Book Review: “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov

cover-i-robotOne of the most important responsibilities of a parent is choosing appropriate reading material for their children.  Books contain a wealth of ideas, and while exploring different ideas is a good activity for adults to do on a regular basis, one needs to take into account that children’s minds are not yet sufficiently developed to evaluate ideas morally or logically.  Children need protection from bad or infectious ideas.  Ideas such as, “you are useless”, “you need to respect force”, “you are responsible for other people’s problems”, “you owe the government allegiance”, “the media are trustworthy”, “casual sex is harmless and fun”, “all religions are peaceful and good”, and so on.  There are literally hundreds of very bad ideas being fed to children while their brains are not yet sufficiently developed to evaluate the merit of these ideas and filter out the harmful ones.  For this reason, I urge parents to read whatever their children are reading and make sure you introduce intelligent challenges to these bad ideas to prevent your children from becoming slaves to self-destructive ideas. It is also useful for parents to read book reviews of popular books children might read so they get an idea of just how dangerous some insidious ideas can be if absorbed by children during the formative years of their intellectual development.

I first read Isaac Asimov’s book, I, Robot, when I was sixteen years old.  I remember thoroughly enjoying the book at the time.  Last week, feeling nostalgic, I decided to read it again.  After all, rereading books as an adult that one used to enjoy when one was young often leads to profoundly different interpretations and self-learning.  Last month, for example, I reread H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and was more impressed with it now than I was reading it when I was ten years old.  However, I, Robot does not stand the same test of time as well as The Time Machine.  There were subtle and not so subtle political overtones in the entire book.

The first thing that struck me as odd was just how ridiculously emotional and imaginative the robots were.  These robots were not at all operating remotely like real life robots do; they were far more like well trained dogs in their operation: well-meaning, but inept due to lack of insight.  I had been lead to believe that Asimov was a science fiction writer and would therefore know more about computer science.  In the real scientific world, robots do not get drunk, they do not sing nursery rhymes, and they most certainly do not create sun worshipping cults.  As plot devices, these are clever or at least amusing, however, certainly not something I would expect to find in genuine science fiction.  It was only after I reached the closing chapters of the book that it dawned on me: These robots are the proletariat, they are based on the Soviet ideal of a man with a dog’s heart: mindlessly obedient to a central planning authority.  They even eventually staged a peaceful revolution against the regressive pro-humanity (nationalist) organisation and bring in a new world order of a single world government and robot-directed central planning, while the state withers away as predicted in the Communist Manifesto.

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But What About Socialisation?

mixed age child play

“The Art of Being Young” by Mark Keathley

Any homeschooling family will tell you that one of the most frequently heard objections to their educational choice is “socialisation”. Though generally well-meaning, but often ill-informed, people will always bring this one up. They are concerned that your child, being deprived of a traditional school experience, will not be well socialised. There is a perception that homeschooled children must be kept locked up in the house with their parents all day and never encounter any other kids.

Now, I find it quite ironic that the issue of socialisation arises over and over as one of the main arguments people have against homeschooling. It’s as if the pro-school crowd recognises on some level that school isn’t really about education. And it’s not. And that’s why the issue of socialisation should be addressed in this context.

Socialisation is a code word for conformity. Socialisation at school means your children learn to do all the same dysfunctional things the other kids do. They learn how to bully and be bullied. They learn how to cheat and how to tattle. They learn to submit to authority. They learn to think (or not think) the same things in the same way as all the other children, who are all being told what to think by their teachers and textbooks. Continue reading

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Motivating the Unmotivated Child

“I didn’t learn much in school last year,” said the 11 year old boy I look after.

“Oh, really?” I asked. “Why not?”

“I don’t think my teacher was very good and it felt like a waste of time going to school,” he replied. “I learned a lot more at home with you.”

Well, if that didn’t make my heart swell with pride! Of course, I wish he’d learned more at school and felt like he was getting something out of it, but the reality is that government schools just don’t deliver very well on teaching most of the time for most kids. For kids in public schools, parents and other caring adults need to pick up the slack.

