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HOW IMPORTANT IS NEUROSCIENCE FOR EDUCATORS? 22 May 2018
Raising children with the brain in
mind: Is neuroparenting a problem?
Dr Jan Macvarish
Centre for Parenting Culture Studies,
University of Kent
Birkbeck College, University of London
My wife and I are new first time parents, and are as anxious as any
new parents that we’re going to do something that will either be
bad for our son or miss doing something that could have really
helped him long term.
I read this book by John Medina, Brain Rules for Baby, where he says
that for optimal brain development your baby should hear (from a live
person) 2,100 words per hour so when a friend of mine mentioned the
starling I got pretty excited. How else would I know how many words
we’re speaking to the kid? Who knows how important this stuff really
is, but I’m a pretty data driven guy and there’s certainly no harm. We
check our word count every couple days…so far so good.
Great idea Starling
‘a framework for understanding the obligation of parent to child in which the
primary parental role is said to be the nurturing of the baby’s ‘brain’
development. Priority is given to the idea that emotions are neurologically
determined in the earliest years of life by parent-child interactions and
that ‘correct’ neuro-emotional development is necessary for humans to
function adequately as social beings.’ Macvarish, 2016
The Mozart Effect?
When Samuel Mehr and colleagues reviewed the
literature they found only five studies that used
Of the five, only one showed an unambiguously
positive effect, and it was so small — just a 2.7
point increase in IQ after a year of music lessons
— that it was barely enough to be statistically
Breaking the bonds of parental solidarity
‘the notion that we are living in a complex and permanently
changing society’ breaks the ‘possibility of historical continuity
in family practices’, this in turn legitimises ‘greater recourse to
expertise and the expansion of measures to manage the inner
life of families’
Vansieleghem (2010: 341)
The ‘first three years movement’
‘…an alliance of child welfare advocates and politicians that draws on the authority
of neuroscience to argue that social problems such as inequality, poverty,
educational underachievement, violence and mental illness are best
addressed through ‘early intervention’ programmes to protect or enhance
emotional and cognitive aspects of children's brain development.’ (Macvarish et al. 2014)
Mediating family relationships
‘We’re using the lever of parent talk to get into
the parent-child relationship’
Dana Suskind, founder of the Thirty Million Words
Infant Mental Health: Invasion of the Experts?
‘…health visitors and early years workers are ideally
placed to explicitly ‘scaffold’ parents to adopt a
reflective stance when trying to make sense of
their infant’s behaviour…beginning in the prenatal
Angela Underdown (2013) ‘Parent-infant relationships: Supporting parents to adopt a reflective stance’ Journal of Health
Visiting, Feb, 1(2) Deputy Director of Warwick Infant and Family Well-being Unit, Warwick University Medical School
Neuroparenting and Neuroeducation
● Blurs the boundaries between home and school: Parents as ‘first teachers’;
schools teaching ‘emotional regulation’.
● ‘Optimising’? For what purpose? Which knowledge? Which values?
● ‘Earlier’? Anticipating problems (denormalisation); fatalism (‘8 is too late’).
● The brain as mediator in the classroom: Avoidance of adult authority?
● Self-diagnosis defeats self-determinism?