// Patrick Louis

If I had to teach a child

A little human, a little being.


Giving life is not a simple decision, if it even is a decision at all. The world, the societies, are moving fast. Who can tell what the future will hold. Only children and their children will be part of it.

I wonder what it would be like to teach someone à la tabula rasa — even if I’m still learning to be an adult myself.


The term tabula rasa is still being argued a lot. There have been many experiments showing how fluctuating the learning experiences can be. Here’s an example of a developmental test conducted on birds by Dr.Gottlieb

But from a developmental systems perspective, the idea of “no experience necessary” is meaningless; everything develops as a function of the bidirectional relationship between structure (here, presumably the brain and sensory organs) and function (here, experience, broadly defined). Is there anything in the young birds’ experience that may contribute to the acquisition of this apparently innate behavior?

Gottlieb modified the prehatching environment of ducklings to see how it would affect their posthactching behaviors. Namely, the way they follow and recognize their maternal call.

In the standard test, ducklings hours after hatching were placed in the center of a round tub with audio speakers located at opposite sides. The maternal call of a conspecific (e.g., mallard duck) would be emitted from one speaker, and the maternal call of another species (e.g., Peking duck, chicken) would be played from the other speaker.

The young hatchling would invariably approach the maternal call of its own species, a seeming demonstration of innate behavior. But the bird did have some potentially relevant experience before entering the experimental setting, notably auditory experience while still in the egg.

And thus, it is the prehatching experiences that affects the ducklings.


Mother ducks vocalize while sitting on their eggs, and this may be the critical experience. Moreover, ducklings themselves start to peep before hatching, so each bird has the perceptual experience of hearing its mother and its brood mates while still in the egg.

He then removed the mother and other peers so that the bird would have no auditory inputs before hatching.

Yet, these birds still reliably approached the call of a conspecific when tested. The only other source of auditory experience was the birds’ self-produced sound.

Isn’t it some magnificent and subtle form of self-learning.

Gottlieb developed a procedure to surgically prevent the birds from making sound while still in the egg (the effect is reversible), removing the last source of auditory experience. Under these conditions, the birds showed no preference when given the auditory choice test. They were just as likely to approach the call of another species as they were their own.

In sum, a phenomenon that had long been the hallmark of instinct was shown to be dependent on subtle experience. The young animal was clearly prepared, or biased, by biology (and evolution) to make an attachment to the call of its mother, but this was achieved not by a genetically prescribed “instinct,” but by a process that involved experience.

It was a type of experience that all normal members of a species could expect to have, but such research makes it clear that phenomena that we usually declare to be “innate” may require significant environmental input and are, therefore, not the inevitable products of gene expression.

And the beautiful conclusion of this experiment:

Development matters, and this should be reflected in how evolutionary psychologists theorize about what is inherited and how. Infants are not born as blank slates; evolution has prepared them to “expect” certain types of environments and to process some information more readily than others.

We learn from our environment and our own capabilities, given to us by our parents’ genes, guide us in our way of interacting with it.


Our body is a gift. It’s a blended cocktail of our parents. From the vanilla flavors to the most exotic ones and mixes, everything is found in nature. We have to respect and train it. Staying fit is a must. It should be part of our culture and habits to do so.
A nasty body comes with a nasty mind, Mens sana in corpore sano.
For it to become an inherent principle we have to learn why it’s important. The minds are forged by the environment…


We’ve seen how trivial unnoticed events can affect the way of life. As we grow, our view of the world grows too and the more unexpected the events are. In youth, we deal with it indirectly through relatives. It’s our parents that forge our pre-hatching environment.

What evolves, then, are not simply genes, but developmental systems.
Genes are critical parts of developmental systems, but they are always expressed in an environment, and these environments (including cell cytoplasm, gravity, light, maternal nurturing) are also inherited.

“genetic misfiring?” I think not — environment might be more important than kinship, it helps kinship indirectly and maybe more.

