Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Critical Period

Forbes has a series of short interviews with great thinkers on the nature of communications. Here is a snippet from "Noam Chomsky On Why Kids Learn Languages Easily."
The primary assumption goes back to Eric Lenneberg, who pretty much founded the contemporary field of biology of language. His thesis--which was pretty much everyone's--was that language development was like other forms of growth and development. Almost invariably, growth and development has what's called a critical period. There's a particular period of maturation in which, with external stimulation of the appropriate kind, the capacity will pretty suddenly develop and mature. Before that and later than that, it's either harder or impossible.
Sounds like various forms of growth and development have specific critical periods where maturation can occur. Just off the top of my head, I have a few questions as I think about this concept as it relates to mobilizing students and spiritual formation when young people.

1 - Can we re-enact a critical period where students grow and develop spiritually? Maybe it looks like taking them out of their current context, like on a retreat (we have two retreats this coming weekend - maybe a later post) or a mission experience. Maybe it looks like informal times of hanging out and building trust and relationship.

2 - Are we good at identifying when students are in the critical period? We know that life's difficult circumstances can catalyze times of spiritual growth and we know that day to day life can be rough for students in our care. How good are we at perceiving these critical periods in our students lives?

3 - And of course, acting and executing to help students learn and grow during the critical periods are the essence.

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