The recent release of the new Harry Potter book brings to mind some of the extremely strange things that people under the influence of the prevailing educational cult theory are wont to believe. One of the reasons many adults praise Harry Potter is that it gets children reading:
“It's wonderful to see kids so interested in reading,” said Susan Polk, manager of the bookstore. “It's a 750 page book and they still want it that much. That's exciting!”
What is good about Harry Potter is not that it gets children reading, but that it is a jolly good read. Like many parents and teachers, Ms Polk apparently thinks that:
there is something inherently good in early reading that is independent of the early reader's wish to read
reading is not generally something that people of sound mind would choose to do for their own interest and pleasure
we need to get children reading
we should seek out books that “get children reading“ and ensure that children come into contact with said books
children need to be made to learn to read
children must read, and if they are not interested, they must be pressured to do so, for example, by threats, bribery, positive reinforcement, or by reducing their choices to two, where one of them is reading and the other is something unpleasant such as cleaning the toilet.
TCS parents reject all these ideas and don't think in terms of getting children reading at all. Instead, they take the view that getting children reading is a manipulative aim. “So what?”, you might ask. “Isn't it manipulating them into something good?” Not really. Even if it ‘works’, it is also manipulating them into the attitude that reading is something tedious and useless and difficult and painful now, even though it will help them in their distant future lives. And therefore, even in the rarely-realised case of a perfectly docile child, the resulting conflict in the child's mind, with the child preferring to do or think about X, but also wanting the conflicting end of satisfying the parent, is quite likely to be counterproductive. How do you feel when you sense that someone is leaning on you to do something? The natural reaction is to do the opposite. Even if it is something you would have wanted to do, being pressured to do it can cause you never to go down that path, or to lose any such desire that you already have. It is likely that at least a proportion of people who can read, but come out in a cold sweat at the suggestion that they might like to read a book, react like that precisely because they originally learned to read under pressure.
One important concept in TCS is that of common preferences. Common preferences are policies that all parties after a successfully resolved disagreement prefer to their initial positions: everyone gets what they want.
Here is a page on which atheist parents and teenagers are talking about how to treat children. The discussion began with someone complaining about teenage girls, and includes comments from people who think that more discipline is called for, but a couple of posters mention TCS, and a couple of others seem to advocate a more TCS approach.
UPDATE: One person thinks the above should have been worded much more strongly, like this:
This is another interesting Popperian take on educational theory. (It is not clear whether the author is aware of TCS or not, but she is aware of Roland Meighan, who does know about us.) There is lots to discuss here!
Here is a marvellous piece about how one TCS person, Kristel Nybondas, came to realise that a shift had occured in her thinking and in her life. What she says about noticing that she had changed her mind about some things that she had previously been finding difficult will ring true to many TCS parents. It is abolutely not about self-sacrificing and pretending that they are not (far from it!); what Kristel is referring to is a genuine change of perspective, a genuine change of mind.
Now, why is playing video games good for you? They provide a unique learning environment. They provide something which for most of human history was not available, namely, an interactive complex entity that is accessible at low cost and zero risk.
However, there is one kind of video game that users typically find rather boring, namely the self-proclaimed educational games:
Of the three games in the math title, “DigiHog Drop” is easily the most challenging. Players must make complete equations using little creatures marked with numbers. “Asteroid Smash” is a moderately mindless arcade game where players shoot asteroids that are labeled with solutions to various equations. In “Galactic Pinball,” players use the arrow keys to roll a ball into a hole that corresponds with the answer to a math question.
The salient feature of these games is that the task you are expected to perform has nothing to do with the logic of the situation in the world portrayed in the game. If you were actually going through an asteroid field your priority would not be to hit the asteroid with a certain number on it. The criterion for what you have to hit next has not been designed for the purpose of making the game enjoyable but with a predetermined ulterior motive. Thus the game has no integrity; this not only impedes the creative designer but, more importantly, limits the amount of creativity that the player can put into the game. Which makes it more boring and less educational. That some students may prefer these games to a standard lesson is a sad reflection on the nature of lessons: it does not alter the fact that “educational” games are a bad way to learn arithmetic, or English or history or whatever.
I (Sarah Fitz-Claridge) was quite cheered to read this interesting and thoughtful take on TCS from someone who had first heard about us when she read a decidedly unsympathetic article in a parenting magazine.
In that magazine article, the writer made up a quote (attributed to me),
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