A Scientific Digression

Skip forward to around 6:10 in the video above to the start of Adam Gazzaley’s (MD, PhD) talk on his quest to optimise the human mind using advanced tools of cognitive neuroscience.

Gazzaley’s lab at UCSF is working to enhance brain function using sophisticated technologies capable of observing the brain at work, and of helping individuals to achieve more with their brains than they currently can do.

The lab designs video games that are based upon real-time neurofeedback. The player’s brain reacts instantly to events in the game — and the game reacts to what is happening in the brain. Gazzaley describes this videogame neurofeedback learning process as a “closed loop system” (see image below).

Closed Loop System Adam Gazzaley UCSF
Closed Loop System
Adam Gazzaley UCSF

Much of the experimentation with these neurofeedback videogames has focused on combat-oriented training, being funded by the US Pentagon. But a moment’s reflection suggests that this “closed loop neurofeedback videogame” approach to brain training could be readily applied — with appropriate adaptation — to humans at almost any age, for multiple purposes of enhanced development, enhanced performance, rehabilitation after injury or disease, or for mitigation of the effects of ageing and neurodegeneration.

Gazzaley’s published efforts are so far still quite primitive, but the possibilities for the future are impressive on many fronts.

Modern societies have grown stagnant and corrupted by a widespread philosophy of rent-seeking, of minimising risk for the sake of long-term security. This philosophy is the opposite of what we at the Dangerous Child Institutes train and teach. We train contrarian thinkers to develop a broad range of skills and competencies which build self-confidence. This self-confidence fuels innovative thinking and risk taking — which are what drives societies to be great.

We are on record as opposing passive popular entertainments for children such as mainstream television and cinema. The developing mind has enough to do without being stuffed full of the low-quality nonsense that movie and television producers crank out for popular consumption.

We are also not enthusiastic about most popular video games and the modern obsession with electronic social media, which takes away from time that would be better spent developing competence in movement, music, language, pattern, and practical skills of all kinds. Electronic gadgets also tend to alienate children from their immediate environments, which can be a deadly failing in many situations.

But real-time EEG and MRI neurofeedback — particularly when combined with sophisticated virtual reality — is different, and holds the potential for enhancing brain function for general learning and for perfecting specific types of tasks.

The brains of children are naturally attracted to play and games of all kinds. The danger that the child will become lost in some types of game-playing is quite real, in the modern age of abusive commercial and ideological child baiting. But if game-playing is used to drive learning and competence-building, the natural child’s drive to play can be used to motivate him to build parts of his brain that can bootstrap later learning which might have otherwise been very difficult to achieve.

Again, even videogames that are used in training skills and competencies should be used sparingly, so as not to create barriers between the child and the real world around him. The competence and confidence for working within the real world is what Dangerous Child training is meant to build.

Teachers, parents, mentors, and coaches cannot ignore developments in advanced applied cognitive neuroscience. Every child runs up against barriers to some subject area of learning or another. Clever and timely use of closed-loop videogame training can help move a child from one learning plateau to a higher plateau — enabling a new and higher world of competence on the road to mastery.

More on applied videogames

Why Electronic Gadgets and Dangerous Children Don’t Mix

For many parents there can seem to be a divide between them and their kids’ lives – where their kids want to spend more and more time alternating between phone, tablet, Xbox, Wii, DSi and for some kids the usage of technology either borders on addiction or has tipped over into addiction. __ http://www.digitalparenting.ie/technology-addiction.html

Failure to Connect Source
Failure to Connect

There’s a reason that the most tech-cautious parents are tech designers and engineers. Steve Jobs was a notoriously low-tech parent. Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enroll their kids in no-tech Waldorf Schools. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to no-tech Montessori Schools, as did Amazon creator Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

__ Digital Meth, Digital Heroin

Arthur Robinson — creator of the Robinson Curriculum — has some simple and firm rules concerning electronic gadgets and devices:

There is no television in our home. We do have a VCR that was donated to the civil defense project. As a family we watch a video tape approximately once every six months. Television wastes time, promotes passive, vicarious brain development rather than active thought, and is a source of pernicious social contamination.

__ http://www.robinsoncurriculum.com/view/rc/s31p59.htm

No child is allowed to use a computer until after he or she has completed mathematics all the way through calculus. (At one point Saxon calls for a little use of the hand-held calculator. I permit this, but only on a very few occasions.)

… People who can think do so with their brains. Surely their thoughts often lead to problems that require experimental test, and often computers are essential equipment in those experiments. The thinking, however, is done with the brain. The arithmetic ability involved in that thinking must also be in the brain during the thought process.

__ http://www.robinsoncurriculum.com/view/rc/s31p60.htm

Needless to say, there were no videogames, no smartphones, no social media.

Researchers have linked social-media use with a host of typical teenage woes, including low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. The pressure of responding to texts and instant messages causes sleeplessness in teens. It’s hard to ace an exam when you’ve been up all night staring at a screen, wondering why your friends aren’t writing you back. __ http://www.city-journal.org/html/back-school-still-offline-14715.html

The rapid brain development that takes place in the formative years is too important to be wasted on frivolous pursuits that block opportunities for necessary foundational learning, and turn the child into passive receptacles for the use of societal puppet-masters. (Like their parents have become.)

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex.

__ http://nypost.com/2016/08/27/its-digital-heroin-how-screens-turn-kids-into-psychotic-junkies/

These are good reasons for limiting — or prohibiting — the use of electronic gadgets and exposure to television and the internet for children whose brains are still in rapid development. This type of control is easier for home-schooled children who mainly socialise with other home-schooled children, but within the home it is possible for any parents who take the trouble to know and influence what is actually happening under their own roofs.

