available wouldn’t they be drawn towards the environment they want? This leads to a more fundamental question: what if, in the moment, they prefer basketball to learning anything commonly considered educational? However, I will address this question in more detail later.


The quote underlies more fundamentally why I view the Montessori system analogous to minarchy, while unschooling would be the more anarchistic approach. Unschooling assumes the child’s is an end in himself, his desires and thoughts rules his life while the parent/teacher act only as a facilitator. In the Montessori system the teacher ultimately decides what is best, and while they do give deference to the child, it is only within a limited world where the child must submit his desires to authority when the authority requires it.


At about 23:50, Molyneux talks about how in Montessori Schools and many private schools the child is actually the customer.


But that’s not true. That’s the system implemented by unschooling and free schools . If the child is the customer, a market would form around a child’s desires. He would play when he wants to play, learn when what and how he wants to learn, he would choose his teachers, or decide to learn it on his own. The Montessori School along with any other non-free school is ultimately back up by authority and force. The teacher is the one who decides, and if you wish to leave you will usually be ultimately coerced back to class. Private and Montessori schools are no more serving children voluntarily as the government is serving us voluntarily.


At 38:45 they briefly talk about unschooling. Molyneux hesitantly says (conceding his lack of knowledge), “You don’t have a curriculum. It is just whatever the kid is interested in, that’s what you facilitate.” Afterwards he seems to express strong skepticism, then goes on to talk about homeschooling where he says: “I’m not a huge fan of homeschooling, because I have a huge amount of respect for the profession of teaching. I think it is a difficult thing. I don’t do my own dentistry. I don’t make my own clothes. I don’t make my own antibiotics. I am big on specialization. … A really good teacher is a complete gem, and I don’t think you can reproduce that at home.” Later he stated that he doesn’t find homeschooling necessary since there are a lot of good schools around him.


Unschooling is not against teachers in anyway. However it does allow children to choose their teachers voluntarily. Teaching is a great art that requires great skill, but as with any skilled dentist they should all be voluntary to the person who desires the self-improvement. If the child no longer wants the teacher than the child should leave. If he doesn’t want the school, dislikes their classmates, or just wants to watch Spongebob, then they should have those options open to them.


Tomorrow I am going to work, eat, socialize, surf the internet and probably some other stuff. I want to do them when I want to do them. I accept that I can only work within certain times, but I accepted that because of the benefits I feel it will bestow on me, and I know I have the freedom to stop working at any moment if I no longer desire the benefits over the work. A child should possess the same freedom.


Molyneux has often made podcasts about how the state tries to make you ignore the gun in the room. However, this is the same thing parents and teachers do. If the student wants to play basketball while the teacher wants them working on reading … appeals to authority is what the child will hear and generally, at some point, they will understand that they will be coerced into doing what the teacher wants. There is no good argument about why a child should read if he doesn’t feel like it in the moment and would prefer basketball. The child, at some level, will know this. This kind of automatically accepted authority is what makes governments automatically accepted by the same person. Since children are generally weaker than their parents and teachers, the gun is unnecessary, but the principal is the same.


Early in the podcast Molyneux questioned Kinsella “How you manage the behavior of your son without using spanking or other forms of aggression? which I think would be pretty much violations of the Non-aggresstion principle”(3:03) To which I would say … If you are not using force in anyway (including implied force) that your child is Unschooled. John Holt (the most prominent unschooling advocate) was foremost against compulsory schooling of any sort towards the child, whether from government or from the parent. It seems that a child sent to any school outside of a free school is ultimately being forced, by their parents on the way, and by their teachers upon arrival.


Molyneux’s listeners are unschooled in regard to their interest in Freedomain Radio. They did not need someone to guide them there and keep them in their seat or to provide the environment. Their own curiosity and drive for the truth guided them into exploration and Molyneux is merely the facilitator. Each person can press pause and play basketball, or not listen to a new podcast for a month while they pursue a new interest, or they can ferociously plow through all of his podcasts without eating or sleeping (which judging by the number that have been made, would cause death 10 times over).


Unschooling is a philosophy that is open and respectful to the child. He might not learn what you think he should learn, but he will learn what he thinks he should learn and he will feel powerful over his own life and future. Learning doesn’t start at 6 and end at 18, but starts a birth and ends at death. The philosophy of unschooling might be summed up best in Molyneux’s own words from the video: “It is assuming that the child is competent and benevolent and curious. Wants to learn, wants to explore, has good judgment and you just need to facilitate that.”(25:00)


 





