This is a quote from a review of Alice Gopnik’s most recent book, ‘The gardener and the carpenter’. I have enjoyed Gopnik’s previous work, and this quote could, with some latitude, be applied to medical school and medical education (where students become competent despite the best intentions of the medical educators…).
It assumes that the ‘right’ parenting techniques or expertise will sculpt your child into a successful adult. But using a scheme to shape material into a product is the modus operandi of a carpenter, whose job it is to make the chair steady or the door true. There is very little empirical evidence, Gopnik says, that “small variations” in what parents do (such as whether they sleep-train) “have reliable and predictable long-term effects on who those children become”. Raising and caring for children is more like tending a garden: it involves “a lot of exhausted digging and wallowing in manure” to create a safe, nurturing space in which innovation, adaptability and resilience can thrive.
We can only grasp reality by metaphor.