While we at Four Birds strongly advocate homeschooling as the ideal, we realise that not every family is well placed to start homeschooling for a variety of reasons. So what can you do to help your child learn outside of school?

The particular boy I work with is an extremely motivated learner who has not yet had his desire for learning crushed by the state, which makes my job with him much easier, but many parents may find their children no longer have any interest in academic learning after their school teachers have turned it into a hated chore. If this is where you are starting, your first task is to rekindle the natural hunger for knowledge that children innately have. You may have a child who refuses to learn maths or spelling, but eagerly learns the rules to any new sport or computer game or spends hours figuring out how to assemble  a Lego set. Children want to learn when they are motivated to do so- when the result of their learning is pleasurable.

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How Schools Encourage Co-dependency

Co-dependence is a technical word for what people used to refer to as “battered wife/husband syndrome” where one person in the relationship completely sacrifices their freedom and well-being to take care of the other person who takes them for granted.  Such people see themselves as responsible for managing the feelings of the other person.  They falsely believe they are in control of the other person’s feelings and deny the other person’s responsibility for their own problems.

There is a twelve point checklist used as a guide to determine if a person is co-dependent.  Let us go through this list of items one by one and see how the public school system encourages this pathological approach to relationships.

1. Solving [the teacher’s] problems or relieving [the teacher’s] pain is the most important thing in my life – no matter what the emotional cost to me.

Children are told to do whatever the teacher wants to keep them happy.  Teachers will often become emotional, yell, curse, beg, or demand that their students do the tasks they want the children to do, regardless of whether the children want to do them or not- homework, tests, in-class busy work, sport, etc. The most successful students, the ones who will be rewarded with good grades, are the ones who are typically the most co-dependent.  These children are taking on responsibility for making the teacher happy by always doing what they are told. Continue reading

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Who Makes You Feel?

John was running late to work because the bus had broken down. When he arrived at his office he was worried that his boss would be angry at him. He informed her about the bus, but she just frowned and said you cannot control things like that. John felt huge relief and as though his boss cared about him. Mary was trying on clothes in a store and she overheard one of the staff comment on how fat she was. She peeked out the door of the change room and saw that the staff member who had said it was a thin, tall girl, like all the girls in the store. She immediately felt self-conscious about her body and ashamed. Continue reading

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Understanding Psychological Projection

Psychological projection is close to the top of my list of things I consider to be essential knowledge for everyone to know and understand.  While you will typically find no shortage of psychologists ready to point out to you that you are projecting, the clinical application of CBT tends be that this comes off as condescending if not mocking.  However, my definition and understanding of what psychological projection is has been shaped by my own experiences and as such is at significant variance with mainstream psychology.  In this essay I will explain the official definition, then explain my own definition and expand on this to point out the deficiencies that I see in the official definition.  I will conclude by pointing out the benefits of psychological projection.  So this article is something of a critique of the existing definition and an expansive piece for those wanting to learn and discuss the topic in more depth.

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10-Hour School Days, Progress or Totalitarianism?

King in Prussia William I was building an army, an army that his son would later use to attack Austria and Poland with, to achieve this goal he concluded that two years military service was not sufficient to drill a man into an obedient soldier, instead, he needed at least three years of drill so that he might be competent for military service.  Three years? You might say, “what does a soldier need to learn that takes three years to train?”  The answer is that a soldier needs to be so obedient to suggestion from his commanders that he would immediately march directly into gunfire if ordered to.  If someone told you to step into the way of a field full of exploding cannon balls, would you obey them?  The situation is not one of “your country is being attacked and your family and friends threatened” rather, you are in an army attacking other people and threatening other people’s families and friends.  What would you do?  Generally speaking, most people would decline such an order, however, after three years of military schooling, the typical Prussian soldier found ample “courage” to step out into the firing line of enemy cannons when instructed to do so.

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