Disciplining a Child Demands Ongoing Assessment of Underlying Values

DRAFT FORM (needs clean-up)


Assertion: Choosing how to discipline a child is a declaration of your personal value set. Thus, discipline is difficult to enact not so much because the procedures are difficult to implement but the personal value set is unknown or its translation into disciplinary procedures is unknown.

Discipline is primarily about shaping a set of habits in accordance with a set of values. I.e. Moving a person along a spectrum of habit acquisition, ultimately toward internalization of the value set:

-2. Actively opposes desired behavior
-1. Performs undesired behavior without thinking (bad habit)
0. No habit, no knowledge of desired behavior
1. Knows about desired behavior
2. Performs desired behavior under supervision
3. Performs desired behavior without supervision
4. Performs desired behavior without thinking (Habit)
5. Actively improves and sustains habit (Internalized Values)

E.g. Daily exercise is a habit. It is not a value. The values underlying the habit of daily exercise might include Personal health (live longer, better), Work ethic (reduce resistance to work and make manual tasks easier), and Sport enthusiasm (be a better athlete).

Example Habit #2: Saying “please” and “thank you” and other pleasantries. Underlying values: Relational harmony (it reduces interpersonal friction), Courtesy & Respect protocols (it signals awareness and trustworthiness), Conversational aesthetic (it sounds nice).

An old adage (perhaps more often a joke) justifies discipline in the following way… “That’s how my parents did it, and look how I turned out.”

This is a shortcut — training a habit without assessment of its underlying value set.

This same shortcut is often applied in management… “This is how my manager did it, and look how I turned out.”

In coaching… “This is how my coach did it…”

John Wooden famously trained his basketball players at UCLA on how to put on their socks and tie their shoes. UCLA took home 10 NCAA Championships in the 12 years Wooden coached. Wooden retired in 1975, and UCLA didn’t win another national championship for 20 years.

The value which shaped the players’ habits during practice was a meticulous attention to detail… each technique performed precisely according to a design — and drilled until unconsciously perfect.

Do parents want to succeed at child-rearing the way John Wooden succeeded at basketball coaching?

It’s cliche for parents to want “the best” for their child.  Their values determine the “best” they aim for.

Basketball is simpler than childrearing.  No college basketball coach will argue that “10 NCAA Championships in 12yrs” isn’t a peak of excellence.

In child-rearing, there is no “10 NCAA Championships in 12yrs”.  In school, there’s “college and career-readiness”, but that’s more like “NCAA Tournament Round of 32 readiness”. 

There is no singular goal in child-rearing.  No championship trophy.

For my part, I’ve come to see child-rearing as something like 100 different trophies of varying heights, under 8 main capabilities.  Each capability is staged below, roughly according to their first appearance during human development and somewhat mirroring Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

  1. Physical
  2. Self-Sufficiency
  3. Cognitive
  4. Relational
  5. Artful & Expressive
  6. Self-Knowledge
  7. Reputational
  8. Leadership

Each main capability then has a set of sub-capabilities:

  1. Physical
    1. General Manual Dexterity, Eye-Hand/Foot Coordination
    2. General Strength, Mobility, Conditioning, and Recovery
    3. Sport
    4. Musical Instrument
    5. Tools
    6. Somatic stimulation of mental state (Body-Mind Coordination)
    7. Body Language & Communication Protocols
    8. Self-defense and Survival

And, of course, each sub-capability has specific skill sets and developmental stages.

The relative heights of each trophy in each domain is determined by the amount of time dedicated to practice x the quality of that practice.  And the quality may actually have an exponential effect.

The amount of time dedicated to practice, and the quality of practice demanded, are functions of the personal value set, resources available for allocation to child-rearing activities, and the capabilities of the parents.

Thought experiment: Design human development pathway from child to adult, sans existing mandatory checkpoints

I think it’s a worthwhile thought experiment to ask what is a suitable occupation for a child were there no mandatory schooling, no standardized tests, no college applications, and no career expectations.

Basically… how would you design a modern pathway of human development from childhood to adulthood from first principles without the existing infrastructure of mandatory checkpoints?

Here’s how I’d do it. And have done it, at least to age 5, with my 5yo, and same plan for current 3yo.