Comments




I'm a libertarian, and a parent. You seem to have some interest in this "unschooling" thing, which is fine and which is your right, but you seem to think others know about this (they don't), that it's obviously superior (I really doubt this given what you've said so far), and that it's got some connection to libertarianism (I doubt this too--overthickism). To analogize a designed classroom with central planning is thickism run amok. The problem with central planning is that it involves aggression agaisnt property rights (which setting up a classroom doesn't) and that it suffers from the calculation problem (a private institution does not). You said that we favored some use of police, etc. violence against kids--that is crazy. We are both libertarians, both against corporal punishemnt (I'm against punishment altogether), and anarchists. You are free to have your own philosophy about education, and to rear your kids the way you see fit. I'm skeptical there is any one right approach. You can believe there is if you want. But I disagree with your attempted linkage between your pet educaitonal preferences and views, and libertarian principles. I have seen lots of rinky dink little schools set up based on some founder's pet ideas. It reminds me of the way protestants split off from the Roman Catholic Church and set up their own things, always reinventing the wheel. Montessori is not perfect but it's had a century to refine its approach and there is an overall, systematic, guiding philosophy that teachers etc. can draw on. It's not ad hoc and subject to the latest fads that some guy heading his own rinky dink school might latch onto. There is continuity and deep thinking about this. I said in the interview I am not dogmatic about montessori or any particular approach, but what I like about it is that they focus deeply and think about the child and his appropriate stage. Your main opposition seems to lie in your "unschooling" ideas and some kind of view that you apparently hold (that you think we other libertarians know about but do not) that kids should "choose" their own teachers, that if you don't let them run into traffic it is some kind of violation of their rights. You are free to hold these views but frankly they sound kooky and crankish. I honestly think you are going to have a hard time persuading parents to turn their kids over to someone who thinks it's aggression not to let a kid wander away from the building, or that it's some kind of authoritarianism or police action to choose their teachers or caretakers. For you to insinuate my ideas are "dangerous" or wrong is, I think, obviously wacko. I'm a libertarian, like you apparently, and am opposed to aggression. To equate use of schools--even private schools--to educate children with central planning, statism, etc., is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. I suppose it's possible there is more to this "unschooling" "philosophy" you have latched onto than would appear from the surface, but given your comments so far you are not making a good case for taking it seriously at all.




Mr Kinsella. You didn't really address my arguments. If a child doesn't want a teacher, should we force that teacher on him? If a child doesn't want to go to school, should we force that on him? If a child naturally desires to play when an adult wants him to read, should we force reading on him? I believe in treating a child's desire with utmost respect. He has them for a reason, and when we say they should read when their desires yearn to play, we are undermining their natural desires and teaching them to obey authority. Should they obey authority because authority is right? I can not find a way to make an argument that in one random moment it is right for the child to read rather than to play. He might wish to read later. Therefore we are telling them that they should obey authority as a virtue ... which obviously undermines any other true virtue there is. If a blind man wandered into traffic I would physically stop him. Do you, as a Libertarian, find that to be a violation of the Non-Aggression Principal? If a child walked in front of traffic I would stop him. This seems a criticism you have been given as a libertarian, and it seems willfully ignorant to ask it of me. I compared forced education (including Montessori) to central planning because it is an authority determining what a group of people will do by threat of force. I think that is a fair use of the phrase central planning. I went to a Montessori School. I have read 3 of Maria Montessori's books. I was an advocate of the Montessori system for years. I largely enjoyed the Montessori school that I went to, and begged my parents to send me back once I experienced public school. I liked the Montessori school because of what other options I could compare it to. However, If I chose not to go to school I would have been forced to go. If I wanted to leave school I would have been forced to stay. If I didn't want to do what my teacher thought I should do, I might receive some initial empathy, but in the end I would have ultimately been forced to do what the teacher wanted me to do. This is a fairly clear violation of the NAP. I wasn't making a case for Unschooling in this blog. I merely pointed to problematic ideas that I saw. I had no desire to offend, and I believe I handled it sensitively. I do understand that criticizing a way someone parents their child can be a sensitive subject. However, the condescending tone in your response is unneeded and unhelpful. I encourage you to answer my questions if you wish, or address the original arguments I have made in this post. Aaron



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#2
Jack Sterling

Jack Sterling

  • 406 posts

However, the condescending tone in your response is unneeded and unhelpful.

I strongly agree. Kinsella's comment was incredibly disrespectful. What with putting things in quotes and saying Aaron has latched onto things and such.


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#3
hkw

hkw

    '; DROP DATABASE PRISM;--


  • 629 posts

A rather interesting and thought-provoking essay. I also felt great disappointment at Kinsella's reply.


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#4
Giedrius

Giedrius
  • 84 posts

Thank you for sharing this, it was very interesting and helpful.

I'm a
big fan of Kinsella's works, especially about intellectual property,
but it's really a disappointment how Kinsella responded to a valid
criticism.

Who's interested in a topic of unschooling I would
recommend David
Friedman's blog articles
about that, he raised his children (they
are adults right now) according this philosophy and has a few helpful
things to say about that.


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#5
Stephan Kinsella

Stephan Kinsella
  • 13 posts

It didn't seem like a valid criticism to me. This is not even a political topic. It was just a friendly, intelligent discussion by two fathers about child-rearing. We are doing the best we can. And we talked about connections to this and being libertarian--such as the non-aggression principle re spanking, etc. That is not "thickish" it is just a regular conversation.



Then some guy starts accusing us of being in favor of minarchy, the police, using force against our kids--it seemed bizarre and out of left field. Apparently he has some strong personal views about some "unschooling" movement and draws a lot of connections between libertarian principles and his views, but he does it by doing what those who believe in libertarian "thickism" do--using sloppy concepts and overly-metaphorical langauge (for example the use of "imposing" -- this is a vague term -- it is one problem with Jan Lester's libertarian theories in Escape from Leviathan -- http://mises.org/journals/jls/17_4/17_4_4.pdf and with Partick Burke's focus on "harm" in his No Harm book http://www.reasonpapers.com/pdf/20/rp_20_13.pdf -- the overuse of metaphors (http://blog.mises.org/7614/objectivist-law-prof-mossoff-on-copyright-or-the-misuse-of-labor-value-and-creation-metaphors/).  And in fact it leads them both to error: Lester's support of contract is confused, as is his support of IP; Burke ends up opposing "dueling" and blackmail).


