Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Pre-school non-education vs Montessori education

Over the weekend The Herald reported 

    Many 5-year-olds are starting school unable to count or complete the alphabet, despite years of pre-school education. . .
Rosemary Vivien, head of Edendale School in Sandringham, Auckland, said the Ministry of Education had outlined general expectations of what children should know when they started school. These included being able to count to 20, knowing the alphabet, recognising colours and being able to write their own name.
More than half the children who started at Edendale, a decile 5 school, could not do that. . .

Grotesque news, when you think about it, to which David Farrar commented that

I have said many many times I would take money from tertiary education and stick it into pre-school or early childhood education,

and talked about his niece who “turned five late last year and could proudly count to 100 and back – both in English and Maori.  I sort of assumed that counting to 100 was pretty standard for pre-school. Certainly counting to 20 should have occurred.”  It certainly should, but even that’s hardly stretching anybody.

I responded at Kiwiblog that both Mr Farrar and the Ministry have their sights sets pretty low – and it’s  almost tragic that even the Ministry’s low standards are not being met. In good Montessori schools however, I pointed out,

CLICK HERE FOR A MONTESSORI LECTURE YOU MUSTN'T MISS!! six year olds are counting and understanding the concept of one million, doing long division and binomial equations, and reading and writing their own short stories.
    These are not exceptional students, these are normal students. And
these results are well documented.
    The answer is not more money “stuck” into into government-sponsored pre-school or early childhood education programmes. These programmes are the problem. And neither is the answer more forced retraining for ECE teachers or more free hours — and it’s certainly not more power to the Ministry of Ed — it’s simply to get the hell out of the way of the better schools and the local Montessori teacher training centres.
    Montessori schools and the better mainstream ECE shools have been shafted by govt policies and extra govt spending over the last decade-and-a-half; what they need now is less interference and govt spending, not more.

Like I said, when you can see what children can achieve at good Montessori schools, too see what passes even for success in mainstream schools is heart breaking.  And it’s important to realise that the results I cite above – such as counting and understanding the concept of one million, doing long division and binomial equations, and reading and writing their own short stories – are achieved by pushing Montessori children into achieving those sort of results. But far from it — it’s the kids who are pushed who generally don’t achieve. As I went on to say at Kiwiblog:

   The results are achieved, paradoxically you might say, not by pushing them but by letting them be kids; by recognising what they’re thirsty for at each stage of their development, and making sure that’s what’s in front of them when they’re eager for it.
    Of course, this is just a very small part of the reason for the success of Montessori education, but an important one: the recognition of what Dr Montessori called “
sensitive periods for learning.”
    Rather than dumbing children down and treating them as morons, as mainstream education does, Montessori treats them as young people with brains which they want to train themselves, and offers them the means by which to do that.

Steven_Hughes Now it’s often thought that what good Montessori schools do for children is some sort of miracle. but that’s just not true.  It’s not a miracle; it’s simply good science.  Montessori education works because, as a forthcoming visitor to New Zealand points out, “Montessori education parallels what is known about brain development.”

Dr Steven Hughes is a neurologist and paediatrician who fell in love with what Montessori education can do when he sent his own children to Montessori school, and quickly realised what was going on in front of his eyes at school mirrored what he was seeing in his own scientific research on brain development.

Hughes is an assistant professor of paediatrics and neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School in the USA and will be visiting Auckland soon after a speaking tour of all major Australian cities – and I’d highly recommend going along and hearing what he has to say.  Everyone I know who’s seen him talk before says he’s outstanding.  From the ad for the Auckland public lecture on September 18 at AUT’s Northcote campus.

    This public lecture will help you gain unique insights into how Montessori education provides children with an unparalleled foundation for the development of academic, social, and executive functions critical for advanced problem solving and lifetime success.
    In this highly visual, rapid-paced and entertaining talk, Dr Hughes will share how Montessori education parallels what is known about brain development and how Montessori fosters the development of advanced cognitive functions, social cognition, and such higher-order competencies as empathy and leadership.
    He will show how and why Montessori kids are ‘good at doing things’.
    This talk is especially great for fathers who may wonder about this ‘Montessori-thing’!

You can get a ticket to this event from your local Montessori centres or schools or by emailing eo@montessori.org.nz, or freephone 0800336612.  But be quick. The Montessori Association of NZ has kept the cost low at only $10 per person for early-bird bookers, which deadline runs out soon. Visit the MANZ website for more information.