Big Picture:

1. Primary aim is to develop the capabilities and capacities* to be useful to other people whiile also cultivating deep insight into the human species — potential opportunities & failure modes. This stands to provide the greatest benefit to the individual, the species, and the entire Terran ecology.

*Defining terms: Capability is knowledge and skill, consolidated through guided and unguided practice. Capacity is the reliable execution of an operation under stress (due to fatigue, obstacles, relational dysfunction, etc).

2. Begin to accomplish #1 by first making the child useful within the context of his or her own household.

3. Expand capacity to bear stress via physical exercise. I.e. Train the mind by training the body.

4. Front-load narrow and deep experience by progressively releasing more and more of the responsibilities of household management to the child — including repairs and upgrades of existing infrastructure elements.

5. Gradually expand the child’s influence and experience out of the household into the local community, business, and government.

6. Specialize capabilities into a “trade” — i.e. Some mechanism the child can toggle when needed to convert time into money.

7. Cultivate many capabilities in parallel and discuss ideas at the intersections of domains — i.e. While learning carpentry, also practice piano, and read Moby Dick. Do the thing that is interesting until consolidation and reflection become necessary.. then switch to another thing.

8. Build a service-oriented peer group. The purpose here is to form a normalized view of social interactions as a constructive enterprise. Avoid forming views of peer-group social interactions as being intensely competitive, demeaning, or draining (a la Lord of the Flies). Instead construct visions of social interactions as honorable, compassionate, and deeply fulfilling.

Some additional detail:

Note: Some elements of the below sequence may resemble existing “best practice” suggestions for parents. Bear in mind that, true to the premise of the thought experiment, I have not included them due to their existing prominence. They are merely a natural result of the derivation exercise.

1. (age 0-3) Child’s first dedicated learning tasks are specific procedures for taking care of him/herself. I.e. You (child) dress yourself, take yourself to the bathroom, keep yourself clean, bus your own meal dishes, put yourself to sleep, communicate clearly to make requests (signs –> sounds –> words –> sentences), etc. Child is responsible for following simple rules for self-management (e.g. if under duress, take a deep breath).

2. (age 3-4) Child begins contributing to the smooth operation of the household. E.g. First step for our kids was to learn to make everyone’s breakfast (also serving mom and dad) — pretty simple: eggs and oatmeal. Then they advanced to sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, cleaning countertops, etc. Child is responsible for following simple rules to maintain interpersonal harmony (e.g. no demands, only requests; avoid pushing/pulling/hitting in favor of clear verbal communication)

3. (age 4-6) Child begins bearing independent responsibility for particular household tasks, like washing clothes, preparing a portion of dinner meals, etc.

At this point, tasks become sufficiently complex as to require multi-step written instructions. Thus, the child must learn to read. Similarly, they must often interpret and measure out quantities of things. Thus, they must understand what those numerical symbols represent, as well as the operators that often appear between them.

4. (age 2-4) In preparation for item 3, it is sensible to read often to children to begin familiarizing them with the alphabetic symbols and rules for interpreting them. Making sense of written symbols at a practical rate takes multiple years of practice and consolidation. Explicit instruction of the rules for converting symbols to sounds is suggested, but we’ve kept it relatively light.

5. (age 2-5) A gradual evolution of how a child amuses him/herself also occurs during this time. In our case, the child frequently constructs imaginary roles and scenarios and relies heavily on social interaction. Self-amusement is reliant on personal capability — it’s not fun if you’re no good at it — so training is still required in many cases. E.g. Reading simple storybooks, throwing/catching/kicking a ball, tumbling/gymnastics/wrestling, board/card/yard games, etc.

6. (age 2-5) The child’s awareness and understanding of the external world evolves during this time and is strongly impressionable. At this point, whatever is conveyed to the child about how the world works, they will accept as their worldview. I postulate it is likely best at this stage for the child to be immersed in the natural world, as it is the best teacher of how the world works. You cannot escape formation of intuitive models of how the world works if you have a vast array of coherent experiences in the natural world.

Worth noting is that we have met this need primarily through outdoor excursions in the summer months and video during the winter months. The videos consist of Planet Earth-esque views of exotic ecologies, as well as lectures about interesting applications of math, imagery from the hubble telescope, and other fascinating views into the world.

