gardener & carpenter

gardner &

(2016) by Alison Gopnik

intro’d here:

Bruce L. Smith (@numbalum89) tweeted at 7:15 PM on Mon, Oct 15, 2018:
Could a 4-year-old possess better instincts for scientific discovery than a college student?

after reading in Michael Pollan‘s how to change your mind (esp Robin and Alison bit)




people sometimes use the word ‘parenting’ just to describe what parents actually do. but more often, esp now, ‘parenting’ means something that parents should do.. i’ll argue in this book.. it’s actually made life worse for children and parents, not better.

supposed to’s


i believed – and still do – that good public schools are best for all children


how could i have made sure that my ‘gifted’ middle child had lots of free time to play



from a biological pov, our exceptionally long and helpless human childhood, and the enormous investment in children that goes with it, it’s a crucial part of what makes us human..


if we want to make good decisions about those changes (how we care for children over the years).. we need to think deliberately about what caring for children is all about in the first place.. what should preschool look like? how can we reform public schools..

wtf.. dang

grandmother scientists and philosophers have been rather thin on the ground in the past, so perhaps combining both perspectives can help us understand the value of being a parent in a way that takes us beyond parenting

not if we keep assuming school supposed to ness


love doesn’t have goals or benchmarks or blueprints, but it does have a purpose. the purpose is not to change the people we love, but to give them what they need to thrive.. to help them find a path for themselves.. even if the path they take isn’t one we would choose ourselves, or even one we would choose for them

then why school?

let’s just facil daily curiosity ie: cure ios city


but if i’ve been a good parent, i’ll have no control at all over my child’s adult life

then we’ve got to let go of schooling them


how can we accommodate the dramatic specificity of our love for children w/in a broader politics of child rearing? and what would this mean for public policy

2 convers as infra


just as children must move from being the most dependent of creatures to the most autonomous ones, they must also move from being people who (mosltly) play to people who (mostly) work

who says..? not if work is solving other people’s problems..


one of great discoveries of past few years has been that even very young children can imagine a new possibilities and consider new ways them themselves, or the world around them, could be..

i’d say because of school et al.. they are better at it than us.. and this is why we need a global reset w 1 yr to be 5


there is no formula to resolve the tension between the fact that we love just this one child but still have to make policy decisions about children in general..

says who..?

if so.. let’s let 3&30 2 convers.. as infra be our policy.. for all of us.. (has to be all of us)


in fact, the distinctive ie of caring for children may help us solve other difficult moral and political questions..

indeed.. ie: play for all.. as the day..


carpenter: shape into final project.. can assess how good a job you’ve done by looking a the finished product..


gardener: create fertile soil.. a protected space of love.. in which children of may unpredictable kids can flourish..  let those minds explore all the possibilities that the world allows..

ie: in the city.. as the day.. all of us


our job is not to tell children how to play; it’s to give them the toys and pick the toys up agin after the kids are done. we can’t make children learn, but we can let them learn

?.. our job is to listen.. play has very little to do w toys.. esp toys we pick out

1 – against parenting


for most of human history, people grew up in large extended families w many children. most parents had extensive experience o ff talking care of children before they had children themselves.. parenting how-to books, websites, and speakers are appealing because they seem to fill that gap..

at same time families got smaller and more scattered and people had children later, middle class parents spent more and more time working and going to school.. it’s not surprising then th agoing to school and working are today’s parents’ models for taking care of children.. you go to school and work w a goal in mind, and you can be taught to do better at school and work

ugh.. school and work

parents are not designed to shape their children’s lives. instead, parents and other caregivers are designed to provide the next generation w a protected space in which they can produce new ways of thinking and acting that, for better or worse, are entirely unlike any that we would have anticipated beforehand..


being a parent even a bad one, involves a greater investment of time energy and attention than any other human relationship, by a sizable margin..

there is very little evidence that conscious decisions about co sleeping or not, letting your children ‘cry it out’ or holding them till they fall asleep or forcing them to do extra homework or letting them play have reliable and predictable long term effects on who those children become..  from an empirical perspective parenting is a mug’s game

dang.. that’s not true.. maybe that’s true for today.. (since we’re like whales in sea world).. so nothing really works.. but .. like you said.. for most of human existence.. we didn’t even ask those questions.. because.. we were close or some community member was close.. ie: perry sleep alone law et al

we’re certainly much worse off today as far as the human spirit goes

mufleh humanity lawwe have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity – Luma Mufleh


the us where all those parenting books are sold, also has the highest rates of infant mortality and child poverty in the developed world..


what was once a matter of experience has become a matter of expertise. what was once simply a way of being,.. became a form of work..  and act of spontaneous and loving care became, instead, a management plan

indeed.. all of that.. spot on

begs we get back to an undisturbed ecosystem.. rev of everyday life

a society that is obsessed w dieting has the highest obesity rate – a society obsessed w parenting has the highest child poverty rate


the central scientific idea of this book is that the answer lies in disorder. children are incontrovertibly and undeniably messy.