  1. Brian Scurfield5 Aug 2009, 07:15:00

    This *is* pushing children around:

    "The New Zealand curriculum is presented within the Montessori framework. There is a daily, uninterrupted three-hour work cycle, during which children chose work. There is an expectation that each child is engaged in challenging and meaningful activities throughout a work period. There is no choice not to work although it is appreciated that we all need moments of rest and quiet contemplation. Work is chosen based on lessons that have been presented by the teacher. Although children have freedom to choose their work, they are required to cover all curriculum areas within each week. The teacher ensures that numeracy and literacy are given priority."

    The coercive aspects of Montessori are evident in every one of the above sentences

  2. Brian, I have witnessed first hand, having had two children through the Montessori system, and I can tell you that far from being coercive the method used is encouragement; children need their freedom to learn but also need guidance on occassion. I've never seen a more freedom orientated learning environment, at the same time I was always amazed at how quiet the students are when going about their activities.
    No Screaming teachers.
    No Clanging break bells.
    No bossy-boots grumpy old bastard teachers screaming "line up".
    Just kids being able to be kids, yearning to learn, and being shown how to to respect other people's space and property.

  3. Brian, the only coercion there exists here is in the imposition of the National Curriculum on the Montessori system.

    But we've had this argument before, you and I, haven't we -- and I don't intend to re-litigate it again: you apparently still hold the quite nonsensical conviction that it's "coercion" for an adult to require anything of children at all, even that they wipe their bums and brush their teeth.

    You think it's "coercion" for a teacher to encourage a child to learn when he doesn't want to, "manipulation" to guide his learning, and "coercion" to fill his head with new concepts.
    We're not going to have that silly anarchist argument again here (and anyone who wants to can go to the comments threads here and here to see what nonsense looks like)>

    And in any case, the point I was answering was that Montessori children are "pushed" into achieving the results I mentioned. And they're not -- the results are achieved by offering them, in Dr Montessori's phrase, "freedom within a prepared environment."

  4. . . . "freedom within a prepared environment," which RW describes so well above.

  5. BTW, I'd like to say that it is a pleasure to see you back around these parts, Brian. :-)

    It's just a shame you chose this blind spot of yours as the location of your return.

  6. The Rudolph Steiner system works in a completely different way.

    - I am no expert on this, but I did send my daughter to Steiner for 9 years with great success.

    Steiner does not teach numeracy or literacy until very late - certainly not pre-school. - more like 7-9

    They do however teach children to problem-solve, and use their mind.
    For example, instead of giving a child a red plastic toy car, they will give them a piece of wood, and say "Imagine it is a car!" (childs mind pictures some kind of car) - "What colour is it (childs mind thinks of a colour) ""Is there anybody IN the car" (childs mind pictures whatever it is they imagine in their mind"

    Instead of looking at a toy plastic red car, their mind is engaged in creating it -

    CONSEQUENTLY, by the time Steiner schools embark upon numeracy and literacy teaching, the childs mind is so ACTIVE, and conditioned to problem solving in their HEADS (by this time they are quite a bit older - 8 or 9 I guess) that they pick it up really quickly.

    I think this system is BRILLIANT, and makes good sense to me.

    I cant understand that filling a babys head with numbers and equations does them any good at all! What use do they have for it in their heads at such a young age -

    HOW does a pre-schooler benefit in life from being able to add and subtract?

    How does a 5 year old benefit from being able to READ? - they wouldnt understand half of it - Much better to read them a story yourself than sit them in a corner to read a book!

    Let them be children as long as possible.

    My daughter had not been taught to read or write at Steiner. When we moved out of town we had to send her to State school, where she is now one of the top students in the school.

    HOWEVER I am not sure Steiner would be the best choice for my son - I think the style of Montessori would suit him FAR BETTER.

    The Beauty of private school system, as opposed to nannys ONE-SIZE-FITS ALL

  7. A quote from an article on stuff today:
    The problem we have is that very few strategies actually make children dumber. Almost everything a teacher does makes children learn to some extent.



  8. Brian Scurfield6 Aug 2009, 01:13:00

    Hi PC - It's been a while since I dropped some comments on your blog hasn't it? Doesn't mean I haven't been keeping on eye on you!

    If you say you require things of children but also say that you are not pushing them, then you are using language in an imprecise way: you are fudging the meaning of "push". What you are saying, really, is that you think some level of coercion is necessary- that as parents we should require things of our children and therefore some pushing is inevitable.

    But what should we require?

    Tomahawk Kid's comments indicate that you and he have very different requirements. Generally, get a group of parents together and I think you would find major disagreement on what children should be required to do. Some would say that they require their child to learn piano and are going to force their child into piano lessons whether the child wants them or not. Others would say that they require their child to pray every night. Some would say, as I do, that requiring things of your children is a bad thing and causes coercion which, apart from anything else, leads to children having bad ideas about reason, critical discussion, authority, and liberty.

    Instead of requiring children to do X and Y, why not discuss things with them? Find out what they want, explain want you want and find something both of you prefer. Then do that and help your child. This involves doing lots of things like brainstorming, critical discussion and acknowledging that both you and your child can be wrong. It doesn't involve subtly manoeuvring your child around some prepared and limited environment where they have "no choice not to work". It doesn't involve *not* helping your child when they ask for it, as Montessori does, or devaluing the importance of words and explanations, as Montessori does.

    I never said, BTW, that it is coercion to explain new concepts to a child or to encourage them (and my approach positively encourages explanations!). Doing things to them without their consent certainly is, however. That includes sly manipulation without their knowledge.


    RW - If Montessori is non-coercive as you claim, how do you explain the quote I put up?

  9. "The New Zealand curriculum is presented within the Montessori framework. There is a daily, uninterrupted three-hour work cycle, during which children chose work. There is an expectation that each child is engaged in challenging and meaningful activities throughout a work period. There is no choice not to work although it is appreciated that we all need moments of rest and quiet contemplation. Work is chosen based on lessons that have been presented by the teacher. Although children have freedom to choose their work, they are required to cover all curriculum areas within each week. The teacher ensures that numeracy and literacy are given priority."


    Nevermind what words we call things, and if it's good or bad. Would you agree that this paragraph advocates doing things to children against their will? For example, if a child doesn't want to give numeracy priority, then the teacher makes him.

    Now, if you agree that is what is happening, we could discuss whether it's good or bad. Without calling it "coercion" if you want.

    Doing something to a person, without his consent, violates certain important traditions our society has. Our society, in general, tries to respect people's freedom and not do stuff to them that they don't want. For example, if you have sex with someone without consent, we call that rape and throw you in jail. Killing without consent is murder. Picking up property without consent is theft. And so on. Would you agree in general that it's bad to do things to a person against his will?

    Of course there are exceptions like self defense. Maybe educating children is an exception too. If it is, then there is a *reason* it is. What is that reason?

  10. Elliot

    A child does not have a fully developed faculty of reason. There is potential for the faculty of reason to develop, but for a child the development process is on-going and far from complete. Similarly there is potential for a child to develop into an adult, but a child is not yet an adult. A child is not a small adult either.

    Moaning on about coercion in the context of teaching and training a child is misleading. The fact is, a child will require to be pushed from time to time. That is down to the fact that children do not as yet have complete, control over their faculty of reason. Hence, some decisions need to be taken for them and those decisions applied (same as that needs to be done for certain types of adult). Some control will need to be retainined over a child, until such time as the child demonstates the ability to make rational decisions and bear full responsibility for the consequences thereof.


  11. LGM,

    Suppose that human minds were universal knowledge creation devices. Suppose by the age of 3, children definitely had fully functional minds, in the sense of fully functional universal knowledge creation devices, just like adults.

    *If* that was the situation -- if the argument about children being incapable of adult reasoning was scientifically false -- then would you reverse your position?

  12. Sorry Brian and Elliot, but your existential anarchism is just plain nuts. We're dealing with reality here, not your fantasies.

    "Suppose by the age of 3, children definitely had fully functional minds, in the sense of fully functional universal knowledge creation devices, just like adults.

    But they aren't. That's a fantasy.

    "[Teaching children] includes sly manipulation without their knowledge"

    But they don't have any knowledge. That's why they need to be taught. (Sheesh. Talk about dropping context.)

  13. PC,

    Why so hostile? Do you not know how an if/then question works? If you aren't interested in a thoughtful discussion then don't comment and let me talk with LGM I guess...

  14. Hi Tomahawk Kid,

    Funny thing is, pretty much every school delivering a dedicated education system performs better for youngsters than the state system.

    See, anything is better than the state. :-)

    Or, to be more serious, it suggests that dedicated teachers (and the dedicated parents who send their children to them) do better for children than the mainstream slop served up by mainstream schools under the guise of the New Zealand Preschool Curriculum.

    You also ask, "I can't understand that filling a baby's head with numbers and equations does them any good at all!"

    First off, we're talking about three- to six-year olds here, not babies.

    And the point is not to fill their heads with numbers and equations at all! That's the error of parents and teachers who do "push" children.

    The point is to recognise the child's brain development - and to understand that the child's brain, from three to six, is basically in the mode of "opening file folders." That is, it's in the "plane of development" where it's concepts are being formed.

    So what's actually happening in the good Montessori classroom is that he's being helped to set up his file folders.

    It's not so much that the child's brain is being filled with content -- although obviously there will be some -- but that the materials a child works with is used to help him form the concepts in the mind that will stick with him for life.

    So its not a brain filled with numbers and equations and words, but the numbers and equations and words are used to guide him to set up these "file folders," i.e., the concepts of number, and quantity, and scale, and order; and the concept of language, and identity and so on.

    You see?

  15. Sorry Elliot, I don't find conversations about anarchistic fantasies "thoughtful."

    All they're doing is cluttering up a thread in which I'd hoped to kick off something much better.

  16. Brian Scurfield6 Aug 2009, 09:31:00

    LGM - Why does your position not equally apply to adults whom you judge not to have fully functional faculties of reason?

    PC - To claim that children have no knowledge is wrong. A child's mind is a knowledge creation device, and a universal one, as Elliot said. What we are talking about here are not anarchistic fantasies but real and serious issues that affect children and that most adults don't want to acknowledge are problems.

  17. BTW, I should point out that the "quote" you are throwing around is being used to describe a Montessori primary classroom, not a preschool classroom.

    Different context to three- to sex-year-olds, since the brain development is different.

    And I also have to say (once again) that it's not an entirely accurate description of what does happen in a Montessori classroom unencumbered by the NZ curriculum.

  18. Sorry Brian, we've had this conversation before, and your arguments have been both unconvincing and thread-killing - and they have been answered.

    I don't intend to have those same conversations again and again, and certainly not every time I post on Montessori education.

  19. Interesting post and comments - for various reasons we've got our lads in the state school system (primary level) - a system I undisguisedly loathe and distrust. I don't have an issue with the teachers in general - they're usually well meaning and usually competent at least. I do have an issue with the principal, who views the school's role as 'nurturing the child's journey through life'.

    My boys aren't particularly well suited to the cookie-cutter system - my eldest boy struggles a wee bit in maths, spelling and writing. The teachers have to pay lip service to the curriculum when we meet them to discuss progress, and are initially taken aback when we tell them that his being a bit behind doesn't worry us in the slightest. We take their advice and help him in our own way. They have lightened up considerably when they realise that instead of learning to memorise crap, Albie's learning to think. The teacher's are blown away by his general knowledge and desire to understand things - they ascribe it to the fact that we take the radical approach of talking with our lads. I read to them every night, and explain stuff that they don't understand. When basic maths and reading are important to the boys, they'll learn it - as evidenced by Albie's asking me to buy a particular series of books to read himself while he's off school with the chickenpox.

    Best of all, I have a feeling of 'fighting the fight from the inside'. If the lads' teachers take a step back and think about the drawbacks of The System because of us, I'll be a happy man. When it comes to High School level, I'll be encouraging my boys to speak up when they 'learn' something they already know to be inaccurate, and to look for the other side of the story in whatever they do.

    Given their love for music and their current hairstyles (both mohawks), I'll also be encouraging them to rock like motherfuckers.

  20. I hate to think what kind of spoilt brats the children of Brian and Eliot would be. They certainly wouldn't turn into the kind of person who respects other people's rights.

  21. Let's be clear here. Forcing children from their parents' homes and into state indoctrination centres is coercion.

    Guiding them to knowledge is not.

  22. twr,

    Why do you think that when people disagree with you about *parenting*, then common courtesy should go out the window?

    Or do you insult people for disagreements on all topics?

  23. Brian

    Who says it doesn't?.


  24. Elloit

    "Suppose..." That's the operative word. Fact is, children are not as you have supposed them to be (in your post). They are what they are.

    It is always preferable to deal with entities and situations as they are, not as they may be imagined. Deal with reality. That's the best policy.


  25. Brian Scurfield6 Aug 2009, 10:57:00

    PC - Elliot and I claim that Montessori is coercive, you and others here claim it is not. There is a truth to the matter. Why not continue the discussion and let us be persuaded of your position or you of ours?

    twr - What Elliot said plus how do you think children raised coercively turn out?

    LGM - You advocate control and coercion over adults whom you judge not to have fully functioning faculties of reason?

  26. LGM,

    I think my "suppose" scenario is true. The point of the question is to determine if you see it as a decisive issue. If I could convince you I was right about that one thing, would you change your mind about parenting? If you would, then I will discuss it further. If you won't, then I'd like to work out what issue(s) would be decisive to you.

  27. The simple but blunt answer is this, Brian: Because your claims about Montessori are nonsensical.

    They've been discussed ad nauseum, and got no more sensible in all that time.

  28. You obviously want self-centred little brats as kids, so why would you consider someone pointing that out to be an insult?

    I would have thought "common courtesy" would include not inflicting people like that on the world.

  29. And the claims are nonsensical because, according to you, everything from teaching how to use a knife and fork to how to hit a tennis ball must be "coercion."

    Shows you how ridiculous is the position with which you've now successfully clogged up this thread.

    Watch this tennis training video for instance, which introduces simple techniques to teach complex movements.

    Ands compare that to some of these Montessori presentations at YouTube, which (although not perfect) indicate the method by which simply materials are used to introduce and "fix" concepts in a child's mind, starting with some concepts like geometric solids, and leading on easily to more complex concepts like binomial and trinomial cubes.

  30. Elliot Temple said...
    Do you not know how an if/then question works?

    I know the software implementations of IF - THEN rules in machine reasoning via inference mechanisms, but that doesn't qualify me perhaps to regard myself as an expert or knowledgeable about its implications in philosophy.

    Us computer programmers/software developers just learn of how to write a computer program that can mimic human reasoning (in a very narrow domain) by applying philosophical/psychological principles such as Back-Chaining (BC) and Forward-Chaining (FC) mechanism of IF - THEN inferencing. Humans reasons everyday via mainly BC and FC.

    There are various ways to implement automated machine reasoning via software these days, including the abductive reasoning that you covered on your blog, which in recent years computer scientists have used Bayesian-Belief-Network (BBN) algorithm to achieve abduction.

    Philosophically, I don't have the depth of knowledge of how these concepts are supposed to be argued, but to implement them software-wise, I really understand how to design these things, including of how to avoid designing rules that could possibly trap in an infinite manner, ie, a single rule in the chain keeps firing its IF part (antecent) without ever reaching its THEN part (consequent) and this is a trap. The program freezes itself, because it will never get out. This is one of the many problems of machine reasoning, that it can get trap in an infinite loop without getting out, while us humans, we never get trap like this in the way we reason.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your blog about philosophy, and especially you like Richard Feynman where I am also a big fan of the great Physicist myself.

  31. Curi

    Who are you? I have not corresponded with you and yet here you are adressing me as though I have.


  32. curi = elliot. i just logged into an account that time.

  33. Brian

    "You advocate control and coercion over adults whom you judge not to have fully functioning faculties of reason?"


    One must deal with entities according to their attributes. A person who lacks the ability to reason (whether intellectually handicapped, insane, suffering a brain injury or chronic debilitating disease etc. etc. etc.), is unable to make logical decisions for themselves. They are incompetant to so do. In such a case someone else has to take up that responsibility. Hence the person who lacks a fully developed faculty of reason or who is unable to control a faculty of reason is placed under the control of another or others.


  34. Brian Scurfield7 Aug 2009, 05:37:00

    twr - Over and above your rudeness to Elliot and myself, does it occur to you that you might be insulting real children?

  35. Brian Scurfield7 Aug 2009, 06:13:00


    You wrote that I think "everything from teaching how to use a knife and fork to how to hit a tennis ball must be 'coercion'".

    Let's be clear what I think: I think that doing things to children without their consent is harmful. If you make your child take those tennis lessons you refer to, that is harmful.

    Do you see the difference between that and your characterisation of what I think?

    If you appreciate that the difference is to do with consent, then you might ask what aspects of Montessori are non-consensual. It is easy scanning Montessori websites to find examples. The quote I put up is but one such. I can show you more.