So here we have someone criticizing my and Moly's sincere, honest, normal, libertarian efforts to talk about how to care for and rear a child, and some guy talks about how our ideas are "dangerous," it's sad, we favor force on our kids, we favor the police. Obviously the only way to make such claims about two anti-violent anarchist fathers is to have some pet theory, some unique view of the world in which the world looks faarr different to you than to most other peopel--a view, apparenlty this radical "Unschooling" view, a view that leads you say say that designing a classroom is "central planning."  A view that says kids should choose their own teachers, that it's imposing force on them to educate them in normal ways. Well this is not my view, and I'll be honest this guy sounds like a complete crank. I have no reason whatsoever to believe this guy has a coherent theory of education that wold justify his comments and that is required by libertarianism. The idea that he can start a school in 5 years "wiht his girlfriend" that will persuade parents to hand over their kids to this experiment seems risible to me. But what do I know. I can't tell b/c he didn't go into his reasoning for his unschooling views; he just assumed the listener was not only familiar with them but accepted them. I don't really see much reason to reply further to this guy.


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#6
fingolfin

fingolfin
  • 2001 posts

I must say I experienced this Aaron0883 fellow's post as being pissy and pedantic on the whole - valid criticisms or not. I mean Stef and Stephan were just having an (extremely interesting) informal conversation after all. 


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#7
Jimmy

Jimmy
  • 1293 posts

For what it's worth, my wife and I (parents to be, yay!) really really enjoyed the conversation between Kinsella and Steph and would donate extra to hear more on educating children from every angle imaginable. I find some of the the ideas of unschooling very intriguing, and am sympathetic to them, at least in theory. The same goes for Montessori and homeschooling. We are very much for separating the wheat from the chaff, without becoming beholden.


In a free society all of these ideas & approaches (and so many more that we can't possibly imagine today) would be free to compete, letting the effective flourish and the kooky wither. Given the overwhelming disproportionate transaction costs and path dependencies built into our current system, "everything else" (Montessori, unschooling, etc.) is competing for the small thoughtful, daring percentage of parents who are seeking, and can afford to seek, a better way. So in the meantime, if we want a free market in ideas on & approaches to  education, we will have to create it in the best way possible. And the way we do that, I think, is very much in the direction of Kinsella & Stephan's conversation. We simply need to talk about it and curiously explore - with as few assumptions and preconceived notions as possible. And I certainly don't think making accusations or imputing motives is helpful to any conversation. 


 


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#8
Jimmy

Jimmy
  • 1293 posts

Here's a good intro thread on unschooling we had back in 2008: http://freedomainradio.com/BOARD/forums/t/18377.aspx


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#9
Aaron White

Aaron White
  • 39 posts

"It didn't seem like a valid criticism to me. This is not even a
political topic. It was just a friendly, intelligent discussion by two
fathers about child-rearing. We are doing the best we can. And we talked
about connections to this and being libertarian--such as the
non-aggression principle re spanking, etc. That is not "thickish" it is
just a regular conversation."


I had no intention of making you guys feel bad or to attack you.  I tried not to make it sound accusitory or anything else.  Maybe I failed in places?  I rather tried to critique ideas that were presented to the public as ideas on parenting.  I am the blogger for the School Sucks Podcast, and I know most of the School Sucks audience follows Freedomain Radio.  I thought this would be an interesting subject for the people there.


"Then some guy starts accusing us of being in favor of minarchy, the
police, using force against our kids--it seemed bizarre and out of left
field."


I do not think you or Stefan are minarchists and believe in police.  I used minarchy and anarchy for the sake of analogy.


I asked you some questions in the reply at School Sucks Project and I am interested in how you address them.  I do believe that forced is used if a child has no choice of his teachers, his school, and his activites.


The rest of your response doesn't really address anything, but to use Molyneux's terminology, is just "critique by advective."  I would be interested in how my ideas are wrong.  I do believe I grounded them fairly well, and made a good defense for them.  If you do not believe so, and you think I made logical leaps.  I would be interested in where you think I made those.


 


"I must say I experienced this Aaron0883 fellow's post as being
pissy and pedantic on the whole - valid criticisms or not. I mean Stef
and Stephan were just having an (extremely interesting) informal
conversation after all"


 


The podcast/video made was titled "Libertarian Parenting."  It seemed to be presented to the public as interesting ideas that others might be able to learn from.  If two people made a video having an informal conversation about how they kill their bugs as advice to others, and I think their ideas have some problematic strategies I might make a video saying why i find their ideas problematic.  I probably wouldn't since that isn't very interesting to me, but you get the point.  I am sorry you had such a negative view of my post.  In what way would you suggest (without watering down the message), to make my post less pissy and pedantic?


 


"In a free society all of these ideas & approaches (and so many more
that we can't possibly imagine today) would be free to compete, letting
the effective flourish and the kooky wither. Given the overwhelming
disproportionate transaction costs and path dependencies built into our
current system, "everything else" (Montessori, unschooling, etc.) is
competing for the small thoughtful, daring percentage of parents who are
seeking, and can afford to seek, a better way."


 


The problem I see, is that there is no free market for children.  Lets make an extreme analogy.  If I made a similar comment and ended it with "
competing for the small thoughtful, daring percentage of slaveowners who are
seeking, and can afford to seek, a better way."  Do you think the slaves are going to get great treatment?  I believe once we open free market ideas for children it will be the end of systematic child abuse, but until that happens children are to the mercy of their (non)philosopher king.


I am super interested in criticism, however it seems like the conversation has had nothing to do with the points that I made.  If someone thinks I am wrong or even said something in an unideal way.  I would super appriciate some feedback, thanks.


 


 


 


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#10
Michael_J

Michael_J
  • 638 posts

@Mr. Kinsella - Is the subject of Unschooling one that at all interests you? If so, I'd be glad to discuss the topic. If not, that's perfectly alright.


NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, I have been an "unschooling facilitator" for the past two years for my now 7 year old son.


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"False ideas never die; only their supporters eventually snuff it." - Hervé This


#11
Rose

Rose
  • 14 posts

 


"It was just a friendly, intelligent discussion by two fathers about child-rearing..." "Then some guy starts accusing us of being in favor of minarchy, the police, using force against our kids--it seemed bizarre and out of left field."


 


Maybe it seemed out in left-field to you because you're not able to see it from his perspective- it seems like in both article responses you wrote, the language is full of condescending and attacking remarks. You keep labeling his ideas as 'pet theories', 'thickish', and you put quotations on things to portray his thoughts as out of the ordinary (which, even if they are, is not at all a bad thing- how many people do you know who think Libertarianism and anarchism is 'out of the ordinary', yet you still believe in the ideas, does that make you a lunatic Stephan? It's interesting to me that in your responses you keep trying to make Aaron seem outlandish, like here: "The idea that he can start a school in 5 years "wiht his girlfriend" that will persuade parents to hand over their kids to this experiment seems risible to me." That's fine, it can seem risible to you, that doesn't mean that it is- it means that is your personal take on it. I'm sure Aaron wrote the article for people who were actually open to ideas of Unschooling; not to entertain people who find the ideas laughable, like yourself. Also, what's with the quotes on 'with his girlfriend'? Is it outlandish that someone would desire to open a school with someone he shares his life with? I don't think you think that at all. I think you were trying to make him look foolish again, as if he operates off of whims or something.


 


 


"Apparently he has some strong personal views about some "unschooling" movement and draws a lot of connections between libertarian principles and his views, but he does it by doing what those who believe in libertarian "thickism" do--using sloppy concepts and overly-metaphorical langauge." 


It seems like you have a preference for writing a certain way, which is fine, but plenty of people read the article and understood what he was communicating very well. It's not like it was written in ebonics, when even if it was, I'm sure you'd be able to understand the connections easily as well, assuming you're an intelligent guy.


 


"Obviously the only way to make such claims about two anti-violent anarchist fathers is to have some pet theory, some unique view of the world in which the world looks faarr different to you than to most other peopel." Yes, they are very unique theories that not many people hold, which inspires people to write articles about it to spread them further.


 


It's pretty clear you're having an really hard time understanding where he is coming from, seeing as your entire responses have been trying to pin him as stupid instead of actually arguing about the points he made in his article. It would be nice to see something a little more intellectual and a little less defensive if you are going to bother responding at all. To open the lines a little more though, I can see why the critique would be bothersome to you in the first place: like you said, you're both trying to do your best, and with that, I imagine it's easy to feel bothered when someone says they think you could do better. To clarify, the connection between the ideas lies in the overall, long-term consequences of sending your kid to school five days a week without offering him a choice otherwise. As Aaron asked you, would you be willing to let your kid stay home and learn on his own in whatever way he wants- learning physics by playing basketball, reading, writing, living in general the way he wants- without ultimately forcing him to go to a center of planned-learning, at a set time, for a set amount of days per week? If you are, then you are ultimately an Unschooler, which is awesome. If not, it might be of interest to you and your kid.


 


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#12
Jimmy

Jimmy
  • 1293 posts

"The problem I see, is that there is no free market for children.  Lets make an extreme analogy.  If I made a similar comment and ended it with " competing for the small thoughtful, daring percentage of slaveowners who are seeking, and can afford to seek, a better way."  Do you think the slaves are going to get great treatment? "


Could you help me out with the connection between slave owners and parents in this analogy? 


 


 


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#13
Jimmy

Jimmy
  • 1293 posts

I understand, am familiar with and sympathetic to the unschooling perspective. In fact, I am leaning heavily in that direction in regards to my own child.


What I don't understand, and would like some assistance with, is the presumption that all other forms (i.e. Montessori) are a priori coercive and/or violent in nature. Aaron and RobR, if I understand them correctly, seem to be suggesting that this is the case. Could someone expand on these arguments and make the case (if this is indeed what you are arguing) that coercive violence is implicit in these other methods? Perhaps I am misunderstanding your arguments, or am missing some obvious logical step, but I do not see it. 


