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East Asia Child Science Exchange Program 6: Children's growth based on two kinds of information

Children are born as biological beings and grow up as social beings

Phenomena can be understood from various standpoints. In today's rapidly progressing information society, it is critical for us to consider the important topics of child growth and development as well as childrearing, childcare, and education from the viewpoints of information and systems.

Children are born as biological beings, and are raised and grow up as social beings. In other words, children have both biological and social aspects, and each has a different basis of information.

A biological being defines the human being as an existence that is born with mental and physical programs determined by genetic information inherited through the long history of human evolution. This is obvious when seeing the behavior of fetuses and newborn babies, who are not yet influenced by childrearing, childcare and education.

With current advances in medical technology, it has become possible to capture the behavior of a baby in the womb as an ultrasonic image or even as a three-dimensional image. This also enables us to detect the movement of the limbs and heartbeat in the fetal period, after the embryo period (between the ninth to fortieth weeks of pregnancy). Likewise, the movement of bringing the hand to the mouth, the breathing motion, and facial expressions such as smiling and frowning can be detected in the late fetal period.

After a fertilized egg divides into two, cells undergo repeated cell division. Such division provides cells with various functions, and the cells with a certain function combine and the body of a fetus is organized during the course of the formation of organs such as brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract (GI), bones and muscles. At the same time, the brain starts its vital activities based on the physiological functions of the heart and the lungs. Moreover, not only the basic programs of the body such as the movement of the limbs, but also the basic programs of the mind including the feeling of pleasure-unpleasure as well as the enriched mental program related to the intellect, emotion, and volition are generated.

This organization develops the cellular system according to genetic information. In this case, how should we understand the programs of the mind and body? The program of the mind manifests the state of mind based on information by activating the neuron network system, or neuronal cells related to intellect, rationality, instinct and emotion. The program of the body, on the other hand, is responsible for movement and action by activating the neuron network system both in the brain and throughout the body.

The brain, which processes information, developed in vertebrates through evolution. It can be said that fish and reptiles, as the original vertebrates, have a "vital-motor brain" which is a combination of the diencephalons that control body's vital activities and the basal ganglia at the bottom of the brain that controls body movements.

In the evolution of primitive mammals such as kangaroos and koalas, the function of the program of the body needed to be strengthened in order to increase survival and vitality. Therefore, the cerebral limbic system, which contains the old cortex of the program of the mind related to instinct and emotion, needed to be evolved into "instinct-emotion brain" to supplement the "vital-motor brain."

The program of the mind related to the sex drive is necessary to increase offspring, and the program of the mind related to appetite is necessary to build the body and survive. Among the various emotional aspects, it can be said that the program of the mind related to caring and love is necessary to maintain relationships with group for coexistence, and the mental program related to anger and attack is necessary to struggle against nature and the different creatures that threaten its existence.

When evolving into higher mammals such as dogs and horses, they became able not only to adjust to the environment and maintain group relationship with the same kinds of animals, but also to try to communicate with different kinds of animals. To live a better life, it would appear that the new cortex with the program of the mind related to intellect and rationality evolved and formed the "intellect-rational brain" in order to supplement the "instinct-emotion brain."

During the course of the evolution of these three kinds of brain, the common ancestor of primates appeared 14 million years ago, divided into chimpanzees and humans 7 million years ago and continued on the path of human evolution. The main developments of human evolution are not only considered to be bipedal walking and language development, but also evolution of the mind, starting with the feeling of pleasure-unpleasure as well as intellect, emotion, and volition that we all have now. In other words, the intellect-rational brain evolved to the utmost limit and formed the human brain. Starting with the use of tools, it has the ability to creation of various cultures and civilizations. Paleoanthropic man who lived between a hundred thousand and thirty thousand years ago had feelings that were expressed in services for the dead and laying flowers on the grave. Neolithic man who lived forty thousand years ago created cave paintings and sculptures, as well as engaged in artistic acts of singing, music, and dance. Some relics indicate the use of religious symbols such as the Venus figure, which serves as evidence of the evolution of the mind.

In our brain, however, there still remains a three-layered structure of "vital-motor brain," "instinct-emotion brain," and "intellect-rational brain," on which we live balanced. Therefore, various problems can be generated due to an imbalance in each other.

Some people might be doubtful about the organization of the basic program of the mind of fetuses. In addition to the facial expression of fetuses mentioned earlier, music on TV affects a change in heartbeat of the fetus in the mother's womb. It has been noted that fetus will use its arms, legs and head to apply strength to move a bulge within the uterus out of its way. The first cry of a newborn baby is stopped when the maternity nurse or the mother dandle the baby. Some babies even look around after they stop crying. These facts indicated that fetuses and newborn babies have the basic program of the mind related not only to the feeling of pleasure-unpleasure, but also to the appreciation of music, as well as to thinking, fear, and curiosity.

Of course, the smile of fetuses is not the same as the laugh of cradled infants. During the period they are born and raised, the basic programs of the mind starting with the feeling of pleasure are combined with various kinds of information given through childcare, nursing and education. The complicated program of the mind related to laughter, which we all have, is then formed. Unsurprisingly, the programs of the mind related to intelligence and rationality are combined, too. This is obvious when elementary school children laugh while watching manga and high school students laugh while listening to rakugo.

A social being defines the human being as an existence that is raised and grows through childrearing, childcare, and education through cultural information at home and in society. Children born to this world combine the basic programs of the mind and body, both of which they have from birth. These programs of the mind and body become increasingly complicated in response to information received in the processes of childrearing, childcare, and education, so that children can deal with various situations throughout their lives.

Roles of Childrearing, childcare, and education

Considering what we have discussed above, the role of the information that children receive in the process of childrearing, childcare, and education is important. Such information is obviously cultural information provided by parents and family members as well as specialists of daycare or kindergarten. Since the children's brain is immature, childrearing by parents and childcare by nursery staff focus on biological (physical) information based on human behavior such as physical contact. However, as the children grow up in daycare, kindergarten, and school, lifestyle and socio-cultural information is organized, edited and provided as educational information.

Therefore, the relationship between children's language development and information is important. Information should be considered separately as "logical information" and "emotional information." When considering verbal exchange, this rather clear. For example, the content of the spoken communication is "logical information." Information such as rhythm, pitch, and melody of the voice as well as the feeling gained through behavior including the movement of arms and legs, piggyback rides, hugging and stroking are "emotional information." You can see this clearly by comparing the tone of the voice when dandling a baby gently and when scolding a baby. It can be said that emotional information plays the role of enhancing the function of logical information. The form of communication between children and parents or specialists through childrearing, childcare, and education originated as "mother-child interaction," which takes place between the mother and child right after childbirth. Communication between the mother and child is both signal behavior and response behavior at the same time. The action of the mother talking to and cradling her child full of love is signal behavior. The child's response to the mother's behavior with a smile and an utterance is the response behavior. The mother's various signal behaviors responding to it are also perceived at the same time as response behavior. The relationship between response behavior and signal behavior are like two sides of the same coin. As a result, emotional ties are formed between the mother and the child.

Basically, the interaction between nursing staff and children at daycare and between teachers and children at kindergarten and school remains the same, and the mother-child interaction is extended. As the mind and the language develop, emotional and logical information each plays a prominent role. Therefore, the mutual interaction requires the ability to read others' minds ("sensitivity" or theory of mind) as well as the verbal and behavioral communication. These are mediated by the sensory system and the motor system.

Two types of important information for child development ? Heredity and Culture

As mentioned above, we divided the important information for children's physical and mental development into heredity and culture. This can also be divided into "intracorporeal information" and "extracorporeal information." Children as biological beings grow through the "intracorporeal information" of genes, and form the basic programs of the mind and body which activate the neural network in the body and the brain. After children are born in this world, they use extracorporeal information or cultural information as social beings. They activate and combine the basic programs of mind and body that are built in the brain. Then, they develop complicated physical programs and enriched mental programs that enable them to perform action and movements. Therefore, child growth and development require not only good nutrition but also good information.

However, we should not forget that the extracorporeal information (cultural information) can be altered in a short period of time when it is handed down from person to person or generation to generation, while the intracorporeal information (genetic information) is formed over a long period of time during the course of evolution.

(Epilegomenon:Richard Dawkins presents the theory that cultural information is handed down by "meme" or the information assembly that determines the basics of culture just like the way genes do. However, the theory is omitted in this document for certain reasons. The author of this document translated "meme" as "MODENSHI (mimicking transmitter)". Culture can be considered to be handed down from person to person or generation to generation by combining the mental program of mimic and the other mental programs related to learning, education, memory, and language.

Reference:Richard Dawkins, translated by Toshitaka Hidaka, et al. (1991) "The Selfish Gene", Kinokuniya, Co., Ltd.)

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