AGE 5-6 CHECKPOINT: The child now bears sufficient skill to operate their daily household tasks almost entirely unaided: self-grooming, meal preparation & cleanup, interpersonal relationships with siblings and adults, self-amusement, sleep schedule, etc. The only exceptions are those physical skills which have not been adapted to smaller hands and shorter legs and which have no requisite tooling (like stools). The child also has a working intuition for how the world works, which can serve to “fill in the blanks” when presented with new situations in future. The child may thus now begin to design select parts of their living environment and schedule.

5. (age 5-6) The child is reading sufficiently well to interpret multi-step instructions. Writing now becomes the primary focus — and elegant, fluid handwriting requires practice too. Writing proves very useful for producing letters of gratitude for various adults who have made their mark on the child’s life. Also enjoyable is penpal correspondence between cousins or friends in different locales. Touch typing is also a worthy skill to practice, given the predominance of digital communication channels. Freyda has recently (as of this month) begun her first excursion into web publishing at http://freydei.com/.

6. (age 5-6) The child now begins to envision particular accomplishments in specific domain areas of interest, guided by a mentoring adult with experience or transferable knowledge in the particular domain areas. The child and the mentor discuss skill checkpoints and accomplishments into those particular domain areas. Near-term goals are agreed-upon, and the child and mentor schedule particular operations to achieve those checkpoints. E.g. Freyda has determined she would like to construct a modern health diagnostic kit, including wearables and smart appliances which log data for later time series analysis.

As my oldest child is 5yo, this is now where my experience gives way to speculation. That said, this is also the tipping point into the actually meaningful part of the thought experiment — the age a child would typically enter Kindergarten. I’ll shift into broader age ranges to navigate these more speculative waters.

7. (age 6-7) The child achieves first real accomplishments. I.e. Demonstrated competency beyond mere routine household operations. Done properly, the child would have experienced a narrow and deep learning operation and will have generated an artifact which serves their purposes and makes their future action more effective. In Frey’s case, she will be able to assess her own health markers and be running nutrition and exercise experiments in the background while she sails on to her next port of call.

8. (age 6-9) The child will be gradually introduced to roles in the larger human society, starting with local community, local government, and local business.

9. (age 7-9) The child will at this point be capable of reading, contemplating, and discussing the particularly important questions about life, under careful mentorship. The child will be afforded the best works of fiction and nonfiction. I.e. The miracles of literature.

10. (age 8-10) The child primarily focuses on developing skills which enable development of reputation and standing within the community and the development of a group of peers with similar objectives and outlook. When the child is not serving in the household, he/she is serving in the community. From here, naturally, the child can begin to observe the human needs in the community and, under guidance, attempt to devise solutions to address those needs. This will be a natural extension of activities from earlier ages.

11. (age 7-10) Meanwhile, capability growth has simply become a habituated activity. I.e. When not serving the household or community, the child is developing knowledge and skill to improve his or her service capabilities. Again, a mentor guides the child, according to prior experience, predilections, aptitudes, and interests.

12. (age 10-12) At this point, the child is ready for apprenticeship in a skilled trade, e.g. Carpentry. Ongoing study and service within a peer group carry on in parallel.

13. (age 13-15) Journeyman-level capability in a skilled trade. The primary merits of the skilled trade is the front-loading of experience in applying mental models to achieve desired outcomes. Thus, the actual trade in question need not be particularly selective. Though it is best if it is not a loosely-governed wild west type environment. The child must learn rules and apply them insightfully in order to please a set of constraints. Also, the child is learning how to operate as a valued member of society.

14. (age 16) The child is ready for multiple possible routes of ongoing cultivation: Mastery of a trade, Mediated study of a knowledge domain under a mentor (kind of like graduate studies), or Development of a business, product, or technological innovation to contribute to the marketplace (also under mentorship).

The thought experiment has only begun, but I must resume later.

Many more things deserve to be included in the above, e.g…

1. I have found the development of physical fitness at a young age to be extremely useful under many circumstances. Basically, conditioning the mind and body to successfully endure extended periods of stress (eustress) makes every other thing easier to do, effectively increasing the child’s capacity for capability growth.