For Dangerous Children, the Stakes are Higher

Dangerous Children have very intense — but playful — upbringings. There are not many idle moments when the child is not either actively learning, or actively reflecting upon and applying things that he has learnt. Television, videogames, and social media often begin as ways of “killing time” and filling the idle minutes and hours. But soon they exert more and more control over one’s schedule and actually create more idle hours, afternoons and evenings, and entire weekends to be “killed.”

Many modern parents are okay with the use of electronic gadgets as “baby-sitters” and time-fillers for the developing minds of their young children. They will reap the result, and are unlikely to be happy with it.

Parents of Dangerous Children know better, because they want to make as close to optimal use of their child’s “growing brain time” as possible. That is why they choose to be parents of Dangerous Children in the first place.

Most children are not expected to play three musical instruments well, speak three foreign languages fluently, master a wide range of dangerous and potentially lethal skills and competencies, or master at least three means of achieving financial independence by age 18.

If you are contemplating Dangerous Child training for yourself or your child, it is best to understand the nature of the commitment before you begin. The brain — like the body — is shaped by its environments and its habits. Dangerous Children have to use this shaping to their long-term advantage.

The elitist “Masters of the Universe” in government, media, academia, big corporations, and other powerful cultural and societal institutions, simply want to stay in control. To them, your future and the future of your children have always been secondary to that goal, at best.


Young men playing video games instead of looking for and finding work:

… if a historically vibrant portion of the population doesn’t feel as much desire to work, this could harm the economy’s future and the ability of government to use policy to create jobs. “That’s a big chunk of labor that could be used for something, and we’re not using it,” said Greg Kaplan, an economist at the University of Chicago who was not involved with the new research.

Boys and young men have been subjected to an education and child-raising that prepares them for nothing so much as a life of useless obsolescence. Everyone is complicit in this travesty, including parents, teachers, government bureaucracies, news & popular media, and a generally decadent culture.

Resilience by Eric Greitens

Former US Navy Seal Eric Greitens wrote a series of letters to a former comrade, on the topic of resilience. The letters were later collected to form a book: Resilience – Hard-won Wisdom for Living a Better Life. What does Greitens mean by “resilience?”

Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship and become better. No one escapes pain, fear, and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength — if we have the virtue of resilience.

… To master a skill, to build an enterprise, to pursue any worthy endeavour — simply to live a good life — requires that we confront pain, hardship, and fear. What is the difference between those who are defeated by hardship and those who are sharpened by it? Between those who are broken by pain and those who are made wiser by it?

To move through pain to wisdom, through fear to courage, through suffering to strength, requires resilience.
__ Eric Greitens

Eric Greitens in Iraq http://startingmind.com/2015/navy-seal-resilience/
Eric Greitens in Iraq

Greitens’ book is one of the sourcebooks for the course, “The Psychology of the Dangerous Child,” and is mandatory reading for prospective parents of Dangerous Children, and for Dangerous Children in training. From time to time we will publish short excerpts from the book to illustrate important concepts for use in assisting the blooming of the Dangerous Child’s mental and emotional habits.

A quotation that Greitens uses in his book comes from an Anonymous source, but illustrates the importance of “habit-formation” in child raising:

We sow a thought and reap an act;

We sow an act and reap a habit;

We sow a habit and reap a character;

We sow a character and reap a destiny.

__ Anonymous

The human brain is shaped on a day-by-day basis, from the moment of its fetal formation to the moment of death. The most rapid brain development and plastic change takes place in the first and middle trimesters, in infancy and early childhood, and in adolescence and early adulthood. But the brain never stops shaping itself on the basis of brain activity — sensations, thoughts, emotions, actions. That is why we say “It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood.” Because you can always move toward the state of being a Dangerous Child, with the right thinking and action.

More from Eric Greitens:

Every time you act, your actions create feelings — pleasure or pain, pride or shame — that reinforce habits. With each repetition, what was once novel becomes familiar. If you are cruel every day, you become a cruel person. If you are kind every day, you become a kind person. It is easier to be compassionate the tenth time than the first time… it is also easier to be cruel the tenth time than the first time.

When a habit has become so engrained that actions begin to flow from you without conscious thought or effort, then you have changed your character __ Resilience “Habits” Eric Greitens

The same processes of brain-shaping and habit formation take place every day, with repeated choices that we make on what to do, what to think, how to feel/react, and which doors we choose to open or close to the future.

If we avoid strenuous effort, hard work, all potential pain, we close off many of our most promising avenues into the future. If we go further and blame all of our problems and weaknesses on others, we make it almost impossible to achieve any kind of resilience — much less the graceful and ultimately near-effortless resilience that comes from constant practise and intentional habit formation.

We will continue to provide short excerpts from Eric Greitens’ book to help illustrate many of the foundational concepts that underpin the Dangerous Child Method. As mentioned above, the book is mandatory reading for parents of prospective Dangerous Children, and for Dangerous Children in training. But you can read it too, if you are interested in that sort of thing.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood.

Boot Camps, Mormon Missionaries, and Academic Lobotomy: Rites of Passage II

Intense Late Adolescent Psychological Re-Orientation Takes Many Forms


Why Is Boot Camp So Intense?

You have to train 18-year-olds to run to the sound of gunfire and perform under fire and the threat of death.

This act defies all logic, goes against all human instinct, and takes one of the most intensive acts of psychological reprogramming to overcome.

… There will always be the need for young men and women who are willing and able to run to the sound of imminent danger and many, to their death. Nations need this. You need this. It is a horrible thing, but the sanctity and security of every nation on Earth requires young men and women capable of doing this.

To do this, however, we need a form of psychological training that is able to forge individuals who can do this. That is why boot camp has evolved to become such a potent tool in today’s military machine.
__ Jon Davis, Marine Sergeant

Sergeant Davis does not mince words. In order to create marines out of raw recruits, an intense form of psychological re-orientation (or reprogramming) is required. Why? Because most raw recruits arrive at basic training fresh from an extended childhood. They have been pampered, sheltered, told they were special, provided with their every need — and often their every whim — just like a child. But real adult life is not childhood in a productive society. “Children” need to undergo some form of transformation before they are able to understand the distinction.

