The following purpose will not affect me directly because it has more to do with the very long-range possible changes to which my study might contribute. But still, I call it a personal purpose because it has to do with a vision I’ve had since age five – a vision of what human beings could achieve if only they were lucky enough to have parents who treated them as mine treated me, and then what they could achieve if only they were free to pursue the kind of individualized learning program that I longed to pursue.
I was in love with that vision, but believed at the time that most people were either too dumb or too lazy to enable children to reach their heights – either most people couldn’t or wouldn’t do what was necessary. (I’ll explain why I thought this when I get to age five in a future volume of this study. It’s a long explanation.)
At age five, the task of trying to convince people of a better way looked overwhelming to me. And from that point on, for years, evidence piled up to reinforce my view of a widespread mediocrity of mind and spirit that stood as a giant “NO!” against my ideal ever becoming reality – a “NO!” against people caring what my pre-school experience had showed me was possible to the mind. But at age twenty I began to see a twinkling of hope, and in spite of the counter-productive ideas that large portions of humanity have accepted, there have been breakthroughs in several pertinent areas. I now see evidence that the vision of mine from age five may be a real possibility for the future – but only if those who see the possibility tell what they see.
I hope that my work will eventually have a widespread effect on the direction of parenting and education. I hope that my self-study will inspire more people to view childrearing as my mother did: as the great adventure of nurturing a child’s cognitive and creative potential to its highest level.
I emphasize the word “nurturing” in opposition to forcing. The idea is not to mold a child into a supergenius, to make the child conform to some parentally conceived vision of his highest potential. The idea is to nurture – to facilitate – the ability that is there, however great or small, for the child’s own fulfillment and happiness. This is not a competition for raising the brightest child, but an engaging, creative opportunity to help a child find and pursue his happiness – the happiness of finding and fulfilling the loves of his life, of finding and fulfilling the best in himself.
It is my conviction that a person should not have a child unless he or she is ready and eager to take on the challenge of this great adventure, financially, mentally, and emotionally. There is so much that parents can do to nourish or deprive a child’s early development, but to nurture to the fullest you need the time (money buys time), patience, knowledge and desire to do so. However, before others can be expected to be as convinced as I am, they have to be convinced of the great capacity that exists in the human infant, and that it is a capacity worth the parental preparation and effort to bring to fruition.
People cannot be blamed for not knowing that such parental effort can yield worthwhile results, that it is worth the extra preparation. It takes a few pioneers, venturing into unknown territory, taking chances, making discoveries and even mistakes, blazing a new trail, to discover what is possible. And then it takes time for what they discover to be proved to a wider population.
It will be the people who have the patience and courage to explore the trail that my mother, and to a lesser extreme her mother, blazed for themselves – it will be those who are inspired to be the same kind of parents -who will help to show what height of ability is possible to human intelligence, what height of potential exists in the human brain.
What I disclose in my self-study makes sense in itself, and I am sure that as further research continues in related areas it will become clearer and clearer that my claims make sense within the greater context of facts about the brain’s development, about memory, about prodigy.
Unfortunately, I am being documented only by my own self, and have my mother as witness; I was not observed and documented by professional researchers, and since my mother was not thinking in terms of scientific research and was disinclined to write, she didn’t keep records. I have all the proof 1 need of the truth of my study because I lived the story I tell, and the kind of mind that can achieve what I achieved during early childhood is far too intensely aware of itself to not be able to be sure of its achievements. I also can’t deny the hell I went through to be true to my self-knowledge and philosophic convictions through the assault of compulsory schooling, nor can I deny the personal isolation of being too different to be believed.
My first five years of life are at the center of my life, and I’d have to cut myself off from myself in order not to know that what I’m telling in this study is true. But the rest of the world needs to see, by some means external to me, that what I say happened with me can and does happen. The final proof of the truth of my claims will be when another child develops as I did, but can be observed and documented by serious professional researchers while the child is still a tot.
It may well be that I was born with more neurological ability – a brain more retentive of perceptual experience, more sensitive and responsive and rapidly integrating by its nature than most. But how many are born with such a system but do not receive the nurturing I got? And how far could an average brain develop if its parents took care to prepare themselves for a higher-than-average style of parenting? What is the limit?
I do not believe that we have seen the limit of what nature allows the human intelligence. I do believe that nature has given the human brain a far higher capacity to learn and develop than parenting and educational practices have so far revealed. I have suspected this since I was five years old, but now scientific research is showing that parenting during the first three years of life does have a significant effect on how much of a child’s inborn potential is realized – how much of his capacity is retained beyond the neurological “pruning” stage – a stage when the brain prunes away the neurons which have not been put to use by a certain point in the child’s life.
Researchers are now telling us of “windows of opportunity” – periods when a child’s brain is more fertile for learning certain kinds of mental skills. And when a particular window closes – when his brain has pruned away what has not been used in that area, it becomes far more difficult, perhaps in some cases impossible, for him to learn that skill if he has not already started.
I believe that the human brain has always had a far higher capacity to develop and that human beings have always had a capacity for character and achievement at a level undreamed of by most, but that ignorance of what is possible has kept man functioning at a far lower level than his inherent potential allows.
Most especially, the hampering ignorance has been in the realm of nurturing the intelligence of babies and young children (as well as in the realm of philosophy). I think someday that the individual’s highest inborn capacity can be the normal height – the usually realized height – of human mental and moral stature. The level which today is viewed as “gifted” may be the norm with the proper parenting, and those who have truly above average inborn capacity may reach heights that today are unknown. But while that biological potential may have been present in the human race for millenia, a certain level of knowledge and civilization had to be reached before that potential could begin to be nurtured and discovered.
