child development

humanity of Our potentiating futurity

  futural childhoods
gary e. davis
September 20, 2020
  A child is not a little adult

Stating that a child is not a little adult may seem needless to say. But the theme is actually quite counterintuitive in history—and so, too, for many societies, which is why the World Health Organization provides educational material for teaching that “Children are not little adults.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control posted in 2014 a page titled “Children are not little adults.” And believe it or not, even pediatricians may need to be reminded of that.

Children have been perceived relative to adult maturity, like little plants merely not-yet-mature, where immaturity has less integrity than maturity, like fruit that isn’t yet ripe. And like fruit, the maturity is an end state.

That not only allows children to be implicitly regarded as less than (not yet fully) human, but also allows bad parents to blame children for not conforming to adult norms, thus deserving punishment for waywardness, if not “warranting” child abuse.

Even declarations of childrens’ rights are in terms of extending adult human rights to children, protectively rather than enablatively. The UN Convention refers to children’s “potential” only once, in a short declaration that “the education of the child shall be directed to the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential” (Article 29), which does nothing to distinguish a notion of cultivating that potential from didactic instruction and training.

Before the early 20th century, children were regarded relative to primate matur-ation, such that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”: Children go through primate stages on the way to becoming fully human.

In social evolution, children were destined to ripen for family labor and reproduc-tion (often while still pubescent, causing frequent death of girls in childbirth). Commonly, a mother and father were teens (not expecting to live beyond their early 30s, if lucky). Childhood was easily regarded as pre-adult because “adult” came so quickly, compelled by poverty and early death.

Decline in poverty now commonly doubles the years of childhood

Within merely the last few centuries, human potential was allowed to reveal itself—given the chance—such that one may thrive beyond puberty, if given free time, resources, opportunity, and child-centered teaching.

Alas!: A new era of childhood appears during the Industrial Revolution: adoles-cence (no longer regarded as adult)—thereby shifting the conception of potential for adulthood into later years (given health, time, etc.).

Conversely, pre-adolescent individuation gains appreciation of its own differenti-ations, thanks to the profession of child psychology (separation/ individuation eras) and educational psychology: preschool, and elementary grade levels as developmentally distinct. Concerted enabling of each stage can accelerate the individuation of the succeeding pre-teen stage, which can accelerate individuation of the teen years, which may advance the potentials for capable adulthood.

Individuation of capability as nature of human being

Cultivated individuation of intrinsic capacity into capability (given concerted parenting and teaching) hallmarks human nature, not like the maturation of a seedling—primarilly needing its “natural growth” fed (“NG” here), tended, and protected—but as a self-enhancive being whose psychological nature (psycha-logical nature) transforms itself during development into increasingly capable identity formation, like no other species.

Not until recent centuries—actually, not much before the last century!—did parenting and teaching surpass an agrarian (natural growth) conception of
human development for the sake of truly person-centered, individuational conceptions of human being enabled by concerted cultivation.

Being human is far beyond human being, potentially: The standard notion of humanness is largely either biocentric (distinguishing us from other animals)
or about differentiation from dieties, not yet as integral psychological kind of life—unless one appreciates that potential for psychological individuation is
what humanness really is.

Maybe such appreciation is intimated when defining ‘human’ passively as “3 : d : having to do with, portraying, or arising from…joys, passions, struggles, or other interest-provoking experiences or situations of individual persons” (M-W Un-abridged). Yet that’s not yet actively being a selfidentical, horizoned life of actualizing potential of one’s own.

That has important implications for the conception of humanism, humanity,
and human rights.

Giving concerted attention to actualizaton of human potential is now commonly part of prenatal care, since mental development and language learning begin during pregnancy. Birth into the air is merely a passage in an ontogeny (begeny) that has no discernible innateness.

Concerted prenatal care is vital for the first days of natality; and each developmental milestone of the first months advance prospects for easier development the next month, thus accelerating the first year, etc.

My point is that concerted parenting and teaching are profound aspects of advan-cing development (which has been “secretly” advancing evolution through con-certed motherhoods across generations).