Not Every Form of Rite of Passage Need to be So Intense as US Marine Boot Camp

Throughout the church’s history, over one million missionaries have been sent on missions.[2][3] __ Wikipedia

The Salt Lake City, Utah based Latter Day Saints (Mormon) church has its own rite of passage for youth. We have all seen “Mormon Missionaries” walking and biking about. But what is the inside story for this religion based rite of passage? First, its’ dangerous.

Missionaries intentionally go after people in desperate situations. On my mission, we’d go into the worst parts of town to talk to the meth addicts and crackheads. Sure, they need help and attention more than anybody, but most of my colleagues were distinctly upper middle class white Mormons. Short of bursting out into an impromptu rap about how “drugs are for thugs,” there’s no way they could have been more conspicuous.

Training for “missionhood” is regimented, with long hours.

The whole thing is divided up like the underclass in some dystopian sci-fi world — we’re separated into wards, zones, and then six-man districts. You don’t associate with anyone outside your zone while you’re training. Every missionary has to be in sight of their companion at all times. For two solid years, our only alone time was in the bathroom. Do not, under any circumstances, picture the state of that bathroom.

… It’s pretty much like The Hunger Games…

Mormon Missionaries are given this intense programming so that they can get results for the church. They must be committed before they begin — because they pay for their training in hard cash and precious time. And on top of all that commitment ant training fees, the church expects a larger return.

Among other things, you’re not allowed to use a computer if a companion can’t see the screen, and you’re never supposed to be out of their earshot. The logic is that you can’t break the rules if you’re never, ever alone…

… We log everyone who shows interest — or even talks with us — and follow up on a regular basis. That’s because the whole “converting souls” thing is very much a competition. The higher ups in the church are obsessed with numbers. They want people baptized, inactive members brought back to the fold, etc. __ Time as Mormon Missionary

The fatality rates among Mormon Missionaries are lower than among combat marines, during wartime. But Mormon Missionaries are always at war against the dark forces of human nature, so there is never any letup.

Much Beyond Religious Conversions Often Emerges From the Mormon Missionary Experience

Being thrown into strange and dangerous settings and experiences forces the young Mormon to think on his feet, to sink or swim. Many missionaries develop robust resilience in the field, which they bring back with them to their subsequent lives.

The notion of the Mormon mission as a crucible is a common one, and the benefits gained from going through it have been used to help explain the prominence of LDS Church members in business and civic life.[50][51][52][53] Mission experience has also helped prepare RMs for later engaging and prospering in non-Mormon environments.[54] __ Wikipedia

Other Common and Usually Constructive Rites of Passage for Late Adolescents

Any intense extended experience — either solo or group — can serve as a rite of passage from childhood into adulthood. Immersing oneself into particular occupations can serve the “passage” purpose quite well. Examples may include training as EMT / Paramedic, Search and Rescue, Police or Fire Department training, Commercial Deep Sea Diving, Wild Fire Jumpers …

Not all of the 20 Deadliest Jobs in America would qualify as rites of passage, but one can get a sense of which jobs may be more intense — and transforming — than others.

Washington Post
Washington Post


A Dangerous Child Will Have Mastered Multiple Dangerous Skills Before Age 18

Dangerous Child training is different from the run of the mill “rite of passage” discussed above. Dangerous Child training begins before birth and continues throughout the lifetime. Multiple rites of passage succeed each other, as mastery is applied to mastery, and complementary skills are added to complementary skills.

The point of it all is to help build a more abundant and expansive human future, using networked Dangerous Communities as pivot points and backup systems for larger societies that are too often subject to failure from dysgenic and ideologic Idiocracy.

Faux Rites of Passage

In lieu of meaningful rites of passage, modern children and youth are typically trusted to educational institutions and other institutions of culture and society at large, throughout their formative years. When youth are shunted off to college and university without having faced significant passage rites, they typically undergo what is known as “academic lobotomy,” or a brainwashing / reprogramming process carried out by idologues among university faculty and staff.

Instead of preparing youngsters for productive, creative, and fulfilling lives, such indoctrination only introduces and deepens broadly-held delusions and misconceptions about the underlying mechanisms of the natural and the human universes. Such academically lobotomised persons will find it an uphill battle to see through their brainwashing to the solid world beneath.

Other false rites of passage include a young woman having a child out of wedlock and going on welfare, or a young man joining a criminal gang that brainwashes him and limits his future just as surely as any academic lobotomy.

Rites of Passage Open Doors into Multiple Futures

There is a reason why military-trained persons are considered prime recruits for several types of occupation. The skills and mature attitudes that can be learned in military service prepare a young person for several avenues of productivity.

As noted above, the same is considered true for returned Mormon Missionaries. As a result of being forced to innovate and think outside the box, the returned missionary is of more value to prospective employers, and more capable as an entrepreneur.

Any process that teaches a young person to utilise his knowledge, skills, and resourcefulness under unforeseen and unpredictable circumstances — over a significant period of time — can serve as a rite of passage, if empowering lessons are learned.

But if “lessons of disempowerment and futility” are learned, any passage that occurs is likely to be in a backward direction.

Best to begin the process of serial rites of passage at an early age, and build upon it in a solid and progressive manner.

Deconstructing “Grit”

… grit is hardly distinguishable from conscientiousness, one of the classic Big Five traits in psychology. The study, which included a representative sample of U.K. students, measured grit against conscientiousness. Grit, researchers discovered, accounts for only an additional 0.5% of variation in test scores when compared with conscientiousness. IQ, on the other hand, accounts for nearly 40%, according to Plomin.


