If you're curious to learn more about Alfie Kohn's ideas, without reading an entire library, check out his most recent -- and provocative -- commentary on Huffington Post's blog.
He contends, midway through an essay entitled "How to Sell Conservatism" :
I think it can be argued that the dominant problem with parenting isn't permissiveness; it's a fear of permissiveness that leads us to be excessively controlling.
I know that now that "helicopter parenting" has become such a denigrated label, I often feel self-conscious about my participation in my children's lives - but isn't a bit of self-consciousness the root of reflexivity? Who's to say how much or how little permissiveness is best; and yet, we do need cultural standards since in the end the trends of parenting and education effect us all. Is it all relational -- that we need to find our own way within our families? How much are we influenced by our own childhoods? By other parents? By "experts"? How will we discern what we wish for for "norms" while also participating in the production and reproduction of parenting with intention and with the limits we naturally bring.
Kohn makes a compelling case that the discourse of overparenting, overindulgence, and out of control permissiveness provides a rhetorical gateway to highly controlling educational institutions (AKA testing). What are the words to describe parenting that clear and confident without being controlling or controlled; what is the word to describe the education FSP tries to provide, where each child is held as good-enough already and also capable of achieving some core competencies and more? As much as I appreciate the critical essay, I'd love to hear more about what we might ask for from our public schools and how we all might become more involved in meaningful and possible educational reform that is loving and fair and equitable and doesn't completely stress out the adults involved. I'd love to better understand how to change the discourse, rather than individual behaviors.