Consequently, it goes without saying that it is beneficial for the future, even selfishly, to make the environment better. However, it’s not as easy. There will always be people tricking the system and destroying what others built.
It’s a weird Evolutionary Stable Strategy for them (ESS), even if they don’t get it themselves and are just pawn in a game


What would I really want to teach a new being about this world? What little advices or piece of information I’d like to transfer? What would I like that person to avoid? How will I be able to make that child grasp the immensity of life? How will I be able to let his/her imagination grow while at the same time mitigating the nasty effects of society? Those are questions without concrete answers.

Children learn by watching, so I’ll have to show these in my actions. I’ll have to let them make their mind if I’m right or wrong.


What kind of world will they live in?

Propaganda and brainwash are stronger than ever.

It is difficult to deviate from this inveterate tradition, especially in today’s consumer-driven, heavily mediated world in which our adequacy is constantly questioned.

How will I keep them away from it.

Telling lies to our children
Telling lies to our children
Telling lies to our babies
Only truth can take us

You can’t fool all the people all of the time
But if you fool the right ones, then the rest will fall behind
Tell me who’s got control of your mind, your world view
Is it the news or the movie you’re taking your girl to?

Can freedom be learned? Some are forcing their children into thinking the same way they do, making all choices for them.
When we force kids into political ideals, into cultures, and into religions. Aren’t those also forms of brainwash? Children can’t make their minds about those subjects, they are brought into them. They didn’t choose! It’s a crime to force things upon them.

..But we can’t help ourselves. We live in the society we are currently living in and the culture we’ve been born into. But to hell, we are in an era where we can live freely! Let’s just hope the diversity of the world doesn’t get annihilated.


When I think of my childhood I wish the same context could be available to my children, or at least only the good parts. But I know that’s just a selfish reflection of myself. This person will live in a brand-new context. He/She won’t be able to watch the same movies, play the same games, live the same changes I did.

That’s the movement.

That’s what we need, novelty and curiosity. The world should be a magical a place. Not in the sense of mystical but that it’s a place for quests and discoveries. Living should be a joy. Childhood should be sprinkled with exciting activities.

As a child watching the Ghibli animation movies and others helped me crave for discovery. Thinking about the unknown should rise the hearts.


I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
- Confucius

Children learn a lot by looking and imitating. They also learn by playing games.

Children are intrinsically motivated to engage in such play, as well as other predator-prey related play such as target practice (Blurton Jones & Marlowe, 2002), and this intrinsic motivation may be the result of selection because of the benefits of such play for real-world practical skills. Even in modern predator-free environments, these motivations may cause people to enjoy predator-prey related entertainment such as films and video games (Steen & Owens, 2001), which might be dubbed the “Jurassic Park hypothesis” (see Grimes, 2002).

Other than predator-prey games, which nowadays are reflected in competitive games, the process of learning indirectly important things while playing is one efficient method to teach. Board games are good at that, they are part of a wider concept called explorable explanation.
With explorable explanations the door is shown before the key, the problem is proposed before the solution.

I think that Ten Brighter Ideas, and the three smaller examples above, merely hint at the potential of active reading. The goal of Explorable Explanations is to change people’s relationship with text. People currently think of text as information to be consumed. I want text to be an environment to think in.

Remember: One of the worst things you can do is force people who don’t feel pain to take your aspirin.

And finally, the ultimate takeaway: if you want to craft memorable, relevant-seeming lessons, introduce your locked doors before your keys; your headaches before your aspirin; and your specific motivating problems before your wordy metaphorical generalizations.

With today’s technology learning a subject from a to z is just a question of having enough curiosity. The advance of the internet has made this possible. We live in the era of free information! Here are some in depth posts about the Explorable explanation concept.


One of my personal wish is to be able to make my children grasp the process of evolution and its effects. It answers questions better than any other legendary story, on the opposite, it demystifies the truth of the world. Sexual differences, social differences, social dynamics, etc.. Some have anxiety problems when thinking about things on a grand scale and contrarily to some beliefs, having knowledge about evolution removes the fear of the void. It even teaches respectint and appreciating nature and other humans.
All of that while still being an innocent child.


