Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Raising Cave Kids

According to John Derbyshire:

That "until now" needs work, too.  I say again, the idea that parenting style makes all the difference is quite new.  It came up with Freud.  Among the educated classes, it started around 1930.  In my own (uneducated) childhood neighborhood in the 1950s, it would have been thought weird.  A family that produced a lot of bad children—there seemed to be one in every street—were reckoned to be "bad in the bone."  A family that produced all good children were considered lucky, or at very best the parents were said to have given "a good example."  If a family produced two good kids and one bad one, they were sympathized with for the bad one, not *blamed*, Freudian-style.  To be sure, people quoted the Proverbs 22:6 pretty freely; but the general understanding was that you do your best—keep the kids clean and well fed, make sure they go to school, yell at them or smack them if they misbehave—but if they turned out bad, well, they were "bad in the bone" or else they "fell in with a wrong crowd."  Genetics and group socialization, see?  This is actually one case where science is confirming folk wisdom.  It's the recent parenting-style-is-all Freud-Spock scheme that is the aberration.  

Strange, I thought the vulgar Freudians believed in giving parents all the blame and none of the credit. They believed in UN-style child care: You can tell your kids what to do but you just can't enforce it. (By the way, was the British “folk wisdom” caused by vulgar Freudianism?) On the other hand, maybe he thinks of the Book of Proverbs as a predecessor of Freud.

We also see that group socialization was more important in the Flintstone's neighborhood:

And if you go way back, to those long slow millennia in which the human brain evolved, you find—as best we can judge by observing surviving hunter-gatherer peoples—that after age two and a half or three, when they're weaned and can run around, kids are let loose among other kids, and not bothered about much.  There is very little parenting, in the modern understanding of the word, at all.  It really did take a village.  That, of course, was the state Marx described as "primitive communism."  We are way beyond that, and any attempt to pretend that the state can replace tribal authority in our big, complex modern societies would be disastrous—as, in fact, modern communism proved, and as Hillary-style "takes a village" socialism would prove all over again.  Some things just don't "scale up."  Something, however, is always owed to nature , and we get into a mess when we forget that, or deny it.  Our brains haven't changed a lot since the paleolithic, and to ignore that, is to take a wrong turn.

According to the slightly more up-to-date Vox Day, current child care resembles that of the Old Stone Age, but that is a recent regression:
This strikes me as a shallow statement, given the way in which it assumes the sort of group socialization that only occurs when children are sent away to run around and learn about primate behavior in the temporary zoos known as "schools". Given that parents control what sort of group socialization is permitted the child - and the admission that most parents choose the Lord of the Flies method doesn't change the fact that they are choosing it - means that parental influence is absolutely vital even if Derb's theory is true.
Children might be socialized by child herds today and 10,000 years ago, but that doesn't mean it was the same way in between. We can see the fallacy ridiculed in a recent Usenet post:
What's the average depth of the Grand Canyon, rim to rim? Well, the depth at the south rim is 0, and the depth at the north rim is 0, so the average depth is (0+0)/2 = 0.

Addendum: I just realized that Derbyshire's account of natural child rearing closely resembles that of another 20th-century social-science fraud: Margaret Mead.


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