Worse than Asperger’s / Other things that limit my life

I hate to fly. I really, really hate to fly. The last time I used an airplane for travel, was to return from a visit to my very ill mother. A thunderstorm struck; there was severe turbulence and the heat in the cabin failed. I hid under a blanket (too small) that only covered my head. A sixteen year-old boy in the seat next to me (and some gin) had to talk me through the flight. Combo: severe emotional stress (family) plus lightning, thunder and unstable airplane = Never fly again.

In fact, the only flight I ever enjoyed was a return trip from a business meeting in LA: the client took us to every Hell hole in Hollywood. Too much food, booze and bizarre behavior. I was so hung over that I didn’t care if the plane crashed and we all died.

People who fly all the time may not think about it, but much of modern life is unattainable if one doesn’t fly.

The childhood corollary to this handicap was a fear of heights, in particular roller coasters, Ferris wheels and amusement rides. This pretty much eliminated summer  entertainment. I stood around holding everyone’s food, drinks and jackets and purses. People made fun of me and tried to trick or shame me into “not being a party pooper” Being an Asperger child, none of this manipulation had any effect on me. I learned to take a camera with me – it was a convenient excuse to wander off by myself and avoid being harassed. And I eventually turned into a photographer, an activity that has enriched my life, whereas the lack of amusement park rides has not affected me at all.

Fortunately, I love trains and driving, although trains just aren’t what they used to be. I drove all over the U.S., but once I moved to Wyoming, I’ve stayed put. I guess all that time I spent traveling around, I was just looking for Wyoming.

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Simple Breakdown / How the Brain Processes Information

https://www.labs.hpe.com/next-next/brain

In 2008, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency issued a challenge to researchers: Create a sophisticated, shoebox-size system that incorporates billions of transistors, weighs about three pounds, and requires a fraction of the energy needed by current computers. Basically, a brain in a box.

Although neuroscience has made important strides in recent years, the inner workings of the brain are still largely a mystery. “So little is really understood about the hardware of the brain—the neurons and their interconnections, and the algorithms that run on top of them—that today, anyone who claims to have built ‘a brain-like computer’ is laughable,” says Stan Williams, a research fellow at Hewlett Packard Labs.

Programs mirror human logic, but they don’t mirror intuitive thought.”

Rich Friedrich, Hewlett Packard Labs

A caveat from HP Labs (super website) regarding the analogy that the human brain like a computer processor. 

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We have to start somewhere!

eLearning Design and Development

By Christopher Pappas,  November 11, 2016

The brain is often likened to a processor. A complex computing machine that takes raw data and turns it into thoughts, memories, and cognitions. However, it has its limits, and Instructional Designers must know the boundaries before they can create meaningful eLearning courses. In this article, I’ll explore how the brain works, from its basic biological and memory functions to its ability to process information. I’ll also share 3 tips to help you create an eLearning course design that facilitates knowledge absorption and assimilation.

Information Processing Basics: A Guide For Instructional Designers

The brain is a wondrous thing. It transforms letters, numbers, and images into meaningful data that governs every aspect of our lives. Neural pathways spark and new ideas meet with the old to form complex schematic structures. But one of the most miraculous tasks it tackles is learning. As eLearning professionals, we must understand how information processing takes place in order to create effective eLearning experiences.

Brain Biology / The brain consists of many different structures, and the cortex encases all of them. The cortex is the outermost shell of the brain that takes care of complex thinking abilities. For example, memory, language, spatial awareness, and even personality traits. The inner regions of the brain control the most primitive aspects of human nature, such as our base impulses, fears, emotions, and our subconscious. The brain also houses a “subcortex,” which connects directly to the cortex. As such, it’s able to transmit and process information. (A cliché description of “primitive, subconscious”)

The Human Memory

Now that we’ve briefly explored the physical makeup of the brain, let’s delve into one of its most vital functions: memory. After all, memory is crucial for eLearning. If online learners aren’t able to remember the information, then all is for naught. We usually don’t give memory much attention, as it’s an automatic process. Every event, no matter how small, passes through the gates of our memory without us even noticing. However, most of the occurrences are just passing through and never take up permanent residence. There are three types of memory that Instructional Designers should be aware of:

1. Sensory Memory 

When our senses are triggered by a stimulus, our brains briefly store the information. For example, we smell freshly baked bread and can only remember its scent for a few seconds before it vanishes. Even though the bread is no longer in front of us, our mind’s still hold onto its impression for a short period. The brain then has the option to process it through the memory banks or forget about it. In eLearning, sensory memory is triggered by a visually compelling image, background music, or any other element that utilizes the senses.

2. Short-Term Memory

A process that falls under the purview of working memory, which temporarily stores information when it is triggered by stimuli. Short-term memory can only hold a maximum of 7 items at one time. It also has a time limit, which is usually between 10 seconds to a minute.

3. Long-Term Memory

After passing through the short-term memory, relevant information is moved to long-term storage. At this stage, the brain is less likely to forget important details. However, even the long-term memory can diminish over time if we don’t refresh our knowledge.

Information Processing Stages

There are a number of Information Processing theories and models. However, many suggest that the learning process involves three key stages:

Stage 1: Input / The brain is exposed to a stimuli, at which point it analyzes and evaluates the information. For example, the online learner reads a passage and determines whether it’s worth remembering.

Stage 2: Storage / Our brains store the information for later use. It also adds it to our mental schema and encodes it. If the information is not reinforced, the brain may simply forget it over time.

Stage 3: Output / The brain decides what it’s going to do with the information and how it will react to the stimulus. For example, after reading the passage, the individual uses the information they learned to overcome a challenge.

Simple! The question is, How do specific human brains handle these processing tasks? Psychologists would have us believe that there is only ONE way this ought to be accomplished; their way. Bull Shit.

 

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) / Oh no! More Labels…

While looking for info on sensory processing / sensory thinking:  

Just when I think there is nothing more to investigate / confront in this mish-mash of ASD / Asperger “stuff” – a psychology acronym turns up in what seems to be a personality type called HSP, the innate temperament trait of high sensitivity.

There seems to be an overlap with ASD, Asperger’s, introversion and of course, with sensory processing disorders – What gives?  Or for some of us, awareness of the sensory environment is just “normal”!

Are You Highly Sensitive?

Copyright, Elaine N. Aron, 1996

http://hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-test/

Instructions: Answer each question according to the way you personally feel. Check the box if it is at least somewhat true for you; leave unchecked if it is not very true or not at all true for you.

I’ve highlighted those statements that are “suspiciously” ASD. Personally, I could check yes to all of these!  

If you are a parent trying to evaluate your child, please use the test “Is Your Child Highly Sensitive?

I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.

I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment.

Other people’s moods affect me.

I tend to be very sensitive to pain.

I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.

I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.

I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens close by.

I have a rich, complex inner life.

I am made uncomfortable by loud noises.

I am deeply moved by the arts or music.

My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself.

I am conscientious.

I startle easily.

I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time.

When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment I tend to know what needs to be done to make it more comfortable (like changing the lighting or the seating).

I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once.

I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things.

I make a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows.

I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.

Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in me, disrupting my concentration or mood.

Changes in my life shake me up.

I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art.

I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.

I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.

I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.

When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.

When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.

Scoring: If you answered more than fourteen of the questions as true of yourself, you are probably highly sensitive. But no psychological test is so accurate that an individual should base his or her life on it. We psychologists try to develop good questions, then decide on the cut off based on the average response.

If fewer questions are true of you, but extremely true, that might also justify calling you highly sensitive.  Also, although there are as many men as women who are highly sensitive, when taking the test highly sensitive men answer slightly fewer items as true than do highly sensitive women.

This is copyrighted material and may not be copied and used without permission. For permission, please email. If you wish to use this questionnaire for psychological research, there is a better version on this website for you to use along with suggestions for how best to employ it.

The contents of this website and the self-tests it contains are not meant to diagnose or exclude the diagnosis of any condition.  See more information on this subject in our FAQs.

About Dr. Elaine Aron: Dr. Aron earned her M.A. from York University in Toronto in clinical psychology and her Ph.D. at Pacifica Graduate Institute in clinical depth psychology as well as interning at the C. G. Jung Institute in San Francisco. Besides beginning the study of the innate temperament trait of high sensitivity in 1991, she, along with her husband Dr. Arthur Aron, are two of the leading scientists studying the psychology of love and close relationships. They are also pioneers in studying both sensitivity and love using functional magnetic resonance imaging. She maintains a small psychotherapy practice in Mill Valley, CA.

