Dennis Hackethal’s Blog

My blog about coding, philosophy, and anything else that interests me.

Teachers Who “Take Children Seriously”

These are my thoughts and not necessarily those of TCS.

Sometimes I encounter teachers who say they take children seriously, in reference to the TCS school of thought. One such encounter was earlier today.

They usually say things like “I let my students know that they can come to me with anything” or “I treat them with respect.”

Well, isn’t that nice?

But do their students have the option to leave at any point, never to return, without punishment? No, they don’t. Which—I vaguely recall reading in a TCS article once, or maybe it’s just me talking—is torture.

If that sounds extreme, imagine yourself being in such a situation in adulthood. Imagine being pulled away from your interests and held in a facility against your will, every day for hours on end, with no option to leave when you want to. Not only that, but you’re forced to regurgitate what someone with arbitrary authority over you tells you—for up to twelve years (!). Then you’re graded on how faithful your regurgitation is and your future is largely determined by such grades. Is it really extreme to call that torture? If not, why can’t we call it that when it is children who are affected, not adults?

Teachers who tell themselves they “take children seriously” do anything but. They are fudging the meaning of that and want to convince themselves that they’re good people despite the force they exert on children. There is an obvious tell: if they really took children seriously, they would have quit their job already. There are opportunities to help children learn in exchange for payment that don’t involve coercion and are fun for everyone involved.

Fortunately, not every teacher is this way. A since-retired high-school teacher of mine—who has become a friend—understands the coercive nature of schools and is not afraid to say it openly.


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