All animals need to school their young because even a single non-trained generation, can lead to that species’ extinction. So training its young is a hard coded animal attribute.
Since animals need to train for relatively “fixed ecology” scenarios, most content of their training curriculums, is around optimizing “survival function” capabilities of food procurement and predation avoidance. To put it differently, training programs in all of animal kingdom, are focused on hard coding behaviors around survival instincts, in a given environment.
Now they do not adapt too much or too soon, to changing environments, because their brains are not equipped with “executive function” capabilities. This means they do not have to teach their kids, creativity, gratification delays, analytical and other “choice architecture” skills which are needed for navigating “variable ecologies”.
Also as a setting for honing the instincts of their young towards desired survival behaviors, animals need their fixed ecology to be as close to their evolutionary habitats as possible. This is because their instincts are at its sharpest in such an environment owing to generations of fine tuning.
So lets acknowledge the fact that animals have it easy in terms of educating their kids. Theirs’ is a short, natural and instinctual pedagogy.
Humans from that perspective are a unique species as their kids have to be first grounded on fixed ecology situations and then readied for changing ecology scenarios. So human kids have to be trained not only on their instinctual/behavioral survival patterns but then need a topping of general and specialized, cognitive trainings, to develop their executive functions.
In an 18-20 year average human training program ( as opposed to couple of months or years for species with fixed behavior regimen) the first few years are extra critical as they encode entire instinctive schema and survival behavior patterns of the human young. Balance years then can be blithely devoted towards sundry cognitive trainings.
As noted above, instinctual training’s are best done in natural habitats. Humans, being predominantly urban now, unfortunately, cannot recreate African Savannah as a setting for their kids instinctual training phase. They have to stay within local urban clusters and school their very young in man made artificial environments.
Most urban kindergartens where our species instinctive training formally takes place, are fixed classroom based set ups which have kids segregated in groups. These kids are then either led by instructions given by a teacher or are taught specific rhymes and lessons by repetition. They play with a set of toys or props within the four walls and once in a while they are taken to parks or open spaces for games and frolic.
Now this habitat is as far removed from human natural environment as one can imagine it to be. It is arbitrarily designed to reflect our industrial conception of education which does more harm than good. It takes our kids away from their instincts and their nature and sets up a false ecology expectations and survival patterns. In fact it takes a lifetime of efforts to unlearn these instinctual patterns if we do actually set about unlearning them.
Given this scenario what can we do and how can we bring the best of our ideas towards our kids education?
Instead of talking about possible solutions, let me showcase one of them. Let the video below, first be, a sobering reminder of educational opportunity that goes awry, when we put our kids in conventional kindergartens and creches. Then it can serve as an outstanding example of how we can design the instinctual training phase of any kids education, a lot better.
Some of the key elements that we need to incorporate in the design of our urban savannas are:
- “An abundance of trees and outdoors noise”- signature of a primate habitat.
- “Lack of boundaries or a non-caged set up” – that is how the world was few centuries ago.
- “Lot of running/physical activity space”- our hunter-gatherer past ensured we are born runners
- “Artificial wells or watering holes” -gossip and networking for a social specie .
- “Minor Challenges and Obstacle Course” – Small risk taking and experimentation space.
This is but one example of innovation and how we can design solutions to incorporate our primate roots, when we train our kids for their lifes’ work. I will talk of talk of more ideas and solutions in days to come.