As educators we have the responsibility to be reflective, open minded, and question the status quo.
Our existence began over six million years ago. Ape like ancestors shared our physical and behavioral traits. It took 2 million years for the evolution of bipedalism, the ability to walk on two legs. Two million years of passing adaptive DNA from generation to generation to walk. Compare the length of time it took us to walk to the length of time we have educated our children as we currently do. American schools have existed a mere 400 years. Taking young children, placing them in classrooms with peers, and teaching them adult initiated material is not how they are genetically wired to learn. We are in our infancy of education and have not had the time to genetically adapt to this mode of learning. For over 99% of our homo sapiens’ existence here on earth, children learned in a “hunter gather” culture. All in the community doted on the babies. Toddlers were left to explore the world with their friends and without adult supervision. Children woke when they were ready and slept when they were tired. Their day was filled with play, observation, cooperation, and independence. The adults respected the fact that the children would figure out their environment, hazards and all. Emotionally, anthropologists have observed that hunter gather children did not whine, argue, or have tantrums. They were left to explore their world, as they wanted to and in their own time. Compare that existence to our overscheduled, stressed, and pressured children of today.
What we typically think as our long-term history – the development of agriculture, the industrial revolution, the invention and proliferation of information technology, are but an infinitesimal blip in our genetic history. We have not had the time of passing generations to genetically adapt to these monumental changes in our way of life. How we exist today, how we learn today, is most definitely not what our genetic code truly is programmed to endure.
That being said, we may not have adapted to our new “non hunter gather” world, but we do have the science that shows us what is occurring in our brains, bodies, and environment.
As educators we need to stop educating our children based on our very recent history and what our culture accepts as the norm, and start educating them as science show us. Hunter gathers knew how they learned by just letting it happen. Science proves they were right.