Schools in the Anglosphere are spending a lot of money in an attempt to increase the level of “grit” in children. But what is it that needs to be bolstered, and what part does a child’s genes play in “grit?”

Grit is Persistence, Motivation, Conscientiousness, Focus, Impulse Control, and more

Some of the components of grit
Some of the components of grit

The author of a best-selling book on grit, Angela Duckworth, is stepping back from some of the hype that has been propagated in her name.

The consequences of hasty applications of grit in an educational context are not yet clear, but Duckworth can imagine them. To be sure, it’s not that she faults these educators — in many ways, she says, these are the best in the field, the ones who are most excited about trying innovative new ways of helping their students succeed. But by placing too much emphasis on grit, the danger is “that grit becomes a scapegoat — another reason to blame kids for not doing well…

… Grit, as Duckworth has defined it in her research, is a combination of perseverance and passion — it’s just that the former tends to get all the attention, while the latter is overlooked. “I think the misunderstanding — or, at least, one of them — is that it’s only the perseverance part that matters,” Duckworth told Science of Us. “But I think that the passion piece is at least as important. I mean, if you are really, really tenacious and dogged about a goal that’s not meaningful to you, and not interesting to you — then that’s just drudgery. It’s not just determination — it’s having a direction that you care about.” __ Questioning Grit

Duckworth is the recipient of a 2013 MacArthur genius grant. She gives TED Talks, has written a bestseller on grit, and has made a good career from promoting “grit” in all its ambivalence.

But it is time to “deconstruct” grit so that we know what we are talking about, and can apply the relevant concepts to helping children develop their potential as individuals and members of various work, social, and civic groups. We know that executive function and personality play as large a role in success as IQ, and that all are strongly influenced by gene expression.

Previous research has shown that a child’s personality can predict a significant, although modest, proportion of the differences between children’s grades at school. For example, a link between conscientiousness and school achievement can explain around 4% of the differences in children’s grades.

… whether or not a person has more or less grit is substantially influenced by their DNA – and explains around a third of the differences between people’s level of grit. We showed that grit is highly similar to other personality traits, showing substantial genetic influence and no influence of shared environmental factors.

… the big Five personality traits – mainly conscientiousness – explained 6% of the differences between exam results of the 16-year-olds in our study. But after controlling for these personality traits, grit on its own did little to influence academic achievement, explaining only an additional 0.5% in people’s GCSE results. __ Conversation

The above comments and research results help somewhat in untangling grit. We know that IQ is up to 80% heritable and executive function (including conscientiousness) is up to 90% heritable. Twin studies suggest that personality is 40% to 50% heritable in the early years, and more so as a person ages.

Grit is usually seen as a combination of self-discipline and persistence / determination. But as Angela Duckworth herself points out, “passion” when seen correctly is a vital part of “grit.” Humans are not robots. They are driven — and drive themselves — by emotion. On top of passion, a sense of purpose is often overlooked when discussing “grit.” For grit to mean anything at all, a person must be “gritty” about something, some purpose.

So if the purpose is unclear, and the passion is weak and opaque, what good is grit?

Additionally, grit can be counter-productive when it fails to adapt to the nuances of particular situations. Persistence, determination, purpose, and passion are important, but they all must be modified somewhat at times by self-discipline, another pre-frontal executive function that is up to 90% heritable. And self-discipline must be informed by wisdom, which is a combination of cognitive aptitude and the ability to learn from one’s own and others’ experience.

The Dangers of Jumping on Popular Bandwagons

Dangerous Children are taught contrarianism, which helps them to avoid the oft-fatal error of bandwagon riding. For example, the mainstream was carried away by Angela Duckworth’s book, Ted Talks, and other contributions to the grit crusade. But since every concept contains multiple errors and pitfalls, carrying any monolithic theme too far without examining all of its components and ramifications, is certain to lead one to overstep himself into a quagmire.

Dangerous Children take grit for what it is, a useful — although ambivalent — trait that parsimoniously incorporates several important aspects of ultimate success.

Grit: Nature vs. Nurture

As mentioned above, IQ is up to 80% heritable, executive function is up to 90% heritable, personality is roughly 50% heritable early in life, and so on. Passion is part of personality, and persistence and conscientiousness are part of executive function. All of them are shaped by intelligence as influenced by experience.

Purpose is the vision, or the guiding light. Purpose utilises all of the above, but contains something extra — something that comes from the turbulent currents and possibilities within the “real world” as the child’s mind sees it. This is where the “community IQ” and “community executive function” influences the child’s intelligence, character, personality, and sense of purpose — via experience, and via genetic and epigenetic mechanisms.

It is impossible to untangle nature from nurture, and neither should be denied its role in the weaving of the character, personality, and life trajectory of the child.

Dangerous Children Do Not Care for Ideology or Crusades

To the extent that “grit” has become a crusade in education and pop psychology, the idea is ignored here at the Institute. But to the extent that the word can be used as a trigger to release a child’s unique orchestra of purpose-supporting strengths, it is invaluable.

The human mind drifts from state to state, from intention to chaos to intention again. The self-management of most intelligent minds can be very difficult unless the flexibly tough integrity is built in from the earliest age. Genes and gene expression will vary between individuals, but all minds can be reinforced and empowered to some degree of increased self-discipline, purpose, strong character, success-promoting personality, and enhanced aptitude across a wide range of competencies.

Modern education and psychology have missed the boat, largely out of a sense of political correctness and groupthink. But there is no reason why you or your children should ride the same bandwagon over the abyss.

Early Childhood Learning Methods: Getting to the Dangerous Child

What is the Best Approach to Early Childhood Learning?

Three well-known European approaches to early learning include Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia.

All three approaches view children as active authors of their own development, strongly influenced by natural, dynamic, self-righting forces within themselves, opening the way toward growth and learning.

