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April 28, 2014 / BTM

Psychologist Explores How To Supress Children’s Natural Instincts

Rear view of class raising handsBefore staying home to take care of our two children, I worked as an environmental consultant.  Near the end of my job, I lead a large children’s education project.

Anyone who has worked in a field where you are trying to change people’s behaviours knows that children are the primary target.  Targeting children is rampant in the environmental field.  Environmentalists bristle with excitement at the thought that a child will learn an environmentally friendly concept at school and bring it home to indoctrinate their parents.

This is why a recent post by the Centre for Science and Culture intrigued me.  It quotes a Wall Street Journal article that describes how psychologists supressed children’s natural intuitions (in this case about design in nature) in favour of evolution.

The psychologist credited with this research is Boston University psychologist Deborah Kelemen.

Here is an excerpt from Centre for Science and Culture’s comment on the Wall Street Journal’s article (emphases are mine):

[Deborah Kelemen] has discovered that it’s possible with Darwinian storytelling to suppress common sense in children of the kind that leads them to recognize artifacts of intelligent design in nature.  The Journal notes that quite apart from religious instruction, kids are primed to see life as reflecting “intentional design.”  It’s intuitive.  The corrective is to catch them at an early age and train them to see things in a Darwinian light.

An excerpt of the Wall Street Journal’s article as quoted by Centre for Science and Culture (emphases are mine):

By elementary-school age, children start to invoke an ultimate God-like designer to explain the complexity of the world around them — even children brought up as atheists.  Kids aged 6 to 10 have developed their own coherent “folk biological” theories. …  Dr. Kelemen and her colleagues thought that they might be able to get young children to understand the mechanism of natural selection before the alternative intentional-design theory had become too entrenched.  They gave 5- to 8-year-olds 10-page picture books that illustrated an example of natural selection.  The “pilosas,” for example, are fictional mammals who eat insects.  Some of them had thick trunks, and some had thin ones.  A sudden change in the climate drove the insects into narrow underground tunnels.  The thin-trunked pilosas could still eat the insects, but the ones with thick trunks died.  So the next generation all had thin trunks.  Before the children heard the story, the experimenters asked them to explain why a different group of fictional animals had a particular trait.  Most of the children gave explanations based on intentional design.  But after the children heard the story, they answered similar questions very differently: They had genuinely begun to understand evolution by natural selection.  That understanding persisted when the experimenters went back three months later.  One picture book, of course, won’t solve all the problems of science education.  But these results do suggest that simple story books like these could be powerful intellectual tools.  The secret may be to reach children with the right theory before the wrong one is too firmly in place.

The take home lesson is obvious for us as parents: know what your child is learning in school.  Know that schools teach benign subjects (like math and writing), but they also have a mandate to shape the minds of their students toward beliefs and behaviours that the School Boards deem appropriate for society.  More than likely, you will not agree with all of them.  But slowly, through repetition, targeted education has the ability to change your child’s beliefs in substantial ways.

Do you have an experience with this kind targeted re-education at your child’s school?  Please tell us about it!

Photo credit: Microsoft

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One Comment

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  1. Jason / Aug 18 2015 1:49 pm

    Unbelievable. Sounds like communism to me. First thing it does is ban religion and teach evolution. It’s good for the state….
    Why in the world would teaching the evolution and suppressing a true natural respect for God be good for society? Sounds like the absolute downfall of society to me. Just go down and look at Wal Mart customers and you can see what evolution is teaching… it’s creating a broken society.

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