Monday, May 21, 2007

12 years old brains have adult capacity, but ...

I often hear teachers and parents whittering that "Kids should be treated as kids." There's time enough for later for them to become adults, they say. Don't stress them now, don't test them, don't stretch them. Just let them kick back and be kids.

The results of that attitude can be seen every weekend on the streets of New Zealand. Young adults who are still kids are killing each other, and themselves.

Not educating kids for adulthood is not preparing them for life in the adult world, and for some especially tragic cases, it's killing them. Why shouldn't kids be stretched in the safety of classrooms and the home, especially when "new research suggests some of the brain's basic building blocks for learning are nearing adult levels by age 11 or 12." [Story here.]

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of the brain and other tests to determine IQ, verbal ability, mental processing speed, spatial ability, memory, fine motor dexterity, psychosocial function, reading and calculation ability, and other measures of psychological function were conducted revealing that a child’s grasp on such cognitive tasks improves rapidly between age 6 and 10, but levels off thereafter and improves very slightly or not at all during adolescence because before attaining the age of 12 years the brain makes more connections between nerve cells that in turn enlarge vital regions. After puberty, the process slows and the brain "prunes" itself, focusing less on installing new wiring than on programming and refining what is already there.

"The basic building blocks seem to be in place by the time someone reaches 11 or 12," [said Dr. Deborah Waber of Children's Hospital Boston, who led the analysis published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.]

So by the age of 11 or 12, children's brains are at adult capacity, "suggesting a foundation necessary for higher learning is in place by puberty," says John Gilmore of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Yet modern educationalists steadfastly refuse to use that capacity; they fail to fill that enormous capacity for knowledge and and for learning, leaving these young students (even as they reach adulthood) adrift in a world they can barely understand and with brains that have never automatised the skill of actually thinking. George Reisman berates educationalists for this signal failure.

Now, properly, education is a process by means of which students internalize knowledge: they mentally absorb it through observation and proof, and repeated application. Memorization, deduction, and problem solving must constantly be involved. The purpose is to develop the student’s mind – to provide him with an instantaneously available storehouse of knowledge and thus an increasingly powerful mental apparatus that he will be able to use and further expand throughout his life. Such education, of course, requires hard work from the student. Seen from a physiological perspective, it may be that what the process of education requires of the student through his exercises is an actual imprinting of his brain.

Yet, under the influence of the philosophy of Romanticism, contemporary education is fundamentally opposed to these essentials of education...

With little exaggeration, the whole of contemporary education can be described as a process of encumbering the student’s mind with as little knowledge as possible. The place for knowledge, it seems to believe, is in external sources – books and libraries – which the student knows how to use when necessary. Its job, its proponents believe, is not to teach the students knowledge but “how to acquire knowledge” – not to teach them facts and principles, which, it holds, quickly become “obsolete,” but to teach them “how to learn.” Its job, its proponents openly declare, is not to teach geography, history, mathematics, science, or any other subject, including reading and writing, but to teach “Johnny” – to teach Johnny how he can allegedly go about learning the facts and principles it declares are not important enough to teach and which it thus gives no incentive to learn and provides the student with no means of learning.

The results of this type of education are visible in the hordes of students who, despite years of schooling, have learned virtually nothing, and who are least of all capable of thinking critically and solving problems. When such students read a newspaper, for example, they cannot read it in the light of a knowledge of history or economics – they do not know history or economics; history and economics are out there in the history and economics books, which, they were taught, they can “look up, if they need to” ...

Properly, by the time a student has completed a college education, his brain should hold the essential content of well over a hundred major books on mathematics, science, history, literature, and philosophy, and do so in a form that is well organized and integrated, so that he can apply this internalized body of knowledge to his perception of everything in the world around him. He should be in a position to enlarge his knowledge of any subject and to express his thoughts on any subject clearly and logically, both verbally and in writing. Yet, as the result of the miseducation provided today, it is now much more often the case that college graduates fulfill the Romantic ideal of being “simple, uneducated men.”
Simple uneducated men and women who have very little ability to understand the world in which they live and, in a world awash with moral relativism, few moral signposts along the way to help them understand how to act in this world. (This is exacerbated by the fact that, as Jordan Grafman of the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke points out, "the region responsible for things such as impulse control and moral judgment is the last to mature, sometime in the early 20s.")

