Broader Horizons: Brain Development in Kids

Early virtual world: Ultima Online
Early virtual world: Ultima Online (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It occurred to me, as I watched my day care friend (age 10) navigating through Minecraft this morning, that our kids are guinea pigs. For those of you who aren’t aware of Minecraft, it is an interactive, online world of adventure which is very popular with kids. My granddaughter (age 7) also plays this game.

As I watched, the 3-D images twisted and turned in a fascinating array of viewpoints in a virtual world. The 10-year-old was able to follow the images with amazing speed. I felt slightly dizzy. This made me wonder how this generation may bring new tools to viewing the real world from this early 3-D training. I am neither qualified, nor interested, in making a pro or con judgement.

I’m willing to bet, though, that the visual art world will definitely have some amazingly fresh, new expressions in the near future that will come from this early exposure.

My generation was the first group of kids who spent Saturday mornings watching TV. We experienced a new kind of visual stimulation and I believe it gave us a new way of processing our world. For better or worse, we learned a new perspective.

I frequently hear grandparents, and great-grandparents, exclaiming, “Kids are so much smarter today.” I don’t, for a second, accept that statement as true. What kids DO have is an earlier exposure to more information in unique formats. This does ultimately offer real “mind altering” potential.

Anyone who studies brain functions has this current generation of guinea pigs to study. There will be discoveries, both positive, and some negative, specifically pertaining to modern ways that children’s brains are wired from technological exposures during brain development.

Gosh, I find this a very interesting scientific field of study. I believe our newest generation will definitely, “Go where no man has gone before.”

Mindless in America

A telemarketer called a few days ago. He was promoting a new organization and hoping to sell wholesome family films.

The idea was admirable. No one can argue, against the fact, that there are too many images of violence and “adult” subject matter available to children on prime time television. Soon enough, it became clear that he was reading a script.

It was a time, in my work day, when I was getting my day care charges ready to go home so I was distracted and rushed. My manners have always kept me from just hanging up, so I listened. I also always figure that the person,calling, is earning a living and deserves, at least, a few moments.

As I listened, he repeatedly said,” Studies show…” . Then, he started saying that Spongebob was an example of mindless broadcasting to be avoided because “Studies show, this is also a poor choice.”

He had my interest, at first. But frustrated from not being able to get a word in and the time constraints…after all, I was “on the job”… made me lose my patience. This is what I told him:

“I believe you are promoting a worthy cause and this call is your job, but when you have said repeatedly, “studies show” and have expected that you could convince me without telling me where the studies were conducted, who did them, and how many people were studied, suggest that you are the mindless one here or you believe that I am. I grew up watching the Three Stooges and never once was tempted to hit someone with a hammer. There is definitely too much violence on TV, sir. The greater problem, in my opinion, is the cultural break down of the American family. If you have any interest in the success of your organization, I suggest you change your speech and get real. I have no extra money to invest and I thank you for trying, good-bye.”

Now, I wonder, how many people are willing to believe the rhetoric “studies show” without pause?  I don’t really want to know because it scares me too much to consider further.

The original Three Stooges in Soup to Nuts
The original Three Stooges in Soup to Nuts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cowboys, Guns and Pride

It wasn’t that long ago that I pretended to be Annie Oakley. Okay, 40 years is long in a lifetime but it feels like yesterday. I’d ride my pony, Socksey, at a gallop while balancing my pop gun. I played alone but never felt lonely.

As part of the first generation of kids with all day TV , the Wild West filled our airways and Cowboys were our heroes. From the modern perspective, these shows were violent and raw. How’s that modern perspective working for y’all?

  • teen suicide
  • school bullying with apathy from bystanders
  • random gun violence
  • deadbeat dads
  • laziness
  • sleep disorders
  • eating disorders

To name a few more modern pervasive ailments.

I started looking for videos to attach to this post. My eyes are still filled with tears and my heart with the pride from revisiting my ‘ol pals. Then I found the perfect video. A new movement to instill the virtues that I aspired to from my cowboy heroes. Food for thought people. I’m going to get some old westerns and watch them with my granddaughter.

BTW- I added guns to my title just to make this post “scary” and controversial enough to get you to consider it. 🙂

Random Word Story #23-Bromance

English: Rainbow trout
English: Rainbow trout (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another in my series of short stories.

I’ve yet to write it but sit armed and ready.

The random words are generated at

My words are:


Here’s my story:

The fish cleared the water’s surface and sparkled in the sunlight then disappeared, head first, back to the black depths. The fishing pole reacted just  like a divining rod, as it tipped and touched the surface pointing out exactly where the fish re-entered. Dale couldn’t believe the exhilaration involved in this wonderful, brand new activity.

He’d made friends with Chuck quite accidentally. Chuck was the first responder when Dale’s compact car had become wedged beneath an 18 wheeler with Dale pinned inside. Chuck’s reassuring voice had kept him calm. Chuck’s skilled hands had saved his life and their friendship was taking him places he’d never considered.

It was while Dale watched the heroic news video on TV at the hospital, that he had decided to thank Chuck personally.

They met at a local pub for drinks. Chuck ordered a draft beer and Dale had a celebratory glass of champagne since his hospital release had been only two days before. Their choices of beverages pretty much described their backgrounds. The odd, yet colorful, tapestry of a wonderful friendship had been started in that meeting. Some would call it a” bromance “…just two guys who really enjoyed each others company.

Dale had offered Chuck a guest membership at his country club. To Dale’s amazement, everyone liked Chuck immediately. He was in one word, genuine, and that transcended all social preconceptions of his worth. Crowds gathered ’round him to listen to stories, in improper grammar, of what he considered “just a job”.