Now we are at that level. We have reached a level of general prosperity that is high enough to allow people to have the time and find the resources to be the kind of parents that facilitate a higher degree of development. And when I say “prosperity” and “resources”, I’m not speaking of the segment of society that is relatively wealthy. I’m talking about the ordinary level of income of the middle class.
When my mother thought through her parenting policy, she was a teenager living with middle-class parents who had just weathered the Great Depression. My mother worked and saved her money as a teenager for a few years before she married at age 20, and my parents started their married life working and saving. Their parents could not afford to lavish them with financial help. My mother’s teen-age savings went to furnish a home, but my parents still had to plan, work, live frugally, save – they had to prepare for the time when they could raise a child by my mother’s vision.
They used birth control until they were financially ready for my mother to stay home and carry through her policy. And “financially ready” does not mean rich. It means only that Mom had saved enough to stand by for emergencies, while my father was making enough to have a very small house, the usual appliances, one car, and the luxury of a black-and-white t.v. But when I was a young child, that house and car and my father’s ongoing college education were still being paid for, and by payday there was only just enough left over for us to go for hamburgers at a family restaurant. We were living a modest middle-class life.
The prosperity I’m speaking of is the level of knowledge and of invention available that cuts the time spent on drudgework, freeing a parent to spend time reading and talking to and playing with a child. I’m also talking about the invention of effective birth control. And I’m talking about political and religious freedom, which allows a couple to plan their lives as my parents did (including the freedom to use birth control), and the economic freedom to be able to keep and save their money and to work their way up to the point at which at least one of them could dedicate her time to thinking about and nurturing a child’s abilities.
I expect some people to object that my mother’s policy allowed me to develop to such an extreme that at school-age I had to face some very painful, even excruciatingly painful problems (which will be elaborated in future volumes).
And that is true – my extreme development did put me in an exceptionally difficult position socially. But I do not object to what my mother did for me – I am grateful from the bottom of my brain stem to the depths of my cortex for what she did. Yes, it was hard for me once I left my paradise and entered a world that was ignorant of the intellectual and spiritual needs of such a mind:
outside of my home was a world less civilized and far less encouraging of intelligence. It was a world where not even the adults in charge understood moral principles to the depths that I had grasped at age three years.
If I had lived in a society that already understood individual rights down to the roots and whose laws reflected that understanding, my parents would have been free to educate me at home, as that was the most appropriate education available for my intensive, highly independent, original style of learning. I needed an education that could be tailored to my capabilities and thus keep me motivated and happy, and allow me to develop at my highest capability under my family’s circumstances.
My parents had been able to bring me to the stage of needing a special type of education, but then were not able to fulfill that need because at the time home-schooling was illegal for people like us.
We did not need government help, nor did we need great wealth. We had all we needed for me to get my type of education, except for one thing: freedom.
My parents and I needed the freedom to choose my path according to our knowledge and judgement. Unfortunately, we did not live in a society that understood and respected individual rights, but one which was compromising those rights, forcing peaceful people like us to conform to other peoples’ values and beliefs about education. Other peoples’ignorance was imposed on our lives, ignorance of our situation, our values, our needs, and my kind of pursuit of happiness.
As a result of majority ignorance and legal imposition, my passion for learning, my great capacity, my ambitions and loves and motivation were all put to the torture-rack. . .or perhaps a better metaphor is torture by being pulled through a pinhole or pressed like a grape, rather than being stretched to death.
And so instead of achieving the “supermind” that I had envisioned at age three – the mind that I had seen was within my capabilities to build (and I still have every reason to believe that it was) – I had to turn my passion toward preserving what I had learned in my first five years and understanding the reasons for my extreme differences from most people.
And I told myself that someday I would write it all down and “go into it”, and that at least I would live and die understanding what human beings should understand about right and wrong and freedom and the “supermind” that is possible, if only people understood. And I fantasized about telling humankind what my situation had enabled me to know – what they need to know if they are to build the kind of world where intelligence can be all it can be.
How in the world could I fault my parents for enabling me to live with such awareness, understanding, and passion? How can I fault them for the misery of my clash with society? And how can I fault myself for having had the conscientiousness and perseverance to develop my understanding to the point of having to face such a painful clash? I cannot. My parents’and my choices to reach for the highest we could reach in our circumstances were the right choices. They are the choices that inspire and keep a mind and spirit motivated to keep working, growing, pushing itself to its highest capabilities, keeping it engaged and energized, keeping it alive.
But the higher the development, the higher the standard of achievement the mind must set for itself in order to be motivated to make great effort. The standard and goal cannot be set for such a mind by others, because when a mind has reached a certain level of development it is not inspired by the desire to please authority, but by the drive to understand and develop profoundly – to achieve what it sees, by its own careful thought and insight, is the standard that it can reach and should pursue, whether anyone else cares or understands that standard or not.
My kind of mind is not motivated by the desire to “belong”, to be popular, or to gain others’ approval, but to earn its own approval by keeping itself honest and reaching for its own greatest height. When a society has unwittingly set itself up to hamper such development, it hampers the ambition of the highest in the human potential. It stifles the kind of pursuit of happiness that seeks profound understanding and development.
And then what could have been learned from those who would have developed as far as their nature allows, is not learned? the knowledge that could help the rest of mankind is held back, and solutions to serious problems are put off. And some of those problems are so serious that mankind could destroy civilization entirely and sink into hundreds of years of a dark age if the problems are not solved in time…and even after the solutions are understood, applying those solutions and curing the problems takes time as well.