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#14
Michael_J

Michael_J
  • 638 posts

What I don't understand, and would like some assistance with, is the presumption that all other forms (i.e. Montessori) are a priori coercive and/or violent in nature.

How do you see the violence of the state? Imagine what happens when you refuse to cooperate with it.

How do you see the violence of modern education? Imagine what happens when a child refuses to cooperate with it...

I honestly don't know what happens in Montessori schools when a child refuses to cooperate with/attend them. Perhaps someone else does. I do know what happens when a child refuses to cooperate with present "school system". If Montessori handles those situations in an non-coercive fashion then fantastic. I know "free schools" handle it non-coercively. The question ultimately is, how does the system deal with those who refuse to cooperate with it... Does that make sense?


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"False ideas never die; only their supporters eventually snuff it." - Hervé This


#15
Jimmy

Jimmy
  • 1293 posts

Thanks Michael. I'm not so much looking for ways to see the violence in the state or public education as a whole, as I'm pretty well acquainted with the arguments and hold them as my own. 


What I am seeking is specific insight into the presumption that the practice of Montessori schooling is a priori coercive/violent. The commenters seem to be implying that this is the case, and I do not see it - though I admit I may be missing something in my thought process.


 


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#16
hkw

hkw

    '; DROP DATABASE PRISM;--


  • 629 posts

It didn't seem like a valid criticism to me. This is not even a political topic. It was just a friendly, intelligent discussion by two fathers about child-rearing.


It was a very enjoyable and intelligent discussion, I completely agree! Thanks for doing that convo with Stef, and I hope you participate in future conversations. :-)

That said, I don't think that the essayist's criticism was of the nature or intended subject of the conversation, but of particular elements of your parenting decisions and whether they are consistent with a pro-NAP philosophy. I don't think that he chose the most pleasant or respectful way of presenting these criticisms, unfortunately, but I'm not sure that this invalidates his criticisms. I agree with some of the other posters here that I did not find your response to him to be pleasant or respectful, in turn.

We are doing the best we can.


This community has never accepted this as a justification for parenting decisions.

using sloppy concepts and overly-metaphorical langauge


I quite agree that his language was imprecise and that the analogy between certain forms of schooling and minarchy needs some fleshing out before it is intellectually satisfying to me. In particular, it is not clear to me that children attending a school with a structured curriculum is necessarily involuntary on the part of the children, so long as the parents have made it 100% clear that their children's preferences are to be respected, though I can easily see how it would become coercive if that line of communication broke down between parent and child.

and some guy talks about how our ideas are "dangerous,"


I also experienced this statement in the essay as sensationalist and unpleasant. I think both you and Stef are in the top < 1/100th of a percentile in terms of the world's parents, and that your parenting techniques are a tremendous step in the right direction. I congratulate you on your efforts to apply sensitivity and reasoning to your parenting. Stef, whose parenting I have heard much more about, is half of the single best couple of parents I've ever heard of and exceed anything I could have dreamed of for parents before coming to FDR.

a view that leads you say say that designing a classroom is "central planning."


I thought that this argument by the essayist was pretty compelling. I'd love to hear some counter-debate on why designing a curriculum for young students is NOT akin to central planning. I admit that I felt a tad disturbed and mystified by the language that you and Stefan used about "managing" children, and was perplexed by the assertion that assigning a week's worth of homework instead of a night's worth is a large victory for the child.


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#17
Stephan Kinsella

Stephan Kinsella
  • 13 posts

It didn't seem like a valid criticism to me. This is not even a political topic. It was just a friendly, intelligent discussion by two fathers about child-rearing.


It was a very enjoyable and intelligent discussion, I completely agree! Thanks for doing that convo with Stef, and I hope you participate in future conversations. :-)

That said, I don't think that the essayist's criticism was of the nature or intended subject of the conversation, but of particular elements of your parenting decisions and whether they are consistent with a pro-NAP philosophy. I don't think that he chose the most pleasant or respectful way of presenting these criticisms, unfortunately, but I'm not sure that this invalidates his criticisms. I agree with some of the other posters here that I did not find your response to him to be pleasant or respectful, in turn.

We are doing the best we can.


This community has never accepted this as a justification for parenting decisions.

 



using sloppy concepts and overly-metaphorical langauge


I quite agree that his language was imprecise and that the analogy between certain forms of schooling and minarchy needs some fleshing out before it is intellectually satisfying to me. In particular, it is not clear to me that children attending a school with a structured curriculum is necessarily involuntary on the part of the children, so long as the parents have made it 100% clear that their children's preferences are to be respected, though I can easily see how it would become coercive if that line of communication broke down between parent and child.

and some guy talks about how our ideas are "dangerous,"


I also experienced this statement in the essay as sensationalist and unpleasant. I think both you and Stef are in the top < 1/100th of a percentile in terms of the world's parents, and that your parenting techniques are a tremendous step in the right direction. I congratulate you on your efforts to apply sensitivity and reasoning to your parenting. Stef, whose parenting I have heard much more about, is half of the single best couple of parents I've ever heard of and exceed anything I could have dreamed of for parents before coming to FDR.

a view that leads you say say that designing a classroom is "central planning."