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Honestly? I’d rather be Asperger: HSP appears to have spawned an (NT) cult of “pants-droppers” LOL

OMG! / I discover American Girl Dolls Cult

I googled something like, “How do American girls transition to adulthood?” and these dolls popped up all over my screen: Wikipedia says that their original “function” was to “teach girls about American history” through character dolls… hmmmm. First impression? They are UGLY and cheaply made … and they start at $115.00. Look at that bad wig, junky clothing and weird rubbery skin… No wonder American women have poor taste in clothing!

The dolls are supposedly targeting girls age 8-11. Remember from previous post, biological adulthood begins at puberty (age 10-12) for American “girls”…

I’m in shock: Wrong Planet shock.  

What is an Adult Human? / Biology Law Psychology Culture

Photo from Duke Health – group of 10-13 year olds. Biologically, they are adults. Legally they are not. Culturally? Psychologically? Big Questions.

Biological adulthood Wikipedia

Historically and cross-culturally, adulthood has been determined primarily by the start of puberty (the appearance of secondary sex characteristics such as menstruation in women, ejaculation in men, and pubic hair in both sexes). In the past, a person usually moved from the status of child directly to the status of adult, often with this shift being marked by some type of coming-of-age test or ceremony.[1]

After the social construct of adolescence was created, adulthood split into two forms: biological adulthood and social adulthood. Thus, there are now two primary forms of adults: biological adults (people who have attained reproductive ability, are fertile, or who evidence secondary sex characteristics) and social adults (people who are recognized by their culture or law as being adults). Depending on the context, adult can indicate either definition.

Although few or no established dictionaries provide a definition for the two word term biological adult, the first definition of adult in multiple dictionaries includes “the stage of the life cycle of an animal after reproductive capacity has been attained”.[2][3] Thus, the base definition of the word adult is the period beginning at physical sexual maturity, which occurs sometime after the onset of puberty. Although this is the primary definition of the base word “adult”, the term is also frequently used to refer to social adults. The two-word term biological adult stresses or clarifies that the original definition, based on physical maturity, is being used.

In humans, puberty on average begins around 10–11 years of age for girls and 11–12 years of age for boys, though this will vary from person to person. For girls, puberty begins around 10 or 11 years of age and ends around age 16. Boys enter puberty later than girls – usually around 12 years of age and it lasts until around age 16 or 17 (Or in rare cases 18 and a half).[4][5]

There seems to be disagreement on the attainment of adulthood: is it at the start or completion of puberty?

More from Duke Health: https://www.dukehealth.org/blog/when-puberty-too-early

When Is Puberty Too Early?

October 01, 2013

Early Puberty in Girls

For girls, puberty is generally considered to be too early if it begins at age seven or eight. African-American and Hispanic girls tend to start puberty slightly earlier than Caucasian girls. The average age of pubertal onset in girls is 10-and-a-half years old, but it ranges from seven to 13 years old. The average age of menarche is 12-and-a-half to 13 years of age. The whole process of puberty should take three to four years.

Rapidly progressing puberty — start to finish in less than two years — can be a concern as well because it can be due to an endocrine disorder

Early Puberty in Boys

For boys, puberty is generally considered too early before the age of nine years. In boys, onset of puberty is from nine to 14 years, but on average starts at 11-and-a-half to 12 years old. The whole process of puberty should take three to four years. Rapidly progressing puberty can also be a concern in males

Preventing Early Puberty

While genetic factors play a role in the early onset of puberty, parents can help delay the environmental causes of early puberty. Preventive measures include:

  • Encourage your child to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid exposure to exogenous hormones like estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, androstenedione that may be found in creams/gels, hair treatments, medications, and nutritional supplements. (And who knows where else these powerful hormones are being used and entering environmental systems)

 Psychological Adulthood? 

Here is where we encounter the perils of “socially constructed” opinion about human development: What a mess!

Psychological development

Written By: The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica

Psychological development, the development of human beings’ cognitive, emotional, intellectual, and social capabilities and functioning over the course of the life span, from infancy through old age. It is the subject matter of the discipline known as developmental psychology. Child psychology was the traditional focus of research, but since the mid-20th century much has been learned about infancy and adulthood as well. A brief treatment of psychological development follows. For full treatment, see human behaviour.

Infancy is the period between birth and the acquisition of language one to two years later.

Childhood is the second major phase in human development, childhood, extends from one or two years of age until the onset of adolescence at age 12 or 13.

Adolescence Physically, adolescence begins with the onset of puberty at 12 or 13 and culminates at age 19 or 20 in adulthood.

Hmmm…. a discrepancy of 7-8 YEARS between biological and psychological demarcation for the beginning of adulthood, that is, IF adulthood is the onset of puberty. IF it’s the completion of puberty – the discrepancy is more like 4-5 years.

But! We now have a serious problem: the socially constructed stage called adolescence, interferes with, and contradicts, the biological transition from pre-reproductive childhood, to reproductive adult with no clear transition at all. The result is chaos in education, legal jurisdiction, sex-reproduction-parenting, health, nutrition and behavioral expectations!

Adulthood is a period of optimum mental functioning when the individual’s intellectual, emotional, and social capabilities are at their peak to meet the demands of career, marriage, and children. Some psychologists delineate various periods and transitions in early to middle adulthood that involve crises or reassessments of one’s life and result in decisions regarding new commitments or goals. During the middle 30s people develop a sense of time limitation, and previous behaviour patterns or beliefs may be given up in favour of new ones.

Wow! Just how does a person between the ages of 10-20 years old negotiate this bizarre disconnect between a developmental paradigm “invented” by psychologists, and the physical reality of the human body?

One might expect individual cultures to “help” with this vital transition… 

Cultural Adulthood? 

How the American legal system defines adult status is a crucial cultural factor.  

Adult: A person who by virtue of attaining a certain age, generally eighteen, is regarded in the eyes of the law as being able to manage his or her own affairs.

Wow! Highly optimistic and unrealistic in American culture, which overwhelmingly advocates for the indefinite postponement of adulthood… 

Note that American education does little to nothing to prepare children, adolescents, and now “emerging adults” (a new category of underdeveloped Homo sapiens that is MEASURED BY the subjective “feeling” of being adult) for these sudden legal and financial facts of life.  This dithering over adult status is the “privilege” of the wealth classes; poor and minority children too often become “instant adults” – in a jail cell.  

The age specified by law, called the legal age of majority, indicates that a person acquires full legal capacity to be bound by various documents, such as contracts and deeds, that he or she makes with others and to commit other legal acts such as voting in elections and entering marriage. The age at which a person becomes an adult varies from state to state and often varies within a state, depending upon the nature of the action taken by the person. Thus, a person wishing to obtain a license to operate a motor vehicle may be considered an adult at age sixteen, but may not reach adulthood until age eighteen for purposes of marriage, or age twenty-one for purposes of purchasing intoxicating liquors.

Anyone who has not reached the age of adulthood is legally considered an infant. (!! Really?) West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

A Cheery Look at Childhood in Western Cultures / PSYCHOHISTORY

Lloyd deMause, pronounced de-Moss is an American social thinker known for his work in the field of psychohistory. Wikipedia

Born: September 19, 1931 (age 86), Detroit, MI Education: Columbia University

FOUNDATIONS OF
PSYCHOHISTORY
by LLOYD DEMAUSE

The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken. The further back in history one goes, the lower the level of child care, and the more likely children are to be killed, abandoned, beaten, terrorized, and sexually abused. It is our task here to see how much of this childhood history can be recaptured from the evidence that remains to us.

That this pattern has not previously been noticed by historians is because serious history has long been considered a record of public not private events. Historians have concentrated so much on the noisy sand-box of history, with its fantastic castles and magnificent battles, that they have generally ignored what is going on in the homes around the playground. And where historians usually look to the sandbox battles of yesterday for the causes of those of today, we instead ask how each generation of parents and children creates those issues which are later acted out in the arena of public life.

At first glance, this lack of interest in the lives of children seems odd. Historians have been traditionally committed to explaining continuity and change over time, and ever since Plato it has been known that child-hood is a key to this understanding. The importance of parent-child relations for social change was hardly discovered by Freud; St. Augustine’s cry, “Give me other mothers and I will give you another world,” has been echoed by major thinkers for fifteen centuries without affecting historical writing. Since Freud, of course, our view of childhood has acquired a new dimension, and in the past half century the study of childhood has become routine for the psychologist, the sociologist, and the anthropologist. It is only beginning for the historian. Such determined avoidance requires an explanation.