2. Sleep schedules have been solidified into habit and the kids are nearly always well-rested. Again, this makes everything easier because the child is nearly always able to self-manage. Fatigue leads to higher frequency of destructive behavior which, if allowed to become routine, will unavoidably cap the child’s capabilities. If the child simply never develops destructive habits, that’s one less obstacle to overcome.

3. Additional languages are best acquired under immersion conditions. However, this may be said for most skills/disciplines — performing & visual arts, sport, scientific research, etc. Contrived learning environments have a much narrower area of validity than would be presumed given their prevalence.

4. I’ve mentioned only briefly and sparsely the role of peers. Development of peer relationships is, however, a very significant design component, which I will re-visit later.

This is the kind of stuff I will remember when my kids are grown.

The little trucks that get parked in my office. Then they’re rediscovered later like they’re Atlantis. There are so many opportunities for joy when you’re so forgetful.

Really, fathering is a gold mine for small, memorable moments. Like when your boy wakes suddenly in inconsolable distress, gagging on his own concern, unable to speak… because he has to go wee.

A single day as a father can fill an A4 sheet with memorable moments.

Everyone seems to appreciate the “little things” more as they get older. I think that may be because as you experience the world you inevitably begin to better understand how little of a thing you are – and that things needn’t be grand to be meaningful. This little truck thing right here between me and my boy is so uniquely “our” little thing. Heck, it’s pretty much my thing – he won’t even remember the truck is here until he spots it tomorrow morning. But the fact I know that about my son.. and I can watch him in my mind carefully parking his truck underneath the piano and then entirely forgetting about it moments after. Well, let’s just say my brain is equipped to make a whole lot of meaning out of that vivid image of a little human I’m so deeply devoted to – despite how little a thing this truck event adds up to be.

It seems you come to love and devote yourself to your child the same way as anything else. Put enough time and dedicated effort into anything and you get to know it really well, such that you pass a threshold where it becomes intensely interesting at a personally meaningful level. And I think this can certainly happen with animals too, i.e. pets.

As an engineer & technologist, I have conceptual access to the most interesting tools and systems humans have created so far… Living things are much more interesting. Many more ways they can permutate. Particularly if you seed their minds with curiosity, ideas, and empathy and their bodies with graceful strength and skill.

Insight often does emerge indirectly. Study technology to better appreciate humans. Experience the big to appreciate the small.

I suppose this indirect approach to insight and wisdom may be the primary accomplishment of Confucius and eastern meditation in general.

Another, to close…Write your thoughts to teach yourself.

Designing a child’s aptitude through environment

In 2 wks, Freyda and Arthur will begin their first formal wrestling practice (for Pre-K thru Grade 1).

After very limited wrestling-specific training under my instruction on our basement wrestling mat (i.e. 4 or 5 practice sessions over the last 2 months), Freyda has already acquired the skills of an advanced beginner wrestler.

E.g. Her duck walk is nearly flawless. She automatically applies an effective pinning combination immediately after takedown. And she seems to be able to internalize new techniques very quickly — often within a single practice session.

The presence of these capabilities together so early in a training chronology appears to present an outlier aptitude. The question is where this aptitude originated… and how might aptitude be intentionally designed?

It is my assertion, in fact, that this aptitude really *was* designed — though indirectly. I.e. It is the natural outcome of several design decisions made and implemented over the course of multiple years.

The list, in summary:

1. Playful, safe roughhousing with dad since birth: Body awareness (particularly in grappling context) + Positive psychological association — “grappling is playing.”

2. Years of regular workouts with both mom and dad: Strength + Mental toughness + Pain tolerance + Well-myelinated brain-to-muscle neural pathways — i.e. Her body does as she wills

3. Emphasis on technical precision in all aspects of training to-date, including… Calisthenics & Stretching, Soccer & Ballet, Math & Reading, Communication of information & ideas, Household tasks, etc…: Habituated practice of attention to detail, with emphasis on particular essential focal points.

4. Years of experiencing the “natural consequences” of bad grappling decisions — e.g. over-extension is met with a throw or a drag: An internal network of experiences subconsciously affirms direct training instructions. The student is rarely in self-contention… the teacher is merely structuring the presently amorphous assertions already taking shape in the student’s mind.

