I have currently begun reading the book “Magical Child” by Joseph Chilton Pearce.
A quick web search of background on Pearce turns up his belief that active, imaginative play is the most important of all childhood activities because it cultivates mastery of one’s environment, which he terms “creative competence”. Children denied that form of play develop feelings of isolation and anxiety. He also believes that child-parent bonding is crucial, and sees modern clinical childbirth and lack of breast feeding as obstructions to that bonding.
I have so far only completed Chapter One of Magical Child, but I plan on sharing what I’ve come across as I move further through the book.
Any quotes that I reference should be automatically attributed to Pearce.
In it, Pearce covers a myriad of findings on a child’s brain as it develops from birth, including assessment that, much like the instinct found in other animals in nature (who learn and grow much faster than we humans do), the first few years of a child’s life are primarily made up of movements tied to their instinct or intent.
“The intent is simply an impulse that moves the child’s body in its initial crude attempts to interact with the actual world…the intent that drives the child for the first few years is that of physical interaction with all the possible contents of the living earth (its creatures, phenomena, experiences, and things) and, above all, its principles and laws of interaction. These principles are quite practical and mundane, such as “fall down, go boom,” and “fire means burn.” Each physical contact the child makes brings about a corresponding patterning, or learning, in his/her new brain.”
As a child grows, as does their brain, their intelligence (or ability to interact) comes from their interactions with the new phenomena they come across.
“Although this seems obvious, this movement from the known to the unknown proves to be both the key and the stumbling block to development. Most intellectual crippling comes from the failure to observe the balance of this movement. In our anxieties, we fail to allow the child a continual interaction with the phenomena of this earth on a full-dimensional level (which means with all five of his/her body senses); and at the same time, we rush the child into contact with phenomena not appropriate to his/her stage of biological development. That is, either we block the child’s movement into the unknown and so block intellectual growth, or we propel the child into inappropriate experience.”
Pearce says that in order to nurture the intelligence in our young, we’ve got to honor their progression from ‘concreteness towards abstraction,’ meaning that they must experience a full interaction with the earth as it is so that they their brain might structure a knowledge of the world.
“This is physical knowledge, or basic body-knowing. Only out of this kind of knowing can abstract thought develop, such as an understanding of the law of gravity rather than “fall down, go boom” or the laws of thermodynamics rather than “hot, don’t touch.”
He goes on to say that a child’s ability to have flexible logic is dependent on their ability to differentiate between their experiences and then put them into useful categories.
“This differentiation begins quite early in life and is the function of regulatory feedback. One automatic and natural result of this differentiation is the development of a conscious, personal awareness, a sense of individuality.”
One of the most interesting tidbits is Pearce’s thoughts on the dependency that the human race has put on tools. For years, academics have always argued that the human race’s ability to craft and use tools was what made them “‘so evolved,” yet it is those same tools, Pearce states, that are becoming such a crutch that we are actually holding back our own mental development.
“This belief is so ingrained that we actually believe that only through tools (houses, clothes, weapons, machinery, writing, books) can we survive. We assume that tool usage is the real mark of intelligence and set up tool capacity (including writing as a tool) as the final criteria for intelligence. We mold young minds accordingly, centering the training of children on tool usage and the complex abstract systems we have evolved out of such usage. Finally, we conclude that without this engineered tinkering with the mind of the early child, that child would be as a beast of the field, without language, thought or writing or horrors – tools.”
It doesn’t meant that we should go live with the wolves, he notes. He simply is stating that there is a balance meant for humans that were not meant to live in the conditions and ways that we have trapped ourselves into.
“The human was not meant to live in the wilderness. On the other hand, the current breakdown of social life clearly shows that we were not meant to live in the strange nightmare world of a city. Humans are designed to live in the garden. To live in the garden, we must tend that garden. We must be good stewards of our resources and exercise careful dominion over them. Tools could be an adjunct to this stewardship over the earth. We get in serious difficulties when we substitute mechanics for personal power, for they are qualitatively different functions.”
I know some of this may read like a text book as I quote form throughout the chapter, but I really did find this stuff fascinating, and felt Pearce’s quotes explained things better in some cases.
For those that I may have frightened off with these delving into child-rearing and development, don’t worry. I’ll still be writing about the myriad of other misadventures of fatherhood as I always have. Here and there, though, I’d like to continue sharing some of these interesting tidbits as I move further through Pearce’s work.