Full PDF: http://psychohistory.com/books/foundations-of-psychohistory/chapter-1-the-evolution-of-childhood/

 

Self-mythologizing / Homo sapiens NT strikes again

Every once in awhile, I like to check in with neurotypical “pop science” versions of WHO WE ARE – narcissism knows no limits. 

From SLATE.com

Science / The state of the universe. (Not too pompous!)
Jan. 29 2013

Why Are We the Last Apes Standing?

There’s a misconception among a lot of us Homo sapiens that we and our direct ancestors are the only humans ever to have walked the planet. It turns out that the emergence of our kind isn’t nearly that simple. The whole story of human evolution is messy, and the more we look into the matter, the messier it becomes.

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Before we go into this “messy” NT mythology – the author: His website is www.chipwalter.com

Welcome!

At last you have made your way to the website of Chip Walter. (Try to control your excitement.) If you’re a curious person – and your discovery of this site attests that you are – then you’ve arrived at the right place. Go ahead, browse…

Chip is a journalist, author, filmmaker and former CNN Bureau Chief. He has written four books, all of them, one way or another, explorations of human creativity, human nature and human curiosity. (That should be a warning: shameless BS to follow)

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Paleoanthropologists have discovered as many as 27 different human species (the experts tend to debate where to draw the line between groups). These hominids diverged after our lineage split from a common ancestor we shared with chimpanzees 7 million years ago, give or take a few hundred millennia.

Many of these species crossed paths, competed, and mated. Populations ebbed and flowed in tight little tribes, at first on the expanding savannahs of Africa, later throughout Europe, Asia, and all the way to Indonesia. Just 100,000 years ago, there were several human species sharing the planet, possibly more: Neanderthals in Europe and West Asia, the mysterious Denisovan people of Siberia, the recently discovered Red Deer Cave people living in southern China, Homo floresiensis (the Hobbits of Indonesia), and other yet unknown descendants of Homo erectus who left indications that they were around (the DNA of specialized body lice, to be specific). And, of course, there was our kind, Homo sapiens sapiens (the wise, wise ones), still living in Africa, not yet having departed the mother continent. At most, each species consisted of a few tens of thousands of people hanging on by their battered fingernails. Somehow, out of all of these struggles, our particular brand of human emerged as the sole survivor and then went on, rather rapidly, to materially rearrange the world.

If there once were so many other human species wandering the planet, why are we alone still standing? After all, couldn’t another version or two have survived and coexisted with us on a world as large as ours? Lions and tigers coexist; so do jaguars and cheetahs. Gorillas, orangutans, bonobos, and chimpanzees do as well (though barely). Two kinds of elephants and multiple versions of dolphins, sharks, bears, birds, and beetles—countless beetles—inhabit the planet. Yet only one kind of human? Why?

More than once, one variety may have done in another either by murdering its rivals outright or outcompeting them for limited resources. But the answer isn’t as simple or dramatic as a war of extermination with one species turning on the other in some prehistoric version of Planet of the Apes. The reason we are still here to ruminate on why we are still here is because, of all those other human species, only we evolved a long childhood.

Over the course of the past 1.5 million years, the forces of evolution inserted an extra six years between infancy and pre-adolescence—a childhood—into the life of our species. And that changed everything.

Why should adding a childhood help us escape extinction’s pitiless scythe? Looked at logically, it shouldn’t. All it would seem to do is lengthen the time between birth and mating, which would slow down the clamoring business of the species’ own continuance. But there was one game-changing side effect of a long childhood. Those six years of life between ages 1 and 7 are the time when we lay the groundwork for the people we grow up to become. Without childhood you and I would never have the opportunity to step away from the dictates of our genes and develop the talents, quirks, and foibles that make us all the devastatingly charming, adaptable, and distinctive individuals we are.

Childhood came into existence as the result of a peculiar evolutionary phenomenon known generally as neoteny. (More about this sweeping misinterpretation later) The term comes from two Greek words, neos meaning “new” (in the sense of “juvenile”) and teinein meaning to “extend,” and it means the retention of youthful traits. In the case of humans, it meant that our ancestors passed along to us a way to stretch youth farther into life.

More than a million years ago, our direct ancestors found themselves in a real evolutionary pickle. One the one hand, their brains were growing larger than those of their rain forest cousins, and on the other, they had taken to walking upright because they spent most of their time in Africa’s expanding savannas. Both features would seem to have substantially increased the likelihood of their survival, and they did, except for one problem: Standing upright favors the evolution of narrow hips and therefore narrows the birth canal. And that made bringing larger-headed infants to full term before birth increasingly difficult.

If we were born as physically mature as, say, an infant gorilla, our mothers would be forced to carry us for 20 months! But if they did carry us that long, our larger heads wouldn’t make it through the birth canal. We would be, literally, unbearable. The solution: Our forerunners, as their brains expanded, began to arrive in the world sooner, essentially as fetuses, far less developed than other newborn primates, and considerably more helpless.

Bolk enumerated 25 specific fetal or juvenile features that disappear entirely in apes as they grow to adulthood but persist in humans. Flatter faces and high foreheads, for example, and a lack of body hair. The shape of our ears, the absence of large brow ridges over our eyes, a skull that sits facing forward on our necks, a straight rather than thumblike big toe, and the large size of our heads compared with the rest of our bodies. You can find every one of these traits in fetal, infant, or toddling apes, and modern human adults.

In the nasty and brutish prehistoric world our ancestors inhabited, arriving prematurely could have been a very bad thing. But to see the advantages of being born helpless and fetal, all you have to do is watch a 2-year-old. Human children are the most voracious learners planet Earth has ever seen, and they are that way because their brains are still rapidly developing after birth. Neoteny, and the childhood it spawned, not only extended the time during which we grow up but ensured that we spent it developing not inside the safety of the womb but outside in the wide, convoluted, and unpredictable world.

The same neuronal networks that in other animals are largely set before or shortly after birth remain open and flexible in us. Other primates also exhibit “sensitive periods” for learning as their brains develop, but they pass quickly, and their brain circuitry is mostly established by their first birthday, leaving them far less touched by the experiences of their youth.

The major problem with all this NT self-congratulatory aggrandizement is this: the equally possible scenario that this “open, externalized brain development” leaves human fetuses-infants-children highly vulnerable to disastrous consequences: death in infancy by neglect, disease and predation; maternal death, brain and nervous system damage due to not-so-healthy human environments, insufficient care and nutrition during critical post-birth growth, plus the usual demands and perils of nature.  And in “modern” societies, the necessity of a tremendous amount of medical-technological intervention in problem pregnancies: extreme premature birth, caesarian section delivery, long periods of ICU support, and growing incidence of life-long impairment.    

“Inattentional Blindness” to any negative consequences of human evolution is a true failure in NT perception of the human condition.

Based on the current fossil evidence, this was true to a lesser extent of the 26 other savanna apes and humans. Homo habilis, H. ergaster, H. erectus, even H. heidelbergensis (which is likely the common ancestor of Neanderthals, Denisovans, and us), all had prolonged childhoods compared with chimpanzees and gorillas, but none as long as ours. In fact, Harvard paleoanthropologist Tanya Smith and her colleagues have found that Neanderthals reversed the trend. By the time they met their end around 30,000 years ago, they were reaching childbearing age at about the age of 11 or 12, which is three to five years earlier than their Homo sapiens cousins. Was this in response to evolutionary pressure to accelerate childbearing to replenish the dwindling species? Maybe. But in the bargain, they traded away the flexibility that childhood delivers, and that may have ultimately led to their demise.

Aye, yai, yai! This string of NT echolalia, copied and pieced together from pop-science interpretations of “science projects” is worthy of Biblical mythology… a montage, a disordered mosaic; a collage of key words, that condenses millions of years of evolutionary change into a “slightly longer” (call it 6 million years instead of 6 thousand – sounds more scientific) – history of Creation… this is for neurotypical consumption: It’s okay… Evolution is really just magic, after all! 

