Athletic Coach / What about teaching and learning styles?

Successful athletic coaches are excellent teachers. Why? They are results-based people.

Years ago, when I worked as a substitute teacher in high schools, I quickly learned to ask the district to call me whenever a coach needed a sub. Their classrooms were organized for efficient and calm learning. The students were well-behaved, loved their teacher and were ready to participate. Essential teaching materials were available: you’d be surprised how many teachers are utter clutter-bugs, unprepared and couldn’t care less about what goes on in a classroom.  

I’m “looking into” alternative areas of teaching – learning outside the rigid psychology-based nightmare of public non-education. Note how this martial arts instructor focusses on HIS STUDENTS: paying close attention to their needs and individual receptivity to learning styles.  

This results-based approach is common sense, but does require being flexible, paying attention to detail, and sincerely and actively being interested in who the students are as individuals. 

AND knowing your subject thoroughly… “If you can’t explain it to a 6 year-old, you don’t understand it yourself”  

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Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic Learning Styles in Grappling

by Charles Smith, whitebelt.org

Overview 

People learn in many different ways and no two people learn in exactly the same way. As a coach you can help your players train more efficiently if you teach in a way that takes into account the various differences in their learning styles.

In this article.. I cover three basic styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

Visual learners want to see how something is done. Auditory learners prefer to hear explanations and like to talk their way through things. Kinesthetically oriented people want to get lots of hands-on experience so they can feel how something is done. I’ve covered each of these sensory learning styles in their own article, linked at the bottom of this page.

As you read the articles keep in mind that everyone uses a mix of learning styles. Some people have one dominant style, and use the others only as supplements, while other people use different styles in different circumstances. There is no right mix. People’s learning styles are also quite flexible. Everyone can develop ability in their less dominant styles, as well as increase their skill with styles they already use well.

Note to Coaches:
The key for you as a coach is to present information in a multi-layered mixture of styles. Don’t get stuck teaching in just one mode. Make sure you’re doing all you can for each style and pay particular attention to how you can blend the styles together. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you should help your students discover their own learning styles and how to make the most of them.

Visual Learning Style

First we’ll look at the visual learning style and how best to teach people who use it.

The visual style of learning is one of the three sensory learning styles along with auditory and kinesthetic. Like the other two, visual learning relates to the fundamental ways in which people take-in information. As you can guess, visual learners learn predominantly with their eyes. They prefer to see how to do things rather than just talk about them. It’s the old monkey see, monkey do kind of thing. (So be careful what you do in front of your children!) Since about 60% of people are visual learners you can count on working with them in every class you teach.

Visual learners prefer to watch demonstrations and will often get a lot out of video taped instruction as well. You can sometimes tell you’re dealing with a visual learner when they ask, “Can I see that again?” Other types of learners would ask if you could do it again, or explain it again, but visual learners will often say they want to see it. It’s just a little sign that the person you’re coaching may be a visual learner.

There are two important guidelines to follow in coaching for visual learners. The first is to make sure you are showing the movements as completely and clearly as possible. If you’re demonstrating a technique and part of the movement is hidden from view, you’ll want to find a way to rearrange things. You may have to get pretty creative, but the main thing is to position yourself so that everything you’re doing is available for viewing.

You also don’t want to rush or cut corners during a demonstration. Players need to see exactly how things should look from beginning to end. Coaches will frequently cover the key part of a technique with precision, but then get sloppy with the rest. Remember, monkey see, monkey do. Visual learners are going to do what they see you doing. They’ll subconsciously pick up on the sloppy movements and begin copying them – often even if you tell them not to.

Those are the two main guidelines for visual coaching: Show everything clearly and show everything exactly as you want it to be done.

Based on those ideas, here are a few things you can do, and not do, to improve your coaching for visual learners.

  • Always take the time to show the technique from a number of different angles and encourage your students to move around and find the best viewing angles.
  • Do not force your students to stay in fixed lines while you demonstrate. This always results in some people blocking the view of others.
  • Give your demonstrations toward the middle of the floor, not near a wall. That way people can get all the way around you.
  • Every now and then throw out a banana. Monkeys like bananas.

Auditory Learning Style

Auditory learners pick up new ideas and concepts better when they hear the information. In this article we’ll look at the auditory learning style and how best to present information to people who favor it.

Recognizing the Auditory Style

Auditory people can often follow directions very precisely after being told only once or twice what to do. Some auditory learners concentrate better when they have music or white noise in the background, or retain new information better when they talk it out.

Since hearing and speaking are so closely related you’ll often find auditory learners using they’re voice as well as their ears. They’ll often repeat what you’ve said right back to you. (Of course, psychologists label this natural auditory learning behavior as “pathological echolalia” in ASD Asperger children.) It helps them process the information. They may also remember complex sets of information by putting them to song or rhythm. Singers are usually skilled auditory learners for example. That’s why they can memorize a song after hearing it just a few times. Auditory people may also ask, “Could you explain that again?” Other types of learners would ask you to do it again, or show it again, but auditory learners want to hear it.

Once you start watching for the signs you’ll see just how many people prefer the auditory style. I believe the experts say that about 30% of Americans are auditory learners. That makes it a good bet you’ll be working with them in any decent sized class.

