Authenticity, Children, Education, Family, Intelligence, Learning, Society, Talents and Skills, Values

The Expert and I Disagree

I suppose even a hundred thousand years ago, when our ancestors walked the yellow grasses of Africa, some of us were gatherers and some were healers, some of us were hunters and some were scouts, some of us were warriors and some were shamans.

I’m not inclined to believe those roles were fixed and rigid.  A gatherer might also be a healer, a healer also a hunter, a hunter also a warrior, and so forth.  But you see even today how people are born a little bit more this than that, a little bit more the artist than the athlete, or the athlete than the doctor.  We seem at birth to have predispositions — I often call them talents — for certain skill sets.  And, as individuals, we tend to be more strongly predisposed towards acquiring certain skills than we are predisposed towards acquiring others.

Of course, it’s possible to make both too much and too little of those differences.  The evidence strongly suggests the ancient hunting/gathering societies were remarkably egalitarian.  More egalitarian than almost any society today.  So, during the bulk of our evolutionary past, individual differences in talents must have been almost insignificant compared to whatever pressures there were towards social and political equality.  Hence, we can certainly make too much of those differences in talents.

Yet, we can also make too little.  I was reading someone the other day who professes to be an expert on raising children.  But it seems he wants to raise them all the same.  In some profound way, he doesn’t recognize that children have any innate talents or dispositions: He doesn’t understand the implications of the fact.  And so I’m left wondering how the expert could know less about kids than even I do.

Perhaps he knows more about the needs of the social order, than he knows about the needs of children.

I think the challenge for adults is to help kids turn their talents into skills and then employ those skills in a socially responsible manner.  I do not believe the challenge is to turn out kids who are all alike, who fit perfectly into society, who vote a certain way, or follow any particular ideology or religion.  The expert and I must agree to disagree.

8 thoughts on “The Expert and I Disagree”

  1. It’s funny….the brief, flighty periods I have spent trying to theorize about how to best raise children, and considering relative differences in talents never occurred to me. Was this just an oversight on the part of the expert, or did he deliberately come up with his ideas on the subject through consciously rejecting the notion that children could, simply put, be different? Because you are absolutely right about children having different talents, and that there is no universal method of good parenting due to that (but I also tend to believe that there are at least some principles that different methods of good parenting have in common…not sure what exactly, though). I am just wondering if you are sure that this expert thinks otherwise.


  2. I am no expert, and have only raised one child. having said that, it was a constant source of amazement to me just how much of an unpredictable individual my child was; how it required patient attention and listening to him to negotiate the shoals of parenting; and how certain characteristics and abilities manifested themselves so powerfully and individually in him. it really had to be parenting by the seat of the pants, of experimenting, of reinforcing capacities he had, of helping to extinct behaviours which were detrimental to his development as an individual. Experts can only give us basic guidelines of what is normative – it is for the involved parent to tackle the minutiae of daily conviviality, of daily learning. What i learned is to let the child lead me in directions which were going to be fruitful for him. Maybe, on the other hand, we just got very lucky. it has been a marvellous experience! G


  3. In my experience, every new parent has the potential to be an “expert.” Justifiably proud of having solved a parenting problem for their own family, the sleep deprivation kicks in and they simply must share with anyone who doesn’t run away screaming.

    Of course, I ~never~ did this. I’m certain of this because my memory of the first year is mercifully fuzzy. Some people never outgrow this parenting phase, though, and the one-size-fits-all-parenting-expert is born. With my strongly anti-authoritarian bent, I ignore such “experts” whenever I can. 🙂


  4. I’ve got a question. What makes anyone an “expert” on child rearing? Academic study? Having raised one or more of them? A letterhead which says so?



  5. You are right – that is indeed the challenge to parents. But it is the harder path. The expert’s way is the easier one – one size fits all kind of approach. Perhaps the reason why most people choose to follow the second one?


  6. Usha: “The expert’s way is the easier one – one size fits all kind of approach.”

    More like the “driving a square/ triangular/ trapezoidal/ whatever-shaped peg into a round hole with a sledge hammer” approach.

    Expect some splintering…

    – M. \”/


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