Posts Tagged ‘Melvin Konner’

evolution of childhood

May 11, 2010

So… what book shall I write?

I’ve been threatening forever to write something about childhood. Melvin Konner has finally come out with his Evolution of Childhood. Maybe “play” needs more attention.

Play, Konner says, “combining as it does great energy expenditure and risk with apparent pointlessness, is a central paradox of evolutionary biology.” It seems to have multiple functions—exercise, learning, sharpening skills—and the positive emotions it invokes may be an adaptation that encourages us to try new things and learn with more flexibility. In fact, it may be the primary means nature has found to develop our brains.

How does play give way, in our development, to critical acuity and rational maturity? How do Red & Rover rise from their crate-box spaceship to face real questions about the cosmos? How do any of us learn to distinguish fantasy from reality, and replace the will to believe with the will to find out? What are parents’ and teachers’ obligations in this regard? And what about the moral lives of babies? Or philosophical babies?

There’s at least another book or two in those questions.