Well, I was maybe too humble. I'm doing a damn good job, better than most other parents I know, and I bet MOly is too. I have to say I just have little interest in the "unschooling" ideas, given the glimpse I've seen here. I don't mind if others do it. It's a-libertairan IMO and libertarianism is what I"m interested in. I bristle when people go over-thickish and try to make everything about libertarianism. The idea that a classroom is a bad idea b/c it's "centrally planned" is IMO ridiculous.  I am quite happy with my parenting and educational views and am content to let others have theirs. I see no reason to think the unschooling ideas are compelled by libertarianism, so it just doesn't interest me. My approach is fine and works for us.

I thought that this argument by the essayist was pretty compelling. I'd love to hear some counter-debate on why designing a curriculum for young students is NOT akin to central planning. I admit that I felt a tad disturbed and mystified by the language that you and Stefan used about "managing" children, and was perplexed by the assertion that assigning a week's worth of homework instead of a night's worth is a large victory for the child.


It wasn't about that--it was about how the way it's done teaches time management. Our disagreement about homework was about how much is assigned. We both probably think less should be assigned than typically is. But I certainly don't think *some* homework is "coercive" or whatever.

I was probably too snippy w/ Aaron at first but I was taken aback by what I took to be a ridiculous charge on me--that I'm a minarchist or believe in force. I see now that according to his view of libertarianism, if you send your child to a school, and don't let him "choose" his own teacher, this is subjecting him to some kind of central planning and kidnapping or something. I strongly disagree with this, and thus in my view it's pretty obvious there are some serious errors in the thought that underlies this approach. So, no, I have no interest in learning more about it.

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#18
Formelyknown

Formelyknown
  • 445 posts

I love Aaron's drama aka "unresolved mommy issues".

 

*Start to eat Pop-corn* [H][B]


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To follow ethics is subjective but the interaction between each individual's behavior is objective if you choose honesty over deception.


#19
Jimmy

Jimmy
  • 1293 posts

"I strongly disagree with this, and thus in my view it's pretty obvious there are some serious errors in the thought that underlies this approach. So, no, I have no interest in learning more about it."


Mr Kinsella, I of course care not if you choose or choose not to become more informed about unschooling. But surely you recognize the logical error in basing that decision on your perception of Aaron's interpretation of it, as opposed to dealing with the content of the approach itself. 


A good place to start, at least as an introduction to the person who coined the term, would be Jeff Riggenbach's Mises Daily titled John Holt: Libertarian Outsider.


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#20
Rose

Rose
  • 14 posts

I love Aaron's drama aka "unresolved mommy issues".

 

*Start to eat Pop-corn* CoolBeer

 

 Ohhh man, if you wrote that comment towards anyone else on the FDR forums you would get ripped a new asshole, but because it's Aaron, you probably wont.


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#21
Jimmy

Jimmy
  • 1293 posts

I love Aaron's drama aka "unresolved mommy issues".

 

*Start to eat Pop-corn* CoolBeer

 

 Ohhh man, if you wrote that comment towards anyone else on the FDR forums you would get ripped a new asshole, but because it's Aaron, you probably wont.

No Rose I thought that was pretty rude and shitty remark. I just figured he was a troll so did not engage.


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#22
Formelyknown

Formelyknown
  • 445 posts

Gotcha!


I know, and I like it.


Did Aaron let you down by choosing the side of an irational stranger? telling you how irational you are, instead of been curious about how you feel yet?


 


P.S Are you aware you are the dude and Aaron is the chick in your relation? [:)]


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To follow ethics is subjective but the interaction between each individual's behavior is objective if you choose honesty over deception.


#23
hkw

hkw

    '; DROP DATABASE PRISM;--


  • 629 posts

I love Aaron's drama aka "unresolved mommy issues".

 

*Start to eat Pop-corn* CoolBeer

I'm rather surprised that someone who joined the site over a year ago would make a comment like this. =[


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#24
Jimmy

Jimmy
  • 1293 posts

Gotcha!

I know, and I like it.

Did Aaron let you down by choosing the side of an irational stranger? telling you how irational you are, instead of been curious about how you feel yet?

 

P.S Are you aware you are the dude and Aaron is the chick in your relation? Smile

Banned in 3, 2, 1...


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#25
Formelyknown

Formelyknown
  • 445 posts

You guys are so hypocrites. I never stop doing this kind of assholish behaviors since the begining but you were so blind to see your own bias attitudes toward others.


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To follow ethics is subjective but the interaction between each individual's behavior is objective if you choose honesty over deception.


#26
Jack Sterling

Jack Sterling

  • 406 posts

I was probably too snippy w/ Aaron at first but I was taken aback by what I took to be a ridiculous charge on me--that I'm a minarchist or believe in force. I see now that according to his view of libertarianism, if you send your child to a school, and don't let him "choose" his own teacher, this is subjecting him to some kind of central planning and kidnapping or something. I strongly disagree with this, and thus in my view it's pretty obvious there are some serious errors in the thought that underlies this approach. So, no, I have no interest in learning more about it.

Merely "too snippy" is a bit of an understatement, imo. I think it would be a good idea to look inside into why you react in such a hostile way to a rather unhostile critique of your parenting style.