a long tradition , going back to the greek rationalist philosophers, sees these forces of disorder as the enemies of knowledge, progress and civilization. but another tradition, going back to the 19th cent romantics, sees disorder as the wellspring of freedom, innovation and creativity..  the romantics also celebrated childhood; for them, children were the quintessential ie of the virtues of chaos

carhart-harris entropy law


new science provides some ammunition for the romantic view… messy has merits. a system that shifts and varies, even randomly, can adapt to a changing world in a more intelligent and flexible way.


once schooling rather than hunting, became the dominant way of life, focused attention became an advantage. now it’s the children w a wide focus who have trouble adapting

as it should be..schooling is not natural


human beings are arguably the most exploratory species. .. we are, and alway shave been, nomadic, wandering from environ to environ and dealing w what we discover there..  imagination and creativity are essential to our success..  the long childhood gives us our chance to explore..

genes can be turned on or off in childhood..


a one year old brain has twice as many neural connections as your brain does.. makes many more links.. more possible connections and connections change more quickly and easily in light of new experiences.. but each of these links is relatively weak..

maybe weak links are better.. ie: bravery to change mind


older brains are much less flexible.. as we get older our brains can still change.. but they are more likely to change only under pressure, and w effort and attention

only because we hijacked them

young brains are designed to explore; old brains are designed to exploit

ugh.. we could all do w some exploration.. as the day..

dedicated.. unconditional .. love give children a chance to be intellectually messy, to explore before they have to explore

? i don’t believe we have to exploit (make full use of and derive benefit from a resource)

we just need to be curious.. together..

if children are like popper’s scientists, we’re like the unis and funding agencies.. we give children the resources tools, and infra they need to solve problems we have’ even thought of yet..

nice parallel.. wrong twist.. ie: both parents (today because of ‘parenting’ ness) and unis and grants come with strings/agendas.. not healthy for any of us


the rise of parenting has accompanied the decline of the street, the public playground, the neighborhood, even recess..

and the increase in fear/stress..  ie: ed timeline

ironically, in a society that values creativity and innovation more and more, we provide fewer and fewer unfettered opps for children to explore

for all of us

begs we let go enough to try in the city.. as the day..

what we need most is the energy of 7bn alive people

the caregivers’ job isn’t just to give children a protected space in which to explore, learn , and make a mess. it is also to guide the child’s transition from this exploratory disorder *into a new kind of control – a new variety of order that comes w a new set of **adult competencies..  but we can’t precisely ***anticipate what that new order will be; that’s the whole point of the ****generational human reboot

*no no.. says who..? that’s what’s messing us up..

**ugh.. sounds like sinclair perpetuation law

***exactly.. we’re never know.. partly because it’s never an order.. we just stop time and define some order.. which ends up killing us all

****we should have that reboot everyday.. all of us.. no one deserves the oppressing order-ness we’re obsessed with

equity: everyone getting a go (fresh new reboot) everyday

2 – the evolution of childhood


we act in ways that have no obvious practical outcome – indeed that often have no outcome at all – but are still important in identifying who we are and establishing solidarity..


there’s another problem.. (first was – humans are only surviving species of homo genus so can’t compare them w other closely related varieties) to a much greater extent than any other animal we humans act to achieve our goals..  we learn, make things happen, and try to get things to *change for the better

i don’t know.. i think we created that.. not natural (ie: if we were more free to things like disorder.. wouldn’t have created need/drive to *change for better.. wouldn’t have created situations/problems in the first place)


a common way of life: rely on wild food rather than agri.. anthropologists used to call them hunter gatherers cultures, but more recently they have called them foraging cultures.. since collecting wild foods such as tubers and neuts is actually even more important for these people than hunting..  !kung and ache grandmothers play a major role in child care.. this suggest that grandmothering may have played an important role in our evolution

and finally, we can look at the development of human children. this gives us a way to actually track the contributions of learning and culture and to untangle how they interact w the innate endowments from our evolutionary heritage.. the fact that 1 yr old augie is already so adept at understanding and imitating other people suggests these are foundational human abilities..


it’s hard not to smile a little when, at an evolutionary psych meeting.. ferocious professorial silverbacks furiously argue that small group warfare is the origin of everything most important about us. and it is surely no coincidence that as more women have become involved in the science, we’ve learned that gathering is as important as hunting, and the complexities of cooperative child care are as interesting as the politics of competition and deception



we have a much longer immaturity, a much larger relative brain size, and a much greater ability to learn than any other creature. and human adults invest a remarkable large amount of time and energy into taking care of children

it’s a shame we’re doing it wrong then.. ie: we think taking care is creating order.. which messes us all up.. (ie: the supposed to’s of school and work)


adults.. when you just sit still about 20% of calories go to your brain.. one year olds use much more than that and by four, fully 66% of calories go to brain.. more than at any other period fo development..  in fact, the physical growth of children slows down in early childhood to compensate for the explosive activity of their brains..

the problem w relying on learning is that you need to have time to learn, and while you develop the skills you need, you may be vulnerable.. .. failure leaves you exposed..

