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Kelly Witwicki Faddegon

Organizer, Speaker, Graphic Designer, Direct Action Everywhere

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How can we encourage children to start recognizing (and rising above) category boundaries from a young age?

"All conventions are boundaries, waiting to be transcended." (Cloud Atlas)

Perhaps learning from a young age to reject absolutes, to break down boundaries and embrace complications, would dissolve racial discrimination, sexism, sexuality based violence, religious intolerance, and the other social stereotypes and personal limitations created by labels.

I think being able to recognize boxes is the first step to improving our ability to "think outside the box".


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  • Mar 19 2013: First, my credentials: I am just another parent and grandparent who has done a little reading about child development. Also, I have thought a lot about how a machine would learn about the world, starting from scratch..

    One of the most important aspects of learning about the world and learning your first language is generalization and grouping. This happens automatically. When a child sees a kitten for the first time and is told that this is a kitten, the child will examine the kitten. When a child next sees a different kitten it will immediately recognize the similarities and blurt out "kitten" (or more likely "kitty") in a mini-eureka moment. Without even thinking about it, even before a child learns the word "animal", a child will automatically classify dogs and cats as part of the same group, animals.

    Early childhood learning is about building the boxes. So, in my opinion, there is a time when it is too early to start teaching children to question the borders of these boxes.

    In my case, I do not recall anyone teaching me to question the boxes until I was around ten years old, maybe older. Ten is definitely way too late. By ten a child might find it very difficult to question some of those boxes.

    Fritzie says it is appropriate from the youngest ages, but I think you might want to hold off until the child has a good handle on the language and understands the difference between facts and opinions. If a child understands that difference, the child is ready for questioning borders and labels.

    (As I said, I am no expert, so I would be open to more information on this topic.)
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      Mar 19 2013: I was thinking of school-aged rather than two years old.
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      Mar 19 2013: So... once they have a grasp of language and can use the word "leaf" (citing Nietzsche here) require teachers through elementary school to engage in different activities and thought experiments that illustrate the fact that no two leaves are identical nor does any one match the generalized/ideal conception brought to mind by the word "leaf"? What can we do other than explanations like that to allow kids to explore this, and how do we make it a part of the cirriculum, since many parents will not guide their children to deconstruct constructed boundaries?

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