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Poisonous pedagogy

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Poisonous pedagogy is a concept by which present-day psychologists and educators distance themselves from child-raising methods that were propagated in previous centuries. Poisonous pedagogy is therefore meant as an unequivocally negative term. It is an umbrella concept encompassing behaviors and communications that have a strongly manipulative or violent character, such as corporal punishment.[1]

The term poisonous pedagogy corresponds to the German Schwarze Pädagogik (literally, black pedagogy) introduced by Katharina Rutschky in her 1977 work Schwarze Pädagogik. Quellen zur Naturgeschichte der bürgerlichen Erziehung. The psychologist Alice Miller used the concept to describe child-raising approaches that, she believes, damage a child's emotional development. Miller states that this emotional damage promotes adult behavior harmful to individuals.

Aims and methods Edit

Poisonous pedagogy, in Katharina Rutschky's definition, aims to inculcate a social superego in the child, to construct a basic defense against drives in the child's psyche, to toughen the child for later life, and to instrumentalize the body parts and senses in favor of socially defined functions. Although not explicitly, poisonous pedagogy serves as a rationalization of sadism and a defense against the feelings of the parent himself or of the person involved.[2]

For methods, poisonous pedagogy makes use of initiation rites (for example, internalizing a threat of death), the application of pain (including psychological), the totalitarian supervision of the child (body control, behavior, obedience, prohibition of lying, etc.), taboos against touching, the denial of basic needs, and an extreme desire for order.

Historical background in Germany Edit

In the 18th century common notions of the evil nature of children or of taming bear witness to superstitions and the wish to be able to train human beings like animals.[3]

One German child-raising book said: "These first years have, among other things, the advantage that one can use force and compulsion. With age children forget everything they encountered in their early childhood. Thus if one can take away children's will, they will not remember afterward that they had had a will." (J. Sulzer: Versuch von der Erziehung und Unterweisung der Kinder, 1748)

In Germany it is prohibited to strike children. In the year 2000 the parental right to discipline was abolished by a change in law. The Federal Minister for Family Affairs from 1994 to 1998 Claudia Nolte wanted to maintain child-raising methods using force [1], although the severe harm done to children through physical violence had been demonstrated, at least since the 1980 work For Your Own Good by Alice Miller.

"I understand 'black pedagogy' to be a parenting approach that is directed toward breaking the will of the child, in order to make it an obedient subject, with the aid of open or concealed use of force, manipulation, and repression." (A. Miller: Evas Erwachen)

Psychological background Edit

A relevant criterion is if a manipulative approach reveals personal deficits such as a blindness to feelings, cruelty, or a tendency toward violence, or if strong negative emotions such as anger or hate are being discharged, emotions against which the juvenile psyche, with its age-based limitations, cannot defend itself.[3]

Personalities Edit

Other themes of the controversial sociologist Katharina Rutschky, who coined the term poisonous pedagogy in her 1977 work Schwarze Pädagogik, are parenting, feminist criticism, and abuse.

The childhood researcher Alice Miller also came to the conviction, as a result of her therapeutic work, that she needed to work on her own childhood in order to understand her clients better. For her, poisonous pedagogy is a behavior that is passed on from generation to generation by being euphemized and sanitized.

Discussion and criticism Edit

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The concept of poisonous pedagogy is generally undisputed with regard to child abuse. Wherever recommendations of beating appear under the cover of pedagogical advice, they meet with broad rejection.[How to reference and link to summary or text]Alice Miller designates with the term poisonous pedagogy all types of behavior that have a manipulative character as their starting point. "Every smack is a humiliation" is one of the theses she has emphasized. Critics regard such declarations as "too sweeping". Discussions of the concept of poisonous pedagogy therefore often evolve into discussions of whether or not a smack must be regarded as damaging, which Alice Miller firmly asserts. [2]

Advocates of rigid methods of child-raising Edit

References Edit

  1. Helfield, Isa (2001), "Poisonous Pedagogy" 
  2. Rutschky, Katharina (1997-08-01). Schwarze Pädagogik. Quellen zur Naturgeschichte der bürgerlichen Erziehung. (in German), Ullstein Buchverlage GmbH.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Miller, Alice (1990-01-01). available online. For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, 3rd edition, Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  • Foucault, Michel (1977). Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-679-75255-2


See also Edit

External links Edit


This article is based on a translation of an article from the German Wikipedia.

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

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