The Post-Positive Age (Part II): Parenting


I come from a long, proud line of losers.

My parents were the first to achieve middle class. I was the first to graduate college.

But I’m still a lazy piece of shit. Perhaps we can’t…or shouldn’t….escape who we are.

I got excited when I read the title “Parenting Doesn’t Matter” by Dan Engber (which you can read here.). Of course I was quickly disappointed when I saw how much reading I had to do. I hate to sound like a douche but I just don’t care about the lives of parents. Parents don’t care about the lives of parents for fuck’s sake (although I took time to read the line “it’s not like she’ll be shitting her pants at high school graduation”). So if you do choose to read the article, skip to the last paragraph. But essentially choices you make as a parent don’t matter as much as you would like them to.

Empirically speaking, that is if the research in the article it to be believed, parenting isn’t like a sculptor molding a creation…it’s another chain weighing down the mind in a Rousseauian sense…or, if you’re Roger Waters, another brick in the wall: as we have long known, children aren’t born a tabula rasa. When we impress upon them our parental philosophy, we are enforcing a dictatorship of sorts. Again, arguing from the point of the article, the aim of parenting shouldn’t be to “mold” but to “foster growth”…same thing we do with say, plants!

Tyranny begins at a young age.

Despite knowing for a VERY long time that humans aren’t born blank slates…as we observe in other species….in our arrogance, we still practice this misguided conception. Which is why I get excited when I see these kinds of articles as they tend to undermine commonly held beliefs. (Which, I have no idea if they’re right, but I appreciate the effort)

Of course, the philosophical implications of this are terrifying. Perhaps free will doesn’t exist. Vince Lombardi’s quote “leaders are made” becomes bullshit. Some of our shitty qualities are innate (I know mine are). And the list goes on. But the big one for me is that it puts a new spin on the assumption “family is the bedrock of civilization”, which is mostly said by disciplinary parents who want to believe they are shaping society…when they are, in effect, acting as a jailer.

So that stoner college freshman that’s always ranting about how oppressive society is…he’s correct.

“What’s your point?”

I’m too lazy to go back through Engber’s article, but I vaguely recall him alluding to parents obsessing over self-help books in an attempt to figure out the best methods of rearing children. Apparently there were fads that emphasized certain techniques at certain points in time, etc. etc. And now we have Engber saying that that’s all bullshit and cites a number of sources backing his claims.

Which underscores another point: research!

In Part I, I mentioned that there’s the likelihood of people looking back on our own era…an era of “positive knowledge” in a Comte-ian sense…and saying “can you believe people believed that shit.” Now I’m not saying that I disagree with Engber, I fully believe his assertions. But a thought occurred to me while reading his article, a thought that a future historian might have: “People couldn’t take a shit without a study saying that it was good for them” (in reference to our current times, as we seemingly need a study to confirm our most basic intuitions).

When I refer to this “post-positive” age, I am casting skepticism on the idea that positive knowledge…or our scientific endeavors…can reveal to us everything we need to know. It might answer questions that we need to know TODAY, but that might not be the final stage of human development (or whatever Comte’s terminology was).

How will this “post-positive” age look? I don’t know yet.

How could I know?

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