We are different. During those six critical years, our brains furiously wire and rewire themselves, capturing experience, encoding and applying it to the needs of our particular life. Our extended childhood essentially enables our brains to better match our experience and environment. (Whatever that is supposed to mean – like wearing Bermuda shorts to the beach?) It is the foundation of the thing we call our personalities, the attributes that make you you and me me. Without it, you would be far more similar to everyone else, far less quirky and creative and less, well … you. Our childhood also helps explain how chimpanzees, remarkable as they are, can have 99 percent of our DNA but nothing like the same level of diversity, complexity, or inventiveness.

You are creative and quirky (dull and conformist) – and even if that’s a shameless lie (it is), AT LEAST you’re smarter than a chimpanzee!  

Our long childhood has allowed us to collectively engage in ever broadening conversations as we keep finding new ways to communicate; we jabber and bristle with invention and pool together waves of fresh ideas, good and bad, into that elaborate, rambling edifice we call human civilization. Without all of this variety, all of these interlocked notions and accomplishments, the world, for better or worse, would not be as it is, brimming with this species of self-aware conflicted apes, ingenious enough to rocket rovers off to Mars and construct the Internet, wage wars on international scales, invent both WMDs and symphonies. If not for our long childhoods, we would not be here at all, the last apes standing. Can we remain standing? Possibly. I’m counting on the child in us, the part that loves to meander and play, go down blind alleys, wonder why and fancy the impossible.

How shockingly stupid (and awful) writing. 

 

Psychologists Terrorize Children / “Emotional Regulation” Abuse

American Schools Are Failing Nonconformist Kids. Here’s How

In defense of the wild child

https://newrepublic.com/article/114527/self-regulation-american-schools-are-failing-nonconformist-kids

By Elizabeth Weil, September 2, 2013

The writing is cringe-worthy, especially abominations such as “valorize” and “valorizing” but that’s neurotypicals for you – novelty is irresistible, like glitter and mini cupcakes with blue icing and sprinkles. Highlights are mine. Comments.

Of the possible child heroes for our times, young people with epic levels of the traits we valorize, the strongest contender has got to be the kid in the marshmallow study. Social scientists are so sick of the story that some threaten suicide if forced to read about him one more time. But to review: The child—or really, nearly one-third of the more than 600 children tested in the late ’60s at Bing Nursery School on the Stanford University campus—sits in a room with a marshmallow. Having been told that if he abstains for 15 minutes he’ll get two marshmallows later, he doesn’t eat it. This kid is a paragon of self-restraint, a savant of delayed gratification. He’ll go on, or so the psychologists say, to show the straight-and-narrow qualities required to secure life’s sweeter and more elusive prizes: high SAT scores, money, health.

I began to think about the marshmallow kid and how much I wanted my own daughter to be like him one day last fall while I sat in a parent-teacher conference in her second-grade classroom and learned, as many parents do these days, that she needed to work on self-regulation. My daughter is nonconformist by nature, a miniature Sarah Silverman. She’s wildly, transgressively funny and insists on being original even when it causes her pain. The teacher at her private school, a man so hip and unthreatened that he used to keep a boa constrictor named Elvis in his classroom, had noticed she was not gently going along with the sit-still, raise-your-hand-to-speak-during-circle-time program. “So …” he said, in the most caring, best-practices way, “have you thought about occupational therapy?”

I did not react well. My husband reacted worse. I could appreciate the role of O.T., as occupational therapy is called, in helping children improve handwriting through better pencil grips. But I found other O.T. practices, and the values wrapped up in them, discomfiting: occupational therapists coaching preschoolers on core-muscle exercises so that they can sit longer; occupational therapists leading social-skills playgroups to boost “behavior management” skills. Fidget toys and wiggle cushions—O.T. staples aimed at helping children vent anxiety and energy—have become commonplace in grammar-school classrooms. Heavy balls and weighted blankets, even bags of rice, are also prescribed on the theory that hefty objects comfort children who feel emotionally out of control. Did our daughter need what sounded like a paperweight for her young body in order to succeed at her job as a second-grader?

Are mainstream classrooms being redesigned under the assumption that all children are autistic or behaviorally impaired? 

My husband grilled the teacher. How were her reading skills? What about math? Did she have friends?

All good, the teacher reassured us.

“So what’s the problem?” my husband asked. “Is she distracting you?”

The teacher stalled, then said yes.

“And have you disciplined her?”

He had not.

This is when I began to realize we’d crossed some weird Foucaultian threshold into a world in which authority figures pathologize children instead of punishing them.

No – psychology provides pathologies to JUSTIFY the same old “right and obligation” granted those in authority, to punish children and “lesser” humans.  

Self-regulation,” “self- discipline,” and “emotional regulation” are big buzz words in schools right now. All are aimed at producing “appropriate” behavior, at bringing children’s personal styles in line with an implicit emotional orthodoxy. That orthodoxy is embodied by a composed, conforming kid who doesn’t externalize problems or talk too much or challenge the rules too frequently or move around excessively or complain about the curriculum or have passionate outbursts. He’s a master at decoding expectations. He has a keen inner minder to bring rogue impulses into line with them.

Emotional regulation is psychology’s new pet field. Before 1981, a single citation for the term existed in the literature. For 2012 alone, Google Scholar turns up more than 8,000 hits. In popular culture, self-regulation is celebrated in best-selling education books, like Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed, manuals for success in a meritocracy extolling a pull-your-socks-up way of being. Some of Tough’s ideas are classically liberal, built off Nobel Prize–winning economist James Heckman’s theory of human capital and the importance of investing in the very young. But then the book turns toward the character-is-destiny model pioneered by University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth and the KIPP charter-school network. The key to success, in this formulation, is grit. (Though Duckworth acknowledges on her own website that nobody is sure how to teach it.) One KIPP school features a tiled mosaic that reads, “DON’T EAT THE MARSHMALLOWS YET!”

“Long may this book dwell on the best-seller lists!” Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times, giving How Children Succeed a hearty endorsement. Yet though widely embraced by progressives, the grit cure-all is in many ways deeply conservative, (Puritanical / Liberal / Old Testament actually, in the American version of religious  pedagogy) arguably even a few inches to the right of Amy Chua and her Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. The parent of the well-regulated child should not, like Chua, need to threaten to burn her daughter’s stuffie if that daughter is curious or self-indulgent, AWOL (or god-forbid, dawdling) somewhere between school, soccer practice, and the piano tutor. The child should be equipped with an internal minder. No threats necessary.

But at what cost? One mother I spoke to, a doctor in Seattle, has a son who has had trouble sitting cross-legged, as his classroom’s protocol demanded. The school sent home a note suggesting she might want to test him for “learning difference.” She did—“paid about two thousand dollars for testing,” she told me—and started the child in private tutoring. “After the third ride home across the city with him sobbing about how much he hated the sessions, we decided to screw it,” she said. She later learned every one of the boys in her son’s class had been referred out for testing. Another family, determined to resist such intervention, paid for an outside therapist to provide expert testimony to their son’s Oakland school stating that he did not have a mental health disorder. (So much for “innocent until proven guilty“ – human rights are being trampled, right and left) We wanted them to hear from the therapist directly: He’s fine,” the mother said. “Being a very strong-willed individual—that’s a powerful gift that’s going to be unbelievably awesome someday.”

In the meantime, he’s part of an education system (a victim, rather) that has scant tolerance for independence of mind. “We’re saying to the kid, ‘You’re broken. You’re defective,’ ” says Robert Whitaker, author of Mad in America. “In some ways, these things become self-fulfilling prophesies.”

Education is the business of shaping people. (Social-engineering) It works, however subtly, toward an ideal. At various points, the ideal products of the American school system have been extroverts and right-handed children. (Lefties were believed to show signs of “neurological insult or physical malfunctioning” and had to be broken of their natural tendency.) Individuality has had its moments as well. In the 1930s, for instance, educators made huge efforts to find out what motivated unique students to keep them from dropping out because no jobs existed for them to drop into. Yet here in 2013, even as the United States faces pressure to “win the future,” the American education system has swung in the opposite direction, toward the commodified data-driven ideas promoted by Frederick Winslow Taylor, who at the turn of the century did time-motion studies of laborers carrying bricks to figure out how people worked most efficiently. Borrowing Taylor’s ideas, school was not designed then to foster free thinkers. Nor is it now, thanks to how teacher pay and job security have been tied to student performance on standardized tests. (A red herring – this has nothing to do with accountability)  “What we’re teaching today is obedience, conformity, following orders,” says the education historian Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System. “We’re certainly not teaching kids to think outside the box.” The motto of the so-called school-reform movement is: No Excuses. “The message is: It’s up to you. Grit means it’s your problem. Just bear down and do what you have to do.”

