Re: Child Rearing

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Mon, 29 Dec 1997 10:44:34 -0800 (PST)

>>> Swiss psychotherapist Alice Miller's horrifying book on the subject
>>> of 'poisonous pedagogy' -- "'For Your Own Good': The Roots of
>>> Violence in Child-Rearing" (Virago, [1987] -- is an inclusive and
>>> comprehensive descriptive and explanatory account, which answers the
>>> basic question: "How would you have to bring up a child, for him or
>>> her to be a violent adult?"

>> Anyone who claims to come anywhere close to answering a question
>> like that can be immediately dismissed as a crackpot. There are
>> so many completely unstudied and misunderstood aspects of learning,
>> socialization, genetic predisposition, and blind chance involved
>> in child-rearing that any claim of any "scientific" result in it
>> is utterly specious.

> How about reading the book before offering your opinion?
> BTW, I don't see Tony stating that Dr Miller's work is "scientific". I
> could just as easily call you a "scientistic bigot". Also, Dr Miller's
> work provides a starting point for research which definitely needs to be
> done.

If the claims above are Tony's claims about Ms. Miller's book
rather than Ms. Miller's claims, then perhaps it is he who should
be dismissed as a crackpot rather than her. Having not read the
book, you are correct that I cannot make that judgment.

I do, however, stand by this particular prejudice of mine: as I
have pointed out, it is impossible to study every question that
affects your life in the complete detail necessary to make
epistemologically ideal decisions. Human brains just can't
process that fast. So it is useful to have heuristic short-cuts
to make most of them, and to study in more detail when the need
and/or opportunity arises. This is called "prejudice", and it
is a valuable cognitive function. It can also be dangerous,
especially when those prejudices are irrational ones.

The cure for irrational prejudice is not to get rid of prejudice,
but to form more rational ones, and to understand, acknowledge,
and be honest about them, and to know when to break out of them
and study further.

I have a definite prejudice in favor of those who express ideas
with scientific skepticism, and against those who make grand
claims of solving difficult problems. It serves me well. There
are times when I have broken out of that prejudice to study
further. This is not one of those times; perhaps when I have
children, and the need for more accurate knowledge of child
rearing strategies makes further study worthwhile, I might take
the time to do so. But until then, I will continue to call
anyone who makes such gross claims as to know what child rearing
methods produce violence--or even that child rearing is the
primary determinant--crackpots.

I also recognize that this area--and other areas of psychology--
"scientific" knowledge is so scarce that "crackpot" ideas are
worth more serious study than in other fields. I would feel just
as comfortable talking to a shaman about some psychological
problem as I would a "trained" Freudian, because I know that they
are equally unscientific, so one is as likely to succeed as the

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC