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How are Developments in Neurobiology Changing our View of Children? 9 Early Childhood Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Study

Dialogue between Noboru Kobayashi and Toshiyuki Sawaguchi

9 Early Childhood Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Study

Kobayashi: In conclusion, I would like to know what you would like to see CRN do in the future.

Sawaguchi: Educate parents. Parents need to be educated. I hope that you will communicate the insights gained from Kodomogaku to parents all over Japan. After all, parents are where we come from, and so we need to start there with a real revolution in awareness. Parents are scared and teachers are even intimidated so I'd like to see CRN convey this information to them. I hope that you will keep trying to have an effect on the policies of the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture. Unless this Ministry has a clear sense of direction, education will not change.

Kobayashi: There has been talk of setting up an early childhood research institute. This needs to be done so we can go on to tackle the problems of child-raising and education.

Sawaguchi: That's a great idea: to establish an infant research institute and bring together psychologists, educators, Neurobiologists, and other people.

Kobayashi: It would bring together people from a variety of related fields.

Sawaguchi: I believe that is absolutely essential for the 21st century and beyond. We have institutes for the study of gerontology, and we are learning about how the brain ages and how to stop aging. That's fine because that humankind has long aspired to answer these questions, but we also need to do research starting from infancy. Moreover, we now have quite a bit of data and have achieved results, too, so I would like to see research go beyond mere studies and become something practical.

Kobayashi: Some think that it would be a good idea to establish it as a national institute.

Sawaguchi: If it is established and can give feedback to school and kindergartens around the country, I am optimistic that it will be possible to remedy the current problems of children to a considerable extent. I would really like to see this happen.

Kobayashi: The government should really include a neurobiologist on the committees that deal with educational issues.

Sawaguchi: I want to see them include a neurobiologist and an evolutional biologist in the committee that reports on educational reform to the Prime Minister.

Kobayashi: And a pediatrician. (laughter)

Sawaguchi: Of course. Doctors and educators, those who actually work with children, are naturally included on the committees, but I would also want people who are capable of contributing from a more fundamental perspective on homo sapiens and the brain. It would be ideal if neurobiologists and evolutionary biologists were included with those experts who actually work with children and could give theoretical feedback.

Kobayashi: Talking with you today has made me realize the incredible achievements of Neurobiology. We have an enormous amount of research findings, but I have learned a lot listening to you explain how these findings can be specifically related to child-raising and education. I hope that you will continue to support CRN's activities.

Sawaguchi: Thank you.

January 23, 2001
Chez Matsu, Tennozu, Tokyo

Pediatrician and Director, CRN
Born in Tokyo in 1927. Doctor of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, 1954. Books include Human Science, Kodomo wa mirai de aru (Children are Our Future), Kodomogaku, Sodatsu sodateru fureai no kosodate (Reciprocal Development Through Child-raising).

Toshiyuki SAWAGUCHI, Ph.D.
Professor of Neurobiology, Hokkaido University School of Medicine
Born in Tokyo in 1959. Majored in biology, Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University. Doctor of Science, Kyoto University. Specializes in cognitive neuroscience and primatology. Research interests include mechanisms within the brain related to thought and self and evolution of the brain and cognitive function. Publications include Wagamama na no (The Selfish Brain), Watakushi wa no no doko ni iru no ka? (Where is the Self in the Brain?), and Yoji kyoiku to no (Early Childhood Education and the Brain).
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