Organization Techniques

As with the other styles of learning it’s best to let people arrange themselves around you for instruction. Don’t force your students to stay in fixed lines while you demonstrate. Lines always result in some people not being able to hear as well as others – or feeling that they’ve been pushed to the back and can’t ask questions.

I’d suggest giving your demonstrations toward the middle of the floor and not near a wall (as in the typical “lecture style” American classroom.)That way people can get all the way around you to find the best place to listen from. You may have to encourage people to move around you since so many of us are conditioned to being in neat little lines.

Likewise, it’s also a good idea to let people ask questions as soon as they have them. Requiring people to raise their hands or otherwise wait for permission to speak usually squanders the moment when a student is really hot to learn. You’ll just end up back tracking to answer the question anyway, so let people speak up when they want to and rely on informal means to keep things under control.

Expository Techniques

Auditory learners will try to do what you say – exactly what you say. You need to speak clearly and completely or they’re going to head off in the wrong direction for sure. Assuming you’ve got decent speaking skills, the thing to pay most attention to is giving a detailed verbal description of what you’re doing. In other words, you’ve got to put everything into words.

Saying “do it like this” is not enough. It’s talking, sure, but it’s not saying anything.Do it like this” means: Ignore what I’m saying and watch instead. Instead of saying “put your hand here.” Say “put your hand on the inside of the knee.” Instead of saying “push hard,” say “push hard enough to pin their leg down.” Instead of saying, “move over here,” say “move over next to the far leg.” See the pattern? Avoid saying things that assume the player can see what you’re talking about.

Questioning Techniques

Getting verbal helps a lot of auditory learners. When they can both hear something and then say it out loud for themselves it helps them process the information. Most auditory learners like to ask questions too, if given the chance. You can get things started, and give everyone confidence that you like questions, by asking some questions of your own.

I would caution one thing though. Don’t make people feel like they’re being tested by putting them on the spot. Address your question to the group as a whole and don’t slight anyone who answers incorrectly.

One of my favorite ways to tell someone they’ve got it wrong is to use a melodramatic voice and body language to say:

Good answer! Good answer!

Then pause a moment and say:

It’s not the right answer, but it’s a good answer!

Good answer.”

If you ham it up people get the idea that the answer is wrong but there’s no reason to be embarrassed.

Echoing

Verbal interaction is probably one of the weakest areas most coaches have. Perhaps it’s because most of us grew up being told to keep quite in school. Now that we’re the teacher we subconsciously induce our students to do the same. Bad, bad us.

If you’re really having trouble with asking questions, one of the simplest ways to start is a technique called echoing. It works like this:

Coach states: “Grab the near collar.”

Coach immediately asks: “What do you grab?

Athletes echo: “The near collar.”

Coach echoes: “The near collar.”

Echoing is crude, but it works to get people’s jaws moving and that’s a start. Keep it light hearted and try it for a few months. (No, it doesn’t work overnight.) After everyone’s mouth is use to moving start branching out into real questions.

Like I said, echoing is crude, but it’s a start.

By the way, echoing can also be used as a motivational technique. People have to pay more attention to what you’re saying if they know they have to echo what you say.

Meta-Learning Techniques

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you should help your students become aware of their own auditory style and give them suggestions for putting it to use. What I call rapping is a simple way to start.

Rapping

Rapping is a simple procedure auditory learners can use to help themselves learn a new technique. Using short phrases, students quietly talk their way through the new movements they’re learning. Each step has it’s own little key word description that acts to jog the memory. The player should be able to put together the key words for themselves from the description given by the coach. Once the student starts to get the movements down, they can say the words in rhythm to help smooth out their timing and pace.

Coaches can encourage rapping by asking students if they’ve got the rap down and “let’s hear it.” And hey, maybe you can beat-box for ‘em too! Or not.

Close

Now that you’ve got a grasp of the auditory learning style I think you’ll find you can more precisely target your coaching for a number of your students.

If you haven’t already, I’d recommend taking a look at the other two sensory learning styles, visual and kinesthetic, to round out your knowledge.

Kinesthetic Learning Style

About 10% of the general population are kinesthetic learners. They prefer to learn by getting their body into action and moving around. They are “hands-on” types who prefer doing to talking. (Many ASD Asperger children, despite being labeled clumsy, “do” kinesthetic learning. It’s all that “hands on, let me do it myself, my way” behavior: handling objects, studying them, using them, arranging them – Oh no! That’s defective: punish that child.) In this article we’ll look at the kinesthetic learning style and how best to present information to people who favor it.

Recognizing the Kinesthetic Style

While only about 10% of the general population are kinesthetic learners, it’s a good bet a lot more people in a grappling class are. Only people who enjoy lots of hands-on work tend to keep coming back to something so physical.

As a coach you can count on all of your players to engage in kinesthetic learning. They may not be kinesthetic-oriented by nature, but grappling will eventually shape them into skilled kinesthetic learners. (So let’s get rid of outdoor recess, PE classes and  punish kids when they can’t remain frozen like statues for hours and hours) 

Let me point out a few indicators of the kinesthetic style.

When you’re giving a demonstration the people who always ask you to demonstrate on them so they can feel the technique, are very likely kinesthetic learners (and masochists). (Successful athletes do tolerate an extreme amount of pain, injury, discomfort and failure in order to fulfill goals. The corollary perils of intellectual success are ignored) 

You’ll also see the kinesthetic types following along as you demonstrate – moving their arms and legs in imitation of what you’re doing. Moving is so fundamental to kinesthetic learners that they often just fidget if nothing else. It helps them concentrate better.

Organization Techniques

If you talk for more than ten minutes during a technical demonstration you’ve gone way too long. Kinesthetic learners need to get to the action as soon as possible. Even visual and auditory learners can’t keep track of 10 minutes worth of non-stop details. Three minutes is my rule. If I can’t demonstrate something in under three minutes I usually break it down into smaller chunks. Say what you need to say, don’t say anything else and then get to work.

This is a very important point that relates not just to kinesthetic learners but to everyone in general. It has to do with the relationship between short-term-memory and learning. Check out the article entitled Chunking to find out more.

Meta-Learning Techniques

One of the most important things you can do regarding learning styles is help your students become aware of their own preferences. Be sure to talk to your students about kinesthetics.

Kinesthetics simply refers to an awareness of changes in pressure, momentum, balance and body position in general. It’s all about feeling what you’re doing as you do it. Kinesthetic learning is not particularly difficult to understand but because so many people regard learning as something you do by reading books or listening to lectures, they often haven’t given a great deal of thought to physical movement as a means of study. (Could it be that many ASD, Asperger and ADHD children are acutely aware of “changes in pressure, momentum, balance body position” and other sensory information, but need to utilize kinesthetic learning as an asset, instead of being labeled “defective” and FORCED to mimic “socially acceptable behavior” as a “solution” to social psychology’s conformist agenda?)

For some people, taking a grapping class may actually be the very first time they become consciously aware of kinesthetics, so make sure all of your students know what it is and that they will need to make extensive use of kinesthetic learning methods to succeed. Even predominantly visual and auditory learners need to make use of all the kinesthetic techniques they can. (How radical!) 

Teaching Technique

Essentially, kinesthetic learners need to feel the particular details of what’s happening during a technique. As a coach you want to give your player a very tactile sense of what to do. Provide them with precisely targeted physical contact by setting up situations where the player feels one thing if they move correctly and something else if they move poorly.

For example, if a player is incorrectly leaving his arm out where it might get pulled into an arm bar, have the player tuck in his arm and point out that he should feel his elbow tight up against his own ribs. Then emphasize the way the position feels by pulling on his arm so he is forced to engage his muscles. Tell him to pay attention to his own muscles working away inside his body. (Psycho-social teaching labels “the body” as a  dangerous object that must be “controlled” like an enemy, as opposed to being the essential vehicle for “being” in the world.)

Once he’s got a feel for the proper position, do some repetitions. As the player works on his technique, stop and check the arm to make sure it’s in tight. Tug on it a few times to reinforce the correct feeling and then continue on. After several reps stop checking the arm but keep an eye on it as the player keeps going. If that arm goes slack again slap the piss out of the guy (get his attention) and repeat the whole arm-pulling exercise again. After a few training sessions the player should be keeping his arm in on his own. (Note that the teacher must pay attention to the student! Not just dump poorly delivered information into the “air” and assume it’s the child’s fault for “not getting it”)

Finding a way to physically check a player’s body position is the key. Push, pull, lift, press, whatever – do something that the player must physically react to – then get them to pay attention to the kinesthetic sensations.

Close

Understanding kinesthetic learning is an absolute necessity for grappling coaches. I typically base my own coaching style on the requirements for good kinesthetic learning and then supplement it with the other two sensory learning styles: visual and auditory.

Thanks to Charles Smith and whitebelt.org for allowing us to post this article on Grapplearts

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See also: Posts on Hunter Gatherers

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

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

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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

Philosophy of Childhood / Stanford

I’m presenting this as a review of where many of our ideas about children, childhood, and “who has rights and who doesn’t” originate – in human thought and ideas (brains), that is, in consequence of poor reasoning, prejudice, personal bias, and thoughtful consideration; by means of accurate and faulty observation, careless assumptions and even (rarely) by clever insight, and not in universal law, in a pre-existing  supernatural realm or in a realm of magical authority.

What we see again, is the lack of coherence between modern Western social-psychological-cultural theory and biological reality. 

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/childhood/

From: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Philosophy of Childhood

The philosophy of childhood has recently come to be recognized as an area of inquiry analogous to the philosophy of science, the philosophy of history, the philosophy of religion, and the many other “philosophy of” subjects that are already considered legitimate areas of philosophical study. In addition, philosophical study of related topics (such as parental rights, duties and responsibilities) has flourished in recent years. The philosophy of childhood takes up philosophically interesting questions about childhood, changing conceptions over time about childhood and attitudes toward children; theories of cognitive and moral development; children’s interests and children’s rights, the goods of childhood; children and autonomy; the moral status of children and the place of children in society. As an academic subject, the philosophy of childhood has sometimes been included within the philosophy of education (e.g., Siegel, 2009). Recently, however, philosophers have begun to offer college and university courses specifically in the philosophy of childhood. And philosophical literature on childhood, parenting and families is increasing in both quantity and quality.

 1. What is a Child?

Almost single-handedly, Philippe Ariès, in his influential book, Centuries of Childhood (Ariès, 1962), made the reading public aware that conceptions of childhood have varied across the centuries. The very notion of a child, we now realize, is both historically and culturally conditioned. But exactly how the conception of childhood has changed historically and how conceptions differ across cultures is a matter of scholarly controversy and philosophical interest (see Kennedy, 2006). Thus Ariès argued, partly on the evidence of depictions of infants in medieval art, that the medievals thought of children as simply “little adults.” Shulamith Shahar (1990), by contrast, finds evidence that some medieval thinkers understood childhood to be divided into fairly well-defined stages. And, whereas Piaget claims that his subjects, Swiss children in the first half of the 20th Century, were animistic in their thinking (Piaget, 1929), Margaret Mead (1967) presents evidence that Pacific island children were not.

One reason for being skeptical about any claim of radical discontinuity—at least in Western conceptions of childhood—arises from the fact that, even today, the dominant view of children embodies what we might call a broadly “Aristotelian conception” of childhood. According to Aristotle, there are four sorts of causality, one of which is Final causality and another is Formal Causality. Aristotle thinks of the Final Cause of a living organism as the function that organism normally performs when it reaches maturity. He thinks of the Formal Cause of the organism as the form or structure it normally has in maturity, where that form or structure is thought to enable the organism to perform its functions well. According to this conception, a human child is an immature specimen of the organism type, human, which, by nature, has the potentiality to develop into a mature specimen with the structure, form, and function of a normal or standard adult. 

Many adults today have this broadly Aristotelian conception of childhood without having actually read any of Aristotle. It informs their understanding of their own relationship toward the children around them. Thus they consider the fundamental responsibility they bear toward their children to be the obligation to provide the kind of supportive environment those children need to develop into normal adults, with the biological and psychological structures in place needed to perform the functions we assume that normal, standard adults can perform.

Two modifications of this Aristotelian conception have been particularly influential in the last century and a half. One is the 19th century idea that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny (Gould, 1977), that is, that the development of an individual recapitulates the history and evolutionary development of the race, or species (Spock, 1968, 229). This idea is prominent in Freud (1950) and in the early writings of Jean Piaget (see, e.g. Piaget, 1933). Piaget, however, sought in his later writings to explain the phenomenon of recapitulation by appeal to general principles of structural change in cognitive development (see, e.g., Piaget, 1968, 27).

The other modification is the idea that development takes places in age-related stages of clearly identifiable structural change. This idea can be traced back to ancient thinkers, for example the Stoics (Turner and Matthews, 1998, 49). Stage theory is to be found in various medieval writers (Shahar, 1990, 21–31) and, in the modern period, most prominently in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s highly influential work, Emile (1979). But it is Piaget who first developed a highly sophisticated version of stage theory and made it the dominant paradigm for conceiving childhood in the latter part of the 20th Century (see, e.g., Piaget, 1971).

Matthews (2008, 2009), argues that a Piagetian-type stage theory of development tends to support a “deficit conception” of childhood, according to which the nature of the child is understood primarily as a configuration of deficits—missing capacities that normal adults have but children lack. This conception, he argues, ignores or undervalues the fact that children are, for example, better able to learn a second language, or paint an aesthetically worthwhile picture, or conceive a philosophically interesting question, than those same children will likely be able to do as adults. Moreover, it restricts the range and value of relationships adults think they can have with their children.

Broadly Aristotelian conceptions of childhood can have two further problematic features. They may deflect attention away from thinking about children with disabilities in favour of theorizing solely about normally developing children (see Carlson 2010), and they may distract philosophers from attending to the goods of childhood when they think about the responsibilities adults have towards the children in their care, encouraging focus only on care required to ensure that children develop adult capacities.

How childhood is conceived is crucial for almost all the philosophically interesting questions about children. It is also crucial for questions about what should be the legal status of children in society, as well as for the study of children in psychology, anthropology, sociology, and many other fields.

2. Theories of Cognitive Development

Any well-worked out epistemology will provide at least the materials for a theory of cognitive development in childhood. Thus according to René Descartes a clear and distinct knowledge of the world can be constructed from resources innate to the human mind (Descartes, PW, 131). John Locke, by contrast, maintains that the human mind begins as a “white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas” (Locke, EHC, 121). On this view all the “materials of reason and knowledge” come from experience. Locke’s denial of the doctrine of innate ideas was, no doubt, directed specifically at Descartes and the Cartesians. But it also implies a rejection of the Platonic doctrine that learning is a recollection of previously known Forms. Few theorists of cognitive development today find either the extreme empiricism of Locke or the strong innatism of Plato or Descartes completely acceptable.

Behaviorism has offered recent theorists of cognitive development a way to be strongly empiricist without appealing to Locke’s inner theater of the mind. The behaviorist program was, however, dealt a major setback when Noam Chomsky, in his review (1959) of Skinner’s Verbal Behavior (1957), argued successfully that no purely behaviorist account of language-learning is possible. Chomsky’s alternative, a theory of Universal Grammar, which owes some of its inspiration to Plato and Descartes, has made the idea of innate language structures, and perhaps other cognitive structures as well, seem a viable alternative to a more purely empiricist conception of cognitive development.

It is, however, the work of Jean Piaget that has been most influential on the way psychologists, educators, and even philosophers have come to think about the cognitive development of children. Piaget’s early work, The Child’s Conception of the World (1929), makes especially clear how philosophically challenging the work of a developmental psychologist can be. Although his project is always to lay out identifiable stages in which children come to understand what, say, causality or thinking or whatever is, the intelligibility of his account presupposes that there are satisfactory responses to the philosophical quandaries that topics like causality, thinking, and life raise.

Take the concept of life. According to Piaget this concept is acquired in four stages (Piaget, 1929, Chapter 6)

  • First Stage: Life is assimilated to activity in general

  • Second Stage: Life is assimilated to movement

  • Third Stage: Life is assimilated to spontaneous movement

  • Fourth Stage: Life is restricted to animals and plants

These distinctions are suggestive, but they invite much more discussion than Piaget elicits from his child subjects. What is required for movement to be spontaneous? Is a bear alive during hibernation? We may suppose the Venus flytrap moves spontaneously. But does it really? What about other plants? And then there is the question of what Piaget can mean by calling the thinking of young children “animistic,” if, at their stage of cognitive development, their idea of life is simply “assimilated to activity in general.”

Donaldson (1978) offers a psychological critique of Piaget on cognitive development. A philosophical critique of Piaget’s work on cognitive development is to be found in Chapters 3 and 4 of Matthews (1994). Interesting post-Piagetian work in cognitive development includes Cary (1985), Wellman (1990), Flavel (1995), Subbotsky (1996), and Gelman (2003).

Recent psychological research on concept formation has suggested that children do not generally form concepts by learning necessary and sufficient conditions for their application, but rather by coming to use prototypical examples as reference guides. Thus a robin (rather, of course, than a penguin) might be the child’s prototype for ‘bird’. The child, like the adult, might then be credited with having the concept, bird, without the child’s ever being able to specify, successfully, necessary and sufficient conditions for something to count as a bird. This finding seems to have implications for the proper role and importance of conceptual analysis in philosophy. It is also a case in which we should let what we come to know about cognitive development in children help shape our epistemology, rather than counting on our antecedently formulated epistemology to shape our conception of cognitive development in children (see Rosch and Lloyd, 1978, and Gelman, 2003).

Some developmental psychologists have recently moved away from the idea that children are to be understood primarily as human beings who lack the capacities adults of their species normally have. This change is striking in, for example, the work of Alison Gopnik, who writes: “Children aren’t just defective adults, primitive grownups gradually attaining our perfection and complexity. Instead, children and adults are different forms of homo sapiens. They have very different, though equally complex and powerful, minds, brains, and forms of consciousness, designed to serve different evolutionary functions” (Gopnik, 2009, 9). Part of this new respect for the capacities of children rests on neuroscience and an increased appreciation for the complexity of the brains of infants and young children. Thus Gopnik writes: “Babies’ brains are actually more highly connected than adult brains; more neural pathways are available to babies than adults.” (11)

3. Theories of Moral Development

Many philosophers in the history of ethics have devoted serious attention to the issue of moral development. Thus Plato, for example, offers a model curriculum in his dialogue, Republic, aimed at developing virtue in rulers. Aristotle’s account of the logical structure of the virtues in his Nicomachean Ethics provides a scaffolding for understanding how moral development takes place. And the Stoics (Turner and Matthews, 1998, 45–64) devoted special attention to dynamics of moral development.

Among modern philosophers, it is again Rousseau (1979) who devotes the most attention to issues of development. He offers a sequence of five age-related stages through which a person must pass to reach moral maturity: (i) infancy (birth to age 2); (ii) the age of sensation (3 to 12); (iii) the age of ideas (13 to puberty); (iv) the age of sentiment (puberty to age 20); and (v) the age of marriage and social responsibility (age 21 on). Although he allows that an adult may effectively modify the behavior of children by explaining that bad actions are those that will bring punishment (90), he insists that genuinely moral reasoning will not be appreciated until the age of ideas, at 13 and older. In keeping with his stage theory of moral development he explicitly rejects Locke’s maxim, ‘Reason with children,’ (Locke, 1971) on the ground that attempting to reason with a child younger than thirteen years of age is developmentally inappropriate.

However, the cognitive theory of moral development formulated by Piaget in The Moral Judgment of the Child (1965) and the somewhat later theory of Lawrence Kohlberg (1981, 1984) are the ones that have had most influence on psychologists, educators, and even philosophers. Thus, for example, what John Rawls has to say about children in his classic work, A Theory of Justice (1971) rests heavily on the work of Piaget and Kohlberg.

Kohlberg presents a theory according to which morality develops in approximately six stages, though according to his research, few adults actually reach the fifth or sixth stages. In this respect Kohlberg’s theory departs from classic stage theory, as in Piaget, since the sequence of stages does not culminate in the capacity shared by normal adults. However, Kohlberg maintained that no one skips a stage or regresses to an earlier stage. Although Kohlberg sometimes considered the possibility of a seventh or eighth stage, these are his basic six:

  • Level A. Premoral

    • Stage 1—Punishment and obedience orientation

    • Stage 2—Naive instrumental hedonism

  • Level B. Morality of conventional role conformity

    • Stage 3—Good-boy morality of maintaining good relations, approval by others

    • Stage 4—Authority-maintaining morality

  • Level C. Morality of accepted moral principles

    • Stage 5—Morality of contract, of individual rights and democratically accepted law

    • Stage 6—Morality of individual principles of conscience

Kohlberg developed a test, which has been widely used, to determine the stage of any individual at any given time. The test requires responses to ethical dilemmas and is to be scored by consulting an elaborate manual.

One of the most influential critiques of the Kohlberg theory is to be found in Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice (1982). Gilligan argues that Kohlberg’s rule-oriented conception of morality has an orientation toward justice, which she associates with stereotypically male thinking, whereas women and girls are perhaps more likely to approach moral dilemmas with a “care” orientation. One important issue in moral theory that the Kohlberg-Gilligan debate raises is that of the role and importance of moral feelings in the moral life (see the entry on feminist ethics).

Another line of approach to moral development is to be found in the work of Martin Hoffman (1982). Hoffman describes the development of empathetic feelings and responses in four stages. Hoffman’s approach allows one to appreciate the possibility of genuine moral feelings, and so of genuine moral agency, in a very small child. By contrast, Kohlberg’s moral-dilemma tests will assign pre-schoolers and even early elementary-school children to a pre-moral level.

A philosophically astute and balanced assessment of the Kohlberg-Gilligan debate, with appropriate attention to the work of Martin Hoffman, can be found in Pritchard (1991). See also Friedman (1987), Likona (1976), Kagan and Lamb (1987), and Pritchard (1996).

4. Children’s Rights

For a full discussion of children’s interests and children’s rights see the entry on the rights of children.

5. Childhood Agency and Autonomy

Clearly children are capable of goal-directed behavior while still relatively young, and are agents in this minimal sense. Respect for children’s agency is provided in legal and medical contexts, in that children who are capable of expressing their preferences are frequently consulted, even if their views are not regarded as decisive for determining outcomes.

The exercise of childhood agency will obviously be constrained by social and political factors, including various dependency relations, some of them imposed by family structures. Whether there are special ethical rules and considerations that pertain to the family in particular, and, if so, what these rules or considerations are, is the subject of an emerging field we can call ‘family ethics’ (Baylis and Mcleod 2014, Blustein, 1982, Brighouse and Swift 2014, Houlgate, 1980, 1999).

The idea that, in child-custody cases, the preferences of a child should be given consideration, and not just the “best interest” of the child, is beginning to gain acceptance in the U.S., Canada and Europe. “Gregory K,” who at age 12 was able to speak rationally and persuasively to support his petition for new adoptive parents, made a good case for recognizing childhood agency in a family court. (See “Gregory Kingsley” in the Other Internet Resources.) Less dramatically, in divorce proceedings, older children are routinely consulted for their views about proposed arrangements for their custody.

Perhaps the most wrenching cases in which adults have come to let children play a significant role in deciding their own future are those that involve treatment decisions for children with terminal illnesses. (Kopelman and Moskop, 1989) The pioneering work of Myra Bluebond-Langner shows how young children can come to terms with their own imminent death and even conspire, mercifully, to help their parents and caregivers avoid having to discuss this awful truth with them (Bluebond-Langner, 1980).

While family law and medical ethics are domains in which children capable of expressing preferences are increasingly encouraged to do so, there remains considerable controversy within philosophy as to the kind of authority that should be given to children’s preferences. There is widespread agreement that most children’s capacity to eventually become autonomous is morally important and that adults who interact with them have significant responsibility to ensure that this capacity is nurtured (Feinberg 1980). At the same time it is typical for philosophers to be skeptical about the capacity for children under the age of ten to have any capacity for autonomy, either because they are judged not to care stably about anything (Oshana 2005, Schapiro 1999), lack information, experience and cognitive maturity (Levinson 1999, Ross 1998), or are too poor at critical reflection (Levinson 1999).

Mullin (2007, 2014) argues that consideration of children’s capacity for autonomy should operate with a relatively minimal understanding of autonomy as self-governance in the service of what the person cares about (with the objects of care conceived broadly to include principles, relationships, activities and things). Children’s attachment to those they love (including their parents) can therefore be a source of autonomy. When a person, adult or child, acts autonomously, he or she finds the activity meaningful and embraces the goal of the action. This contrasts both with a lack of motivation and with feeling pressured by others to achieve outcomes desired by them. Autonomy in this sense requires capacities for impulse control, caring stably about some things, connecting one’s goals to one’s actions, and confidence that one can achieve at least some of one’s goals by directing one’s actions. It does not require extensive ability to engage in critical self-reflection, or substantive independence. The ability to act autonomously in a particular domain will depend, however, on whether one’s relationships with others are autonomy supporting. This is in keeping with feminist work on relational autonomy. See the entry on Feminist Perspectives on Autonomy.

Children’s autonomy is supported when adults give them relevant information, reasons for their requests, demonstrate interest in children’s feelings and perspectives, and offer children structured choices that reflect those thoughts and feelings. Support for children’s autonomy in particular domains of action is perfectly consistent with adults behaving paternalistically toward them at other times and in other domains, when children are ill-informed, extremely impulsive, do not appreciate the long-term consequences of their actions, cannot recognize what is in their interest, cannot direct their actions to accord with their interests, or are at risk of significant harm (Mullin 2014).

6. The Goods of Childhood

“Refrigerator art,” that is, the paintings and drawings of young children that parents display on the family’s refrigerator, is emblematic of adult ambivalence toward the productions of childhood. Typically, parents are pleased with, and proud of, the art their children produce. But equally typically, parents do not consider the artwork of their children to be good without qualification. Yet, as Jonathan Fineberg has pointed out (Fineberg, 1997, 2006), several of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century collected child art and were inspired by it. It may be that children are more likely as children to produce art, the aesthetic value of which a famous artist or an art historian can appreciate, than they will be able to later as adults.

According to what we have called the “Aristotelian conception”, childhood is an essentially prospective state. On such a view, the value of what a child produces cannot be expected to be good in itself, but only good for helping the child to develop into a good adult. Perhaps some child art is a counterexample to this expectation. Of course, one could argue that adults who, as children, were encouraged to produce art, as well as make music and excel at games, are more likely to be flourishing adults than those who are not encouraged to give such “outlets” to their energy and creativity. But the example of child art should at least make one suspicious of Michael Slote’s claim that “just as dreams are discounted except as they affect (the waking portions of) our lives, what happens in childhood principally affects our view of total lives through the effects that childhood success or failure are supposed to have on mature individuals” (Slote, 1983, 14).

Recent philosophical work on the goods of childhood (Brennan 2014, Macleod 2010) stresses that childhood should not be evaluated solely insofar as it prepares the child to be a fully functioning adult. Instead, a good childhood is of intrinsic and not merely instrumental value. Different childhoods that equally prepare children to be capable adults may be better or worse, depending on how children fare qua children. Goods potentially specific to childhood (or, more likely, of greatest importance during childhood) include opportunities for joyful and unstructured play and social interactions, lack of significant responsibility, considerable free time, and innocence, particularly sexual innocence. Play, for instance, can be of considerable value not only as a means for children to acquire skills and capacities they will need as adults, but also for itself, during childhood.

7. Philosophical Thinking in Children

For a full discussion of this topic see the entry on Philosophy for Children.

8. Moral Status of Children

It is uncontroversial to judge that what Mary Anne Warren terms paradigmatic humans have moral status (Warren 1992). Paradigmatic humans are adults with relatively standard cognitive capacities for self-control, self-criticism, self-direction, and rational thought, and are capable of moral thought and action. However, the grounds for this status are controversial, and different grounds for moral status have direct implications for the moral status of children. Jan Narveson (1988), for instance, argues that children do not have moral status in their own right because only free rational beings, capable of entering into reciprocal relations with one another, have fundamental rights. While Narveson uses the language of rights in his discussion of moral status (people have direct moral duties only to rights holders on his account), moral status need not be discussed in the language of rights. Many other philosophers recognize children as having moral status because of their potential to become paradigmatic humans without committing to children having rights. For instance, Allen Wood writes: “it would show contempt for rational nature to be indifferent to its potentiality in children.” (Wood 1998, 198)

When children are judged to have moral status because of their potential to develop the capacities of paradigmatic adults (we might call these paradigmatic children), this leaves questions about the moral status of those children who are not expected to live to adulthood, and those children whose significant intellectual disabilities compromise their ability to acquire the capacities of paradigmatic adults. There are then three common approaches that grant moral status to non-paradigmatic children (and other non-paradigmatic humans). The first approach deems moral consideration to track species membership. On this approach all human children have moral status simply because they are human (Kittay 2005). This approach has been criticized as being inappropriately speciesist, especially by animal rights activists. The second approach gives moral status to children because of their capacity to fare well or badly, either on straightforwardly utilitarian grounds or because they have subjective experiences (Dombrowski 1997). It has been criticized by some for failing to distinguish between capacities all or almost all human children have that are not also possessed by other creatures who feel pleasure and pain. The third approach gives moral status to non-paradigmatic children because of the interests others with moral status take in them (Sapontzis 1987), or the relationships they have with them (Kittay 2005)

Sometimes the approaches may be combined. For instance Warren writes that young children and other non-paradigmatic humans have moral status for two sorts of reasons: “their rights are based not only on the value which they themselves place upon their lives and well-being, but also on the value which other human beings place on them.” (1992. 197) In addition to these three most common approaches, Mullin (2011) develops a fourth: some non-paradigmatic children (and adults) have moral status not simply because others value them but because they are themselves capable of being active participants in morally valuable relationships with others. These relationships express care for others beyond their serving as means for one’s own satisfaction. Approaches to moral status that emphasize children’s capacity to care for others in morally valuable relationships also raise interesting questions about children’s moral responsibilities within those relationships (see Mullin 2010).

For more on this topic see the entry on the grounds of moral status.

9. Other Issues

The topics discussed above hardly exhaust the philosophy of childhood. Thus we have said nothing about, for example, philosophical literature on personhood as it bears on questions about the morality of abortion, or bioethical discussions about when it is appropriate for parents to consent to children’s participation in medical research or refuse medical treatment of their children. There has been increasing attention in recent years to questions about the appropriate limits of parental authority over children, about the source and extent of parents and the state’s responsibilities for children, and about the moral permissibility of parents devoting substantial resources to advancing the life prospects of their children. These and many other topics concerning children may be familiar to philosophers as they get discussed in other contexts. Discussing them under the rubric, ‘philosophy of childhood,’ as well in the other contexts, may help us see connections between them and other philosophical issues concerning children.

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.

 

 

 

Morning Thoughts / “$$$$ research” that proves “the obvious”

Headache: Reading research on brain development in childhood; what is “normal” and what is “not”.

(Hint: “normal” is the state of tolerating brain damage because it adapts one to high stress human social environments and unhealthy “deprived” physical environments. Those individuals who become “sickened” by conditions that harm living things are defective, like smoke alarms that actually respond to smoke!)

