Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Step One To A Better Future - "Understanding"



  "... being a baby is like being in love, in Paris, for the first time, after three double espressos."  

- Alison Gopnick

First Step: Understanding

Many people go through life and never understand that the most critical stage in a human being's development is the first five years of life.

parenting moment. Learn, listen, love
Observing with intent...
Note: Papa Green Bean will use 'her; she' to refer to a child in this post.     

Listen - 9 min. (or watch -18 min.) to Alison Gopnick's TED Talk: "What Do Babies Think?". Dr. Gopnick is a professor of psychology & philosophy at the University of California/Berkeley. She has written The Scientist in the Crib and, most recently, The Philosophical Baby: What children's minds tell us about truth, love, & the meaning of life. 

In my opinion, she seems to be the modern day, Dr. Maria Montessori, and that's saying a whole lot, as Montessori's The Absorbent Mind (beautifully written), shows understanding at as deep a level as I have ever seen. 

Dr. Montessori said "Education must be an aide toward life". Our educational work, as parents, educators, and advocates, is to learn the specific ways in which we can promote the full development of the human potential. Every baby is an inert being, but there exists a "human creative essence". At birth, a child can adapt to any environment. Behavior is learned, not inherited, in the early years of life (genetics do determine basic physical characteristics, which can influence behavior, but behavior is not predetermined). The human mind develops from what appears to be nothing. As the physical plane of development occurs, there is a separate mental plane that is forming psychic organs round about periods of sensitivity. These potentialities of sensitivity have to be developed or they lay latent, becoming increasingly difficult to develop later in life. These sensitive periods are of such intense activity that the adult can never recapture them, or recollect what they were like. The psychic organs are formed during this incredible outpouring of energy, mostly (90%) before age five.

Dr. Gopnick makes the case that babies are more conscious than adults. While adults focus like a 'spotlight', baby's brains are like lanterns, reaching out to all parts of their environment. According to Gopnick, a babies brain is the most powerful learning computer in the world! There is this evolutionary paradox, the period when a newborn is totally helpless, which defines what it is to be a human being. This stage (birth to five) is the most extreme phase of learning, when the child is literally creating themselves, with complete open mindedness. 

Parenting with early childhood education in mind
Child reading to her heart's content...
If we consider only one side of a child's duty, the duty of growing up, there is a danger of suppressing her best energies. Unlike other creatures, the human newborn does not have a predetermined pattern of life or behavior. The child brings with her, into the world, none of the acquisitions of her people and race, not even of her family, but she herself has to construct all these characteristics from the world around her. And this happens everywhere, not less in the most primitive and widely scattered of races than in the most civilized; and in all corners of the earth. 

Education (parenting) must support a full unfolding of these psychic organs. The love a child finds in infancy, shows what kind of love should reign ideally in the grown-up world. A love, able of its own nature, to inspire sacrifice, the dedication of one ego to another ego, of one's self to the service of others. As adults we must provide, for every child in her first five years of life, an environment with optimal conditions to help bring forth the human creative essence.   

To observe and study the baby, infant, and young child (0 - 5), and more importantly, to gain appreciation of the immense work going on inside their brain, is the first step to understanding the human race, and it's vast potential for a better and brighter future. 

Note: Step two (SHARING) and step three (DOING) will be discussed in next weeks post.

Papa Green Bean Tip of the Day - 
  • Next time you see a newborn...
  • Stop and put yourself in their head...
  • Imagine the awe in which they observe... 
Please try to understand the power of babies, Papa Green Bean