or does it leave you alive..? paying attention..?.. antifragile

i’d say success (as we define it today) leaves you exposed… fragile..

and yes.. we do all.. need the luxury of time and space..

it would be better if you figure it our beforehand..

really..? then we stop listening.. and nothing (humane) is so static that we can come up with prep or training for it anyway..

and it would certainly be better if other people who were already competent were there to take care of you while you did. it would be better still if the people who took care of you could also help you to solve problems.. and it would be best of all if you could combine your own intelligence w the accumulate insights of everyone who had gone before you.. that seems to be the human solution

ugh.. not that.. we need to focus on interconnectedness.. (which begs listening in the now) not so much intelligence (which demands teaching things most aren’t curious about at the time)

eva jablonka has suggested that the human mind is more like a hand than a swiss army knife (psychologist would often describe the mind as a sort of swiss army knife, w specialized devices designed to solve particular problems).. a human hand isn’t designed to do any one thing in particular.. but it is an exceptionally flexible and effective device for doing many things, including things we might never have imagined..


the mind of a human child working in concert w the minds of the people caring for him is the most flexible and powerful learning device in the known universe..

well.. could be.. but isn’t today since so many of us are like whales in sea world.. ie: not ourselves.. if we could all detox first.. get back/to a natural state and an undisturbed ecosystem.. then yeah.. most flexible/powerful learning device.. aka: living together..

imagine one group of early human children who are just a bit better at learning to use tools than another group. those children will have more /better tools when they grow up.. both because they can quickly learn to use the tools that have already been invented and because they can figure out how to tweak and improve them.. these tools will help them hunt and forage, cook and raise children more successfully than the children who weren’t quite to good at learning

? what? it’s not about tools.. it’s about how much we stay out of the way of individual daily curiosity..


as each generation passes on info to the net gen there will be a qualitative advance in the kinds of things they can do.. initially small difference sin social learning can rapidly snow ball to make enormous difference in minds and lives

wow.. i think that’s way off.. where we are today is a sign that it’s way off.. it’s not about advance in things we can do (that’s more quantitative and less humane).. it’s about eudaimonia.. did we find the things we can’t not do..

there’s an interesting proviso here though. we would never make any *progress if each gen slavishly copied exactly what the previous gen did

i’m thinking the problem is in thinking our purpose is to make *progress


both these puzzles makes more sense if human evolution, both bio and cultural, involved the kinds of dynamic feedback lops that i just described. small changes can lead to big differences and if conditions are right those changes can take off to become eve mroe substantial changes

true that.. problem is we’ve been working off a broken feedback loop.. so we’re way off  (whales in sea world.. not us)

wanderlust seems to be built into our genes. this nomadic strategy meant that we were constantly confronting new environs..

wander.. nomad ness

the invention of agriculture radically change human social structure.. people began to stay in one place and accumulate resources..  instead of traveling and living on what they could forage that day..  before long we went from living in relatively egalitarian small groups to living in cities w strict hierarchies and radical power ineq’s.. and industrialization transformed the way we lived once more

yeah.. for the worse..

but i dont’ think it’s the ie: city living so much as the power structures that happened prior to.. because of ie: the scarcity/ineq that agri brought with it


the fact that so many diff people take care of human children also ensure tha childcare expose to a wide variety of info and models..

wow.. that’s seems so not true

the variability of each child’s own temperament, ability, and development course adds an additional measure of complexity and uncertainty

not today.. we drug/drill/school that out of them

it’s a mess. but it’s a *good mess, a mess that allows human beings to thrive in staggering array of constantly changing environs

it would be great if we let it be a mess.. that’s we need.. but we can’t seem to let go (of order/control) enough to let it be..

this currently is not a *good mess


from the pov of evolution, trying to consciously shape how your children will turn out is both futile and self defeating


even if we could precisely shape our children’s behavior to suit our own goals and ideas, it would be counterproductive to do it.. we can’t know beforehand what unprecedented challenge the children of the future will face. shaping them in our own image, or in the image of our current ideal, might actually keep them from adapting to changes in the future

ya think? that’s totally where we are now.. dang..

our central adaptation – the adaptation to change itself – is more crucial now than ever.. the ability to learn flexibly to adjust to new circumstances.. to alter social structure imaginatively – all those abilities are more important than they ever were before.. and the relations between parents and children are still the key to solving those challenged, eve if parenting isn’t

yeah.. we’re creating problems/decisions.. that are irrelevant to humanity.. and then saying we have to prep/train kids to solve/decide..

we’re so messed up .. not in a good way

3 – the evolution of love


in pair bonded species there is less of a size diff between males and females.. males no longer have to rely on superior strength to ward of other males and control females.. pair bonded males have smaller testicles, since there is less sperm competition. there are even differences in finger length, which are associated w the amount of testosterone babies are exposed to in the womb


forager groups generally seem o have some kind of pari bonding w relative equality between men and women. w the rise of agri and larger and more uneq societies, a more polygynous, gorilla like pattern emerged.. w harems of many subordinate wives for one man.. in the industrial and postindustrial world this pattern changed once again, back to something more like egalitarian pair bonding


oxytocin appears to be closely related to feelings of trust, commitment and attachment. women are flooded w oxytocin in labor..


