Monday, January 2, 2012

Start making sense

Found this interesting:

In middle childhood, the brain is at its peak for learning, organized enough to attempt mastery yet still fluid, elastic, neuronally gymnastic. ...

Middle childhood is the time to make sense and make friends. “This is the period when kids move out of the family context and into the neighborhood context,” Dr. Campbell said.

The all-important theory of mind arises: the awareness that other people have minds, plans and desires of their own. Children become obsessed with social groups and divide along gender lines, girls playing with girls, boys with boys. They have an avid appetite for learning the local social rules, whether of games, slang, style or behavior. They are keenly attuned to questions of fairness and justice and instantly notice those grabbing more than their share.
For me, the years between toddlerhood and puberty were filled with growth.  My mom taught me to read at 5, which opened the world to me.

She and my dad also inculcated fairness in me, although I think I had been born with a strong streak of it. The central issue of the time and place - Memphis, Tennessee in the mid-1960s - was race, and they were rare white liberals in our all-white neighborhood.

I ruefully remember telling my friends "that's illegal" a lot. I didn't know much about the law - how could I at that age? But I had a well-taught but still precocious grasp of the golden rule to compensate for my poor ability to keep track of the complicated rule-based codes of Christianity and etiquette. Forks and graven idols didn't matter to me a whit, but my vocabulary-challenged view of legality was really a sense of justice that I carry to this day, albeit more developed.

We moved several times, so I had new starts in which I could experiment with my social position. I was never an alpha (except in the classroom), but I could hold my own, and eventually I found sports as a path into kid society. At Little League try-outs, a schoolmate gibed, "Science and baseball don't mix." He had a forgettable Little League career; I became the best hitter in the league.

To fit in even better, I learned to identify the make and model of many cars - somehow important in elementary school - learned to bullshit from what little I knew of the automotive world into more. What does it mean to wind it out? I learned from the sound effects of other boys without ever having driven anything faster than a 3-speed spider bike.

Steeped in Darwin, also through my mom, I had that sudden aha moment when I realized the mythic nature of Christianity, at least the Bible Belt Christianity that surrounded me. Jonah and the whale, heavenly streets of gold, Noah's ark? All fanciful, just like Loki's liver or Athena's birth or Santa Claus. By the time I was confirmed, with puberty no doubt already well under way, I made reservations from doctrine at the altar. I was a cafeteria Methodist!

I also remember how different rich people were from poor. Boys in the richer neighborhood cared about cars. Boys in the poorer neighborhood had seen education as their meal ticket.

By the time I was 12, my identity was formed. There were many gaps to fill in, but the boy I was then is clearly the same as the man I am today.

(And I love the A.A. Milne reference in the page URL.)


Anonymous said...

It would figure that a Communist like you would go slumming at the New York Times to find material for this Pravda cesspool.

lovable liberal said...

That's all you've got?!

Give it up, 'cause it's worse than nothin'.