    I would like to correct one other thing, although its meta. Your comment above makes out I'm some kind of troll. There are two or three threads I can recall where we've discussed Montessori (and on one of those I put up the original post), but you've put up a lot more posts on Montessori than that so I can hardly be said to be trying to hijack your threads. My original comment on this thread was intended to refute your assertion that Montessori is not pushing and not intended as a hijack.

  36. Sounds silly, but is that consent required if they happen to be about to run on the road? Climb on a 30foot off the ground balustrade? Pull the pot off the stove? Stab their sister in the eye with a pencil? Interrupt others in the class that are working at their activities? Show them how to hit the ball properly, which will make the game more fun? If they don't consent you'd leave them to frustrate themselves instead of you "forceably'' guiding them towards working out the right answer?

  37. If they have decided to teach themselves to read, you'd better not show them the posts then.

    And, once again, if you consider obnoxiousness to be a virtue, why would you consider it an insult?

  38. Brian Scurfield7 Aug 2009, 10:11:00

    RW - In a life or death situation I think you can presume you have a child's consent to save their life. Not different than with an adult really.

    twr - This is a libertarian blog - a blog about freedom from coercion - if you think that freedom from coercion leads to bratty self-centered children and that those advocating such freedom are obnoxious, you are in the wrong place.

  39. Brian Scurfield7 Aug 2009, 10:25:00

    Opps - I take back self-centered above: self-centered in the Randian sense is good.

  40. The part you seem to forget about the Libertarian philosophy is that one's own freedom is contingent on not impinging on other people's freedom. Since children are born only concerned with their own interests, they need to be taught to see things from other people's perspectives. Children who have been taught that they can always get their own way don't learn to understand this important caveat.

    Still, I think in most cases people will forgive or at least understand the behaviour of unruly children once they get to see where they get it from.

  41. Brian Scurfield7 Aug 2009, 19:15:00

    twr - how can children learn libertarian philosophy if you adopt an authoritarian approach?

  42. The key issue here is how to encourage young minds to 'think'.

    The way to do that is to ensure children are kept away from things which will prevent them thinking.

    As such Montessori fills an important role in ensuring children are not attending State schools or mixing with working class children (two things guaranteed to prevent thinking or advancing beyond rudimentary moronry) and it is for these reasons Montessori education is to be commended.

  43. Nightcitytrader,

    Keeping children away from things, according to the parent's judgment, is itself a thing which prevents them from thinking.

    I guess you would be in favor of home education, since it both A) isn't State school B) keeps the kids away from the working class, too. Is that right?

  44. Yes.

    Home schooled children tend to be considerably more advanced academically than their State educated (I use the term loosely) contemporaries.

  45. Don't you remember being three years old yourselves?

  46. Brian Scurfield9 Aug 2009, 08:31:00

    Care to elaborate Leo?

  47. Elliot said...
    Keeping children away from things, according to the parent's judgment, is itself a thing which prevents them from thinking.

    No, Wrong. The parents are in fact helping their children in their learning process. See, my explanation below:

    Elliot, you have excellent philosophical knowledge but poor practical applications of those. Here is how humans learn and this is a brief explanation only, since it comes from the field of computer science, which basically developed those paradigms of learning principles from philosophy and psychology, so a more depth of coverage for the theory of learning may be found in books from those disciplines (philosophy/psychology). Here are the basic learning methodologies:

    #1) Learn by Self Discovery (Unsupervised learning), ie, the learner fiddles with something (such an object/concept), then tries to figure out entirely on his own with no external help of how that concept/object is supposed to work.

    #2) Learn by being Taught by a teacher (Supervised Learning), ie, the learner learns the concept or object by someone who already know them (concept/object), ie, being helped or assisted by an external source.

    #3) Learn by combination of #2) and #3), ie, the leaner uses a bit of self-discovery and a bit of being taught/helped by a knowledgeable person about the concept/object that he/she is learning. This kind of learning is called Semi-supervised.

    #4) Re-inforcement learning, where the learner tries to minimize the number of penalties but maximizing the number of rewards in order to achieve his/her goal. A good example of this is chess playing. The goal is to win and the players will try and minimize making errors (ie, wrong moves), but try to concentrate on maximizing the chance to take out the opponents pieces in order to achieve the goal of winning.

    As I stated above, that there are other forms of learning, but I just highlighted the common 4 above. Because you're already familiar with deductions & inductions, the 3 forms of learning above use both deduction & induction.

