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ArmyWife0112's avatar

Are "scientific discoveries" causing unnecessary bickering in people today? Esp. in reference to child education?

Asked by ArmyWife0112 (112points) November 22nd, 2009

In a previous discussion I have found that people tend to be using scientific discoveries about child education to argue whether something is right or wrong for children in general. I would like to pose the following thoughts:

Other than major issues(which I’m trying to avoid getting into here), like abuse, drugs, etc., did the majority of us not grow up into mature adults? In spite of too much TV, exposure to improper language, or crying for excessive amounts of time?

Is it acceptable to say that the opinions of some individuals and their children can not apply to the lifestyles of others? Or rather is it proper to put down someone’s parenting based on a blog or whatnot and without actually witnessing the behavior in question?

Finally, and generally, is science not showing us evidence everyday that opposes previous thought? Why and how is it that we as a species find it so hard to make decisions based on our instincts rather than others opinions (i.e. of researchers, etc.)?

P.S. In NO WAY am i putting anyone down or bashing science in any way. Just sharing a few wandering thoughts and interested in a little enlightenment of my own (as knowingly hypocritical that may be to my final thought LOL).

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11 Answers

DominicX's avatar

I don’t think most of it is scientific. I think most of it is “this worked for my child, so it must work for every child” or “this didn’t work for my child, so it must not work for any child”. Parenting is one of the most individual personal things there is and people get really defensive about it and assertive about it and assume that they have all the answers and that they should pass those on to others. But every. kid. is. different. I can’t stress that enough. What works for some people doesn’t necessarily work for others. My parents did things that other parents would never do and other parents do things that my parents would never do. In the end, though, I felt my parents did an excellent job and I think they did what worked for me and my siblings, even though it might not have worked for others.

The problem is just when people find success with one method or problems with one method, they want to share it with other people, but it gets to the point of being preachy and self-righteous to where they believe they are the “correct” side and the other side is “incorrect”. I really think that in many of these cases, minding your own business is good. No problem with sharing what does and doesn’t work for you, but you don’t need to make it into a business of trying to change other people’s methods. Like, I remember mentioning that my parents knew I drank, but weren’t overtly trying to stop it and one person commented on how I had “bad parents” because of that. Do they live in my house? Do they know my parents? Do they know me? Do they know what works for me and what doesn’t? Do they know what works for my parents and what doesn’t? No and no and no and no and no. It isn’t something you can just make judgments about easily.

And yes, I’m also mainly referring to smaller issues rather than serious ones like drugs and abuse.

Janka's avatar

You are phrasing this question in a manner that in a court would be ruled down as trying to lead the witness. ;)

That said, I think there are three important separations that need to be made here.

First is the “opinion of the researchers” and “scientific evidence”. Despite postmodernist thought to the contrary, I am of the opinion (sic) that facts and opinion can be separated. You must evaluate the opinions of others before incorporating them or not into your own life. You must evaluate evidence for facts before acting on them. These both require thinking, but different sort of thinking.

Second is the difference between causation and correlation. In all science, but I find especially in child psychology, there is a tendency to equate correlation (children who cry a lot will develop anxiety disorders later in life more often than others) with causation (crying a lot causes anxiety disorders). In reality, A coming before B more often than not does not mean A necessarily causes B (e.g., some children but not all who cry a lot might do so because they already have an underlying anxiety disorder, causing the correlation, or maybe the same causal agent like abuse by parents or peers might cause both the crying and the anxiety).

Third distinction, probably most importantly, is between learning from others and following others.

I do not think it is correct to say that experiences by others cannot apply to your situation. I think it is quite obvious that sometimes, indeed, experiences by others do apply. If they did not, we would need to learn everything from scratch, and we would likely all die before procreating from drinking poisonous liquids just because we thought that the fact that they are poisonous to others “cannot apply” to us. That does not mean we can mindlessly take what others say and simply do that.

We need to think about our situations and the advice of others, think about what we know about facts and evaluate evidence, estimate risks and benefits, compare our values to that of the society’s and other people’s and make compromises and draw hard lines.

So, I do not think you can say that “science” is causing unnecessary bickering. Parts of that “bickering” is necessary – it is dialogue about what people think is sensible. Parts of it are caused not by the science, but by the fact that a lot of people are not willing to do the thinking for themselves part, but instead want an “expert” to tell them what to do and how to interpret what they see. That “expert” can be a scientist or a priest or common-sense self-helper – but the root of the problem is not science or priest or self-help.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I’m not aware of any “scientific discoveries” in childhood education. Early childhood education crosses into my daughter’s area of expertise (she is a university researcher) and many of the studies on ERIC seem to validate natural learning. If anything, research seems to debunk gimmicks.

I raised two daughters exactly the same manner; they are two years apart in age and six years apart is school grades. One would be described as profoundly gifted, the other has cognitive processing disabilities and ADHD that we have worked very hard to overcome. It’s been 20 years of constant attention and self-discipline on both my part and on the part of my daughters. It’s easy to slack off and put a child in front of the television with a video so you can get housework done, or to deny them access to art materials or projects that make a mess, because, well, they “make a mess.”

What children are exposed to at an early age influences how they function in their world later on. Children who are given opportunities to explore and create their world generally grow up to be inquisitive, thinking adults. Likewise, how socialization is taught at an early age has an impact on the general manners and ease of social integration that adults have. All of this is common sense.