caring behaviors.. kissing and hugging.. produces oxytocin and related chemicals.. .. the chemicals have diff effects on males and females.. .. but it does seem clear that there is an overarching connection between pair bonding and baby bonding..  between the bio of our attachment to  our lovers and our children..

if we want to understand the love between parents and children more deeply we need to appreciate its intimate bio and evolutionary connection to sexual love..


as far aw we know, killer whales are th only other mammals who go thru menopause.. the really puzzling phenom.. grandmothers seem to make a particularly significant diff to their grandchildren’s survival.. grand mom stepped in at the critical juncture when a new baby appeared..


grandparents clearly benefit from caring for their own genetic offspring..


on the proverbial village that it takes to raise a child.. a recent study show that in foraging societies women often breast feed other moms’ babies.. even grandmothers can itch in. babies often start out sucking on grandmothers.. sort of big pacifiers – but that can actually lead the grandmothers to ‘relactate’ and start producing milk again..


alloparenting may also be an important learning experience esp for young females.. .. not only gives mothers a break… it gives young women and young men a chance to practice caring for children


for most of the people who care for babies, the act of caring itself creates the bond..



how could evolution transform a community that wasn’t altruistic into one that was.. what would that solution look like in detail

ie: a another way book

but tit for tat isnt’ the only or the most effective strategy to establish cooperation

tit for tat ness is the cause .. the disturbance.. to our undisturbed ecosystem.. when we started measuring things


alice munro: ‘love does not contribute to happiness in any reliable way’.. but we can’t live w/o it.. somehow, love ties us to just this one individual person, so that we find deep satisfaction in their company independent of any benefits we may receive from them.we could think of these profoundly positive emotions of attachment and commitment as an evolutionary  way to reward love itself..

no reward ness.. just the essence of being.. the missing pieces..


these emotions of specific commitment are nowhere more evident or more important than in the relations between caregivers and children. a tit for tat strategy w our children would be disastrous – there is such a profound asymmetry between what we do for children and what they do for us, and such long lags between our investment in children and our return..

return..? yuck

our commitment to children extends beyond our individual lives and into the future after we are gone..


taking care of a baby helps us love that baby and that a baby in particular.. holding anc caring for babies increases our oxytocin levels.. and in fathers, caring for babies also decrease testosterone and its associate feeling of aggression and angers..

children are the purest ie of specific long term commitments and attachments..


costs of commitment.. studies show that the same oxytocin that helps us trust and love people inside our own group also makes us less tolerant of people outside it.. can lead us to be indifferent to the children of others..  ie: public school system..  for others.. private for mine..  although we may recognize abstractly that caring for everybody is important, in practice we favor the welfare of our own..


the fact that we care about the people we love for their own sake and not for our own is one of the foundations of our moral and even spiritual lives..  the ideal to extend the same specific committed love that we feel so naturally for our children to everyone else..


these emotions are in tension w the parenting picture.. if the purpose of being a parent is to shape a particular kind of child.. the n it is difficult to see why just this child and no other would be the exclusive focus of our commitment and love. surly if our aim is to bring a particular kind of adult into the world, we should just look around for the children that are most likely to become such adults, and then teach and train them..  what makes us love a child isn’t something about the child – it’s something about us.. *we don’t care for children because we love them; we love them because we care for them

? *i don’t know about that last sentence

4 – learning thru looking


from birth, babies and children are esp sensitive to info that they get from other people, particularly their caregivers.

but the story is more complicated than this. children may be sensitive to the info they get from other people, but they are not passively shaped by others. instead, they actively interpret and try to understand both what people do and why they do it. and they combine that info in sophisticated ways w the information that comes from their own experiences. in some circumstances they may even do this more effectively than adults do.. children come to understand both the physics of the world and the psych and sociology of the people around them. and they are surprisingly even disturbingly .. accurate..t

in some ways, at least, your children may actually know more about you than you do yoursef..children are tuned in to details of how parents act that you may not even notes..

not yet scrambled ness


today.. parents.. have typically had lots of experience w schooling but little w caregiving.. so when parents or policy makers hear from scientists about how much children learn, they conclude that we should teach them more, the way wa teach them in school. but children actually learn more from the unconscious details fo what caregivers do than from any of the *conscious manipulations of parenting

*or of schooling..

begs we redefine life as in the city.. as the day.. sans school and work

children learn by watching and imitating the people around them.. and by listening to what other people say about how the world works..

very young infants, even newborns, imitate facial expressions..  so some kinds of imitation are in place literally from the time we’re born..  but new work has also show that learning from others can be extraordinarily complex and subtle..


the left brain right brain idea is another ie (first was mirror neurons responsible for sophisticated kinds of human behavior – like connecting us) of this sort of scientific myth making


we know that almost everything in the brain, particularly the tuning of individual neurons, is shaped by experience..  it’s really true that every time we learn something, that learning physically changes our brains..