American education has always taught obedience, conformity, and following orders; the difference is that we used to throw in basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills so that “the peasants” could read The Bible and perform basic job tasks.   

As a consumer of education—both as a child and a parent—I’d never thought much about classroom management. The field sounds technical and dull, inside baseball for teachers. Scratch two inches below the surface, however, and it becomes fascinating, political philosophy writ small. Is individuality to be contained or nurtured? What relationship to authority do teachers seek to create?

One way to think about classroom management (and discipline in general) is that some tactics are external and others are internal. External tactics work by inflicting an embarrassing or unpleasant experience on the kid. The classic example is a teacher shaming a child by making him write “I will not …” whatever on the blackboard 100 times. My own second-grade teacher threw a rubber chicken at a boy who refused to shut up during silent reading. But such means have become “well, problematic,” says Jonathan Zimmerman, director of the History of Education Program at New York University. In 1975, in Goss v. Lopez, the Supreme Court found schoolchildren to have due process rights. “As a result, students can say to teachers with some authority, ‘If you do that, my mom is going to sue you.’ And that changes the score.”

In Goss’s wake, many educators moved toward what progressive education commentator Alfie Kohn calls the New Disciplines. The philosophy promotes strategies like “shared decision-making,” allowing children to decide between, say, following the teacher’s rules and staying after school for detention. This sounds great to the contemporary ear. The child is less passive and prone to be a victim, more autonomous and in control of his life. But critics of the technique are harsh. It’s “fundamentally dishonest, not to mention manipulative,” Kohn has written. “To the injury of punishment is added the insult of a kind of mind game whereby reality is redefined and children are told, in effect, that they wanted something bad to happen to them.”

A different, utopian approach to classroom management works from the premise that children are natively good and reasonable. If one is misbehaving, he’s trying to tell you that something is wrong. Maybe the curriculum is too easy, too hard, too monotonous. Maybe the child feels disregarded, threatened, or set up to fail. It’s a pretty thought, order through authentic, handcrafted curricula. But it’s nearly impossible to execute in the schools created through the combination of No Child Left Behind and recessionary budget-slashing. And that makes internal discipline very convenient right now.

To train this vital new task, schools have added to reading,’riting, and ’rithmetic a fourth R, for self-regulation. The curricular branch that has emerged to teach it is called social and emotional learning, or SEL. Definitions of SEL are tautological. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines it as involving “the processes of developing social and emotional competencies” toward the goal of making a child a “good student, citizen, and worker” who is less inclined to exhibit bad behaviors, like using drugs, fighting, bullying, or dropping out of school.

The aim is to create a “virtuous cycle” of behavior. As Celene Domitrovich, director of research at CASEL, told me, SEL instructs children in “the skills that undergird” grit. “Paul Tough doesn’t talk about SEL, even though his whole book is about it,” says Domitrovich. “Tenacity, grit, motivation, stick-to-it-iveness—we’re all talking about the same thing.”

CASEL was founded by Daniel Goleman, the former New York Times reporter whose 1995 blockbuster book, Emotional Intelligence, was based on the work of two psychology professors, John Mayer and Peter Salovey. (Salovey clearly has all kinds of intelligence. He’s now president of Yale University.) Emotional intelligence sounds unassailably great. Who wouldn’t want high ratings for oneself or one’s children, especially given Goleman’s claim that emotional intelligence is a more powerful predictor of career success than IQ? Besides, SEL filled a need. On top of the discipline vacuum* created by the Goss ruling, in the 1990s, says Domitrovich, “you start having school shootings. There’s a surge of interest in the idea of prevention—bullying prevention, character development.” * Discipline vacuum? A consequence of Americans equating discipline with physical punishment. Take away paddling, smacking, hitting and humiliation-shaming, and – well, there is no other discipline, is there? Read your Bible!) 

Now that is a perverted line of thinking! School shootings can be “prevented” by mass behavioral indoctrination and social coercion from birth, a program, which in itself, is a human rights catastrophe! Psycho-social Eugenics…  

Since then, CASEL has been pushing hard. It’s an advocacy group. The NoVo Foundation, run by Warren Buffett’s son Peter and Peter’s wife, Jennifer—and endowed with roughly $140 million worth of Berkshire Hathaway stock—has taken up social and emotional learning as one of its four primary philanthropic interests. SEL is now mandated at all grade levels in Illinois. Some form of it is taught in half of school districts in the United States.

Certain SEL lessons are embedded into school practices like “morning meeting.” The peace table at my daughter’s school, inspired by psychologist Thomas Gordon’s suite of alternatives to “power-based” classroom management techniques, is sort of an SEL extracurricular. Anyone can call a peace table to address a grievance, which can range from I think you smacked that tetherball into my head on purpose to I’d like to hang out more with your best friend. At the table, the children complete a worksheet. When you ______, I feel _______. I need you to _______.

SEL curricula also offer direct instruction on discrete skills. For example, a teacher might do an active-listening exercise, laying out the components—you look the other person in the eye, you’re quiet when they talk—then asking the children to role-play. This, of course, is a useful life habit and a dream to a lecturing teacher. Yet Domitrovich takes it further. “You can see where it’s so obvious that this is essential to learning. What if a child is not good at stopping and calming down? What if a child is really impulsive? What if a child is not good at getting along with everybody? How’s that going to play out?” To her, the answer is clear. The other students in the class are going to ignore and exclude the poorly regulated child. As a result, that child is not going to be “learning optimally.” Academics will suffer due to deficient social and emotional skills.

Is this not an “underhanded” way to single out ASD / Asperger children for “retraining” as social clones? Impose a “behavior regime” that is so strict that such children will not be able to comply, and “self-diagnose” 

The only problem is: It’s not clear that’s true. In 2007, Greg Duncan, a professor of education at the University of California at Irvine, did an analysis of the effects of social and emotional problems on a sample of 25,000 elementary school students. He found, he says, “Emotional intelligence in kindergarten was completely unpredictive.” Children who started school socially and emotionally unruly did just as well academically as their more contained peers from first through eighth grades. David Grissmer, at the University of Virginia, reran Duncan’s analysis repeatedly, hoping to prove him wrong. Instead, he confirmed that Duncan was right. A paper from Florida International University also found minimal correlation between emotional intelligence and college students’ GPAs.

In 2011, CASEL volleyed back at the skeptics, publishing a gigantic meta-analysis (213 studies, 270,034 students) claiming that SEL programs raised academic performance by 11 percent. Such a large and divergent finding sent up a red flag for NurtureShock co-author Ashley Merryman, who’d read just about every published study relating to emotional intelligence and academic achievement while researching the book. So she examined CASEL’s source studies and discovered that only 33 of the 213 reported any academic results at all. She also uncovered a far more likely reason for CASEL’s fortuitous finding: Many of the students in the sample populations received academic tutoring. (Exploitive capitalists…let’s label these people for who they really are.) 

In 2007 a UNICEF paper on child wellbeing ranked England dead last in the 21 developed nations it surveyed. (Apparently all those books and movies about horrid British childhoods are accurate.) SEL, the British hoped, would make its children emotionally healthy. The Department of Education rolled out programs countrywide. Six years later, England’s experience with SEL (or SEAL, as they call it) offers some cautionary tales. For starters, the programs didn’t seem to work as hoped—or, as an official 2010 brief reported politely, “[O]ur data was not congruent with the broader literature” promising “significant improvements in a range of outcomes.”

Among the most cutting assessments of the British SEL experiment is an ethnographic study called “Social and Emotional Pedagogies: Critiquing the New Orthodoxy of Emotion in Classroom Behaviour Management,” by Val Gillies, a professor of social and policy studies at London South Bank University. Gillies describes the new emotional orthodoxy as a “calm, emotionally flat ideal” that “not only overlies a considerably more turbulent reality, [but] also denies the significance of passion as a motivator.” In theory, SEL gives less well-regulated children a more stable foundation from which to learn. In reality, writes Gillies, “Pupils who dissent from sanctioned models of expression are marked out as personally lacking.” (Shaming, blaming, social exile – same old religious imperative) 

According to the human development theory of Dandelion and Orchid children, certain people are genetically predisposed to grow fairly well in almost any environment while others wilt or blossom spectacularly depending on circumstances and care. Some kids—the dandelions—seem naturally suited to cope with the current system. As Sanford Newmark, head of the Pediatric Integrative Neurodevelopmental Program at the University of California at San Francisco, puts it, “You can feed them three Pop-Tarts for breakfast, they can be in school twelve hours a day, and they can go to kindergarten when they’re four, and they would still do OK.” But many children crumble.