5. Familiar and well-liked training environment, partner, and instructor — We purchased our wrestling mat 3yrs ago, roughly the same time Arthur was born (who serves as her training partner): She has no psychological reluctance to train — she is “at home”; training is as familiar as eating and sleeping.

A learner with the above has already internalized many of the principles, habits, and affections of a good wrestler — now they must simply be refined to the particular techniques of the wrestling discipline. A child without the above will be attempting to internalize — all at once — the techniques, principles, and affections. And will be understandably bewildered.

Under the right circumstances, that bewilderment can be overcome. However, it is a much harder road for both the learner and the coach and thus much less likely to result in success. Either learner or coach will likely determine the difficulty is not worth the reward. In contrast, in Freyda’s case, the reward comes so quickly and frequently that training borders on recreation. Not quite — there’s still sufficient rigor and presence of mind so as to ensure proper habituation, but the ground is rich with potential awaiting refinement into capability.

Now let’s look at a situation that is not so rosy — Math.

I’ve been a bit surprised by what appears to be relatively low aptitude for numbers and arithmetic in both Freyda and Arthur.

Until just recently (the last few months), Arthur would still hold up 2 fingers while saying “three”. And it’s not for a lack of practice. I would estimate we have been counting by ones for at least a year.

Freyda appears to still be on the edge of understanding of symbolic representation of quantities. She’ll regularly confuse numbers and quantities and is often initially at a loss when presented with single-digit arithmetic. Again, not for a lack of practice. Similarly, I would estimate her first arithmetic lessons were over a year ago.

My assessment and prediction for Math is 3-fold.

1. Keeping track of quantities over ~7 at integer-level precision is not an easy task for the ordinary human mind, which must be trained with particular algorithmic and visualization techniques. Savants are considered extraordinary because these techniques are seemingly unnecessary.
2. The Hindu-Arabic symbols 0-9 and Base-10 place value are simply significant conceptual hurdles. It’s just not obvious how to manipulate these seemingly-arbitrary and mysterious symbols. Until it is.
3. Once those conceptual hurdles are breached, a flood of mathematical capability and curiosity will be loosed.

Under normal schooling conditions, that curiosity would then be slowly extinguished by way of the forced march through the context-less assimilation of esoteric techniques and examinations. Naturally, we won’t do that.

Instead, just as we might do with wrestling or some other sport, we aim toward a horizon and work our way toward it. For wrestling, we watch footage of the incredibly skilled olympic greco-roman wrestlers or judoka. Frey doesn’t understand the rules, but just by watching, she can internalize a sense of what expertise really looks like.

With the horizon set, we can begin to deconstruct the physical and cognitive skills that compose expertise in that domain. Will Freyda be Olympic material in 2028/2032? Who knows. But if we’re going to practice anyway, doesn’t it make sense to practice toward the pinnacle of achievement?

Same with Math. The pinnacle of achievement in applied math is in accurately modeling natural phenomena (e.g. Calculating the precise timing of an eclipse from astronomical models), deriving new mathematical relationships from existing axioms and proving them to be true (i.e. proofs), defining new methodology and techniques for manipulating math models (e.g. Calculus).

As an engineer, my primary use for math is in its application to design real things. However, I’m not averse to “pure math”. And certainly not to invention of new mathematical “tooling”.

Now… all this is relatively simple and straight forward. The great difficulty I’m currently working through is large-scale application of the above conceptual schema.

That, however, is my own horizon. Sorting this out for my own kids has been the first step. My work via Augment is a parallel path which will converge into larger-scale implementation.

Big picture mission: Human Capability by Design.

Thus far, I have uncovered a few essential understandings for scale-up:

1. Long-term vision and commitment on the part of both learner and teacher is a requirement for excellence.

2. Better to develop no technique than the wrong technique. I often see wrestling coaches fail to correct loose and sloppy form in beginner wrestlers. It’s a crime. That loose, sloppy technique will become automatic, and those wrestlers will forever be limited by them unless they are re-trained.