I saw a breaking of the NAP in a story Stef told on a recent call-in show where he took Izzy home from the playground seeing she was quite tired despite her desire to keep playing on the swings and her crying all the while saying he was so sorry he had to do this. She napped 3 hours after they got home and he will most likely get retroactive consent for what he did, but it appears to me a violation of the NAP occured here.

Do you not see a violation of the NAP in this situation? If not, why not?

I'd be interested to see answers from others as well.


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#27
Stephan Kinsella

Stephan Kinsella
  • 13 posts

No, that's not aggression. I frankly think it's silly and ridiculous to characterize it this way.


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#28
Stefan Molyneux

Stefan Molyneux
  • 19730 posts

I saw a breaking of the NAP in a story Stef told on a recent call-in show where he took Izzy home from the playground seeing she was quite tired despite her desire to keep playing on the swings and her crying all the while saying he was so sorry he had to do this. She napped 3 hours after they got home and he will most likely get retroactive consent for what he did, but it appears to me a violation of the NAP occured here.

If there is retroactive consent, there is no NAP violation.


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#29
ChangeOfSeasons

ChangeOfSeasons
  • 38 posts

I saw a breaking of the NAP in a story Stef told on a recent call-in show where he took Izzy home from the playground seeing she was quite tired despite her desire to keep playing on the swings and her crying all the while saying he was so sorry he had to do this. She napped 3 hours after they got home and he will most likely get retroactive consent for what he did, but it appears to me a violation of the NAP occured here.

If there is retroactive consent, there is no NAP violation.

How about rewording what he said to this in the interest of getting a response to this specific situation and his question. [:)]

I saw a breaking of the NAP in a story Stef told on a recent call-in show where he took Izzy home from the playground seeing she was quite tired despite her desire to keep playing on the swings and her crying all the while saying he was so sorry he had to do this. She napped 3 hours after they got home and it appears to me a violation of the NAP occured here.


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#30
ChangeOfSeasons

ChangeOfSeasons
  • 38 posts

The principle remains the gun in the room.

If the child doesn't want to go to Montessori or any place of learning...are you willing to use violence, the withdraw of affection, coercion, arguments from authority, or punishment to force them to go?

Does the child have a legitimate choice in the matter?  What are the options?

Is there any evidence that directed instruction is healthier for a child rather than the child following their own direction?  Does it have unintended consequences on motivation, self-respect, or self-esteem?

I have never experienced what I would consider a skilled teacher.. I found the argument that teaching is a fine skill hard to grasp.  I understand the advantage of an accessible peer group with Montessori or centralized schooling, but any teacher being more in-tune with the child than the parents seems unlikely to me...especially when trying to teach a group of children instead of one on one instruction.    I have found teachers to only ever be obstructive... I naturally read subjects I am interested in with great voracity.  (I could be totally wrong if there are outstanding teachers or a skill I don't know about)...  

I really enjoyed the critique Aaron, thank you for writing it and giving School Sucks some additional content and perspective :)

RobR made a good post with some questions that the thread would really benefit from if they could be specifically answered, specially by Stephen and/or Stefan , of which not many direct answers are being offered to the specific criticisms. [:)]


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#31
hkw

hkw

    '; DROP DATABASE PRISM;--


  • 629 posts

I saw a breaking of the NAP in a story Stef told on a recent call-in
show where he took Izzy home from the playground seeing she was quite
tired despite her desire to keep playing on the swings and her crying
all the while saying he was so sorry he had to do this. She napped 3
hours after they got home and he will most likely get retroactive
consent for what he did, but it appears to me a violation of the NAP
occured here.

I think adaywillcome changed his mind a bit about this after he and I talked following his posting of this -- I will let him comment on it if he feels like it. :-)


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#32
ChangeOfSeasons

ChangeOfSeasons
  • 38 posts

I saw a breaking of the NAP in a story Stef told on a recent call-in
show where he took Izzy home from the playground seeing she was quite
tired despite her desire to keep playing on the swings and her crying
all the while saying he was so sorry he had to do this. She napped 3
hours after they got home and he will most likely get retroactive
consent for what he did, but it appears to me a violation of the NAP
occured here.

I think adaywillcome changed his mind a bit about this after he and I talked following his posting of this -- I will let him comment on it if he feels like it. :-)

Cool.. I find this all very interesting and love reading the discussion just wish more direct answers to critiques[H]


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#33
candice

candice
  • 682 posts

After listening to the talk between Stef and Kinsella, and reading this article, I still lean towards home schooling my own children when I have them, because I believe in freedom for the child, so maybe that's more of an unschooling approach, I haven't done any research on what unschooling is exactly though.


I thought one really good point raised in the article that crossed my mind also when I listened to the podcast with Stef and Kinsella, was how Kinsella won't remind his son of certain things like if his son forgot some books, and how he won't take responsibility if his son is bored because it's not his job to entertain his son, but I think this is totally unnecessary, I mean, I make small forgetful mistakes like that all the time, for example I've lost count of the amount of times now I've headed out to the groceries and not put enough money onto my debit card for it, the consequences suck but just out of plain human fault, I forget! Thank goodness that when I do go out with my partner he double checks I've got everything I need and that I check he's got everything he needs. If we got to the shops and I didnt have my wallet, and he said "Oh I know you didn't have your wallet, I just wanted to teach you a lesson!" I think my blood would boil.