That is, these kids will take any abuse psychologists can think of, and thus become “good neurotypical idiots”.

“We’ve been around for a couple hundred thousand years, reading only for the last five thousand years, and compulsory education has only been in place for one hundred fifty years or so. Some kids are going to be thinking, ‘Why is my teacher asking me to do this? My brain doesn’t work this way,’ ” says Stephen Hinshaw, a psychology professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Heidi Tringali, an occupational therapist in Charlotte, North Carolina, offers a hypothesis built on shorter-term influences: Many of the nonconforming children she treats may need wiggle cushions and weighted balls because they’ve grown up strapped into the five-point harnesses of strollers and car seats, planted in front of screens, and put to sleep at night flat on their backs, all of which leaves them craving action, sensation, and attention when they’re finally let loose. “Every child in the school system right now has been impacted. Of course they’re all licking their friends and bouncing off the walls.”

One crude way to measure the population of kids who don’t meet today’s social and behavioral expectations is to look at the percentage of school-aged children diagnosed with attention- deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Over the past ten years, that figure has risen 41 points. (A lot of these kids were just born at the wrong time of year. The youngest kindergarteners, by month of birth, are more than twice as likely than the oldest to be labeled with ADHD. This makes sense given that the frontal cortex, which controls self-regulation, thickens during childhood. (More pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo) – The cortexes of children diagnosed with ADHD tend to reach their thickest point closer to age eleven than age eight.) The number climbs higher still if you include syndromes like sensory-processing disorder, which Newmark jokes just about “everybody” has these days.

When I asked Zimmerman, the New York University education historian, if schools had found a way to deal with discipline in the wake of the students-rights movement, he said: “Oh we have. It’s called Ritalin.” (And dozens of other psychoactive drugs) 

The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking judge originality, emotional expressiveness, humor, intellectual vitality, open-mindedness, and ability to synthesize and elaborate on ideas. Since 1984, the scores of America’s schoolchildren have dropped by more than one standard deviation; that is to say, 85 percent of kids scored lower in 2008 than their counterparts did in 1984. Not coincidentally, that decrease happened as schools were becoming obsessed with self-regulation. (More pseudoscientific psychology mumbo jumbo)  

As Stanford Professor James Gross, author of Handbook of Emotional Regulation, explains, suppression of feelings is a common regulatory tactic. It’s mentally draining. Deliberate acts of regulation also become automatic over time, meaning this habit is likely to interfere with inspiration, which happens when the mind is loose and emotions are running high. Even Tough acknowledges in a short passage in How Children Succeed that overly controlled people have a hard time making decisions: They’re often “compulsive, anxious, and repressed.” Last year, a study out of the University of Rochester took on the marshmallow kid himself and challenged his unconditional superiority. What if the second treat won’t always be available later? There can be an opportunity cost to not diving in right away. (Mumbo jumbo; it never ends) 

Valorizing self-regulation shifts the focus away from an impersonal, overtaxed, and underfunded school system and places the burden for overcoming those shortcomings on its students. “Even people who are politically liberal suddenly sound like right-wing talk-show hosts when the subject turns to children and education,” says Alfie Kohn. “ The problem is with the individual.’ That is right-wing orthodoxy. (It’s also Puritanical American faux-liberalism) 

Maybe the reason we let ourselves become fixated on children’s emotional regulation is that we, the adults, feel our lives are out of control. We’ve lost faith in our ability to manage our own impulses around food, money, politics, and the distractions of modern life—and we’re putting that on our kids. (Neoteny is a fatal condition: no adults to apply common sense or critical thinking to stabilize social systems) “It’s a displacement of parental unease about the future and anxiety about the world in general,” says psychologist Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. “I’m worried our kids are going to file the largest class-action suit in history, because we are stealing their childhoods. They’re like caged animals or Turkish children forced to sew rugs until they go blind. We’re suppressing their natural messy existence.” (OMG!) 

I do worry about my little Sarah Silverman. She’s frenetic and disinhibited. My life would be easier if she liked to comply. But we did not send her to O.T. Parents make judgment calls about interventions all the time. What’s worth treating: a prominent birthmark? A girl with early puberty? Social and behavioral issues can be especially tricky, as diagnosing comes close to essentializing: It’s not your fault that you’re acting this way, honey. It’s just who you are. As one mother told me: “The insidious part is, you can start losing faith in your child. You go down this road …” Your child’s teacher tells you your child is not showing appropriate emotional regulation. You’re directed toward psychological evaluations and therapists. They have a hammer. Your kid becomes the nail. “The saddest, most soul-crushing thing is the negative self-image. We think kids don’t understand what’s happening, but they do. There’s this quiet reinforcement that something is wrong with them. That’s the thing that’ll kill.”

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Okay, so parents exist who realize the terrible situation in American schools; the damage being done to their children, the injustice of an out-of-control social-psychology monster taking over our schools and families, and yet, there is a passive attitude behind their lackluster complaints; a lack of proper adult anger and action that is instinctual in parents, but instead there is willingness to sacrifice their child’s well-being to the social order – and in some measure, with concern for their own social status.  

The natural adult response is to protect one’s child above all other considerations; it’s instinctual. That’s the price of neoteny: failure to act. 

 

“Free Range Children” / Parenting Option

Click “Watch on YouTube” 

I’m in dangerous territory here, not being a “sacred” mother. As a childless woman, my advice is, DO NOT give parenting advice, or even an offhand opinion to a child-bearing female if you value your life and sanity. LOL. This includes pet behavior, training and feeding. These are domains that it seems, every woman who has popped-out an infant or adopted an animal, is convinced beyond reason, that by virtue of these acts, is an absolute expert on all things “nurturing” – without any training whatsoever.

And yes, the people who have commented on the video are highly negative….

My thoughts on this video?

  1. I could not do this type of parenting, or any other type of parenting. The noise level and physical chaos would drive me mad.
  2. The objections raised seem ridiculous. Children don’t learn much of anything in American public schools; significantly, math, science, history, reading, writing, logic or critical thinking.
  3. The average American doesn’t know, remember, understand or use academic information.
  4. Children need survival skills: these include how to earn money, how to manage money, how the “real world” works (nature and science), how to solve problems; how to access information and evaluate that information for accuracy and utility; and how to recognize consequences that will unfold from one’s choices.
  5. The “free range” parenting style is closer to how most humans have experienced childhood during the last 200,000 years. The difference lies in how much labor is involved in “making a living” and therefore, the level of labor children must contribute to helping the family to survive.
  6. American kids eat a high calorie junk food and sugar “diet” and are preoccupied with social media, social status and violent entertainment. How is that better than how this family spends time?
  7. American child-rearing is reward / punishment based; cruel, conformist and obedience-obsessed. Bad behavior is an inevitable result of this “belligerant” hierarchical structure.
  8. See posts on Hunter-Gatherer child rearing. That said, I doubt that even a small percentage of Americans are equipped to make this more “natural” child-parent relationship work.

https://aspergerhuman.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/jared-diamond-hunter-gatherer-parenting/

https://aspergerhuman.wordpress.com/2015/11/09/self-education-hunter-gatherer-play/

https://aspergerhuman.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/more-on-hunter-gatherer-child-education/

https://aspergerhuman.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/children-of-hunter-gatherers-asperger-traits/

 

 

Wild Children / Folklore, fairy tales, mythic living

http://windling.typepad.com/blog/2013/06/into-the-woods-9-wild-children.html

Original post has a beautiful array of illustrations….

Notes from a Dartmoor studio on folklore, fairy tales, fantasy, mythic arts & mythic living 

by Terri Windling

Into the Woods, 10: Wild Children

Today I’m on the trail of the Wild Children of myth, lore, and fantasy: children lost in the forest, abandoned, stolen, reared by wild animals, and those for whom wilderness is their natural element and home.

Tales of babies left in the woods (and other forms of wilderness) can found in the myths, legends, and sacred texts of cultures all around the globe. The infant is usually of noble birth, abandoned and left to certain death in order to thwart a prophesy — but fate intervenes, the child survives and is raised by wild animals, or by humans who live on the margins of the wild: shepherds, woodsmen, gamekeepers, and the like. When the child grows up, his or her true identity is revealed and the prophesy is fulfilled.

In Persian legends surrounding Cyrus the Great, for example, it is prophesized at his birth that he will grow up to take the crown of his grandfather, the King of Media. The king orders the baby killed and Cyrus is left on a wild mountainside, where he’s rescued either by the royal herdsman or a bandit (depending on the version of the tale) and raised in safety. He grows up, learns his true parentage, and not only captures the Median throne but goes on to conquer most of central and southeast Asia.

In Assyrian myth, a fish-goddess falls in love with a beautiful young man, gives birth to a half-mortal daughter, abandons the child in the wilderness, and then kills herself in shame. The baby is fed by doves and survives to be found and raised by a royal shepherd…and grows up to become Semiramis, the great Warrior Queen of Assyria.

In Greek myth, Paris, the son of King Priam, is born under a prophesy that he will one day cause the downfall of Troy. The baby is left on the side of Mount Ida, but he’s suckled by a bear and manages to live — growing up to fall in love with Helen of Troy and spark the Trojan War.

From Roman myth comes one of the most famous babes-in-the-wood stories of all, the legend of Remus and Romulus. Numitor, the good King of Alba Long, is overthrown by Amulius, his wicked brother, and his daughter is forced to become a Vestal Virgin in order to end his line. Though locked in a temple, the girl becomes pregnant (with the help of Mars, the god of war) and gives birth to a beautiful pair of sons: Remus and Romulus. Amulius has the twins exposed on the banks of the Tiber, expecting them to perish; instead, they are suckled and fed by a wolf and a woodpecker, and survive in the woods. Adopted by a shepherd and his wife, they grow up into noble, courageous young men and discover their true heritage — whereupon they overthrow their great-uncle, restore their grandfather to his throne, and, just for good measure, go on to found the city of Rome.

In Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children, Michael Newton delves into the mythic symbolism inherent in the moment when abandoned children are saved by birds or animals. “Restorations and substitutions are at the very heart of the Romulus and Remus story,” he writes; “brothers take the rightful place of others, foster parents bring up other people’s children, the god Mars stands in for a human suitor. Yet the crucial substitution occurs when the she-wolf saves the lost children. In that moment, when the infants’ lips close upon the she-wolf’s teats, a transgressive mercy removes the harmful influence of a murderous culture. The moment is a second birth: where death is expected, succor is given, and the children are miraculously born into the order of nature. Nature’s mercy admonishes humanity’s unnatural cruelty: only a miracle of kindness can restore the imbalance created by human iniquity.” 

In myth, when we’re presented with children orphaned, abandoned, or raised by animals, it’s generally a sign that their true parentage is a remarkable one and they’ll grow up to be great leaders, warriors, seers, magicians, or shamans. As they grow, their beauty, or physical prowess or magical abilities betray a lineage that cannot be hidden by their humble upbringing. (Rarely do we encounter a mythic hero whose origins are truly low; at least one parent must be revealed as noble, supernatural, or divine.) After a birth trauma and a miraculous survival always comes a span of time symbolically described as “exile in the wilderness,” where they hone their skills, test their mettle, and gather their armies, their allies, or their magic, before returning (as they always do) to the world that is their birthright.

When we turn to folk tales and fairy tales, however, although we also find stories of children abandoned in the wild and befriended by animals, the tone and intent of such tales is markedly different. Here, we’re not concerned with the affairs of the gods or with heroes who conquer continents — for folk tales in the Western tradition, unlike myths and hero epics, were passed through the centuries primarily by storytellers of lower classes (usually women), and tended to be focused on themes more relevant to ordinary people. Abandoned children in fairy tales (like Hansel and Gretel, Little Thumbling, or the broommaker’s twins in The Two Brothers) aren’t destined for greatness or infamy; they are exactly what they appear to be: the children of cruel or feckless parents. Such parents exist, they have always existed, and fairy tales  did not gloss over these dark facts of life. Indeed, they confronted them squarely. The heroism of such children lies not in the recovery of a noble lineage but in the ability to survive and transform their fate — and to outwit those who would do them harm without losing their lives, their souls, or their humanity in the process.

Children also journey to the forest of their own accord, but usually in response to the actions of adults: they enter the woods at a parent’s behest (Little Red Riding Hood), or because they’re not truly wanted at home (Hans My Hedgehog), or in order to flee a wicked parent, step-parent, or guardian (Seven Swans, Snow White and Brother & Sister). Disruption of a safe, secure home life often comes in the form a parent’s remarriage: the child’s mother has died and a heartless, jealous step-mother has taken her place. The evil step-mother is so common in fairy tales that she has become an iconic figure (to the bane of real step-mothers everywhere), and her history in the fairy tale canon is an interesting one. In some tales, she didn’t originally exist. The murderous queen of Snow White, for example, was the girl’s own mother in the oldest versions of the story (the Brothers Grimm changed her into a step-parent in the 19th century) — whereas other stories, such as Cinderella and The Juniper Tree, have featured second wives since their earliest known tellings.

Some scholars who view fairy tales in psychological terms believe that the “good mother” and “bad step-mother” symbolize two sides of a child’s own mother: the part they love and the part they hate. Casting the “bad mother” as a separate figure, they say, allows the child to more safely identify such socially unacceptable feelings. While this may be true, it ignores the fact that fairy tales were not originally stories specially intended for children. And, as Marina Warner points out (in From the Beast to the Blonde), this “leeches the history out of fairy tales. Fairy or wonder tales, however farfetched the incidents they include, or fantastic the enchantments they concoct, take on the color of the actual circumstance in which they were or are told. While certain structural elements remain, variant versions of the same story often reveal the particular conditions of the society in which it is told and retold in this form. The absent mother can be read as literally that: a feature of the family before our modern era, when death in childbirth was the most common cause of female mortality, and surviving orphans would find themselves brought up by their mother’s successor.”

We rarely find step-fathers in fairy tales, wicked or otherwise, but the fathers themselves can be treacherous. In stories like Donkeyskin, Allerleirauh, and The Handless Maiden, for example, it is a cowardly, cruel, or incestuous father who forces his daughter to flee to the wild. Even those fathers portrayed more sympathetically as the dupes of their black-hearted wives are still somewhat suspect: they are happy at the story’s end to have their children return unscathed, but are curiously powerless or unwilling to protect them in the first place. Though the father is largely absent from tales such as Cinderella, The Seven Swans, and Snow White, the shadow he casts over them is a large one. He is, as Angela Carter has pointed out,  “the unmoved mover, the unseen organizing principle. Without the absent father there would have been no story because there would have been no conflict.”

Family upheaval has another function in these tales, beyond reflecting real issues encountered in life: it propels young heroes out of their homes, away from all that is safe and familiar; it forces them onto the unknown road to the dark of the forest. It’s a road that will lead, after certain tests and trials, to personal and worldly transformation, pushing the hero past childhood and pointing the way to a re-balanced life — symbolized by new prosperity, or a family home that has been restored, or (for older youths) a wedding feast at the end of the tale. These young people are “wild” only for a time: it’s a liminal state, a rite-of-passage that moves the hero from one distinct phase of life to another. The forest, with all its wonders and terrors, is not the final destination. It is a place to hide, to be tested, to mature. To grow in strength, wisdom, and/or power. And to gain the tools needed to return to the human world and repair what’s been broken…or build anew.

In one set of folk tales, however, children who disappear into the woods do not often return: the “changeling” stories of babies (and older children)  stolen by faeries, goblins, and trolls. Why, we might ask, are the denizens of Faerie so interested in stealing the offspring of mortals? Some faery lore suggests that the children are destined for lives as servants or slaves of the Faerie court; or that they are kept, in the manner of pets, for the amusement of their faery masters. Other stories and ballads (Tam Lin, for example) speak of a darker purpose: that the faeries must pay a tithe of blood to the Devil every seven years, and prefer to pay with mortal blood rather than blood of their own. In other traditions, however, it’s simply the beauty of the children that attracts the faeries, who are also known to kidnap pretty young men and women, artists, poets, and musicians.

The ability of faeries to procreate is a debatable issue in faery lore. Some stories maintain that the faeries do procreate, though not as often as humans. By occasionally interbreeding with mortals and claiming mortal babes as their own, they bring new blood into the Faerie Realm and keep their bloodlines strong. Other tales suggest that they cannot breed, or do so with such rarity that jealousy of human fertility is the motive behind child-theft.