Evolutionary psychology has a lot of research related to children. Childhood influences the rest of life. I’m going to list some interesting paragraphs.

Stress, Reproductive Strategy, and Abuse


Childhood experiences have been proposed as influencing later reproductive strategies. Stressful events, such as abuse, risky environment, parents divorced, are related to though, aggressive, delinquent, blunted to emotions individuals and relationship with low investment. Those children are more likely to seek short term relationship and multiple mates. Thus closing the cycle creating more of those individuals.

Children living in better environment with great parental care and investment, especially maternal, are usually more motivated, social, and psychologically stable. Later they have a higher chance of seeking long term relationships.
Note that the order of birth also affects the personality of the children. Firstborns are more stable and want long-term relationships while laterborns want excitement and variety.


In risky, low resource environments, the psychological and physiological stressors on parents are high, resulting in less attentive and more conflicted parent-child relationships. The prediction is that these relationships will be associated with a later tendency to form unstable, low parental investment relationships, that is, a focus on mating rather than parenting. In less risky, high resource environments, parent-child relationships are warmer and reflect higher levels of paternal and maternal investment.

Composition of the family or caretaking household may have important effects on child development (Kagan, 1984; Whiting & Edwards, 1988). For example, in Western cultures, children with divorced parents may experience more emotional tension or “stress” than children living in a stable two-parent family (Gottman & Katz, 1989; Pearlin & Turner, 1987; Wallerstein, 1983).

In some cases, chronically stressed children had blunted response to physical activities that normally evoked cortisol elevation. Comparison of cortisol levels during “non stressful” periods (no reported or observed crying, punishment, anxiety, residence change, family conflict, or health problem during 24-hour period before saliva collection) indicates a striking reduction and, in many cases, reversal of the family environment-stress association (Flinn & England, 2003). Chronically stressed children sometimes had subnormal cortisol levels when they were not in stressful situations. For example, cortisol levels immediately after school (walking home from school) and during noncompetitive play were lower among some chronically stressed children (cf. Long, Ungpakorn, & Harrison, 1993). Some chronically stressed children appeared socially “tough” or withdrawn and exhibited little or no arousal to the novelty of the first few days of the saliva collection procedure.

Maltreated children show no rise in cortisol levels in response to a conflictual social interaction (Hart, Gunnar, & Cicchetti, 1995). Aggressive children and adolescents also show lower heart rates (Raine, 1993), suggestive of an underactive response to threat or danger.

A number of studies have demonstrated a reliable relationship between socioeconomic status and neuroendocrine reactivity. For example, adults and children of low socioeconomic status typically show higher cortisol levels than those of higher socioeconomic status

Probably the most important correlate of household composition that affects childhood stress is maternal care. Mothers in socially “secure” households (i.e., permanent amiable coresidence with mate and/or other kin) appeared more able and more motivated to provide physical, social, and psychological care for their children. Mothers without mate or kin support were likely to exert effort attracting potential mates and may have viewed dependent children as impediments to this. Hence coresidence of father may provide not only direct benefits from paternal care but also may affect maternal care (Belsky, Steinberg, & Draper, 1991; Flinn, 1992; Hurtado & Hill, 1992; Lamb, Pleck, Charnov, & Levine, 1987; Scheper-Hughes, 1988). Young mothers without mate support usually relied extensively on their parents or other kin for help with child care.

