Years ago, while researching parenting philosophies, I delved into the ideas of the Taking Children Seriously movement, which is based on the educational philosophy of Austrian-British philosopher of science and professor Karl Popper (1902-1994). While I have not found TCS philosophy workable for all aspects of my parenting, I did and do find Popper’s theory about how people learn to be true and especially relevant in today’s social and political climate, in which we are often urged to deactivate the learning-switch of our brain, and just decide which side (of any issue) we are aligned with, and then leave behind our questioning phase, shut out opposing opinions, and possibly even refuse to associate with those who’ve been publicly associated with “the opposition.”
To be tentative, is to apply scientific theory to all the important questions and problems we’re addressing, both individually and as a society. More specifically, it’s to approach a problem we want to solve by forming a tentative theory, and then setting out to disprove that theory by subjecting it to rigorous testing through the following behaviors:
- Engaging in discussion and debate with diverse people, whether online or face-to-face
- Experiencing our lives, and listening to others’ observations of their own lives, with an awake and open mind
- Exploring the issue through books, articles, videos, and various other forms of media
Throughout this process, some aspects of our theories will be disproved and we’ll get new information that leads us to rearrange and modify what we think, and form newer, better theories, which we’ll then subject to the same testing process out of which new theories will be born, tested, and partially or totally disproved and modified, over and over again, ad infinitum.
Now I’ll come back to what I said about today’s social and political climate, in which we are often pushed to align ourselves with one side or the other of an issue, and in which questioning any assertions made by the prevailing philosophy puts us at risk of being branded as an “apologist” for certain inhumane behaviors. For example, if I express concern that at many universities, students like “Rose” who are accused of sexual misconduct, are being denied due process in the way that their cases are being considered and resolved, someone may attempt to shut down the discussion by calling me a rape apologist.
If I express disapproval of any behaviors executed by key figures in the Black Lives Matter movement, such as the BLM activists who decided last year to prevent Bernie Sanders from speaking at one of his own rallies, someone may attempt to shut down the discussion by calling me an apologist for racism.
In today’s climate, it’s seen as impossible to both care about the people whose issues are being raised in a particular movement, and still criticize decisions that we feel are taking the movement in a harmful direction. Criticism tends to get you castigated as an enemy of the movement, as equity feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has been discovering throughout her life, and again quite recently when she gave a talk at CSULA titled “Where feminism went wrong” — students protested the event, and one even said “This is my freedom of speech” when questioned about why she was ripping down posters advertising the talk.
The more dogmatic, divided, easily offended and disinclined toward debate I see people becoming, the hungrier I am to find a place where we can all bring in our different perspectives and talk, respectfully and passionately, about the things we all care about. I’m starting this blog in the hopes that there are others who want to open the same conversation. I hope you’ll leave a reply below!