… Underlying the three approaches are variant views of the nature of young children’s needs, interests, and modes of learning that lead to contrasts in the ways that teachers interact with children in the classroom, frame and structure learning experiences for children, and follow the children through observation/documentation.. __ Three European Approaches to Early Learning

The three approaches generally developed long before modern educational theory, pictured in the graphic below. As such, they are useful for their relatively pristine approaches, unpolluted by modern social science jargon.

Early Learning Theory https://thelifelonglearner.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/can-we-teach-creativity/
Early Learning Theory

Contemporary designers of approaches to early childhood education generally draw from some academic theory — such as those illustrated in the graphic above. This “sanctification” of early childhood curricula is unfortunate — not necessarily for what it includes, but for what it leaves out.

Consider Friedrich Frobel and the original “Kindergarten” concept:

Friedrich Fröbel’s great insight was to recognise the importance of the activity of the child in learning. He introduced the concept of “free work” (Freiarbeit) into pedagogy and established the “game” as the typical form that life took in childhood, and also the game’s educational worth. Activities in the first kindergarten included singing, dancing, gardening and self-directed play with the Froebel Gifts. Fröbel intended, with his Mutter- und Koselieder – a songbook that he published – to introduce the young child into the adult world. __ Wikipedia Friedrich Frobel

Frobel’s goal was to assist the early unfolding and development of the parts of the child’s mind that are necessary for further independent development. Contrast that pre-Prussian approach, with today’s fashion of indoctrination that pervades modern educational institutions from K – 12 thru university.

Or consider Edward de Bono and his approaches to creative thinking. Because “lateral thinking” and other creative thinking approaches encourage independent, divergent thinking, they are avoided by the dominant educational cultists of today, for fear that too much independence and creativity might lead to a loss of control by those in charge.

Learning Approaches http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/
Learning Approaches

Those and other approaches to learning theory can be found at this website. But you will not find the ideas of John David Garcia or Arthur Robinson in conventional listings.

Modern education is all about conformity to groupthink and preparing children to sing in echo choirs, in unison. Modern parolees from official systems of incarcerated education are too often already under a lifetime’s burden of school loan debt, but at the same time suffering from an academic lobotomy and permanent lifelong adolescent incompetence, that makes ultimate freedom almost impossible.

Established orders and power hierarchies have little to fear from these zombie-drones, living in parental basements, their expectations squashed by the very system that was meant to empower them.

When children are very young, the possibilities seem endless. But the moment the parent hands control of the child’s mind to institutions whose only loyalty is to their own existence and enlargement, the child’s potential begins to shut down and collapse.

Dangerous Children master the abilities to live independently — financially, cognitively, emotionally, socially, educationally, and in many other ways — by the age of 18. That is how it should be, but not how it usually is, for most youth.

How Do You Get from Conventional Lifelong Incompetence to the Dangerous Child Who is in Control of His Future?

By beginning at the beginning, and not diverging from the exciting and unpredictable course in front of you.

The Dangerous Child Method takes the useful parts of the hard-earned experiential insights of Montessori, Steiner, Vygotsky, Doman, Piaget, etc., and combines them with the fundamentals of Garcia’s early curriculum, and Robinson’s hard-nosed approach to self-teaching and “mental junk food avoidance.”

A Dangerous Child follows a path that he sets for himself, but he builds his own path upon a foundation laid by many others, using tools chosen from what is provided by caregivers, coaches, mentors, and guides.

Conventional thinking in this area will only destroy a child’s potential, and make him into another statistic.

You may ask, “What can one child do?” And of course, it all depends upon the child. What could one Einstein do, or one Edison? What could one Leonardo, one Newton, or one Archimedes do? Mozart, Galileo, Darwin, Leibniz? More

More important than those individuals mentioned above, are the thousands who took their ideas and turned them into sciences, technologies, and advanced societies and civilisations.

You may think that all of that is in the past. In that, you would be mistaken. It is in the future. Choices you make now can help determine how that future unfolds.

Much more on this topic later.


Glenn Doman

Bottlenecks to Learning: Spoken Language

Serial vs. Parallel http://www.explainthatstuff.com/how-supercomputers-work.html
Serial vs. Parallel
This is the first mistake people make with small kids. They try to teach them by TALKING to them as if small children can simply reason along with their TALKING and automatically see the adult’s intent and adopt the adult’s logic. But even young adult brains do not learn so well by the TALKING method — much less small children!

Verbal language is processed in a relatively “serial,” straight-line manner. Visual information is processed in a highly parallel manner. Large amounts of information can be transferred in a short amount of time via parallel pathways. The image to the right illustrates the “serial bottleneck” that verbal language suffers from. Never forget that each word is slippery beyond belief, and each thought accompanying a word is both highly viscous and subject to total fragmentation.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

In the learning pyramid below, we can see that humans retain far less from a lecture than they do from a demonstration. This is infinitely more true for toddlers and pre-schoolers than it is for university students — and it is true enough for them.

How People Learn
How People Learn

More on the “learning pyramid.”

For particular areas of special interest, many young children may be ready for self-directed learning practise by the age of 2 or 3, but most of the time — for most areas of learning — they will need careful guidance, with an emphasis on exploratory play, expanding movement skills, simple music appreciation and training, basic underpinnings of art, and creative story-telling.

Such young children are not ready for lectures, or even group discussions of any depth beyond a rudimentary analysis of characters in stories.

They need to be shown, encouraged, guided, and playfully cajoled, but always with a consistent end in mind. No lectures, no debates, no group discussions except in playful, creative mode.

Cognitive Pyramid of Learning
Cognitive Pyramid of Learning

The cognitive pyramid of learning by Williams and Schellenberger, demonstrates how academic learning depends upon a deep and broad set of nervous system functions. Most meaningful learning takes place automatically, well beneath the level of consciousness.

