Re: meaning of life (RE: (repost) RE: GUNS: Re: Self Defense)

From: Barbara Lamar (
Date: Wed Jan 24 2001 - 19:25:11 MST

>I think that the philosophy above could use the word "discipline" a couple
>of times. Respecting a child as an intelligent human being is certainly
>important, but just like in adult life, children need to come up against
>hard realities that demand self-control.

You'd be surprised at how rationally children behave when they're give the
opportunity. I can't see why a child would NEED to come up against hard
realities. Sometimes the hard realities can't be avoided, but it seems very
strange to wish them upon your child or anyone else you love. Do you really
believe that you need to come up against hard realities? What sort of hard
realities do you need to come up against?

> And yes, sometimes, baby has to be left in her crib to cry for a few
> minutes before she falls asleep.

No, baby does not HAVE to be left in her crib to cry. This is something you
choose to do to her.

> You can't tell a child that he got an answer wrong. You can't
> discipline a child for bad behavior. You can't determine a curriculum,
> because the children have to be allowed to "figure out what they want to
> learn."

I don't know much about Northern California public schools except for a
small school in Whitethorn in Mendicino County. Letting the kids take part
in designing their own curricula seemed to work very well; there was a high
level of parental involvement, and the kids seemed interested in what they
were doing. Some friends of mine sent their daughters to high school in San
Francisco after they'd gone through 9th grade in Whitethorn, and they did
fine--they didn't seem to be disadvantaged in any way from having attended
a school where they were allowed freedom to learn what interested them. (I
believe they WERE required to pass certain state tests for standard stuff
such as reading and math skills--is this not the case for all CA schools?)

I've worked briefly in a public school system here in Texas. My role was to
work with children who had "behavioral problems." Here's how the "normal"
classroom was set up: 25 or 30 kids were made to sit still for hours at a
time listening to a lecture that was dumbed down so that the least
intelligent kids could understand it. The teacher would go over the same
material several times. The smarter kids were horribly bored but were not
allowed to study on their own. Instead, they must sit still and pretend to
listen. Naturally, they fidgeted, drew pictures in their books, talked to
their neighbors. Naturally, this irritated the teacher, whose performance
was judged in part by her ability to keep order in the classroom. The
teacher wasn't allowed to discipline them. Instead, they were sent to
"in-school suspension" where they were made to do the most tedious tasks
imaginable, such as adding up long columns of numbers. If they fidgeted
they were locked in a closet. I understand from talking to others around
the US that this is SOP nowadays.

Most of the kids weren't interested in what they were being taught in the
school room, and they would probably never use any of it in their lives
outside the school room. But the purpose of school was not to learn
anything useful. Rather it was to keep the kids off the streets and out of
the adults' way (and, when they're high school age, out of the labor
market) When I interacted with these kids (even the "dumb" ones) one to
one or in small groups, they almost invariably proved to be very adept at
learning things they were interested in and had some use for knowing, the
young ones did anyhow. As they get older, though, many of them seem to
learn hopelessness and lose any desire to learn.

I think rather than more discipline, what's needed is for people to
understand the learning and thinking process and to acknowledge that
learning and thinking cannot be forced.

>My wife and I also studied the breast feeding issue before our daughter
>was born. Everything we read indicated that breast feeding is a
>no-brainer choice, in terms of convenience, nutrition, and transfer of
>immunity - but everything we read and heard from health professionals
>indicated that anything beyond 9 months to a year was unproven to have any
>extra benefits, physiologically or psychologically.
> I'd be interesting in seeing any scientific evidence that the 3-5 year
> figure that you mention above has any advantages.

Here's an excerpt from an article by Katherine A. Dettwyler, PhD. Abstract
with references at

"Our evolutionary past has produced an organism that relies on
breastfeeding to provide the context for physical, cognitive, and emotional
development. The non-human primate data suggest that human children are
designed to receive all of the benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding
for an absolute minimum of two and a half years, and an apparent upper
limit of around seven years. Natural selection has favored those infants
with a strong, genetically coded blueprint that programs them to expect
nursing to continue for a number of years after birth and results in the
urge to suckle remaining strong for this entire period. Many societies
today are able to meet a child's nutritional needs with modified adult
foods after the age of three or four years. Western, industrialized
societies can compensate for some (but not all) of the immunological
benefits of breastfeeding with antibiotics, vaccines, and improved
sanitation. But the physical, cognitive, and emotional needs of the young
child persist.
Health care professionals, parents, and the general public should be made
aware that somewhere between three and seven years may be a reasonable and
appropriate age of weaning for humans, however uncommon it may be in the
United States to nurse an infant through toddlerhood and beyond."

> I'd certainly be willing to change my mind on the subject given some
> evidence, but currently, I find a 5 year old tugging on his mom's bra to
> get a quick bite to eat to be more of a potential problem than a gain.

My child weaned herself at the age of four after tapering off gradually.
But I certainly never had problems with her tugging at my clothing. Once
she learned to understand English I explained to her that in the time and
place we inhabited nursing in public was considered impolite. She
understood this by the time she was a little over a year old. Contrary to
(what seems to be) popular belief, children are not irrational monsters who
get their kicks by harassing their parents. When they're babies, they don't
cry just for the hell of it. They cry because they need something and are
not yet able to get it for themselves (how would YOU feel if you couldn't
walk or talk and you were thirsty or hungry or lonely or scared or had
dirty pants and people just ignored you? Not too good, I'll bet) Taking
care of a child's needs when she's little seems to result in a capable,
independent, compassionate older child. I encourage you to take a look at
Sarah Lawrence's web site, maybe subscribe to her mailing list for a while.
Talk to some of the other parents who are raising their kids
non-coercively. David Deutsch (who wrote *The Fabric of Reality* often
takes part in the discussions as well.


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