3. It is harder to retrain than to train properly from the start. Malformed techniques and habits may be reasonably effective in certain contexts and they will continually be employed and reinforced. To retrain those techniques and habits is to force the body to stop doing something it wants to do. Much harder and requires much greater discipline than to train properly from the start.

4. Internalizing a particular set of techniques is actually almost trivially easy compared to the formation of habits of mind (e.g. “Finish what you start”, “For deep understanding, seek the fine distinctions between concepts”, “Don’t be careless with your words and actions — they will revisit you”, “Ask yourself: What is the method behind your approach? Why do you expect to succeed at what you aim to do?”). Cultivating well-formed habitual self-talk, such that it becomes automatic during daily living takes years of dedicated effort — and they must be cultivated properly from the start. Malformed habits of mind are often called “self-limiting beliefs”. And those self-limiting beliefs are often the primary obstacle between the student and the desired capability. Retraining self-limiting beliefs into properly formed habits of mind requires deep personal commitment on the part of the coach. It is the most strenuous and technically difficult of all retraining tasks — intensely strenuous on all parties. And thus, very unlikely to succeed.

5. The “village”, properly instantiated, is still the only way to raise a child. This is because one human does not possess sufficient expertise to accommodate the child’s entire set of learning needs. However, most villages are poorly instantiated, and expertise is neither cultivated or employed in the average child’s training path. The typical professional adult is not equipped with methodology and techniques to mentor and train the young — and the typical professional teacher is not equipped with domain expertise… or really the methodology for mentoring and training the young. I actually don’t think this is the most common state of man, historically or geographically. I think it was likely far more common for hunter/gatherers to render their skills to their children, because their children were expected to be contributors to the survival of the group from an early age. In the modern era, I expect there are fewer and fewer admirable instances of mentoring communities. However, there are bright flashes in time and place in which systems and processes properly activate the capabilities and attentions of the old to cultivate the young.

6. Technology will augment trained practitioners of capability growth methodology and techniques but humans will always be needed to train humans due to affective feedback loop. Mentorship is naturally hierarchical in that one person instructs another (though it need not be oppressive, and it is also not permanent). Until humans are no longer humans, they will not bend to mentorship by machine. They will only bend to mentorship by respected, trusted humans.

7. Shared adventure is one contextual component of the ideal training ground.

More later, probably…

An Epiphany about raising a child as an Entrepreneur: 2 Premises & 10 Implications

The most accomplished Entrepreneurs & Inventors are disproportionately those who grew up operating primarily “outside the system”. Orphans, Low-performers in school, Social outcasts, Dropouts… This phenomenon reached some prominence via Gladwell in his book Outliers.

Note that this is a particular cross-section of “successful” people: Entrepreneurs and Inventors — people who broke new ground and moved their discipline (and possibly all of humanity) forward.

I always thought this “lost loner” conditioning pattern referenced by Gladwell primarily produced a mental toughness, making an individual less risk-averse and thus more willing to “jump ship” from the standard mold of career-building to a more uncertain, but promising approach. I.e. Fear wouldn’t hold them back from a logically smart but high-risk action.

I realized this morning that, while true, that’s probably not the most prominent factor at play.

Rather, the experience of being chronically “adrift” (meaning, nobody is writing your life’s script for you) actually trains a capability of finding, vetting, and securing “anchors” in a continuously new, uncharted domain. It’s a skill set. I.e. Being chronically “lost” as a child and young adult is a training ground for the skill to get “un-lost”.

And, of course, that’s the fundamental activity of entrepreneurship and invention. Getting un-lost. I.e. Continuous study and consolidation of knowledge and security about new territory — weighing a complex system of risks & rewards and acting appropriately in real-time.

It makes sense that those who spent their formative years on a personal mission to get un-lost (initially to avoid repeating traumatic experiences) would have foundational mental skills and behaviors to build on for larger-scale activities of that type.

2 Premises

1. Getting “un-lost” is a skill set like any other, beyond mere mental toughness — and an abandoned or otherwise outcast child naturally builds it out of necessity.

2. That skill set has the potential (often not realized) for continued growth beyond mere personal security. I.e. Entrepreneurship & Invention.

