The Science News article describing two experiments with preschoolers that show inherent understanding of ownership can be read here. I first saw it on The Blaze, here, which references a blog post (www.falkenblog.blogspot.com, scroll down to Wednesday, June 22, 2011) talking about it. (I know this a complicated reference, but I’m not talking about it in detail, so I’m offering you the background if you’re interested.)
The blog post starts with this apt Bastiat quote, which I have in my file of favorites: “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”
|Baby Political Sphere understands ownership already|
The science article shows that toddlers/preschoolers understand the difference between owning and using. They believe that when the owner wants something back, the person using it is obliged to return it to them. (Not all adults in the comparison grasped this.) The second experiment showed that small children understand concepts like larger entity ownership. The scenario they are given is that the crayons are owned by the school. The children believed that the crayons, then, should be used as long as the child needed them in the situation, but then should be returned.
If only all our problems could be simply understood using crayons!
Because I am Spherical Model, this has me wondering: If property ownership (and by extension, then, free-enterprise) is something we are inherently capable of understanding, and since there is a strong interrelationship among things economic, political (freedom), and social (civilization)—is it also probable that children have an inherent understanding of freedom rights and the understanding of right vs. wrong necessary for civilization?
I don’t know that experiments are being done on these questions. Any social scientists out there, please feel free to find answers. The above experiment summary did say, “a concept of property rights may automatically grow out of 2- to 3-year-olds’ ideas about bodily rights, such as assuming that another person can’t touch or control one’s body for no reason.” So I think that is a basic seed of understanding about freedom rights.
I took Grandbaby Political Sphere (not quite two) to the doctor last week, when a flu wasn’t clearing up after three days (and her mother was down with said flu). It turned out she had developed strep, and because she wasn’t keeping things down, the doctor suggested an antibiotic shot. I can hardly express how she looked at me, feeling betrayed, as I held her down while the nurse administered the shot in her leg. Eventually she forgave me, but clearly she knew that such a thing should not be done to a person without good reason—and she wasn’t aware of the good reason.
What about right and wrong? I think little children do need a fair amount of guidance to become civilized. Growing involves coming to care about others rather than just self. But already Grandbaby understands a lot of direction. She loves her doggies in ways the doggies do not like, for example—sometimes very roughly. So I say, “No, we don’t hit them; that hurts. Be gentle.” And she understands, for that time, to stop hitting and pet gently instead—which the doggies tolerate much better.
She knows it is naughty to climb on the table. But sometimes her drives, both to climb whatever she can and to get to whatever she wants, overcome her memory of Grandma saying, “No, we don’t climb on the table.” So fully civilizing her may take more time. And it’s easier to accomplish when she is both well fed and well rested. Yet most of the time she looks so innocent and adorable, it’s hard to imagine her ever doing anything purposely wrong.
She is very sensitive to atmosphere. We have a large and rather chaotic household right now (temporarily, we’re hoping). But it is very loving and respectful. She has no fears here. She feels free to explore and try things—so much so that she is rather put out whenever there are barriers put up to thwart her. But if she is in another atmosphere, where things seem strange, or where parents haven’t assured her that strangers are acceptable people, she holds back and clings to the safe harbor of one of us beloved tall people.
In other words, much that she needs to know about freedom, ownership, and the harmony of civilization she understands even before there are words. (She does frequently use the word “mine,” I might add; sharing will come in a future lesson.) And it may be that the concepts will grow stronger because she is in a loving, civilizing home, where we don’t disrespect her rights and we continue to demonstrate loving one another.