Critical & Creative Thinking 01From the Concrete to the AbstractTheme:brain development, higher capacities, human potentialSummaryDiscussionTranscriptRelated Insights
We have talked before about how at 18 months of age, the little toddler has as many neural fields available as we have as adults. Those neurons are connected with many other neurons as in our adult mind, upwards of 10,000 each in forming these fields and the potential fields that there are, of 100 billion neurons. And how at age seven, we have five to seven times more than we had at 18 months, something happens by adulthood that we have the same amount we had at 18 months. The most recent research I've been able to come across is that around age 11, 11 to 12, the brain releases a chemical which dissolves all unmyelinated and undeveloped, unutilized neural structures.
We hear a lot about self-esteem these days, but few have really give it much thought. To have self-esteem we must be able to reach inside, see a new possibility and then allow that inner vision to act upon and change the world we live in. This going within and developing the inner vision and skill to change the outer world, is perhaps the most important lesson we will ever learn. We are about to enter the world of pure creativity, with Joseph Chilton Pearce. For more than thirty years Joe has challenged audiences around the world by questioning why, as human beings, we haven’t developed to our full potential. He is convinced that we have with each of us, hidden in the very cells of our body - capacities and creative potentials that we have just begun to understand. Please listen and watch as Joe, along with a and a group of parents, educators and health care providers, explore Critical and Creative Thinking.
Piaget spoke of all of development from birth on through age 15 as a slow movement from the concrete to the abstract. Piaget would have been delighted with McLean's triune nature. We move from that which is purely sensory motor, our physical world presented through the reptilian structure, on up and up until finally we are in the realm of pure thought itself. And of course, that's what the whole first 15 years are about, to move into a realm of objective pure thought. Now, formal operational thinking opens about age 11. We had concrete operational thinking opening about age seven, and I'm using those Piagetian terms, even though we have to qualify them all the time. And the same thing with formal operational thinking.
Boy, I mean you talk about critical thinking, that really comes in when formal operations unfold. All of a sudden, anything and everything is not equally valid to that child. Why, they see lots of things as absolutely not valid at all and should not be. This sense of righteousness, this sense of justice, these high ideals begin to manifest in the child's mind. Where do they come from? Well, they just arrive full blown with this age, because we are activating this highest evolutionary structure of the mind now. Not activating it, we are focusing on it for its development. There is a difference. It's always been active, but now we're going to develop it fully. And at this point, Piaget spoke of our ability to operate on the brain's own functions. We can operate on mind's own processes. We have been operating on the physical world, now we move into a realm where we can actually operate on our own processes of thought and really, that means our own processes of brain itself.
We have spoken of how the self-system has moved out of its embedded months in these lower processes and now we can say, are we embedded in these higher processes? Well, not exactly. How can we operate on these higher processes if we are simply embedded in them? We have to have some kind of an objective stance. Sir John Eccles claims, he's a Nobel Laureate in brain research, claims that mind, the true seed of mind, mature mind, is in the cerebellum, which is a little three-fold structure made of all three levels of the brain back here in the back part of the brain. Now the brain we are speaking of is a very ancient part of the brain, and yet, it doesn’t start forming until the end of the first year and its growth at that point is very rapid, somewhere around the end of the first year.
It follows immediately on object constancy, the stabilizing of the visual process, which will be followed by the kid getting up on their hind legs and beginning to walk around, and beginning to talk, and so forth. A whole new behavioral block opens up. That is the beginning of this growth of the cerebellum, which then unfolds very, very rapid and it completes itself, which takes over the whole process of movement and so on. But far, far more than that, an Eccles might be correct, I don't know. It's a hypothesis on his part, that one of the parallel processes of that cerebellum isn't just movement and coordinating the movement of the body, but is actually the seed of mind, itself.
Strangely enough, the cerebellum has a totally different cellular structure. It's got what they call granular cells, not neurons. And each of the three levels, reptilian brain stretches right over into the cerebellum, the *limbic structure into the cerebellum, and the high structure into the cerebellum, but the cerebellum, itself, is made of granular cells and it's estimated there are three or four trillion granular cells making up the cerebellum.
It gets three times the number of signals that it sends out. That is three times more stuff comes in than goes out. So, it doesn't have to do much directing to direct the whole system, apparently, if that is the center of mind or the seed of mind, but it has to have everything coming in, you see. So these are hypotheses.
At any rate, around age 11, several things happen. We have talked before about how at 18 months of age, the little toddler has as many neural fields available as we have as adults. Those neurons are connected with many other neurons as in our adult mind, upwards of 10,000 each in forming these fields and the potential fields that there are, of 100 billion neurons. And how at age seven, we have five to seven times more than we had at 18 months, something happens by adulthood that we have the same amount we had at 18 months.
Well, what is it? Well, the most recent research I've been able to come across is that around age 11, 11 to 12, the brain releases a chemical which dissolves all unmyelinated and undeveloped, unutilized neural structures.
Now, does this mean, do you understand that any neurons connected with some 10,000 others and indirectly with millions of others, forming all these different fields, and the neural field can operate on many different levels at the same time, very flexible. So, if one set of its connections are removed, a whole other set of its connections might be perfectly intact, you see. And so, one aspect of a neural field might be removed because it hasn't been developed, but other aspects of it will remain the same. So we have the neuron count probably stable while the dendrite and axon count changes dramatically. And that's what happens at age 11, it's probably dendrites and axons that are removed at that point and possibly even a cleanup of glial cells. We don't know, I don't know. I haven't come across any research about it. But there is this marvelous reduction of weight, neural weight of the brain at that point. And we come into this period of absolute clarity.
Now, what's happening? The 11, 12 year old does not believe that any and all things are equally valid. They don't think that all things are equally possible to them. They could not follow, probably, a model in anything and everything, you see. What would be the limitation? Well, the neural fields that are left solid and stable and intact are those that have been developed throughout this entire time. That apparently is what happens. So they no longer have an infinitely open structure, but the system has pretty well closed according to the culture in which that child was brought up. And at this point of closure of possibility, is this destructive or anything? No. It's simply; you have to bring the house to order.
You can’t; again, you couldn't teach chemistry to a little child who believes anything and everything are equally valid because they are just not going to be able to understand the restrictiveness of the system, how exclusive it is. Or mathematics or anything else in the higher sense. So, we bring the house to order and then the child is ready for a culture's body of knowledge.
Remember, we were talking about child play, and the difference between child play from seven to 11, in which, Bettelheim said, put the child in a rigid, rural situation and they will cheat if they can, because all that counts is me winning. If you put me in a win/lose situation, the 7 to 11 year old says, well, there's one thing, I'm going to win. All things being equally valid, my winning is certainly equally valid to my losing and I'm going to win. Now at age 11, suddenly, we become painfully aware of rules and regulations, and justice and rightness. And the difference is in the fact that we have cleaned up the house and brought it to order.Coming