    Back to the main point. You stated:
    Keeping children away from things, according to the parent's judgment, is itself a thing which prevents them from thinking.

    What parents are doing is in fact giving children a form of supervised learning (ie, by being taught), since the parents have already stored in their brain's millions of neurons' database of knowledge, they (parents) are in fact teaching the children about those world facts.

    Here is an undeniable fact and I would be surprised if you won't agree with it. Children are born to this earth with no knowledge of the external world facts. But how do they acquire knowledge? That means, how do their neurons capture external world facts? Yep, they do via those 4 major learning paradigms I have listed above and there is no other way, since children don't have psychic minds to just acquire knowledge by reading people's minds.

    So, for parents to act in Keeping children away from things, according to the parent's judgment, is appropriate and because it is supervised learning and that's how children should learn.

    Now, if you want to find out more of how computer scientists use the same paradigms of human learning mechanism into machines (computer programs or robots ), then check out the brief description of Machine Learning, from wikipedia, where there are other sorts of different links there to explore.

    Before you come back to argue otherwise that I am wrong, the first thing for you to do is to refute that humans don't learn via supervised learning (ie, a teacher-student relationship or parent-child relationship). That's what you have to do first, refute supervised learning before we continue.

  48. Correction to my previous message, perhaps PC can incorporate this change into my post rather than cluttering the thread with a short post correction:

    I stated :

    #3) Learn by combination of #2) and #3),...

    but it should be read as:

    #3) Learn by combination of #2) and #1),...

  49. Brian S said...
    Why does your position not equally apply to adults whom you judge not to have fully functional faculties of reason?

    Brian, adults are not the same as kids. Kids can't live on their own, while adults can, unless those adults are mental where they need to be assisted like small children.

  50. Brian Scurfield9 Aug 2009, 20:42:00


    Helping and assisting children is a good thing. But help and assist does not mean force and make them do things against their will. If a child has a strong interest in maths and spends lots of time doing maths do you think it is right if the parents think this is unbalanced and force the child to do some outdoor sport activities? Or do you think it is better that the parents help and assist the child in every way to learn maths?

  51. Brian

    I like drinking rum. I don't like cleaning the house. I don't like paying others to do it for me either. I prefer to spend my money on rum. Do you think that it is right that the landlord expects me to clean the house? Wouldn't it be better if he gave me encouragement to drink rum instead?


  52. Helping and assisting children is a good thing. But help and assist does not mean force and make them do things against their will. If a child has a strong interest in eating lollies and spends a lot of time eating lollies, do you think it is right that the parents think this is unbalanced and force the child to eat vegetables? Or do you think it is better that the parents help and assist the child in every way to eat lollies?

  53. Oh Sus!

    Surely you're not going to suggest that the parents shouldn't encourage and support a child's every whim to eat lollies? That would mean you'd likely be the type of landlord that'd want me to maintain the house, keep it reasonably clean and such like. That'd mean you'd not be encouraging me to fixate on rum drinking practice.

    Oh Sus!


  54. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  55. Brian Scurfield10 Aug 2009, 19:24:00

    "But help and assist does not mean force and make them do things against their will. If a child has a strong interest in eating lollies and spends a lot of time eating lollies, do you think it is right that the parents think this is unbalanced and force the child to eat vegetables? "

    No, I don't think it is right to force a child to put things in their body.

    "Or do you think it is better that the parents help and assist the child in every way to eat lollies?"

    You wrote "to eat". I wrote "to learn". These are not at all the same things. I think it is good for parents to help and assist their child *to learn* about lollies. They shouldn't be treated as some forbidden fruit.

  56. But in your book, force is force Brian, no matter whether the kids are learning or eating.

    You can't have it both ways.

    Sorry to bugger up your rum, LG!

  57. Brian said...
    I think it is good for parents to help and assist their child *to learn* about lollies.

    That's learning by being taught or learning from examples (Supervise Learning).

    Why not just let the children to discover on their own of what lollies are (unsupervised learning) and don't bother guiding them or giving them any hints. The danger here is that the child will learn in a way that could be harmful to him/her, such as poking a pin into a wall plug, etc, which is fatal. Unsupervised learning comes at a stage when the child (or learner) has accumulated enough world facts that he/she can cope with synthesizing know knowledge out of his brain's database of world facts, ie, when the child is a little bit older. Their only form of learning at very young age is via supervised and this is irrelevant if it appears coercive or not.