10 Implications

1. To employ this concept in an educational context (e.g. As a parent seeking the best future for their child) bears inherent risks. I.e. The child can’t learn to get un-lost without actually being lost in the first place — or at least to “feel” lost.

2. Being or feeling lost is traumatic and dangerous to the child — by definition, the child is responsible for their own safety, and they may not succeed. Allowing a child to experience trauma and danger appears to outsiders to be irresponsible and is met with cultural resistance.

3. The child will, however, eventually need to bear the responsibility of getting un-lost — repeatedly. They will inevitably face this trauma and danger. So the parent does not actually face a choice between safety and danger. It’s a question of danger now or danger later.

4. An inexperienced adult will face fewer dangers than an inexperienced child (bigger, less obviously vulnerable, etc.), so a case could be made for these experiences to occur later. However, the compounding effects of a fully-guided childhood leads to formation of other behavior patterns — many of which are destructive. One of the worst offenders is “wasting time” and “boredom”. Nobody is bored when they are lost and scared. Chronic safety tends to lead to a habit of time-wasting and boredom. And I’m not talking about day-dreaming or other “life of the mind” activities, which have inherent value — I’m talking primarily about continuous stimulation of the pleasure center. Many ways to do this now, but the most common for kids and young adults are gaming and social media — both are simulations of the real world which typically lack proper feedback channels to regulate behavior. Often by design. (Obviously, there are ways to use both of these technology groups beyond mere pleasure center stimulation, as I’m doing with the broadcast of this essay).

5. Sports and other non-school recreation are the primary way most modern people develop the mental skill of getting un-lost — if they develop it at all. Sports simulate the effects of being lost and getting un-lost, and they naturally support rich feedback channels. Though even most sports programs are poorly implemented, especially in the formative years of youth sports — coaches are often not competent in developing the elements of physical and cognitive expertise which enable players assemble their own scripts in real-time as is needed. Mediocre techniques and bad habits are tolerated — and then made permanent via continuous practice and reinforcement. And the response is either to accept poor performance and smooth it over with “you did your best” — which is bull shit — or to attempt to marionette the players into winning performance, which is obviously a mockery of the purpose of the sport.

6. We can design educational environments more effectively if we apply a coherent set of principles. Real innovation in human learning and development has largely been abandoned, I think, in favor of other technology domains with higher return on investment of effort. In education, you are rewarded for delivering high test scores (an imaginary metric of present capability and future success), despite a system of universally-recognized, built-in constraints and difficulties. Like the matadors who don’t get gored by the bull, educators with successful classrooms (particularly in regions of poverty) are applauded as incredibly skillful, heroic outliers.

7. Those of us who aim to sidestep much of the difficulties posed by schooling are mostly lost. There is a parochial and largely unimaginative homeschooling undercurrent, a red-headed stepchild charter school network (i.e. Mostly disliked by public school leaders, yet still beholden to many of the same rules as the rest of the “family”), and a promising, yet ultimately disappointing body of private schools, which serve primarily to ensure your child is surrounded by others of his or her social caste. Thus, being lost — we must get un-lost by assembling a body of scientific principles, methods, and techniques. And this will likely be done on an individual level — with scale-up very carefully designed so as to avoid the same pitfalls as the above-mentioned alternatives.

8. It is likely that incumbent systems of education will begin to respond when an alternative has reached sufficient prominence as to threaten the extinction of its forebear. Just as automakers are now rapidly bringing EVs online… as CA considers outlawing the internal combustion engine. Now that technology has finally “ratcheted forward” on automobiles, the incumbents in that domain area are responding — which, of course, was Elon Musk’s aim from Tesla’s beginning. My hope, just as Elon’s was and still is, is that the incumbents will respond to a well-conceived, threatening alternative by copying it and competing with it directly.

9. For-profit education is not impossible, but it must be carefully guided by other motives which genuinely supersede the profit motive. Succession from one system of governance to the next is a key risk factor.

10. It’s unknown how human development strategies will integrate artificial intelligence technologies. It may serve as the enabling force to up-end of the incumbent system of education. More likely, it will redefine education for humanity. Particularly, if we succeed in joining our biological hardware with the artificial via Brain-Machine Interface. This is still sufficiently distant (barring a near-term singularity event) that it may not be too useful to plan for at the moment.