Session 4 -The Appropriate Environment


The desires for food, sex, family, money, respect, power, and knowledge exist in all of us in different measures, and each of us tries to realize them as best as possible. The extent to which one is willing to act on certain desires, and the way in which one acts on them, depend on the environment and on a person's education. The balance between the actualization of the natural tendencies on the physical level and the actualization of the tendencies on the human, "speaking" level, also depends on the environment, meaning which tendencies we will develop more, and which we will develop less.

If we place a child in a certain environment, while one is still young and is still like "a blank sheet of paper," such as an environment that appreciates science, one will begin to learn from the environment that s/he is in and about the importance of science, and how respectable it is to do well in science. Even though every person has a tendency toward science—to know interesting things about life—through an environment that raises the importance of sciece, it is possible to more fully develop that tendency in particular. That is, the environment can change the balance among the person's tendencies and develop some of them more than others.

If parents want their child to develop in a certain direction, they will place him or her in the appropriate environment for such development, like signing up the child for a sports team or enrolling in a school for music. Even if a child isn't fond of music, s/he will learn it, understand it, and appreciate it for the rest of his or her life.

This is how it is in everything. A child's development occurs through the affects of the environment and also the parents' abilities to develop the child eventually contribute to determining the direction of a person's development, nourishing certain tendencies more and developing other tendencies less, or even suppressing them. Thus, we see that as a person grows, their free choice becomes limited, and it is actually all designed by the environment in which he or she was born and developed as a child. This, too, is how the adult will continue through life.


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Actualizing a person's attributes and natural tendencies depends on the environment in which s/he lives.

Main Points

  • A person's free choice is limited, and is already designed by the environment from childhood.


"Programmes which emphasise group – rather than individual – activities and achievements, and which advocate the importance of effort in resolving difficulties, help children to develop additional sources of strength."

Article for Early Childhood Care and Development: "Achieving a Resilient Identity"

"In a congenial family life, for example, there may be a public consciousness which brings all the important thoughts and feelings of members into such a living and co-operative whole. In the mind of each member, also, this same thing exists as a social consciousness embracing a vivid sense of the personal traits and modes of thoughtand feeling of the other members. And finally quite inseparable from all this, is one's consciousness of himself, which is directly a reflection of the ideas about himself he attributes to the others, and is directly or indirectly altogether a product of social life. ..."

Book: Human Nature and the Social Order

Engage Yourself

Question 1: Dr. Martin Woodhead is a professor of Childhood Studies at the Open University in England. In his article on "developing positive identities," he states:

"Developing personal identity is a dynamic process embedded in the child's multiple activities and relationships in everyday settings at home, in the community and at preschool. Identity is best described as constructed, co-constructed and reconstructed by the child through his or her interactions with parents, teachers, peers and others. These dynamic processes include imitation and identification in shared activities, including imaginative role-play (Göncü, 1999). Non-verbal communication, dialogue and, later, text and electronic media are all key resources for constructing children's sense of who they are in relation to others."

a. According to Professor Martin Woodhead's article, what influences the development of the individual identity of a person during childhood? Write this in your own words:

b. In the transcript text of this session, there is an example of a child who is put into an environment where science is appreciated. According to Professor Martin Woodhead's article, what factors will affect the child's identity after growing up in such an environment?

c. In addition to an appreciation for science, if that child also has a strong tendency for music, will we see the child participating in the local orchestra in a year or two?

Explain your answer with reference to the transcript text of this session.

Question 2: What do a cruel criminal and a ballerina dancer have in common?

Question 3: The main thing influencing a person’s attributes in adulthood is: