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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Thinking of the Children

There's an interesting discussion going on over at Rory's blog right now. Mostly questions about how to teach information efficiently. It's worth reading and thinking about.

This is sprung tangentially from that, as there was some discussion there about how infants and children learn, and how that might be a model for teaching adults.

I can't say this for certain, but I have a weird sense that there's a bit of a glamorization of childhood that goes on in the fitness and martial arts industry. I see a lot of marketing around ideas like "when we were children, we knew how to bit fit, but now we've forgotten it!!" I realize that some of it may be marketing hype, and some of it may have some accuracy, but...I am wary.

[Random aside: Is this trend somehow tied into Victorian ideas about the innocence and purity of children? I have no idea, but if there's an enterprising academic looking for a thesis topic, have fun with this.]

My wariness stems from two places. My education, and my experience.

My education: I have a master's degree in teaching, which means I took a developmental psych class once. Which means I don't know very much about human development, but I know enough to know that infants and children are not just short adults. Psychologically and physiologically, infants and children are different. Assuming that what works for one population will work for the other is ridiculous in both directions--there might be lessons to learn from one for the other, but it's not a 1:1 correlation.

My experience: My son is a little over two years old. He didn't walk until he was 18 or 19 months, and didn't talk until a bit after that. He had a minor developmental delay...nothing that anyone would notice even now, and certainly it will have no discernible effect on his adult life, but it was sufficient to qualify him to get some early intervention. Basically, he got to spend time working with some wonderful people who helped him learn how to walk and talk, and now he's (pardon the pun) running with it.

Here's my point. Not all infants learn even the most "basic" skills "easily" or "naturally". I see people talking about how we're all such amazing athletes at birth, and think "no, no we are not."

My son may turn out be a great athlete, or not. I have no idea. But the idea that learning to walk was this magically simple process for him is bullshit. He struggled to figure it out. When he finally did, he was delighted as only a toddler can be.

Not sure where I'm going with all of this, except that when I see people writing about the magical way in which children learn and do everything so much easier than adults, I am wary. From what I've seen, children are no more magical at learning than anyone else.

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