by Kathryn N. Donev, M.S., L.P.C.
The following is a response to the most recent developments within Bulgarian laws dealing with Educational Reform making it mandatory that children begin attending public school at the age of four years old.
The mind of a child is an extremely fragile organism that is malleable with the potential to be molded into whatever a caregiver chooses. It is a great responsibility to raise children and much love and guidance has to be given in order for a child to become a healthy functioning part of any society.
Before age six, give or take a year or so, is when a child is most impressionable and is most influenced by learning information and forming realities and constructs. It is before age six that a child’s mind has most neuroplasticity, although our minds are always capable of change. It is during this period when reorganization of neural pathways and long lasting functional changes in the brain occurs as we take in new information.
When the immature brain first begins to process sensory information is when it is most malleable. Indoctrination can occur at great rates and if accomplished before the age of six, then these teachings are so deeply ingrained within that it becomes nearly impossible to change or re-wire the neural pathways which have been formed. Accordingly to neuroscientists, by the time an infant is two or three years old, the number of synapses in their brain is approximately 15,000 per neuron, which is twice the amount of an average adult. This gives insight into how absorbent and thirsty the brain is for knowledge. At the same time, a child’s brain is very impressionable without yet having the ability to rationally sensor the intake of information. Meaning, they will believe whatever a caregiver tells them because they have no other reason but to innocently trust at this early age.
Since a young child’s memory has not yet fully developed, learning takes place by being told and retold what to do. They have to be indoctrinated. And it is the greatest responsibility of a caregiver to choose the most appropriate principles and values to teach a child. By age three or four, the parent or primary caregiver still is their “external conscience,” reinforcing their memory of what they’re supposed to do.
According to Erikson’s stages of child development, it is around two-four years when a child enters into the “Will: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt” stage in which they encounter life and ask the question if it is okay to be themselves. This question is answered with how the world around them responds to their actions. This period of time is when a child, in gaining control over eliminative functions and motor abilities, will begin to explore their surroundings. If a parent is patience and encouraging, autonomy will be fostered within a child. A caregiver must encourage self-sufficient behavior in hope to develop a sense of autonomy in order to being competent to face life challenges independently. But if caregivers are too demanding, refusing to let children perform tasks of which they are capable, or ridicule early attempts at self-sufficiency, children may instead develop shame and doubt about their ability to handle problems. Now if it is the intent to diminish this fostering of self sufficiency, then it is right at the age of 4 when a child can be influenced to be dependent and self-doubting.
It is during the next developmental stage, “Purpose: Initiative vs. Guilt” that a child asks, “Is it okay for me to be proactive?” in attempts to master the world around them and learn basic skills. At this stage, the child wants to begin and complete their own actions for a purpose. The development of courage and independence are what set preschoolers, ages three to six years of age, apart from other age groups. During this stage, the child learns to take initiative and prepare for leadership and goal achievement roles. However, if a child is striped away from this ability to take initiative, then their purpose is stripped away.
A child has to be given times of self-taught or self-thinking in order to form within a sense of identity; personal and not corporative identity or knowing their true self. If this is not allowed, then confusion sets in and results in midlife crises. After for years having lived exactly how you have been instructed and after having believed all of what you have been told to believe, an awakening takes place that this perceived reality does not meet up with your real internal being and destined reality.
If a child is not allowed to think for themselves and explore on their own at this young age outside of systematic education, then they will never reach the stage of development which is known as “Competence: Industry vs. Inferiority”. The consequences are self-explanatory. Inferiority and doubt set in and this child becomes a product of the system and is void of internal motivation, will and desire to make a change for the betterment of the society. They become cogs in a wheel and the result of a communistic effort.
If we give over our children to a state school system at early and early ages, the parents’ rights are being stripped away. The choice to teach morals of right and wrong or beliefs is only available for a limited time and shared with an organization with limits. A child has no one to speak for themselves at such a young age and they will believe that the sky is green if they are told it is so. It is by around age six that normal children are developing an internal conscience. By age six, they have formed this conscience based on what they have been taught is truth, is right and is wrong. These first six years of development are the most crucial and should not be trusted to anyone else or any other organization that may have hidden agendas. If a child is asking if it is okay to be themselves and they are told it is not, but rather they have to be what a government or a society insists, then confusion arises.
Let children be children and the children that they are intended to become naturally and innocently void of any motive. Let us foster a society of thinkers with independent minds free to make choices. Democratic principles should be applied on all levels of society. We always hear of child rights including stopping physical and emotional abuse, but we rarely are faced with having to protect our children’s minds. Awareness is the first step in prevention and we have to at all cost, protect the rights of our children. Our children only have our mouthpiece to protect them…