In the words of the poet, contemporary educationalists have left young adults "alone and afraid in a world they never made," and are unable to understand. Little wonder then that so many lost teenagers try to find whatever they can in drugs, emo, delinquent driving, gangs and whatever else they can find. Modern educationalists and their factory schools have a hell of a lot to answer for.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

PC said...
I often hear teachers and parents whittering that "Kids should be treated as kids."

You're exactly 100% correct there.

Not educating kids for adulthood is killing them.

I think that the above statement is bullshit. Killing is a fact of everyday life. Don't try to go too far to infer that this is the case.

when "new research suggests some of the brain's basic building blocks for learning are nearing adult levels by age 11 or 12.

If they are allowed to be adults then, it should be followed that they (11 & 12 years old) should be allowed to have sex and do things as adults? No, this is rape and abuse of children. They're still children and their learning should be confined to their level of understanding. You can't force to teach calculus (senior high-school level subject) at those 11 & 12 year old children since they cannot yet have developed their brain to be able to grasp the complexity of the subject.

Finally, if you know any school or perhaps a tip from Dr. Deborah Waber of how to teach calculus to kids who are 12 or 11 year old or under, could you send me the detail of that school please?

5/21/2007 09:56:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

FF, as always you have both sense and nonsense in your comments.

"Not educating kids for adulthood is killing them."
I think that the above statement is bullshit.


Yeah, it was a little hasty. I've amended that.

If they are allowed to be adults then, it should be followed that they (11 & 12 years old) should be allowed to have sex and do things as adults?

Nowhere have I either stated, suggested, or implied that that's what I recommend.

They're still children and their learning should be confined to their level of understanding.

Indeed it should, but their capacity is far greater than the 'cotton wool' culture would have you believe.

You can't force to teach calculus (senior high-school level subject) at those 11 & 12 year old children since they cannot yet have developed their brain to be able to grasp the complexity of the subject.

Indeed, which was one of the points made by Lisa Van Damme in her lecture on the Hierarchy of Knowledge, to which I linked a few weeks ago.

Another point of that lecture (especially if combined with the research and with Reisman's points above) is that with proper teaching (that is, teaching that recognises the Hierarchy of Knowledge), calculus for 11 & 12 year old children needn't be impossible. Indeed, "graduates of the Van Damme Academy leave 8th grade having completed Pre-Calculus or Calculus."

5/21/2007 10:31:00 am  
Blogger KG said...

An interesting item in today's News.com:

"Study confirms poor teaching drags down kids

AN Australian-first study has successfully linked teacher performance with student results, bolstering the Federal Government's efforts to introduce performance-based pay.

The study examined the literacy and numeracy test results of more than 90,000 students with more than 10,000 teachers in Years 3, 5 and 7 between 2001 and 2004, tracking the same group as it advanced through the school system.

It found that classes taught by the best teachers scored twice as high as those taught by substandard teachers. The top 10 per cent of teachers were able to achieve in six months what the bottom 10 per cent of teachers took more than a year to do.
http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,21766478-421,00.html

5/21/2007 10:55:00 am  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

It does mention at Lisa Vandamme's website that :

Many VanDamme Academy graduates leave 8th grade having completed Pre-Calculus or Calculus.

Can you clarify what 8th grade in the US is equivalent to NZ level? I wouldn't be surprised if 8th grade is our 5th or 6th form here in NZ. If it is, then that is the level that kids are suppose to learn calculus.

5/21/2007 11:14:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

I believe that The New Zealand equivalent is Form 2, the final year before High School.

5/21/2007 12:56:00 pm  
Anonymous Sus said...

No, PC. US kids start 'kindergarten' (ie our Year 1 at primary school - not to be confused with NZ kindy/pre-school) at age 6, with Grade 1 being NZ Year 2 equiv, aged 7, and so on.

Thus, Grade 8 are 14-15 year olds; the fourth form, as it was, here.

5/21/2007 05:11:00 pm  

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