By Hwaa Irfan
When it comes to faith, we are taught in Islam, that everyone is born on a fitra, which in simple terms is the ability to distinguish right from wrong. So, when a study comes out proving the Laws of Nature, many questions come to mind, especially if one is involved in raising or educating the young.
In a recent study carried out by the University of Washington, associate professor, Jessica Sommerville commented to the Daily Mail:
“Our findings show that these norms of fairness and altruism are more rapidly acquired than we thought”
In fact, one can go further than that and question whether it is acquired or innate!
The study involved showing two short videos to 15 month old babies. The first video focused on two people who were given a bowl of crackers. The allocation was unequal. In the second video, a jug of milk was distributed between the two people, in the same manner as the crackers. The babies spent a lot of time looking at who had what.
“The infants expected an equal and fair distribution of food and they were surprised to see one person given more crackers or milk than the other,” Sommerville observed.
The babies participating were then tested on their ability to share. It was found that the babies who were more willing to share, were the same babies who noted the unfairness when food was distributed unfairly.
It is a sad factor of life, that when one enters a preschool, a learning through play establishment that is supposed to support the natural learning tendencies of children, that what in fact many children learn is unfairness. A particular child is punished more, or good behavior is rewarded by a promise of something good – the early seeds of bribery and corruption are taught. A child who decides to behaves badly and gets away with it, while another child is told it doesn’t concern him in order to prevent him from doing the same – an unwholesome affair that teaches a child very young to go against their better judgment if they want to succeed in the world. In a growing number of cases a child has lost his/her sense of childhood by the time they enter preschool doors. For that damage to be “repaired” it has to be identified as a problem, yet in many cases it is not considered a problem, let alone identified. Idiosyncratic behavior that moves towards selfishness in any form is considered normal.
I observed one 4 year old boy recently during break, crumble tea biscuits he had for lunch in a manner so that it was within the eating space of another child. This boy had succeeded in getting into an argument with the other boy and fisticuffs. This boy who has become increasingly disruptive reported the incident as if he was the victim, to which I was able to add the facts, and the boy was left unable to pass the blame this time. After investigating what happened to his lunch it transpired that the biscuits were the only thing he was given for lunch. Surrounded by children whose lunch boxes were more filling, to some extent nourishing, and generally more inviting, no wonder this boy was upset. To him, and rightly so the whole situation was unfair.
Because we assume that children are empty heads waiting to be filled with “our knowledge” we negate let alone not consider the possibility that children have an intelligence of their own. We negate the innocent position from which their minds emanate when it comes to right or wrong. Instead what they learn from us, along with all the information we want to fill their heads with is how to be unfair, and how to seek self interest, because that is the way to get ahead in this crazy world. We have all become a part of that mindset, to the extent that when our leaders make a mess of things to the point that we pay the price, then we turn around and say that’s not fair. It seems to have evaded us that in fact we have played our part in establishing unfairness as the status quo by accepting it all and turning a blind eye!
“Babies Know Difference Between Right and Wrong When They are Just 15 Months Old.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2046604/Babies-know-difference-right-wrong-just-15-months-old.html