Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Children Designed to Learn

GNXP-SF posted an interesting link. A some scientists were given a question: What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it? It's an interesting question, particularly when asked of people who prove usually have to prove their own claims. I randomly clicked on one. While I normally don't agree with psychologists (for various reasons), this one gave an answer similar to what I've been saying for years - that children are designed to learn. Her answer is more about conciousness in children, but she discusses specifically how childhood "is a protected period in which we are free to learn without being forced to act". At a very basic level, adults are there to make children and build a society in which humans can thrive (some are better at this than others). Children, not being capable of making more children and having a very limited ability (particularly early on) to contribute to society must have some purpose other than "survive to adulthood". Otherwise, childhood would be much shorter since protecting a child uses up a lot of parental and societal resources. Childhood is widely accepted as a time for learning. I don't think it's a huge leap to say that children, therefore, as designed to learn.

I have met people who think that children appear smarter because they have more time on their hands. I say children appear smarter (or are smarter, depending on how you want to define intelligence) because they are more able to learn as well as more accepting of what they do learn. The younger a child is, the fewer assumptions they make based on previous experience, so the more open they are to new ideas. This is why adults, even ones used to computers, may have more difficulty with a computer than their young children. Adults come in with so many assumptions about how things should work that it gets in the way of figuring out how they actually work.

Back before technology and society changed so rapidly, it was possible for a child to learn most everything it needed to know prior to reaching adulthood. As adults, they could then apply that knowledge almost instinctively. They could still learn as adults, of course, but their was less to learn and not nearly as much urgency. These days, however, things change so rapidly that the decreased learning capacity of adults is much more evident. Three years olds are learning to use computers. And my mom still can't get the hang of double-clicking.


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