the most recent research shows that both individual neurons and brain areas actually change how they respond from moment to moment depending on the context


the intuition that wa are deeply and specially connected to other people is certainly right..  and no doubt due to our brains.. but mirror neuron advocates suggest that a single, very simple connection between inputs/outputs in a single cell could underpin the whole sophisticated range of human social behavior..  .. studies have shown just the opposite.. they’ve shown just how intelligent, complex and subtle imitation can be, even in babies..


children might be esp good at thinking about unlikely possibilities. after all, grown ups know a tremendous amount about how the world works. it makes sense that we mostly rely on what we already know.. the explore vs exploit tension

grown ups stick w the tried and true.. 4 yr olds have the luxury of looking for the weird and wonderful..t

(on children being sensitive not just to what adult is doing but their intentions)

not yet scrambled

gaiman whatever/luxury law

5 – learning thru listening


children are often better at figuring out what you say and what you mean – which may not be the same thing – than you are yourself..

not yet scrambled


children can tell how confident someone sounds

not yet scrambled


the fact that children ask questions spontaneously from such a young age and across so many cultures also suggests that this way of getting info about the world, like imitation, is biologically very deeply rooted. it’s something children need to be allowed to do, not taught to do..t

cure ios cityno train


giving children the chance to intimately observe what many diff people do is the best way to help them learn by looking. giving children the chance to talk w many diff people is the best way to help them learn by listening..t

in the city.. as the day..

6 – the work of play


most parents/teacher have a vague sense that play is a good thing.. we might even think that encouraging play is a good parenting technique.

but if you think about it, there is something paradoxical about play as a goal of parenting. after all, by defn play is what you do when you’re not trying to do anything. it’s an activity whose goal is not to have  goal.. if it’s shaped by what a grown up wants, should it even count as play at all? .. can you tell children to play


gray play law


biologists who try to define play point to 5 characteristics that all kinds of play share:

1\ play is not work

2\ play is fun

3\ play is voluntary – something animals do for its own sake, not because they are instructed to do it or are rewarded for doing it.. in fact, young rats will actually work in order to get to play..  if they’re deprived of play the desire builds up like a drive so that the instate they get the chance they are on it..

4\ but play is not like other basic drives..  animals play only when all those other basic needs are satisfied..  when an animal is starved or stressed, play diminishes..  play, like childhood in general, depends on safety and security

gray play deprived law

5\ play has a special structure.. a pattern of repetition and variation..

? does it..? all forms of play..? i don’t think so

[not sure if i got the right 5 things]


play didn’t help the rats to do any one thing in particular. instead it helped them to learn to do many things in a more flexible varied way


these experiments suggest that babies may often be even better scientists than grown ups are. adults often suffer from ‘confirmation bias’ we pay attention to the things that fit what we already know and ignore the things that might shake up our perceptions…  the babies.. on the other hand, have a positive hunger for the unexpected.. like karl poppers’ ideal scientists, they’re always on the lookout for a fact that falsifies their theories. .t..and they play and explore to discover those facts..


children do experiments and make observations, although we call it ‘getting into everything’..t


the first step toward a new discovery is discovering that your current hypothesis is wrong. but there is another stage of the process – thinking up other hypotheses.. the process is a lot like pretending.. 

thinking counterfactually in this way is a tremendously useful skill for adult human beings..  it’s what we mean when we talk about the power of imagination and creativity



in order to learn we need to believe that what we think now could be wrong, and to imagine how the world might be different..t

a nother way

counterfactual thinking is also crucial if we want to change the world… we need to imagine that the world could be diff and then actually set about making it that way..

one way of thinking about pretend play is that it gives children a safe space to practice higher order mental skills ..

play isn’t easy to study in the lab.. you can’t tell kids to play in a particular way w/o defeating the whole point of the exercise..  (then gives an ie of happy bday monkey.. but i don’t see that as play)


you might expect that children who pretend more would also learn more.. and d in fact, there is some evidence that they do. there is not much evidence that pretending improves the kinds of academic skills we cultivate in schools. but that kind of *academic learning is far from being the most important or challenging kind of learning for young children (or for the rest of us)

not to mention.. *it’s suffocating us

theory of mind, as it’s called, is the ability to figure out the desires, perceptions, emotions and beliefs of other people. it’s quite possibly the most important kinds of learning people ever do..

not yet scrambled – so let’s quit knocking it out of us

you can see how important it is when you look at people  w autism. autism spectrum disorder (asd) is a complicated syndrome, of course, but one of the central problems seems to be that asd children have a very *hard time understanding what is going on in the minds of others. that leads to the painful social difficulties that are **characteristic of the ***disorder

rather.. most of us have a *hard time understanding natural humanity (vs civilizatized/sea-world-ized humanity).. ie: higashida autism law

that leads to the painful social difficulties that are **characteristic of most of us

***hard won order being one of them

the period from 18 months to 5 yrs is the great watershed of developing theory of mind..


so rough and tumble play seems to help to interact w others.. exploratory play help learn how things work. and pretend play helps think about possibilities and understand other people’s minds

but still.. why play helps..


play lets children randomly and variably try out a range of actions and ideas and then work out the consequences

the very silliness of play, the apparently random weirdness of it all, is what makes it so effective..  it teaches us how to deal w the unexpected.. t

carhart-harris entropy law

taleb antifragile law

to do that you need to make exploration enjoyable for its own sake, independent of any particular outcomes..  we don’t play because we think that eventually it will give us robust cog functions..


this kind of guided play can serve as a model for teachers and educators

ugh..  why..?