That is the locus of Our humanity: actualizing potential to advance Our evolving, as much a matter of grandly humanitarian programs of the U.N. as it’s a matter of planned parenthood, family readiness, good neighborhood, educational excel-lence, and regional prosperity.

The conceivable scale of enabling, purposing, and cohering individuations aggre-gates into emergently defining Our evolving.

Humanity as such is essentially aspirational; thus one’s humanity (in ownmost intimacy with oneSelf) is essentially aspirational. Aspiration wants flourishing independence where (at best) learning never ends, which is commonly appreciated by entrepreneurs, innovators, creative souls, and researchers.

Maturity” is a premodern, sociocentric notion that conceals the complex poten-tial of singularly being well across eras of life.

Of course we want prudence, social competence, and all the character strengths and virtues that enrich lives, but that’s a wealth of articulation that leaves socio-centric notions of maturity behind.
[conceptual aside: Habermas exemplifies sociocentric thinking about individuations. His notion of “mature autonomy” largely bypasses the wealth of Meaning that is important for autonomy (e.g., those char-
acter strengths and virtues) and which provides the basis of prefer-
ence in lived importances
which may thereby warrant assent to proposed regulatives being honored as normative.

He argues for a conception of ethical pragmatism whose deontic idealism is pre-legislative, calling that “moral,” allegedly distinct from ethical life and distinct from legislating. But the dream of universalist warrant conceals the evolving reality of progressive societies (2014 | 1997.1 | 1997.2).

An individuative, autonomous maturity embodies better promise for flexible perspectivity in mature (“developed”) societies (cf. “modal cohering of lifeworldliness”) than does normatized, integrative autonomy.

Habermas writes of “individuation through socialization,” but social-ization through individuation is more likely progressive.]
Remediating the forgotten child enables the still-living latency of one’s potential

Inability of cultural evolution to yet afford child-centered parenting and teaching has sometimes compelled the implicit child of oneSelf—especially the talented Inner Child—to find creative ways to emerge through arts and sojournings (and pathology).

The sacrifices of persons during the Great Depression, also surviving incompre-hensible war, spawned a generation of children (the Depression children, the war children, then the baby boomers) whose parents hardly knew fair childhood, let alone concerted parenting and teaching.

So, the emergence of teen culture of the 1950s became the “flower power” of the 1960s (which seems to have echoed the Pre-Raphaelites—or the world of Maxfield Parrish). Canonical novels of self formation (the Bildungsroman) and literary Romanticism seem echoed in youth culture ever since. (The simplistic drone of street music—rap, hip-hop, etc.—suggests burdens of the angry child feeling degraded by “mature” society.)

A pathogenic culture of narcissism suggests a willful refusal to finish a youth that was denied fair childhood, thus disabling privileged teen years, resulting in a faked maturity that can’t find resolution in its adult world. A puer aeternis can even be-come an authoritarian brand enforcing a sense of landscape as naturalized simulacrum.

Anyway, one way or another the child wants its day. In psychotherapy, recovering the Inner Child is as much an encouragement of unrealized creative potential as it may be release of an unfinished childhood individuation into, at last, wholly co-hering selfidentity.

Yet, in all cases, it’s no reversion to the past that appeals, as if fallenness from an idyll requires a culture of nostalgia (commonly showing as resentful “Conserva-tism”), which strives to restore simpler traditions.

Remediating the Inner Child is about the intrinsic futurity of being—of lives, of cultures, of societies—which we already always own (at least as living potential), which the child symbolizes.

The Inner Child may at last offer to the repressed soul the renewals that ever-renewing youth display through their generational audacity—or which flourishing adults display by welcoming a new era of one’s life.

Flourishing is what the child unwittingly, intrinsically wants, which may individu-ate into deliberate aspiration and generative life (e.g., multiple careers), which,
at best, loves conceiving possible worlds (like gardening scientific artistry), then designing new ways for new generations to possibly flourish.


next—> “humanism”: personism



  Be fair. © 2020, gary e. davis