I had a difficult time deciding what the theme would be for this month, or even if we would have a theme. In six (yes 6!) years, a lot of topics have been covered. Then a book I’ve been reading on heredity gave me an idea: teaching.
The author of the book described an experiment that had been done involving both young children and monkeys. It involved a “puzzle box” that dispensed rewards after executing the right combination of actions. Someone would demonstrate the way to open the first chute in the box to get the prize. Then the participants were left to their own devices to try to both replicate what they had seen and discover how to manipulate the box and get further rewards. The children and the monkeys were both placed in groups of five.
The children, ages 3 and 4, performed much better than the monkeys. Why? They could accumulate knowledge and did so as a group. When some of the children figured out a piece of the problem, they taught the other children how to do it. Those children then added their own insights to complete additional steps.
Anthropologists see this ability, which they call cumulative culture, as a hallmark of human beings. Humans are constantly learning and teaching. Friendliness also matters. The ones that figured out how to get the reward, often spontaneously shared. The monkeys competed with one another rather than cooperating.
Anyway, my point is this — although some of us have the spiritual gift of teaching while others don’t, we are all teachers. Somebody in our life is watching us, learning from our example, listening to our words. We need to be aware of this and be careful of what we are teaching.
So this month, I’ll be posting about teaching–the who, what, when and where of this important topic. Stay tuned for more!