After teaching in classrooms of children from 7 to 15 years old, an understanding has finally gelled. At very young ages, children see important adults such as teachers in sharp focus, while their friends are somewhat fuzzy. As they grow older, adults become blurry while their friends come into greater focus. Thus, in 2nd grade, the teacher is the center of attention and children only half-way listen to their friends. They talk to their friends but are likely to interrupt or walk away while their friends talk to them. But, if a teacher enters a large crowd of young teenagers, that teacher is nearly invisible to them, while their friends occupy all of their attention. Perfectly nice 13-year-olds will generally not respond or even grant eye contact to teachers who greet them in the hallway. This process continues so that any object that is not an 18-year-old’s friend, or a device with which to contact a friend, fades out completely. That is why college students will walk across the street completely oblivious to traffic, which has become invisible to them (unless the cars are driven by their friends).
Other factors predictably determine how we perceive the world. For example:
- Conservatives divide the world into, “people who are like us,” and “people who want to kill us.”
- Liberals divide the world into, “people who are friends we haven’t met yet,” and “people who want to kill the friends we haven’t met yet (i.e. conservatives).”
- My dog divides the world into, “things that smell good,” and “things that smell great (i.e. cat poop and me).”
- Cats divide the world into, “things I can kill,” and “things that will feed and pet me and that I could kill if they were smaller.”
Of course, there are individuals who transcend these constraints of human and moral development. Those people are called Canadians.
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Sad, but true.
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[…] For some other thoughts on how humans and other animals perceive the world, see: How Children See Adults […]