7 – growing up


when children get older – than 5 – what happens is school.. schools become the caregivers of older children.. there is a parallel between the contemporary dilemmas of parenting and the equally ferocious dilemmas of schooling..  same inaccurate picture.. that ed is supposed to shape a child into a particular kind of adult..


school’s job becomes creating children who will score well on standardized tests.. and .. admission to the next school..

the parenting misconception not only parallels the schooling misconception it interact w it.. in a world where schooling is the key to many kinds of success, parenting inevitably becomes focused on trying to ensure that your children succeed in school..

supposed to’s of school and work


the job of school age children is to start actually becoming competent adults themselves..

says who..?

their *evolutionary agenda is to practice and master the particular skills of their own culture… esp social skills, while they’re still w/in the safe cocoon of adult caregiving

we have this so mess up.. that sentence doesn’t even make sense.. ie: master the skills of people who are not themselves..? master being whales in sea world..?

*evolutionalry death

their transition to a new kind of learning may be intensified by the transtion to school. but in historical periods before school was invented, and in other cultures where schooling is much less common, people have also recognized that something changes at around 6 or 7.. historically this was the time when children began to become informal apprentices, learning to become hunters or knights or chefs..

yeah.. i don’t know.. but whatever.. let’s go back to not structuring and deciding what people (all ages) do with their day.. what we need most is the energy of 7bn alive people to get us back/to an undisturbed ecosystem.. in the city.. as the day..


school age children also engage in what i’ll call mastery learning.. rather than discover learning.. you aren’t learning something new so much as taking what you’ve already learned and making it second nature.. you get to know the solution to an old problem so well you don’t even have to think about it.. and that lets you perform skills effortlessly, quickly and efficiently. mastery learning is about exploiting not exploring

whoa.. langer outcome law..  kelly efficiency law


mastery learning requires a kind of controlled focus that is just not possible for younger children

i don’t know..

i don’t know we’re mastering things that aren’t our art.. and that’s screwing us up big time.. it’s exploiting us

the preschool brain is enormously flexible and changes easily, but it is also noisy. the school age brain is much more efficient and effective, but it is also more rigid

? – how can we think this is good.. we have no idea what we’re capable of.. we’re born whole.. and we’re missing a whole life.. because of our obsession with order/efficiency/supposed-to’s


this is not exactly how we would ideally want schools t o unfold of course (apprenticeship).. but these stories are instructive parable of how apprenticeship can lead to mastery

master is our goal..?  to what end..? i’d say we go for eudaimoniative surplus

in grad school, where we really teach science, we use the same methods as a chef or a tailor. my students begin by writing up the easy part of a paper, or designing a substudy of a big grant, and slowly graduate to doing a completely original experiment themselves..

? ugh.. so can you see past this second school.. the first school’s focus is about..?


how many school children get to actually practice science or mathematics or even essay writing or get to watch scientists or mathematicians or writers work..?

how many get to listen to and follow (as it could be..) their curiosity .. everyday.. that’s what we need most..

dang.. this last sentence is all about agendas.. it’s what you seem to be calling parenting.. let go..

imagine if we taught baseball the way we teach science.. we might expect about the same degree of success in the little league world series that we currently see in our children’s science scores

dang.. both little league and science class are messing with us all..

scholastic skills.. schools have largely replaced apprenticeship. public and universal schooling was invented quite recently.. to give people a new set of skills that were essential for success in an industrial world.. school was invented to allow children to master the technical details of reading, writing and arithmetic calculation. and not incidentally, it came to give children a protected haven while their caregivers were, for the first time in human history , far away at work



these scholastic skills may be tremendously important in the long run, but they are meaningless in themselves..

