Learning & Education 03Practical intelligence or concrete operational thinkingTheme:learning, ages and stages, operational thinkingSummaryDiscussionTranscriptRelated Insights
The other aspects of concrete operational thinking, making things. A child is passionate to make things at that period. And what kind of things do they need to make, anything, here's your Lego's, here's your erector sets, they need materials to work with to make other things out of it. What is concrete operational thinking? Well they take all these concrete objects; an egg, some milk, some flour, a few little chemicals and so forth, and we take all those concrete things and we put them together in a certain way and we pop them in the oven and this great transformation takes place, out of it comes cookies. See, that's a miracle.Coming
We're going to talk about concrete operational thinking, now I'm using Piaget’s term and I realize that a lot of people now kind of object to this over-stress of the cognitive and the ignoring of the affective emotion and so on, but it's still quite legitimate for one of the aspects that opens at age 7. At age 7 when the milk teeth fall out what do we find about dreaming in children? All of the sudden the animals disappear as their principle form of dreaming and are replaced by the human being himself. We find that all sorts of other profound changes take place.
All societies throughout history have realized that somewhere around age 7 the child reaches a certain capacity for reasoning. Now you might not think the 7 year olds reasonable but let me tell you, it's a fantastic difference between the 4 or 5 year old and that 7 year old and it really happens very suddenly, it's almost an overnight shift into this new capacity for reasoning. Now I want to make it perfectly clear, my theory, and I'm sure of this, I've never been so sure of anything in my life, this is again topological within the brain. The reptilian structure is completely stabilized, the emotional cogence and structure is completely stabilized and then we have the energy to open up the totality of the neocortex, except for the frontal lobes, for development.
Remember the frontal lobes, evolutions latest addition, are still laying down their tracks, literally forming their neuro tracks throughout childhood, throughout adolescence and are not complete until early adulthood. So the frontal lobes, the newest parts we've got, aren't in this but the rest of the brain structure essentially is. We're talking about simply the child knowledge shifts as an ego structure out of its predominant embeddment in the two lower systems and is now able to access all of this much, much more advanced evolutionary structure or the brain, and from this point they can look on this behavioral thing and they're no longer quite subject to it. Remember we said that the 3 year old doesn't have a temper tantrum, they are the temper tantrum, and that certainly is the case and now all of the sudden if they have a temper tantrum they know it on some level and they kind of enjoy it, but so does the 4 or 5 year old too. But, here you've got real objectivity and the child is ready to start the first real forms of socialization and you'll find them shifting from the nest towards society as a whole. It's a slow shift, it really hit its full peak about age 11.
Now concrete operational thinking, very briefly, I still think Piaget’s definition is correct. He spoke of it as the ability to operate on concrete information and change it according to an abstract idea. An abstract idea. Now, I know what this is. This has to be hypothetical. There are not too many people in the neuro sciences that will die this lock, stock and barrel as I do, but I do know it's because from this neocortical structure, which is causal, it has essential to do with causation itself. From this position, higher up the evolutionary string, you can act on the emotional relational structures which bring about or give shape to our actual physical experience.
Here in the world body physicals theme and we can, from this position now at age 7, reflect back on what's presented to us and no longer identify totally with it.
Remember the open acceptancy of the given without question applies certainly through the first 7 years. Piaget loved to use this example and I'll do it very quickly of the tall thin flask that holds one pint of liquid and the short fat flask that holds one pint of liquid. Now to the early child who is one with the world structure that forms around them, who are not fully objective to it, open acceptancy of the given without question, anything big and tall like that's the most, anything little and short like me is the least. Right? Okay, so we fill this full of a pint of liquid, we pull it into here and it fills it right up and there's nothing left. We say to the pre-logical child before this big shift, it must be the same amount of liquid. Oh no, that's the most. Now you've all heard this. We go over it and over it and over it. And you pour it back in there say, it fills it up doesn't it? Yes indeed. Then they must hold the thing, oh no, this holds more. Well than how can it hold more if you pour it in here? Well, you know some just disappears or you've just got more. This is what Piaget called his practical intelligence, unquestioning exactly the way things appear.
Suddenly at age 7 after the shift takes place in the concrete operations, the kid is offended with you. Well of course they're the same amount of liquid. Why? Because simply they're perceiving things from a reflective objective standpoint, up here kind of looking down on what's presented them and they're able to evaluate it from a completely different logical system. This is the beginnings of real logic, now they're not too logical until about age 11 but this is the beginning of that logic. So this happens at this point. The ability to operate on a concrete event, such as this was, with an abstract idea. Now this goes on and on.
Again the child can't generate their own abstract ideas generally, we have to present them with a model for this to activate this whole process. They will activate their concrete operational stage exactly to the extent that they are given models for it. So, what does a child need at this period?
My daughter said, "all we need to do is make things and sing" and she's right. Steiner spoke of the child not coming fully in to the body until the milk teeth go and that shift takes place at age 7 and then they come fully into their body. Notice the profound difference of physical movement in the 5 year old and 7 year old. All of the sudden at age 7 this kid can handle their body beautifully. They're in complete control over it, their coordination is superb. This is when all of the sudden they'll begin this ad running, climbing trees, leaping, jumping and jump rope and all these things, riding bicycles madly, all of this comes about, staging and so on, all these things of maneuvering the body, they love, they discover the body from a completely objective standpoint.
Steiner thought of them coming into the body for the first time, well that's just a figure of speech. Really the psychic structures kind of moved out of it enough to look at it and say wow I've got this instrument I can use objectively and all of the marvelous ways we can use that instrument. That's a part of this concrete operational thinking. They're standing objectively superior to the body process and begin to play with it, like they would an instrument.
The other aspects of concrete operational thinking, making things. A child is passionate to make things at that period. And what kind of things do they need to make, anything, here's your Lego's, here's your erector sets, they need materials to work with to make other things out of it. What is concrete operational thinking? Well they take all these concrete objects; an egg, some milk, some flour, a few little chemicals and so forth, and we take all those concrete things and we put them together in a certain way and we pop them in the oven and this great transformation takes place, out of it comes cookies. See, that's a miracle. That's pure concrete operational thinking. We take this our rough clay and we learn to work with it and suddenly we form that rough clay into a beautiful vase or a pot. That's taking a concrete object and turning it into something radically different. That's concrete operational thinking.
So we find all these crafts. Any art form at all is appropriate to concrete operational thinking. Not art as creation or self expression, but as making things. Making a painting, all of these things are critically important to a child at that stage. There are other forms of concrete operational thinking.
There are esoteric forms of it that I'd like to mention. And here we get into almost the embarrassing aspects of concrete operations which Western Science won't deal with at all. You have to understand that western Science is a very exclusive operation. They allow into their acceptability only that which supports their frame of reference. Anything which does not support their frame of reference is a threat to the integrity of the scientific body of knowledge and is rigidly excluded. It really is and for very good reason. Anything that doesn't support my theories, I exclude them too. That's my privilege as well. So we find that a lot of things that go on in this world and open at age 7 as possibilities and the scientific community will not accept them nor admit them as legitimate scientific information.