Some stolen children, the tales tell us, will spend their whole lives in the Faerie Realm, and may even find happiness there, losing all desire for the lands of men. Other tales tell us that human children cannot thrive in the otherworld, and eventually sicken and die for want of mortal food and drink. Some faeries maintain their interest in child captives only during their infancy, tossing the children out of the Faerie Realm when they show signs of age. Such children, restored to the human world, are not always happy among their own kind, and spend their mortal lives pining for a way to return to Faerie.

Another type of story that comes from the deep, dark forest is the Feral Child tale, found in the shadow realm that lies between legend and fact.  There have been a number of cases throughout history of young children discovered living in the wild, a few of which have been documented to a greater or lesser degree. Generally, these seem to be children who have been abandoned or fled abusive homes, often at such a young age that they’ve ceased to remember any other way of life. Attempts to “civilize” these children, to teach them language, and to curb their animal-like behaviors, are rarely entirely successful — which leads to all sorts of questions about what it is that shapes human culturalization as we know it.

One of the most famous of these children was Victor, the Wild Boy of Avignon, discovered on a mountainside in France in the early 19th century. His teacher, Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard, wrote an extraordinary account of his six years with the boy — a document which inspired François Truffaut’s film The Wild Child, and Mordicai Gerstein‘s wonderful novel The Wild Boy. In an essay for The Horn Book, Gerstein wrote: “Itard’s reports not only provide the best documentation we have of a feral child, but also one of the most thoughtful, beautifully written, and moving accounts of a teacher pupil relationship, which has as its object nothing less than learning to be a human being (or at least what Itard, as a man of his time, thought a human being to be)…. Itard’s ambition to have Victor speak ultimately failed, but even if he had succeeded, he could never know Victor better or be more truly, deeply engaged with him than those evenings, early on, when they sat together as Victor loved to, with the boy’s face buried in the man’s hands. But the more Itard taught Victor, the more civilized he became, the more the distance between them grew.” (You’ll find Gerstein’s full essay here; scroll to the bottom of the page.)

In India in the 1920s two small girls were discovered living in the wild among a pack of wolves. They were captured (their “wolf mother” shot) and taken into an orphanage run by a missionary, Reverend Joseph Singh. Singh attempted to teach the girls to speak, walk upright, and behave like humans, not as wolves — with limited success.  His diaries make for fascinating (and horrifying) reading. Several works of fiction were inspired by this story, but the ones I particularly recommend are Children of the Wolf, a poignant children’s novel by Jane Yolen, and “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves,” a wonderful short story by Karen Russell (published in her collection of the same title). Also, Second Nature by Alice Hoffman is an excellent contemporary novel on the Feral Child theme.

More recently, in 1996, an urban Feral Child was discovered living with a pack of dogs on the streets of Moscow. He resisted capture until the police finally separated the boy from his pack. “He had been living on the street for two years,” writes Michael Newton. “Yet, as he had spent four years with a human family [before this], he could talk perfectly well. After a brief spell in a Reutov children’s shelter, Ivan started school. He appears to be just like any other Moscow child. Yet it is said that, at night, he still dreams of dogs.”

When we read about such things as adults and parents, the thought of a child with no family but wolves or dogs is a deeply disturbing one. . .but when we read from a child’s point of view, there is something secretly thrilling about the idea of life lived among an animal pack, or shedding the strictures of civilization to head into the woods. In this, of course, lies the enduring appeal of stories like Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes. Explaining his youthful passion for such tales, Mordecai Gerstein writes: “The heart of my fantasy was leaving the human world for a kind of jungle Eden where all one needed was readily available and that had, in Kipling’s version, less hypocrisy, more nobility. I liked best the idea of being protected from potential enemies by powerful animal friends.”

And here we begin to approach another aspect of Wild Child (and Orphaned Hero) tales that makes them so alluring to many young readers: the idea that a parentless life in the wild might be a better, or a more exciting, one. For children with difficult childhoods, the appeal of running away to the forest is obvious: such stories provide escape, a vision of life beyond the confines of a troubled home. But even children from healthy families need fictional escape from time to time. In the wild, they can shed their usual roles (the eldest daughter, middle son, the baby of the family, etc.) and enter other realms in which they are solitary actors. Without adults to guide them (or, contrarily, to restrict them), these young heroes are thrown back, time and time again, on their own resources. They must think, speak, act for themselves. They have no parental safety net below. This can be a frightening prospect, but it is also a liberating one — for although there’s no one to catch them if they fall, there’s no one to scold them for it either.

J.M. Barrie addresses this theme, of course, in his much-loved children’s fantasy Peter Pan — which draws upon Scottish changeling legends, twisted into interesting new shapes. Barrie’s Peter is human-born, not a faery, but he’s lived in Never Land so long that he’s as much a faery as he is a boy: magical, capricious, and amoral. He’s a complex mixture of good and bad, with little understanding of the difference between them — both cruel and kind, thoughtless and generous, arrogant and tender-hearted, bloodthirsty and sentimental. This dual nature makes Peter Pan a classic trickster character, kin to Puck, Robin Goodfellow, and other delightful but exasperating sprites of faery lore: both faery and child, mortal and immortal, villain (when he lures children from their homes) and hero (when he rescues them from pirates).

Peter’s last name derives from the Greek god Pan, the son of the trickster god Hermes by a wood nymph of Arcadia. Pan is a creature of the wilderness, associated with vitality, virility, and ceaseless energy. Like Peter, the god Pan is a contradictory figure. He haunts solitary mountains and groves, where he’s quick to anger if he’s disturbed, but he also loves company, music, dancing, and riotous celebrations. He is the leader of a woodland band of satyrs — but these “Lost Boys” are a wilder crew than Peter’s, famed for drunkenness, licentiousness, and creating havoc (or “panic”). Pan himself is a distinctly lusty god — and here the comparison must end, for Peter’s wildness has no sexual edge. Indeed, it’s sex and the other mysteries of adulthood that he’s specifically determined to avoid. (“You mustn’t touch me. No one must ever touch me,” Peter tells Wendy.)

Although Peter Pan makes a brief appearance in Barrie’s 1902 novel The Little White Bird, his story as we know it now really began as a children’s play, which debuted on the London stage in 1904. The playscript was subsequently published under the title Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up; and eventually Barrie novelized the story in the book Peter and Wendy. (It’s a wonderful read in Barrie’s original text, full of sharp black humor.) Peter and Wendy ends with a poignant scene that does not exist in the play: Peter comes back to Wendy’s window years later, and discovers she is all grown up. The little girl in the nursery now is Wendy’s own daughter, Jane. The girl examines Peter with interest, and soon she’s off to Never Land herself…where Wendy can no longer go, no matter how much she longs to follow.

The fairy tale forest, like Never Land, is not a place we are meant to remain, lest, like Peter or the children stolen by faeries, we become something not quite human. Young heroes return triumphant from the woods (trials completed, curses broken, siblings saved, pockets stuffed with treasure), but the blunt fact is that they must return. In the old tales, there is no sadness in this, no lingering, backward glance to the forest; the stories end “happily ever after” with the children restored to the human world. In this sense, the wild depths of the wood represent the realm of childhood itself, and the final destination is an adulthood rich in love, prosperity, and joy.  From Victorian times onward, however, a new note of regret creeps in at the end of the story. A theme that we find over and over again in Victorian fantasy literature is that magic and wonder are accessible only to children, lost on the threshold of adulthood. From Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” books to J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, these writers grieved that their wise young heroes would one day grow up and leave the woods behind.

Of course, many of us never do leave the woods behind: we return through the pages of magical books and we return in actuality, treasuring our interactions with the wild world through all the years of our lives. But that part of the forest specific to childhood does not truly belong to us now — and that’s exactly as it should be. Each generation bequeaths it to the next. Our job as adults, as I see it, is to protect that enchanted place by  preserving wilderness and stories both. Our job is to open the window at night and to watch from the shadows as Peter arrives; it’s our children’s turn to step over the sill. Our job is to teach them to navigate by the stars and to bless them on their way.

Barrie was wrong, by the way, for we adults have our owns forms of magic too, and the wild wood still welcomes us. But it’s right, I think, that there should be a corner of it forever marked “Grown-ups, keep out!” Where children are heroes of their own stories, kings and queens of their own wild worlds.