I think one of the inherent weaknesses I see is that there seems to be a misconception that because you, as a parent, are a certain way, your children will automatically be the same way. In my case, I did a poor job of teaching tidiness and how to keep house. I learned this from my mother, from having to do repetitive household chores, which I hated. I didn’t provide the same structure for my daughters, and they are both very messy, and don’t see the mess unless pointed out by other people. This carries forward for people in other ways, in terms of honesty, respect for other people, etc. All characteristics of functioning society are at some point taught, if not by parents, then by what children see on television.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I agree with @DominicX. He pretty much has said everything that I would. From other threads on here I know that @DominicX was raised differently to me. From what he has said about his parents in other threads they wouldn’t do some of the things that my parents did while raising me and my brother and vice versa. I feel that I had a good upbringing and, for the most part, I am happy with the way I was raised and feel my parents did a great job. This just proves his point. Every parent and child is different. Just because our parents did things differently to each other when it comes to parenting doesn’t mean that either ones method is wrong.

I take every new “scientific” discoery with a pinch of salt until I have read more and experienced certain things myself.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

While we should acknowledge that previous generations have turned out well, this should not preclude us for aiming for bigger and better things. Each generation should expand on the one before to reach new heights. If this is not through science, how else can this be achieved?

Snarp's avatar

First let me say that if you felt I was putting down your parenting in the other thread, I’m very sorry and that was not my intent. It can be difficult to ask questions about child-rearing online, because no matter how good a parent you are, and no matter how innocent the question, when the answers disagree with you and are stated in strong terms, the parental defensiveness turns on (at least this has happened to me). I am a firm believer that the two topics of discussion most likely to start fights are not politics and religion, they are how to raise children and how to care for pets.

I also believe that even though science often contradicts previous science, in general it gets better at being right over time. Also, there are varying levels of confidence (both statistically and colloquially) with varying studies. So some studies may show one thing while others show something completely different. Scientifically though, one set likely had better experiment design and has more studies going for it. That side is far more likely to be correct.

Having said all that, there are some things in child rearing that you must do, some that you should do, and others where you just do the best you can. There is a serious problem when people subscribe to a single parenting philosophy and feel that they must not deviate from it (and neither should anyone else). Ultimately I think you are right – as long as you love your child, don’t abuse them, and don’t put them into obviously dangerous situations, then they will probably be just fine. My personal parenting philosophy, which I don’t think is dangerous to adhere to and I DO think everyone should follow is this: Do what works. Every child is different, every family is different, and every parent is different. You do what works for you.

The most important thing is that you love your child and show it. So I don’t think you are doing anything wrong, because you are doing the best you can.

Some members of your family, on the other hand, could stand to be a little more committed, but beggars can’t be choosers, my mother in law is far worse, I’m just lucky enough not to have to rely on her.)

LostInParadise's avatar

The studies indicate that the traditional way of teaching with a teacher standing in front of the class lecturing is not very effective. This should line up with common sense, as described by @PandoraBoxx. Being passive is never a good way to learn. People learn best by getting actively involved and being able to explore and this is what studies indicate. Some of this has been applied to teaching mathematics and has resulted in what has been called the math wars. Link The problem is that many parents think that the way to learn math is emphasizing the basics, that is, drilling students in their multiplication tables and in how to solve certain types of problems. What the research indicates is that students do much better if given open ended problems to work on alone or in a group. It turns out that socialization is also conducive to better learning. There are studies that indicate that not only do the students perform better on tests but they actually end up liking, or at least not hating, mathematics.

Whether common sense will prevail is yet to be determined.

ArmyWife0112's avatar

@PandoraBoxx “It’s easy to slack off and put a child in front of the television with a video so you can get housework done, or to deny them access to art materials or projects that make a mess, because, well, they “make a mess.” Personally, I couldn’t agree more, one of my greatest challenges as a new parent is accepting that my daughter is going to be messy, but I refuse to let that avoid me from stimulating her creativity. I’ve already started collecting play doh, markers, magnets, etc.

“All characteristics of functioning society are at some point taught, if not by parents, then by what children see on television.” However, I must pick at this statement… I have strong feelings about the effects of environment on people, especially children. You can walk through the grocery store and a child will pick up a homeless man before you noticed he was there.

So I must add that it’s not only parents and television, but also immediate family, extended family, friends, associates, radio broadcasts, people in passing, and perhaps most importantly in my eyes as of yet: the internet. Several of what I consider to be my most valuable lessons were learned from people I only met twice at the age of 6. It was one of those things I didn’t understand then, but did looking back…

mattbrowne's avatar

There are a few good scientific discoveries from which we could draw conclusions to improve the education of children. But many so-called discoveries aren’t really very scientific or unconfirmed hypotheses at best. Discussing discoveries (not bickering about them) is a good idea, because in many cases people learn something from a discussion even if a discovery turns out to be false later on.

Here’s one good example of a valuable scientific discovery:

Enough sleep is required to allow the brain to organize and consolidate what it has learned during the day. Lack of sleep is therefore detrimental for the child’s education.

Snarp's avatar

@PandoraBoxx Sunday my 3 year old started filling a little cup with water from the fridge dispenser and pouring it into a bucket. He was getting water everywhere. It was laundry day, so I brought all the dirty towels out and spread them on the floor and let him go. Then he wanted me to get the ice out and put it in the water. He had a great time experimenting with ice and water, and fortunately the mess was contained by the towels. Some part of my wife and my brains were telling us we should probably do something to prevent a terrible mess, but some things you just have to let go.

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