In a recent post discussing a favorite quote, I wrote that…
[Young] minds are more like a rainforest: teeming with life and growth, filled with verdant mysteries, potential discoveries and unique richness, and we need to take care that we don't kill off more than we allow to flourish.
This in opposition to the view that their minds are like gardens “which need to be carefully planted and trimmed and tended and formed (and ruthlessly weeded)”.
In this post, I would like to extend the rainforest metaphor a little more.
Why Kids' Minds Are Like Rainforests
- Although you might think that they are richly fertile and if you clear out what's endemic and replace it with what you want to grow there instead, your forced transplantations will seldom last more than a few seasons. The fertile layer lies so deep that only the roots of the existing trees can reach it. (See: Constructivism.)
- They are quite resilient and can recover from hurtful things. But too much can damage them irreparably. And sometimes, just a little bit of toxicity can cause a great deal of unanticipated harm. If we care for them and protect them, they thrive.
- We seem obsessed with harvesting standardized logs from them, where we should be looking more deeply at the wealth of other amazing things they offer. If, instead of taking what we want, we take the time to investigate all the unique things they offer us, we begin to see them in a very different light.
- There is a natural balance. Things that have no place, or which don't play an active role, become supplanted by things which grow, adapt and fit better.
- The surrounding context and environment always have a far greater effect on them than does any inherent individual trait. (Actually, they do on all of us. See: The Person and the Situation*)
- There is as much activity in the dark as there is in the light. We shouldn't force young minds which prefer the shadows into the light.
- To the uninitiated, they can be incredibly difficult to understand and to navigate our way through.
- They can be immensely beautiful in both their strength and their fragility.
- Where there is an opportunity, it is taken.
- They can be truly surprising. Even when you think you know them.
(With thanks to the vivacious Melani van der Merwe.)
* Like Malcolm Gladwell, I have had my thinking entirely shifted by this book. More in a future post.