A child living with a stepparent in the United States or Canada is 70 times more likely to be physically abused and 100 times more likely to be fatally abused

Within communities, family poverty is associated with high levels of partner violence. Witnessing parental violence increases child aggression (Widom, 1989). Jaffee, Moffitt, Caspi, Taylor, and Arseneault (2002) found that over and above common genetic effects, adult domestic violence accounted for 5% of the variation in children’s externalizing behaviors. Poverty is also strongly associated with child maltreatment (Coulton et al., 1995), and researchers concur that the effect of poverty on children is mediated by parenting style (Zingraff, Leiter, Meyers, & Johnsen, 1993). Family poverty and descent into poverty increase parental stress, the use of harsh discipline, low levels of supervision, poor parent-child attachment, and noncompliant behavior, which in turn are associated with delinquency (Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000; McLoyd, 1998; Sampson & Laub, 1994). Aspects of family functioning that involve direct parent-child contact are the most powerful predictors of delinquency (Loeber & Southamer-Loeber, 1986). Dodge, Pettit, and Bates (1994) reported that physical discipline by parents explained about half the effect of low socioeconomic status on children’s aggressive behavior.

Response selection depends in part on a child’s experience of the payoffs for aggression. Among peers, children who successfully counteraggress against bullies become more likely to react aggressively in the future (Patterson, Littman, & Bricker, 1967), and within the family, children’s aggressive behavior is negatively reinforced by the termination of aversive maternal nagging.

Michalski and Shackelford (2002) have also suggested that firstborns are more likely to follow long-term mating strategies than laterborn children, with laterborn children desiring a greater variety of sexual partners in the future.



Summary: Children learn their place in the social hierarchy at a young age. Once they’ve asserted it they tend to keep it all their lives. This creates a balance in society.

Status hierarchies are apparent in the play groups of preschool children as young as 2 years of age (Frankel & Arbel, 1980; Strayer & Trudel, 1984). Children in this age group differ among themselves on measures of social dominance. In fact, social dominance is the earliest stable dimension of peer group social organization and one of the earliest emerging and most enduring observable personality traits (Frankel & Arbel, 1980; Hold-Cavell & Boursutzky, 1986; Lemerise, Harper, & Howes, 1998). Even toddlers seem to be acutely aware of these differences in that they prefer to associate with and imitate high-status as opposed to low-status individuals (Boulton & Smith, 1990; LaFreniere & Charlesworth, 1983; Russon & Waite, 1991).

But dominance hierarchies are more than the product of stronger individuals asserting their control over weaker individuals and obtaining access to more and better resources in the process. Dominance hierarchies serve to support the establishment and maintenance of social structures that are critical to the efficient distribution of limited resources, division of labor, and minimization of social conflict. An individual’s position in a social group affects whom he or she interacts with and how, and children must learn not only their own position in such hierarchies but also those of other children.




It’s well known today that children learn faster and better than adults. What has been learned as a child is usually meant to stick around. They also learn their role differences as males and females.

In addition to these core assumptions, there are at least four others that we believe are central to EDP: (1) Children show a high degree of plasticity and adaptive sensitivity to context, (2) an extended childhood is needed in which to learn the complexities of human social communities, (3) many aspects of childhood serve as preparations for adulthood and were selected over the course of evolution, and (4) some characteristics of infants and children were selected to serve an adaptive function at specific times in development and not as preparations for adulthood.

Not all aspects of childhood serve to prepare individuals for life as an adult. Many features of infancy and the juvenile period serve to adapt individuals to their current environment and not to an anticipated future one. These have been referred to as ontogenetic adaptations

Many experiences during childhood seem to promote and even exaggerate these sex differences, serving to prepare boys and girls for the roles they will play (or would have played in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness) as adults.


…and what are we leaving behind? The media, homes, schools, cities, nature, society, the planet. If there’s something you could take away of this post it would be that helping the environment to be better means helping your own children to have a happy life.

Gross national happiness is more important than gross national product.

I was already preparing this post when someone famous wrote about a similar thing.

This person suddenly realized the importance of contributing to the world because he just had a baby. Having a baby is a great reminder that we don’t live alone on earth. The post had controversial comments, some hated him and some loved it. I don’t agree with everything Mark said but I strongly push forward for anyone that stands for a better world. Some have to sacrifice themselves for it, some don’t have to do much to contribute because they can spare without worry.


Go on little ones!

(PS: Thank you Reine for the image choices)

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