Re: Education

Jeff Davis (
Tue, 27 Apr 1999 13:16:24 -0700

Some years ago, while at the laundromat, I saw a child--almost a pre-toddler really--who was "helping"-- as children by way of imitation often will--her nanny do the laundry. What made this noteworthy was that the child was VERY young--less than two years old-- and had coordination skills which were astonishing. Watching her move with deftness and deliberation gave the impression of an adult level of physical competence--like watching a perfectly proportioned miniature grown-up.

I asked the woman I thought was her mother but turned out to be her nanny, about her extraordinary coordination, and she explained that the parents had enrolled her in some sort of gynastics, conditioning, coordination-patterning, exercise program.

How often have we seen massively talented people in any number of fields whose explanation for their incredible abilities begins with something like "they started up on this even before they learned to walk."(This sentence should end with a question mark, but I'm not sure where to put it?) Ever notice the breathtaking intensity of focus and attention of children at that stage? Point number one: start 'em young, VERY young.

I also think of the stories of William Randolph Hearst and Orson Wells. They were (1) doted on (lots and lots of emotional stroking), (2) never told "no", and (3) told repeatedly (at least in the case of Oson Wells) that they were "geniuses". What strikes me here--concerning specifically
(2) above-- is that there are mechanisms for self-inhibition which can
choke off the flow of creative and action-promoting abilities. When--and I would suggest that it is highly atypical--such self-inhibition is avoided, energy levels for creativity and action are much--what the limits are here is a good question--enhanced. Point(s) number two: major emotional nurturance w/feedback loop, minimal teaching of self-inhibition
(interesting point here: discipline is useful for two purposes (1) to
maintain focus, and (2) to avoid "wrong" action), and positive self-definition. Restated: (1) motivation and energy potentiation, (2) avoidance of energy strangulation, and (3) High and distinct self-definition.

Finally, there is fascination, which is the question of finding the things or things which so captivates the emergent mind that it will blissfully obsess on it till he/she keels over from lack of food or sleep. It would be useful to have a systematic way of finding this. Toylandia. Tool-landia. Infolandia.

As smarter folks than me have observed, our culture has created an educational system to suit its commercial and idealogical requirements.
(Have you ever noticed that the row-and-column-everyone-facing-front
arrangement of chairs in a classrom is the only geometry that prevents all other human contact than with the person at the front of the room?)
Contrary to the old saying, you can get any peg into any hole if you're willing to use sufficient violence and tolerate some broken pegs. Keeping your kids away from the educational establishment (the younger they are, the more valuable this is) is not an EASY option, but I would suggest that it may be a profoundly good one.

After that, give 'em love, give tools, and get out of their way. (Cliche or truism? You make the call.)

Best, Jeff Davis

	   "Everything's hard till you know how to do it."
					Ray Charles