One of the forgotten pleasures of visiting the grandparents: reading the print edition of the newspaper. I just finished reading Alison Gopnik's editorial in the Sunday NY Times. Gopnik, a UC Berkeley child psychologist, has turned up on DT before, in a discussion of baby consciousness, Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, and potheads.
Her Times piece is a clearly illustrated explanation of research in how kids under 5 learn differently, and how their brains develop and perform differently than adults. Her takeaway is that "Babies explore; adults exploit," and that we underestimate little kids' intelligence precisely because it's not the kind of focused, goal-oriented, testable results-oriented stuff we see and expect from schooling.
Gopnik sticks a tiny parenthetical at the end, "(Imagine how much money we can save on "enriching" toys and DVDs!)" that should probably be her headline.
I recently picked up a vintage copy of a book titled, Teach Your Baby To Read, thinking I could do an amusing post on how our generation didn't invent the whole competitive, "Baby Einstein," flashcard, syndrome; we inherited it from yuppies and baby boomers.
But then I found the book was still in print and going gangbusters. And a couple of weeks ago, I got a press release from another sight reading program, with all these YouTube clips of 12-month-old babies reading books or whatever.
So yeah, you could teach a baby to read; the question is should you? What's the point? What's the cost? Because emphasizing this older kid stuff at a younger age just displaces the kinds of experiences and learning that a kid should be getting.
Gopnik's findings are important for challenging parents' tendency to equate learning only with focusing and reading and writing. Because apparently, none of that stuff kicks in until kindergarten at the earliest.
Your Baby Is Smarter Than You Think [nyt]
Coincidence? Gopnik's new book, The Philosophical Baby just came out August 4th [amazon]