I didn't find Aaron's article nasty in any way, however I did think he showed genuine concern and raised many excellent points.


So thanks to him I guess for doing the critique.


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My blog!


 


#34
David Friedman

David Friedman
  • 2 posts

I don't know if "coercive/violent" is quite the right term, but the conventional approach to schooling, including Montessori, does involve some people making choices for other people that those other people could have made for themselves. That's more defensible in the adult/child situation than the adult/adult situation, since the adult does have knowledge the child doesn't. On the other hand, just as in the analogous argument about government experts making decisions for people, the child also has knowledge the adult does not have--about his own interests, abilities, and the like. And the child also has, as in the analogous case, a considerably stronger reason to care about his own welfare than does the adult making decisions for him--especially if the adult is a teacher not a parent.


Our daughter went briefly to a Montessori school. They thought she wasn't ready to learn to read--wanted her to go through whatever sequence of learning activities was supposed to come first. We thought she was. My wife taught her to read--I think it took a couple of weeks. They had a theory they wanted to fit the kid into--whether or not the kid fit. We then gave her the choice of where to go to school, and she ended up in a very small private school run on Sudbury Valley (unschooling) lines.


A second thing disturbed us about the Montessori school. They at some point were telling the kids about how life evolved. My wife is a geologist/paleontologist, and their sequence of what happened in what order was wrong. People make mistakes, of course--but when she pointed it out to them, they pretty clearly weren't interested. It was enough that they teach the kids--how true what they taught was was not very important. Their version made a nice story, and that was enough.


I do not know if you have thought about the negative effect of being in a profession where you are mostly dealing with people who know less than you, are smaller than you, and are under your authority. It encourages attitudes that may not be what you want in the people responsible for helping you bring up your children. Twice in my high school experience, once in a good public school and once in a very good private school--the same one Obama later sent his daughters to--I encountered a teacher saying something flatly wrong. In one case, it had been known to be wrong for thirty years or so (she thought Piltdown man was a real ancient man). In the other it was a mistake in physics--by the physics teacher. In that case I offered a proof of the contrary conclusion, he had no rebuttal, but insisted that since he was the teacher he knew. It's easy enough to see how that attitude--more interested in sounding knowledgeable than in figuring out whether what you say is true--can develop in that environment.


Also, if you think about the standard curriculum (more standard in non-Montessori schools), you will have a hard time defending the claim that it is what every child needs to know. How many ever use trig, for example, or even algebra? But the institutions aren't driven by what is actually of interest to, or likely to be useful to, the children.


I have two children who were unschooled, first in a very small private school and then home unschooled--I describe the process as throwing books at them and seeing which ones stick. When my daughter went away to college, one of the things that bothered her was that most of the other students took it for granted that cancelling a class was a good thing, and were not bothered when the French teacher spent his time discussing French culture (in English) instead of speaking French with them. Most of them weren't really there because they wanted to learn what was being taught. Another was that the work she was being given to do wasn't of any ultimate use--she was writing papers that nobody but the professor grading them would ever read. She wanted to be doing things, not just pretending to. When she had the opportunity--Oberlin has a one month winter term in which students can do their own projects--she translated a renassance Italian cookbook. The translation is now on the web for people interested in cooking history to use.


One thing that bothered me reading Kinsella's post was that he clearly did not know what unschooling was, showed no obvious interest in finding out--but was nonetheless dismissive of it. As someone else mentioned in the thread, I have a couple of posts on my blog discussing the idea in some detail. Curious participants in this discussion may want to look at it.


http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2007/12/home-unschooling-theory.html


http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2007/12/home-unschooling-practice.html


 


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#35
Stephan Kinsella

Stephan Kinsella
  • 13 posts

I don't know if "coercive/violent" is quite the right term, but the conventional approach to schooling, including Montessori, does involve some people making choices for other people that those other people could have made for themselves. That's more defensible in the adult/child situation than the adult/adult situation, since the adult does have knowledge the child doesn't. On the other hand, just as in the analogous argument about government experts making decisions for people, the child also has knowledge the adult does not have--about his own interests, abilities, and the like. And the child also has, as in the analogous case, a considerably stronger reason to care about his own welfare than does the adult making decisions for him--especially if the adult is a teacher not a parent.

Our daughter went briefly to a Montessori school. They thought she wasn't ready to learn to read--wanted her to go through whatever sequence of learning activities was supposed to come first. We thought she was. My wife taught her to read--I think it took a couple of weeks.

 

Yes. Montessori says teach writing before reading, etc. I didn't follow it either. I taught my kid to read earlier than they say. But I don't see a problem with this. Parental involvement is good.

They had a theory they wanted to fit the kid into--whether or not the kid fit. We then gave her the choice of where to go to school, and she ended up in a very small private school run on Sudbury Valley (unschooling) lines.

A second thing disturbed us about the Montessori school. They at some point were telling the kids about how life evolved. My wife is a geologist/paleontologist, and their sequence of what happened in what order was wrong. People make mistakes, of course--but when she pointed it out to them, they pretty clearly weren't interested. It was enough that they teach the kids--how true what they taught was was not very important. Their version made a nice story, and that was enough.

I have never seen anything like this at our school. Ours is AMI. Maybe that's the difference. I don't know. 


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