__________________________________________________________________________________________

I’m not “picking on” these specific people: this article is merely one of thousands that disclose a severe problem – billions of $$$ being spent to “research the obvious” and so little is spent on real preventive help for children and families. It’s SO FRUSTRATING for an Asperger: the neurotypical limitation of “letting things get screwed up” and only then “coming up with” some kind of “technical fix” that too often merely compounds suffering with new unintended consequences – Dig that hole deeper and deeper, is the prime directive for neurotypicals.  

Effects of Early Life Stress on Cognitive and Affective Function: An Integrated Review of Human Literature

The brilliant conclusion? Childhood abuse, neglect and trauma f**k with living things. Brilliant?

No, repetition of the OBVIOUS pattern:   

The goal of all this research? To somehow “fix” screwed up brains using high-tech engineering to “repair” what’s broken. Not brilliant! The neurotypical pattern is to perpetuate the social structures and toxic environments that damage human beings; let the damage occur, and then send out “recall notices” to come in and have your brain repaired (or further messed up).

The actual “thinking” behind NT behavior is dumb. The illusion that “technical breakthroughs solve problems” is so short-sighted and disproven by social history. Another obvious failure of NT insight into the incredible gap between narcissistic self-assessment and the lack of competency in practical, preventative action. 

Do we want people to be healthy and happy?  Or do we  want people to be f**k’d up? It’s a simple question. 

 

 

Evolutionary Hypotheses for Human Childhood / BARRY BOGIN

YEARBOOK OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY [Vol. 40, 1997

Evolutionary Hypotheses for Human Childhood
BARRY BOGIN Department of Behavioral Sciences, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dearborn, Michigan 48128

This is an intriguing and very readable paper that delineates clear differences in thought regarding the evolution of Homo sapiens. Bogin rejects non-reproduction-based explanations (welcome surprise!) for the “appearance” of extended infancy, childhood and juvenile stages of development. He rejects neoteny or heterochrony as sole mechanisms to account for unique aspects of human development; however, some of his claims are simply wrong regarding human uniqueness – and, within his hypothesis, there is nothing to rule out heterochrony and neoteny as critical mechanisms behind the addition or extension of the human infant-child-juvenile sequence of development.

My emphasis in this blog is on sexual selection for tameness / domestication due to the shift to agriculture from hunting, foraging, scavenging and gathering (nomadism). The inevitable sedentary-urban lifestyle that the new dependence on less nutritious food, and the increase in labor required for food production, necessitated adaptations that we see in a neotenic modern social type that dominates today. Many steps involving differential evolution of brain function, reproduction, behavior, culture and physiology have likely taken place to produce Homo sapiens sapiens (neurotypical humans).

I’d like to comment point by point, but this is a long essay…  

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6389/0bc6c543fb013debe2f9f2177150f84bfeaa.pdf

Evolutionary Hypotheses for Human Childhood (1997)

BARRY BOGIN Department of Behavioral Sciences, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dearborn, Michigan

ABSTRACT

The origins of human childhood have fascinated scholars from many disciplines. Some researchers argue that childhood, and many other human characteristics, evolved by heterochrony, an evolutionary process that alters the timing of growth stages from ancestors to their descendants. Other scholars argue against heterochrony, but so far have not offered a well-developed alternative hypothesis. This essay presents such an alternative.

Childhood is defined as a unique developmental stage of humans. Childhood is the period following infancy, when the youngster is weaned from nursing but still depends on older people for feeding and protection. The biological constraints of childhood, which include an immature dentition, a small digestive system, and a calorie-demanding brain that is both relatively large and growing rapidly, necessitate the care and feeding that older individuals must provide.

Evidence is presented that childhood evolved as a new stage hominid life history, first appearing, perhaps, during the time of Homo habilis. The value of childhood is often ascribed to learning many aspects of human culture. It is certainly true that childhood provides ‘‘extra’’ time for brain development and learning. However, the initial selective value of childhood may be more closely related to parental strategies to increase reproductive success. Childhood allows a woman to give birth to new offspring and provide care for existing dependent young. Understanding the nature of childhood helps to explain why humans have lengthy development and low fertility, but greater reproductive success than any other species. Yrbk Phys Anthropol 40:63–89, 1997. r 1997 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Childhood fascinates scholars and practitioners from many disciplines. Virtually all human cultures recognize a time of life that may be called ‘‘childhood.’’ Many historical sources from Egyptian times to the 19th century, including Wordsworth in the poem above, mention that ‘‘childhood’’occupies the first 6 to 7 years of life (Boyd, 1980). Some explanations for the origins and functions of childhood have been proposed, but none of these is accepted universally. Perhaps the lack of agreement is due to the nature of human evolutionary biology.

Much, much more…..

______________________________________________

Orangutans hanging out, from James Tan.

There are a lot of conflicting claims about “childhood” and other aspects of comparative primate development…… The orangutan has the longest childhood dependence on the mother of any animal in the world, because there is so much for a young orangutan to learn in order to survive. The babies nurse until they are about six years of age….Orangutan females only give birth about once every 8 years – the longest time between births of any mammal on earth. (This results in only 4 to 5 babies in her lifetime.) This is why orangutan populations are very slow to recover from disturbance.

from http://primatefacts.tumblr.com

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.”

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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.