Now off of the lake, Chuck was frying Dale’s prize catch.  He was not at all intimidated by social status. In fact, Chuck seemed happily unaware for the most part. Their wives had encouraged their outings and Dale was feeling a weight, greater than that semi, lifted from his spirit.

“Maybe we should invite your buddy Jackson next time old man? I’d love to see him baiting a hook with those pink gloves of his.”

“I don’t think he’d come , Chuck. He wouldn’t know what the proper angling attire is.”

“Neither did you and I’d say you are doing alright.”

They sat down to the fresh trout dinner and realized that they had forgotten to bring eating utensils.

“Use your fingers Dale. The fish won’t bite cha. We’ve got soap and water you know.”

Dale ate the best tasting meal in his memory, with his fingers.

“Here, try the eye. You fellas would pay big money for those if they were served on a plate with capers and a fancy sauce. Go ahead, old man.”

As the sun dropped behind the trees and long shadows reached their retreat, Dale reached for his cell phone. His wife wasn’t going to believe the wild adventure that he was having. There was NO service. He was disconnected.

As Chuck handed him an ice-cold beer, he could see the angst in Dale’s face. He casually reached into an old toolbox and approached him with a hammer. Dale suddenly felt as though it had all been a mistake. He was with a crazy man, a Neanderthal, maybe a serial killer. Why hadn’t he listened, why had he trusted?

Chuck laughed out loud at the sight of his new friend in total panic. What a boob!  His work with Dale was far from over, he could tell that for sure.

” I can fix that phone. Let me at it. ”

Later that evening they sat by the campfire and laughed until their sides hurt.

Lawsuits VS Education

I have always loved science. One of my favorite Christmas gifts was a Geology set. I felt like a pro with my official rock hammer and samples that I could touch.

My interest peaked before my options did. There were no geology units, in elementary school, that delved deeply enough for me. How I wish that we had a Discovery Channel then.

Kids are offered many samples of information with TV and the internet. It is exciting to think their blooming interests will have “vines” to grow on. Alert teachers and caregivers have avenues, to offer their prodigies, that were not available in my day. Kids are not getting smarter, their choices are better.

I am a big proponent of the Montessori method in education. Reading, writing and ‘rithmatic can be taught in combination with any interest. It is the interest that must guide the learning not the other way around.

That said, the key in our schools, revolves around small class sizes. In a perfect world, I’d like to see no more than 12 kids in one class.(Ideally, 8) The primary teacher must have an assistant too. Then,and only then, the kids would be able to explore and learn to their own “tune”.  The teacher would have a better handle on classroom discipline and a familiar feeling for what makes each student “tick”.

Alas, theory is much easier than application. Home schooling is a very good alternative but unaffordable to most.

The Boy and Girl Scouts, as well as, 4H organizations are very helpful to our future scientists. If not for liability issues, I’m sure communities would offer playground camps in the summer. Individual citizens would be more inclined to offer instruction too. There are Beekeeping clubs, gardening groups, bird-watchers etc. who could share their knowledge and excitement for specializing.

This rant is just that, a rant of frustration. The US is not capitalizing on our young peoples’ interests at the peril of our future. Liability and lawsuits are ruining us. I don’t know how to fix it. I’d like to see big penalties for bogus lawsuits. BIG PENALTIES. I’d like our kids to play together without hearing,”I’ll sue you!” on the Kindergarten playground.

Those who really have grounds for lawsuits are equally injured in the environment of  “easy money”.

I started this post with happiness and hope. Where it lead me was beyond my first consideration. I think I’ve stumbled upon our real crisis…anyone got ideas how to resolve it?

(Rounding up unethical lawyers and putting them together on a remote  island just may be a good start. Ha!)

Someone Who Has Influenced the Way I See the World

TV Characters ruled my young years.

Too Many Kirks

TV characters made a big impression on my generation. We were the first kids to enjoy that Saturday morning ritual in front of the TV. In the 50s and early 60s, Saturday morning was not entirely a cartoon venue. Shows like Fury, My Friend Flicka, Rin Tin Tin and Sky King were dramas with real actors. Certainly, my devotion to animals has roots in these shows, The “save the day” mentality ran deep in those shows.I still laugh when I picture (June Lockhart) asking Lassie to go home and find her keys on the counter, near the cookie jar, THEN bring them to Timmy and have him come along not without dropping by the barn to grab a rope so he might pull her out from beneath her car which rolled over her leg as she stopped to investigate a gopher hole where she incidentally lost her other set of keys!

And they say, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” REALLY?

By the time I was 10, I had a healthy understanding of the plausible but chose to be entertained by those early shows.

Then came Star Trek. My adolescent years revolved around the swashbuckling tales of space exploration. It did not have to be believable and I had been tempered in the ridiculous and was ready for adventure. Forgive my pun, the sky was the limit and my imagination was set free.

There are many who scoff at that low budget, out-of-the box, science fiction show. The writing was deep and those who appreciated it, saved it from the “Dopey Show” graveyard.

Captain James T. Kirk was just the role model for me. His courageous investigation of new worlds (which in your teens applies to life) along with his ability to do what HE BELIEVED was right, many times in spite of rules and traditional thinking, made me proud.I became a student of civil disobedience and a believer that cunning is our best weapon. The topics of that show crossed many social barriers and made me think…yes, thinking and reconsidering forever became a part of me and I am grateful.

A favorite scene of mine which introduces the old to the new. Star Trek remains a thought provoking experience and has grown better with age!

If you haven’t ten minutes to watch this clip…watch only the last two. They encapsulate the Captain Kirk that I admire.

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