Re: DSM: Genes and environment (was: About TCS)

Bruce Smith (
Sat, 3 Mar 2001 20:23:40 -0700

>I don't really think you can blame genetics or environment for behavior since
>both combine to effect it so much that it is sometimes very hard to tell
>which is responsible for behavior (good or bad).

At Sudbury schools, we consider each individual responsible for her/his
behavior. Period. Examining influences on behavior is a fun intellectual
exercise; but at the school, what matters is the choices people make, and
their responsibility for the outcome of those choices.

>What if Einstien had never
>been exposed to math or Mozart to music? Would they have discovered their
>inborn talents anyway?

Yeah, I _suppose_ someone could have locked them in closets for their
entire childhood, and *maybe* they never would have been exposed to such
basic, ubiquitous phenomena as music and math...

>I think exposure is important because without it none of us would learn where
>our true talents lie.
>Maybe genetics help guide us and environment exposes us. A combination
>of guidance and exposure helps talent emerge.

My problem with the whole concept of "exposure" is that it tends to
externalize learning, make it passive, and allow authority figures to
direct it. That is, in the common understanding of the term, there is
someone doing the exposing, and someone receiving this exposure. Too
often, well-meaning people use the exposure argument as an excuse to
micro-manage others' (typically, kids') environments: they fear that
children will not be exposed to the "right" things, and will instead be
exposed to all sorts of "wrong" things.

The curiosity inherent in human nature will, if not stifled, result in
individuals exposing _themselves_ (hmm...this could get ugly :) to an
incredibly wide range of things. It's the randomness of freedom (with
responsibility) that does the trick, not guidance and exposure.


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