? tremendously important in long run..? to who..?

there is no intrinsic discovery involved in learning a particular artificial mapping between letters and sounds.. or a set of multiplication algos such as the times tables.. in the natural environ no one would ever think of looking for that sort of mapping, or engaging in those kinds of procedures

nonetheless, mastering these skill or others like them, and mastering them in a way that makes them automatic, effortless, and transparent, was, is and will continue to be absolutely necessary

dang.. wtf

(though in an age of computers, arithmetic calculation skill arguably should be replaced by coding and programming skills, just as keyboarding has already replaced handwriting)

wtf.. messed up

mufleh humanity lawwe have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity – Luma Mufleh

these skills are necessary becasue they allow us to exercise our learning abilities in a far wider world..

i don’t know about that.. dang

reading lets us learn form all the human experts who have ever lived

but we don’t need school to learn to read.. we don’t need teaching to learn to read

(you’ve just said – we learn from looking and listening)

mastering the meaningless skills of mapping words onto sounds or memorizing a multiplication table in turn lets you master the far from meaningless skills of writing an essay, testing a scientific hypothesis , or analyzing a statical pattern


the problem is how to leverage children’s natural learning capacities to allow them to master these unnatural skills

no.. the problem thinking they (any of us) have to master these unnatural skills..

this is an important and difficult challenge and psychologists have been working on it for decades

wrong problem/focus..

what we need most is the energy of 7bn alive people

for that.. we just need to listen better..  ie: tech as it could be..


for many children in elementary school the problem may not be that they’re not smart enough, but that they’re not yet stupid enough. they haven’t yet been able to master skills such as reading writing and calculating in away that makes them transparent and automatic

aka: dead.. robots.. machines


in fact there is good evidence that the best predictors of reading performance in school are how much children hear language at home and how many books they encounter

reading performance..? wtf

reading doesn’t need to be taught.. and when it is taught in school.. often is a turn off.. kids get (like you said earlier) what we’re after and they perform.. they’re not reading out of curiosity/love..

but the mastery of scholastic skills such as reading,writing, and arithmetics *isn’t an end in itself. it’s a **means to make new discoveries

that’s just it.. *it is an end.. to curiosity.. and a **means to make other people feel good about themselves.. ie: good parenting.. good teaching..


we might wonder whether sending children to school just to learn how to go to school is really such a great idea..


if you think of schools as institutions that are designed to produce children w particular characteristics, variability is a drawback, not a strength, in fact, *in worst cases, variability goes beyond just being a problem – it becomes a disease..

rather *in most cases

this disease model is esp prevalent because man y of the skills that are most important for school are far removed from the natural abilities and inclinations of most children

again.. rather *in most cases

we’re harming all of us.. all of us

during the transition form early to middle childhood, children *naturally shift from a wider form of attention to a more narrow one

*naturally..? we have no idea.. (black science of people/whales et al)

in school, we must simply attend to a lesson, no matter how informative it actually is..

not to mention if we’re curious about it.. this is why we’re in desperate need of detox

fascinating recent set of studies has found parallels between brain activity of people on psychedelic drugs and brain activity of very young.. it’s as if the drugs somehow lead your brain to regress to a state that resembles the preschool brain..t

*regress..? or desperately needed reset.. ?

the world needs us to all be reset at 5 again.. get back our curiosity.. let go of that hard won (actually complianced/manufactured/compulsorized) order

supposed to‘s are literally killing us


habit makes much of the world invisible. psychedelics and other forms of ‘expanded consciousness’ make us sensitive to those parts of the world again..

the ability to be entirely captivated by a branch, a dandelion, a crack in the pavement, or a piece of music is part of the distinctive texture of these experiences..

there is a familiar trade off here. wide ranging preschool attention goes w wide ranging and flexible learning whole the more focused and controlled attention of the school age child *enables swift skilled execution

no trade off there.. not the way we’re doing it now.. it’s more like *enables early death

if we could let go of that control element (which is why we haven’t yet gotten to global equity – everyone getting a go everyday.. we can’t let go of control enough).. and just trust us.. all of us.. everyday.. that more focused attention comes naturally.. to the thing(s) we can’t not do.. (which doesn’t show up in school)

you know this.. i know you know this..

let go


there is a close connection between the rise of schools and the development of attention deficit disorder..  in past two decades nearly doubled

scattered et al


(on varying level of focused attention).. that variation didn’t matter much for hunters, foragers, or farmers – in fact, broader attention might actually be and advantage for hungers.. but in our society, it matter terrifically.

says who..? in our diseased society..?


school is more and more essential for success

says who..? wtf

and highly focused attention is more an more essential for school

rather.. less humanity is essential for school ie: following orders.. supposed to’s

stimulant drugs don’t ‘cure’ adhd the way that antibiotics cure pneumonia..

whoa.. i’m thinking they are pretty similar.. neither work.. neither get at the roots of healing

frustrating book listed.. dang

instead they appear to shift attentional abilities along that continuum. they make everybody focus better, though sometime w serious costs in the form of addiction and side affects..

yeah.. like this side affect: hari present in society law

for children at far end of continuum, the drugs may help make the diff between success and failure

re program our kids..? ourselves..? or redefine success..?

there is some evidence that the drugs do, in fact, make children do better at school at the time, and in a school crazy world that may be important

really..? holy crap

but though drugs do change some children’s behavior in the short term,

yeah.. like enough to lead to suicide (josh ovalle et al)

for many more children the drugs don’t help and may do harm.. there are behavioral therapies that are just as effective and far less dangerous..