Many years of profound preparation are needed before children and youth will be able to easily and automatically adapt to the style of learning common to modern secondary schools and universities. Unfortunately, 90% of young students never receive the preparation they need, to achieve broad success and competency in the larger world beyond their parents’ homes.

Hierarchy of Skills https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skill
Hierarchy of Skills

The hierarchy of useful skills by Kokcharov is a useful concept. But it is meant to be applied much earlier in child development than is done in many societies. A large number of “children” reach university without having acquired more than a sprinkling of basic knowledge — the bottom-most layer of the skills hierarchy! One hates to tell the young darlings and their parents that they are starting too late to achieve anything close to their best.

Keep in mind that where the term “knowledge” is used in the above pyramid, non-verbal knowledge will be key during the early years, and will serve as a foundation for later learning. An early mastery of many non-verbal skills will put the child at an early advantage in Dangerous Child training — particularly in areas of movement, art, basic mechanisms and forces, music, and the non-verbal aspects of language.

Very young children should be exposed to a wide range of situations where they must develop problem-solving skills. In fact, besides executive functions (including basic social skills), the love of difficult problem solving is at the top of vital childhood lessons to be learned.

Again, these vital early lessons are largely learned on a non-verbal level, by observing and by doing — and by creatively varying the basic approach.

Prism of Competence Clinical Medical Competence Used as an Example
Prism of Competence
Clinical Medical Competence Used as an Example

The image above illustrates development of competence in the field of clinical medicine, for medical students and doctors in training. Going from novice level to the level of mastery requires many years of training. By this time in a person’s education, he is expected to have mastered verbal knowledge acquisition, which involves a great deal of reading, testing — written and verbal — and little by little, practical hands-on skills training. The old saying in medical training is: “See one, do one, teach one.” And in basic terms, that is how medical and surgical skills propagate in training.

But a medical student, resident, or fellow will not reach his optimal levels of competence if he has not built a solid foundation of basic skills, competencies, executive functions, and a love for problem-solving, in his early years. These basic skills and competencies need to be mastered to the point of “conscious automaticity.” More on that seeming contradiction later.

OODA Loop John Boyd
OODA Loop Col. John Boyd

The OODA Loop pictured above was developed by USAF Col. John Boyd, several decades ago. It was used to help fighter pilots to gain the advantage in dogfights against enemy fighters. But over time, it has been seen to be useful in a much wider range of situations.

Here are the four steps:

  1. O…bserve
  2. O…rient
  3. D…ecide
  4. A…ct

It is called an “OODA Loop” because it should be running constantly, feeding back into itself at different points, as the situation changes.

But . . . humans should not have to wait until they train to be fighter pilots to learn this basic concept of moment to moment interaction with their environment. We have talked about “situational awareness” and “mindfulness,” but the OODA Loop gives tangible and actionable bones and structure to those verbal concepts, once it is mastered and applied to daily living.

How old do children need to be before they can learn the OODA Loop? If taught properly (nonverbally through play), children as young as 3 can learn to apply the OODA Loop automatically and unconsciously — long before they would be able to learn the concepts verbally. And to be sure, one never knows when his own life may balance on the ability of his child to act automatically with wisdom beyond his years.

More on OODA and John Boyd:

Human reaction time is defined as the time elapsing between the onset of a stimulus and the onset of a response to that stimulus. The O.O.D.A. Loop, which stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, is Boyd’s way of explaining how we go through the process of reacting to stimulus. First we Observe, and keep in mind that although we process approximately 80% of the information we receive with our sense of sight, we can and do make observations with our other senses. For instance you might hear a gunshot and not see the person who fired it. Once you look and see the source of the gunfire you are now in the Orient stage of the process. In the Orient stage you are now focusing your attention on what you have just observed. The next step is the Decide step in which you have to make a decision on what to do about what you have just observed and focused your attention on. Finally you have made your decision and the last step is to Act upon that decision. Keep in mind that the O.O.D.A loop is what happens between the onset of a stimulus and the onset of a reaction to that stimulus.


The ideas are there, but the way it is presented above is not truly practical, in action. Going through the OODA Loop step by step in a conscious, “check-list” manner is a good way of getting yourself and others you care about, killed.

Ideally, Observe and Orient should be combined and Decide and Act fused together by practice, so the opponent’s action triggers your automatic reaction, without your needing to decide. Even below such a level of automatization, not having to think about your movements improves your reaction time because reaction time is shorter when set on “signal” than when set on “action.” (For example, if you are in a car stopped at a red light and you are thinking “green,” you will move faster than if you are thinking “green: press the gas pedal.”)


Intro to John Boyd’s Strategic Thinking

John Boyd Compendium

Strategy books by and about John Boyd

Strategic Theory of John Boyd 349 PDF free download by Frans Osinga

Thesis on Air Power Strategies of John Boyd and John Warden

Children will go much farther in life if they are provided with useful and productive strategies along with a broad range of skills, competencies, and real world experiential knowledge of how people, groups, and institutions behave.

The foundations for all of this are built of non-verbal material. Sure, one should always talk to the child on a child-appropriate level (each child is unique). But in the early years, non-verbal forms of communication are much more potent than any semantic meaning of the words themselves. Even the “non-verbal” aspects of language itself exercise far more influence on the young child than the word or phrase meanings: Tone and speed of speech, prosody, speech melody and inflection, as well as facial expressions and body language that accompany the speech.

Dangerous Children master at least 3 different ways of supporting themselves financially by the age of 18. But as we have said, that is the easy part — and only the beginning.

Newborns and Infants: Early Training

Before the child is old enough to walk or talk, or to begin training in controlled movement, music, art, and language — from birth to about 1 year — is the time to begin shaping critical brain – body connections and correspondences.

