Education: Perhaps We Should Teach the Fundmentals First!

Jean Piaget 4 Stages of Childhood Development

First Stage: (Sensori-Motor Develpoment)

(Age 0-2): Coordination through movement in order that children may employ their imagination to be creative, as is their nature.

Second Stage: (Prelogical Intutitive Stage)

(Age 2-5): Magical Thinking/Dream World: children can confuse real and imaginary events and unusually brave in reaching for new experinces and sensations.

Language: a new vehicle for logical and concrete thought, not solely social or emotional feelings as in the first stage. We begin practicing our ability to reason, to the shagrin of our developing intuitive powers.

Third Stage: (Concrete Operational Thought)

(Age 6-12): Symbols to represent objects and concepts, realistic internal images of our world.

Constructive Thinking: classifies, measures, compares, relates. Left brain analytical thinking becomes active, though the right brain is left unfinished.

Children in this stage can only solve problems that apply to actual (concrete) objects or events, and not abstract concepts or hypothetical tasks. Understanding and knowing how to use full common sense has not yet been fully adapted. Children at this age have difficulty using deductive logic, which involves using a general principle accurately to predict the outcome of a specific event. 

Centration: one focuses on only one salient aspect of an object or situation, or problem at a time, to the exclusion of other potentially relevant aspects. Most Adults express in this way.

These two types of social thinking begin to affect a child’s egocentrism in the concrete stage. However, it carries over to the formal operational stage when they are then faced with abstract thought and fully logical thinking.

*Imaginary Audience: that involves attention-getting behavior

*Personal Fable (Their Story): which involves an adolescent’s sense of personal uniqueness and invincibility.

Fourth Stage:  (Formal Operations)

(Age12 to 15, and onward) The emergence of abstract thought and hypothetical deductive reasoning.

At this point, a person is capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning. During this time, children develop the ability to think about abstract concepts. This type of thinking involves hypothetical “what-if” situations that are not always rooted in reality. It is often required in science and mathematics. Abstract thought emerges during the formal operational stage. 

*Hypothetic-Deductive reasoning: When faced with a problem, adolescents come up with a general theory of all possible factors that might affect the outcome and deduce from it specific hypothese that might occur. They then systematically treat these hypothese to see which ones do in fact occur in the real world. Thus, adolescent problem solving begins with possibilty and proceeds to reality.

*What is Propositional in nature: Adolescents can focus on verbal assertions and evaluate their logical validity without making refence to real-world circumstances. 

In contrast, in the concrete operational stage children can evaluate the logic of statements by considering them only against concrete evidence.

*Decentration : The ability to simultaneously focus on several different aspects of a problem.

Most Adults Do Not Decentrate, they continue to operate in a Centrated fashion: they process with a single-minded point of view, and are intolerant to other alternatives. This form of thought includes assumptions that have no necessary relation to reality. This is analogous to the Single processing of the analytical left hemisphere.

Why do most adults not Decentrate?

This is because humans need to continue their educational learning environment until at least age 30 or so. (Though one should never stop learning).

People learn a wealth of concrete information throughout their education, however they cannot understand or integrate it through analytical processes alone. Therefore they attempt to rearrange it to simplify it, but they cannot do this and keep some variables constant, while experimenting with others. Therefore they employ generalized laws, to minimize their shortcomings in cognition, though this strategy is not very effective.

Centrated People: Possess Tunnel Vision when it comes to ideas of the world.

They must rely upon “Concrete Operations” predominantly to cope in everyday life (which is a milestone in cognitive development to be acheived by age 12)

For Centrated Individuals: a higher level maturity only manifests in Emotionally Neutral Situations, when variables are very specific. ie) work requiring concentrated problem solving

One way that we can see the difference between an adult in postformal thought and an adolescent in formal operations is in terms of how they handle emotionally charged issues.

When Emotional pressure is present: the Centrated are “off-duty, as they most often regress to Concrete Operational Thought (age 6-12, processing one data steam) or even Pre-Logical Thought (age 2-5, employ language, magical thinking).

Statistics on the Use of Formal Operations in Adults:

*17% of those with >IQ:110, use Formal Operations on a daily basis.

*5% reach the final stage of Formal Operations, (True Formal Thought)

*2% continue to Post-Formal thought, (0.1% those finish learning these skills).

PostFormal Thought: (Critical Thinking, Right Brain Intutive Thinking)

One can conceive of multiple logics, choices, or perceptions in order to better understand the complexities and inherent biases in truth.

In adult postformal thinking, decisions are made based on situations and circumstances, and logic is integrated with emotion as adults develop principles that depend on contexts. 

Metacognition: the capacity for “thinking about thinking” that allows adolescents and adults to reason about their thought processes and monitor them.

Another characteristic of the individual is their ability to reason contrary to fact. That is, if they are given a statement and asked to use it as the basis of an argument they are capable of accomplishing the task. For example,they can deal with the statement “what would happen if snow were black”.

In Summary,

The vast majority of adults in this world operate with the cognitive skills that we expect a 12 year old to be proficient at.

The egocentrism from our adolescence, intended to protect us from the uncomfortable practice of our new archetypal Identity, stays attached to our immature cognitive processing skills.

We are taught to analyze, not critically think.

Is it any wonder that creativity gets lost in the shuffle to prepare our children to assume a career?!

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