wow.. so.. it’s about the drugs.. and not the f-ed up society .. that’s calling for children to change their behavior.. to suit us.. (or at least what we think we’re supposed to be doing)

the fact that younger and younger children, including preschoolers, are not only be in diagnoses w adhd but are also receiving drugs is particularly disturbing

that we send kids to preschool.. is disturbing..


narrowing attention may be part of growing up, but wide attention is part of being young. it’s not something we need to fix

people (all ages) are not something we need to fix

we just need to listen better..  ie: tech as it could be..

instead of drugging children’s brains to get them to fit our schools, we could change our schools to accommodate a wider range of children’s brains

how about we let go of schooling.. and just listen to every voice.. every day..

every cure ios city

the problem is how to adapt children’s prodigiously varied natural learning abilities to meet these different agendas

no.. the problem is we have agendas

go deeper


for most of our history, children  have stated their internships at age 7 not 27


the brain is so powerful precisely because it is so sensitive to experience…

fortunately these characteristics of the brain mean that dealing w modern adolescence is not as hopeless as it might sound. though we aren’t likely to return to an agri life, or to stop sending our children to school

why not?

the developing brain points to solutions..

8 – the future and the past: children and technology


if you looked at reading as if it were a new tech instead of an old one, you might be full of dread about its effects on the human mind.. cortical areas that once were devoted to vision and speech have been hijacked by print. instead of learning thru practice and apprenticeship, we’ve become dependent on lectures and textbooks.. and look at the toll of dyslexia, attention disorder, and other learning disabilities, all signs that our brains were just not designed to deal w such a profoundly unnatural tech..

this is true..esp the lecture and textbook part.. though i’d say less because of the tech (of reading) itself.. and more because of our assumptions about it.. that it’s a requirement.. so we’ve got to force it on people.. expect it from people.. tell people they aren’t educated (ie: a whole/legit person) w/o it.. et al

socrates feared that reading/writing would undermine the kind of interactive, critical dialogue that was so important for reflective thought..

again.. less about the tech.. and more about the (socrates) supposed to ness


another worry is that the internet will somehow destroy our ability to pay attention. it is certainly true that by the time we’re adults, attention is a limited resource, and attentional patterns are hard to change

so then.. maybe the internet.. if re purposed humanely (ie:as it could be).. will help maintain our ability to pay attention

i’m thinking the attention scarcity is caused from years of supposed to ness


the city of the web.. on the web we communicate w the planet, but rely on a psychology designed for the village.. figuring out who we should talk aw seems to be much harder..

let’s try 2 convers.. as infra


a digital version of the classical greek pastoral retreat or the buddhist monastery would probably do us all some good.. some very wired friends of mind have a digital sabbath.. but the villa and the monastery would be much less appealing if we didn’t have the big city and the web of the wide world to return to

no need for sabbath ness.. we can now blur that into everyday life.. get the best of both worlds.. 2 convers.. as infra.. tech as it could be..

the puzzle is how to provide children w the rich, stable, secure context they need to grow up w/o expecting that we can or should be able to control how they turn out..t

undisturbed ecosystem

in the city.. as the day.. via gershenfeld something else law

won’t work unless it’s all of us.. as the day

9 – the value of children


we don’t have a political way of articulating the special value of caring for children..t

how about 2 convers.. as infra.. gershenfeld something else law for everybody.. everyday.. as the day

parents and children end up caught in a double bind – parents must either forgo work, which means forgoing exactly the resources that they need to raise a child, or else somehow find enough money out of their own paychecks to pay other people to take care of their children.. either way, this inevitably means that the people who take care of kids are among the lowest paid in the country

pay matters less that what the care taking looks like..

again.. begs we all go for a nother way to live.. sans money/measure


for some time, of course, the solution to this problem was to link resources for children specifically to marriage. this is the classic ‘nuclear family’ pic..  fathers exclusively gather resources at jobs outside the home, and then share them w mothers who don’t work and exclusively look after children..

begs we go back to the village.. only tech enhanced (as it could be..).. so that you pick the village.. daily

we have all the resources we need if we value affluence over abundance et al.. if we focus on filling our missing holes.. first.. we’ll find ourselves feeling needy for less

nuclear family was far from ideal


one particularly effective way to get resources to children is thru universal, free, high quality child car or preschool

oh my


we simply can’t rely on the forager and farmer models of extended families living in the same place

why not..?


(on caring for the old as well).. in the end his parents moved to an ‘assisted living facility’ where they died. thru all this, we had a sense that something was profoundly wrong about the whole process, though it was hard to know what we could do to make it better..t

caring labor.. in the city.. as the day.. all of us

the way we treat the old is as much of a slow motion invisible disaster as the way we treat the young..

indeed.. and those inbetween as well.. it’s just that they stay so busy  .. they end up believing they are the ones in charge of their on hold ness


the irony is that over the long term, play does lead to practical benefits for both children and adults.. but it does this precisely because the people who play.. aren’t aiming at those practical benefits..


school and work

2 convers.. as infra

as it could be..

ie: hlb via 2 convers that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

the energy of 7bn alive people

undisturbed ecosystem

in the city.. as the day..

gershenfeld something else law