The child is born with most of the brain cells he will have as an adult, and with far more synaptic connections. These numbers are determined by the child’s gene expression and his environment within the womb.

Early in life, before and during “the synaptic pruning” (PDF) up to early adolescence, is a prime time to take advantage of early childhood brain plasticity. Early infancy is a particularly dynamic time, when both pruning and rapid synaptic formation are occurring simultaneously. By the ages of 3-5, pruning begins to outpace new synaptic formation — as the young brain continues to specialise (and limit) itself. The early environment of infants (and toddlers) makes a huge difference in the ultimate competence of the child’s brain.

Infants learn the particular quality of sounds in human languages that are spoken within his hearing. Familiarity with these early language sounds facilitates later language learning of the particular language(s) that the young infant hears. For example, if a child is destined to grow up and make his way in China, it is better if he hears proper “Chinese” spoken during his early months of life.

The same applies to music, which is but another form of auditory “language.” Music heard during the first few months of life will not be remembered as an adult, but its effects on the young brain will be profound — in terms of brain rhythms and subtle brain logics. It will influence the child’s later learning of language, maths, and, of course, music itself.

Movement training for newborns and young infants is a far more subtle thing than it will be at the toddler stage. It is best with the very young to combine movement training with simple holding, massage, and soft gentle rhythmic speech to accompany the subtle movements.

Again, the older child or adult will never remember these early trainings. But the deep, pre-verbal brain that forms the core of later learning will not forget.

Art training for the very young is just as much tactile as visual. Objects of various shapes should hang above his crib, and adorn the walls. Gently and slowly allowing the baby to feel surface textures of various items, as well as their shapes, edges, and temperatures, helps to form early concepts of art. As soon as the baby’s vision becomes clearer, allow the baby experiences that reinforce the correspondence between what he sees and what he feels.

Reading or telling stories to the child is excellent training in the prosody — the timing, accents, emphasis, and melody — of language. The child will not remember the stories as such, but more and more of the words and style of spoken language will stay with the child, over the months.

Infants should be raised within an enriched sensory environment, where they can trust that their needs will be met promptly, and their safety and comfort considered. Allowances for ample sleep and proper diet must be made.

As the child grows in infancy, movement training can become more vigorous — and even somewhat rowdy, depending upon the infant’s sensibilities. Bungee devices that allow the infant to initiate movements he would not otherwise be able to make, expand his imagination of movement. Zip line devices will teach basic gravitational concepts — even to children who may not tolerate being tossed gently into the air and caught.

As the child’s senses are refined, provide him with toys and safe objects of various distinct shapes. Children love spherical balls and cubic blocks, but they also need exposure to pyramids, other polyhedra, various classical curves, and objects that demonstrate symmetry and perspective. Rudimentary artistic puzzles are very useful.

By the time the child is ready to begin walking, he should have been exposed to applied art, such as simple machines and simple construction.

Whether the child creeps, crawls, rolls, or ambulates in other interesting ways, such early body movements should quickly be made goal directed — in the same way that reaching for a mobile that hangs above the infant’s crib is goal directed. Problem-solving should be made an early part of the infant’s life, and posed as a slowly graduated phenomenon. Expect setbacks, and be prepared to begin again at an earlier level from time to time.

Early infancy training should not detract from sleep, meals, play, outdoor time, or other normal occupations of infancy. In fact, the training should be seamlessly rolled into play, meals, going to sleep, waking up, exploring the outdoors, etc.

What the infant experiences during early infancy will help determine how well his mechanisms of gene expression can lay the foundations for later learning and development.

Very few children in the history of the world have been raised optimally, according to their unique needs, and the nature of their world. While it is true that young children possess significant resiliency, it is also true that you will never see the child’s missed opportunities to develop unique personal skills that might have served him well in later life.

Infants should be sung to (and with), have music played to them with various instruments, be held and moved safely in a comforting way — but in ways that gradually help expand his sense of movement. Stories should be told with expression and emotion, and ended in a way that leaves the infant settled and comforted.

Match the child’s facial expressions and body movements, as he grows older and begins to incorporate motor “mirroring.” As he learns to mirror your expressions and motions, his brain is learning how to physically respond to the outside environment.

These are a few of the ways that early infancy training can be shaped to morph cleanly into the Dangerous Child training for toddlers and pre-school children.

Dangerous Child training begins, of course, well before conception. And it continues throughout the prenatal period.

But it is often difficult for parents to visualise how one could possibly apply the Dangerous Skills taught to pre-adolescent and adolescent youth, to newborns and very young infants. Providing these few examples provides grist for the imagination.

Thanks to advanced psychology and neuroscience, it is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood. But the earlier the training is begun, the more profound its effects over a lifetime.

More from “Doman-Mom:”

