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A Holistic and Interdisciplinary Science of Children

A Holistic and Interdisciplinary Science of Children:
-- Biological Beginnings at Birth, Growing into Social Beings --


There are many people who devote themselves to the enhancement of children's physical or social environment. Of course, there are pediatricians, like myself, and then there are school teachers and the parents. Whether it be people who have direct (as stated previously) or indirect (i.e. people who write children's books, make toys, television programs, and video games for children) contact with these children, they all work towards advocating children's healthy development and social intera ctions. After all, children are the pillars of our society, helping to build the future with their own valuable perspectives.

Those with a common interest in children hold very diverse perspectives when it comes to discussing children's issues. Professionals in psychology, education, early childhood education, pediatrics, child health and welfare, nutrition, law, sociology, engineering and architecture, to name a few, all have a large influence in studying children's development. Those who are devoted to researching children's issues within their specific fields have the opportunity to present their research data or ideas at their various professional conferences and in specific academic journals. These become the basis of each new level of discussion and research.

However, it remains quite difficult to go beyond one's academic and professional field to hold discussions or conduct research with those who are also interested in children, but are attacking the issues from a completely different academic interest. In order to overcome this logistic obstacle, there needs to be an arena where people from all professions can come together and discuss children's issues. I like to refer to this as, kodomogaku, literally meaning children (kodomo) and science or scholarship (gaku) in Japanese.

Kodomogaku's foundation for research lies in how to conduct interdisciplinary research and facilitate a better understanding of children. Infants are born and initiate interaction through their biological drives. However, they soon develop to become quite socially interactive, not always functioning only through their biological drives. Thus, it behooves researchers to see children as a biological and social being, with these two sides constantly interacting with one another, forming a comprehensive and unified picture of the child. I call this holistic approach and interdisciplinary study of the child, kodomogaku. I feel, that in order to cross over the academic barriers, information theories and technology may indeed be helpful.

A holistic pedagogy may seem obvious to most researchers. However, even when describing the world of the child from a psychologist's viewpoint, there are various approaches -- Eriksonian, Vygotskian, Behavioral, Piagetian, Freudian, Jungian -- and I could go on and on. This is an example of only one field of research on the child. Just imagine, if we were to try to think about children from more than one field, as mentioned above. It would be virtually impossible to even fit the number of researchers in one room. A concrete argument or discussion would be more unrealistic.

There is much talk of integrating the school, teachers, family, parents and community to make the world a better place for children. How can this be possible with everyone's different schedules and responsibilities? The logistic complications of people being able to gather in one place and conduct lively dialogues should not be the barrier in advocating child research and welfare. Communication between these many valuable mediums for children can foster an environment where it may be feasible to begin to identify the problems of children. Furthermore, it is an essential element in beginning to piece together the puzzle of the many problems that children must confront in today's advanced social milieu. This is where the internet comes into play as the facilitator of groundbreaking discussion.

In 1985, I edited "New-kodomogaku" with the psychologist Dr. Kenshiro Kojima, Dr. Hiroko Hara (a cultural anthropologist) and Dr. Yasuto Miyazawa (sociologist). The reason we put the "new" in front of kodomogaku was because we wanted to renew the public sensitivity toward what already was considered a study of children. The book addressed the complexity of studying children from a biological and social perspective in examining the issues of development and socialization. It seems we hit a sweet spot with this timely concept and as a result, the publisher received public commendation.

Consequently, kodomogaku began to gradually receive more attention. For example, a few years ago, Benesse Corporation began a quarterly publication called KODOMOGAKU. Currently, with the generous support of Fukutake Education Foundation and Benesse Corporation, Child Research Net (CRN: http://www.crn.or.jp/), a cyber-educational research institute accessed through the internet, has become a reality and we were able to launch this project in July of 1996. I am extremely pleased and overjoyed that there is now a research center focused on kodomogaku that is easily accessible through the internet. This is the showcase where all researchers and practitioners from various disciplines can come together to produce and exhibit their research. Best of all, it allows conversations to be held by people living all over Japan as well as all over the world.

The Japanese version has taken off with several promising topics of discussion, such as "Children of the Multimedia Generation" and "The Bullying Dilemma". Internationally, we are now linked with Norway, also studying the "Children of the multimedia generation". I look forward to the development of both the Japanese version and the International version (English version) for fruitful discussions and research to advocate the development of children all over the world.

Kodomogaku, as well as Child Research Net, is still in the molding stages. However, I believe that those involved in the research or well-being of children will agree that this is clearly a valuable and promising concept. For myself, I plan to use those experiences as stated above, to make kodomogaku a success and ask that you will give us constructive advice to help make this happen.
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