    The minute you direct them to do something (be it coercive or non-coercive) they're instantly experiencing learning, which is the process of acquiring external world knowledge nuggets. Reason? The child hasn't stored those knowledge nuggets in his/her neuron database. The aim of learning is to make the brain acquire the external world facts as knowledge. Coercing an adult is different, since the adult has already stored that knowledge in his brain's database. It is forcing him/her to do something or decision that he/she could have done on his own. In case of a child? No, since the child lacks that knowledge nugget (not yet acquired or stored) and the only way to acquire that is via learning. You don't learn something if you already know or its already being stored in the brain, unless the learner is pretty thick that he/she can't recall/retrieve from memory the stored information.

  58. Brian Scurfield11 Aug 2009, 05:45:00

    Sus - Do you not see there is a Jupiter sized gap between between non-coerced eating and coerced eating and between non-coerced learning and coerced learning? Coercion is insidious, be it originating from the state or from parents. Children are the people least able to cope with coercion, yet it is they who are most subjected to it.

    FF - If you force a child to sit down and learn something, what lessons do you think are learnt, apart from the one at hand?

  59. But Brian, you've just said that "coercion is insidious" -- so how can you then make a distinction between 'coercion' in learning and eating?

    If there's any "Jupiter-sized gap", it's the difference between adults and children.

  60. Brian Scurfield11 Aug 2009, 07:55:00

    I distinguished eating from learning. Coercion in either case is damaging, don't you agree?

    Does the "Jupiter-sized gap" between adults and children make them better able to or less able to cope with force and coercion? Does the "Jupiter-sized gap" mean that a child's free-will is unimportant, that we can tread on it as we see fit, yet still a libertarian make?

  61. Brian said...
    I distinguished eating from learning.

    I agree there, but your reasoning revolves around coercing the child and non-coercing. You see no distinction between telling the child what to do (supervised learning), since they lack the knowledge (or their faculty of reasoning hasn't fully developed as LGM stated) and forcing them to do something against their free will, which is wrong if the individual has already developed their reasoning mechanism.

    Eating is not learning. You don't eat to acquire new knowledge. It is a conscious body reflex, because when it is hungry, your brain is triggered to tell other organs to look for food. The process of looking for food and how to gather, how to cook and what nice way of eating (with folks & knives - or with bare hands) are knowledge acquired via supervised learning.

    This is where the argument is. Yes it is eating, but the kids need to learn in a supervised manner, and this is where adults come in, to impart the knowledge they already experienced (stored in their brain cells/neurons) to the learner (child), since that specific external world fact isn't in his/her brain's knowledge-base yet. Again, this is not coercion. It is learning.

  62. Brian Scurfield11 Aug 2009, 09:48:00

    FF - About telling things: If a child is stuck on a chess problem and asks for assistance and you explain the solution to him, that is not coercion. If you ask whether he would like to know some other great chess puzzles and assents and you tell him some, that is not coercion.

    If, on the other hand, you order him to forget about silly chess problems and tell him to go outside and play, that is coercion.

    In the two cases above, the child is learning many things not actually to do with chess. These things could make the difference between you living in a free-er and better world in the future or not.

  63. Brian Scurfield11 Aug 2009, 10:22:00

    Sus - BTW, if you see any more Jupiter-sized gaps, please do not be so willing to throw liberty into it!

  64. BS: I'll try to bear that in mind! :)

    I suspect we must agree to disagree. But aren't you glad that I would never dream of imposing my viewpoint upon you? ;)

  65. Brian Scurfield11 Aug 2009, 19:03:00

    Sus - I would rather not agree to disagree about the freedom of children to control their own minds. But, yeah, I'm glad you're not going to impose. I hope you would feel the same way if I you discovered I was 12 years old!

  66. But you're not 12, Brian -- and that's the material point. I make a distinction between adult and child.

    You choose not to, which is fine. But it makes further discussion (between ourselves) on this topic pointless.

  67. Brian Scurfield12 Aug 2009, 05:10:00

    Sus - There are differences between adults and children, but what are the substantive and specific differences that make coercion against children acceptable but coercion against adults not acceptable? Perhaps sometime you could put a post up and explain?

  68. Montessori believed very strongly in learning from the natural world and in my experience most schools have outdoor time though probably not free play on a jungle gym like you may be used to. Circle time depends on the school most schools encourage small group collaboration.


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