1. Teach joyfully
You must approach the game of learning with the same abandonment and enthusiasm you would approach the game of patty cake or peek a boo. All children are drawn to joyousness. Your attitude towards a subject determines his. Never approach your teaching with soberness and seriousness. Learning is the greatest game you will play with your child: keep it as such. Present learning as a privilege he has earned: never, never as a chore.
2. Teach clearly
When we talk to tiny children, we naturally talk to them in a loud, clear voice. Teach your tiny child in such a voice and make your materials large and clear. Present the information in an honest, factual, and straightforward way. If you give a tiny child the facts, he will discover the rules that govern them.
3. Teach quickly
You must teach your tiny child quickly and briefly. He has much to do and can’t stay in one place long. You must be content to teach him for only a few seconds at a time. That is all it takes. Present him with a set of information, and then come back to it later. When you teach in many ten- and fifteen-second sessions, you can accomplish more than you ever imagined possible.
4. Always leave him hungry for more
You must always, always, always stop before your child wants you to stop. Always stop before he wants to stop. Be sensitive to your child’s attention and mood, and leave him hungry for more, every time, without fail.
5. Teach only at the best times
The key to teaching your tiny child is to only do so at the best possible times. Never try and teach him in a distracting, chaotic environment. Never try and teach him at a time when he is hungry, tired, or out of sorts. Never try and teach him when you are out of sorts. You must be ever-discerning of your child’s temperament and mood and be willing to put your teaching away for the morning or day if needed.
6. Teach with consistency
If you are to be successful in teaching you must teach with consistently. If you child is to remain interested you must keep the ball rolling. Starting and stopping constantly will cause him to lose interest because he will believe the information you are bringing out again is old hat. Organize yourself to teach in such a way as to be able to remain consistent in your endeavors.
7. Teach new information
You will be surprised at how quickly your tiny child learns new information. Don’t go over the same information over and over again when he already knows it. You must be keen to sense when he knows something, and regularly give him that which is fresh and new.
8. Teach as a gift
We have come to equate teaching and testing as two sides of the same coin. You must forget this notion if you are to be successful in teaching your tiny child. Teaching is the process of giving information, as you would give a gift. Testing is asking for it back. Never test your child. It is essentially disrespectful and he will sense that you don’t trust that he knows the information. If he learns that your teaching always has strings attached, he will push you and your teaching away. Learning is a gift, the most precious one you can give your child.

__ http://domanmom.com/2010/11/the-principles-of-teaching-tiny-children/

Good advice — except for the part about never testing the child.  Life itself is a test, and if you never put your child into situations that challenge and test him, you are treading the edges of parental malpractise.  Domanmom has a good heart, but like most well-meaning and kindly moms she fails to see what is coming, and why growing children to be Dangerous is so important.

Some Limits to Learning

Children are not taught, they learn. How well and how much they will learn depends upon the skills that they master, long before they are aware that they are learning. Whether or not they have the chance to master those skills depends upon their caretakers.

Even the best of us is limited in what we can learn and what we can conceive. Such limitations applied to Albert Einstein and they apply to you, and your dangerous child. But all of us can learn ways to push against our limits, if we wish. Most people never come close.

The video above, “Cognitive Limits,” is a useful introduction to the cognitive science of human learning and memory.

Concepts of “Attention and Memory” are key to understanding how a relatively inexperienced and ignorant human infant can develop into a skilled walking and talking toddler who is into everything he can reach, learning and remembering as he goes.

Everyone is limited in what he can hold in his short-term working memory — some more limited than others. Likewise, each person is limited as to how many active thinking processes he can maintain simultaneously — how many dynamic activities he can keep track of.

Brief intro. to Cognitive Load Theory:

In essence, cognitive load theory proposes that since working memory is limited, learners may be bombarded by information and, if the complexity of their instructional materials is not properly managed, this will result in a cognitive overload. This cognitive overload impairs schema acquisition, later resulting in a lower performance (Sweller, 1988). Cognitive load theory had a theoretical precedence in the educational and psychological literature, well before Sweller’s 1988 article (e.g. Beatty, 1977; Marsh, 1978). Even Baddeley and Hitch (1974) considered “concurrent memory load” but Sweller’s cognitive load theory was among the first to consider working memory, as it related to learning and the design of instruction…

…Schema acquisition is the ultimate goal of cognitive load theory. Anderson’s ACT framework proposes initial schema acquisition occurs by the development of schema-based production rules, but these production rules may be developed by one of two methods (Anderson, Fincham, & Douglass, 1997), either by developing these rules during practice or by studying examples. The second method (studying examples) is the most cognitively efficient method of instruction (Sweller & Chandler, 1985; Cooper and Sweller, 1987; Paas and van Merriënboer, 1993). This realization became one of the central tenets of cognitive load theory.

Once learners have acquired a schema, those patterns of behavior (schemas) may be practiced to promote skill automation (Anderson, 1982; Kalyuga, Ayres, Chandler, and Sweller, 2003; Shiffrin & Schneider, 1977; Sweller, 1993) but expertise occurs much later in the process, and is when a learner automates complex cognitive skills (Shiffrin & Schneider, 1977), usually via problem solving. _Cognitive Load Theory

Reference examples for the deeply interested who have a research bent:

Cognitive Bottleneck in Multitasking (PDF)

Dynamic Competition and the Cognitive Bottleneck (PDF)

Advanced educators not only try to introduce useful “schemas” to the learner — they also try to choose conceptual schemas that will be useful in multiple contexts:

But many educational theorists take this concept too far in an attempt to force students to think in the same way and along the same lines as the educational theorist. That is a large part of what is wrong with early education — an attempt to regiment not only what is known, but how a student comes to know it.

Remember: The teacher does not teach. Instead, the learner learns. If the learner’s mind is not primed and ready to learn the concept for the day, it will not matter how well the teacher has prepared his lesson.

The learning mind must be “empowered” from the earliest age, and continuously reinforced — until it is the child himself who is doing the reinforcing. This self-reinforcement occurs at different ages for different children — even under the most ideal conditions. Young Mozart, for example, probably required much less external reinforcement after a certain age to achieve a given level of mastery than did young Salieri.

So far, we have danced around one of the central issues: how to help the child to learn difficult concepts which do not come naturally to most children. Here, again, each child is unique. Strong early foundations of language, music, dance, and art will help in developing the underlying cognitive structures. Choosing the proper time — for that child — to introduce more difficult concepts is important.

We must all learn to walk before we learn to run a marathon up a mountain. Mastery occurs in a step-wise fashion. The goal is a self-taught, self-disciplined child of broad competency and knowledge. With competence comes confidence. With confidence comes a healthy and rational self-esteem. The learning of new skills and the solving of new problems never stops.

Adapted from an earlier posting on Al Fin, and Al Fin The Next Level