Final Notes on “Philosophy & The Young Child” by Gareth B. Matthews

Chapter 6 – Fantasy

Page 68-69 “I hope that it will shock my readers to learn that the five claims about the primitive are almost exactly the claims that Bettelheim makes about the child.” “I consider these generalizations both factually false and morally repugnant.” It expresses…”an attitude of superiority that is morally inappropriate to one’s dealings with other human beings.” This is the attitude that makes me crazy in how people treat children all around me. They would never treat other adults that way, anyone that does is dealt a great deal of contempt. To talk of another adult as if they are not there, to comment on their trials and errors as if the person has no feelings about the matter, and then when you try to point that out people get very defensive. How can anyone grow or improve if they are treated as though they are not quite human?

It’s sad to think that most people believe that to be “mature” is to lose your sense of creativity and wonder of this world and that this would be a good goal for any human. It closes off your mind to possibilities!

Even stories like “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” are philosophical in nature and teach children in ways they can very much relate to that adults have lost the ability to use. Why do we believe “losing something” as we grow older is something that will help us in the long run? I’d rather build on things I already have than to put aside a natural aspect of myself for a learned/unnatural one. These stores we tell children are thought experiments and invite you to imagine new concepts and cement our understanding of the world around us. Reading this makes me want to re-read some of my sons’ favorite bedtime stories, like Harold and the Purple Crayon!

Chapter 7 – Anxiety

To do philosophy with a child, or with anyone else for that matter, is simply to reflect on a perplexity or a conceptual problem of a certain sort to see if one can remove the perplexity or solve the problem. Sometimes one succeeds, often one doesn’t. Sometimes, getting clearer about one thing only makes it obvious that one is dreadfully unclear about something else.” Funny to think that children take this “unclearness” as a given and it’s something that terrifies adults. And then we put down children for thinking in this fashion and being scared by it at times.

Above all, one shouldn’t let the surmise that some great mind has already thought the thought that one is about to think spoil one’s own excitement in coming up with it.” And why would we put that on a child that comes to us with the amazed and excited feeling to tell you about his discovery about a bug he saw? We live our lives as if everything has been discovered and that we aren’t allowed to be excited about something that we have found because someone else found it before us.

Some adults are not prepared to face a child stripped of the automatic presumption of adults’ superiority in knowledge and experience.” And most adults are threatened by it because we’ve been trained to it. It’s a side effect of some kinds of homeschooling, children that believe they are equals with adults and that they both have something to add to a conversation.

Chapter 8 – Naivete

Philosophers seem to ask questions that no one wants to answer and to tell us what no one wants to know.” And so do children, which is why we feel the need to suppress them and put them in their place.

Chapter 9 – Dialogues

When you spend a lot of time with a child, as homeschoolers can only do, you begin to see that a sense of trust is the basis of a growing up well. Nothing good comes of our lives without it. We can build that trust with our children so that they start their lives off on a good footing, or we can send them off to spend time with a myriad of people, none of which they have enough time to build a real solid relationship with. Then we start our adult lives lacking in that trust which we spend the rest of our lives searching for, only to send our own children off to do the same because that’s just the way things are. But they don’t need to be!

So much of this book relates to how unschoolers have changed their lives to match a more natural and philosophical idea. And even though our children grow up to be wonderfully productive and happy people, we are charged at every step with coddling and spoiling them. Your ways are creating generation after generation of unhappy, mentally unstable people, yet you continue to add more fuel to that unhealthy fire. Why? It’s as if the world cannot see the same humans that I see. I cringe at the way I hear people, homeschoolers and mainstream parents, talk about and to their children and then wonder why those children grow up to be moody, aloof, and violent teenagers. I’ve raised my sons differently and all I’ve gotten in the past was questions about why my kids are allowed to be in the same room with adults and why I allow them to ask so many questions. Now that they are teenagers I’m complemented on how mature and kind they are, only to have people insist that I must have “raised them right” by continuing the practices they themselves are using but with more control and belittling. It’s insanity! What can be done?

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