Myth of the First Three Years: A New Understanding of Early Brain Development and Lifelong Learning Hardcover – Sep 9 1999
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Will listening to Mozart's symphonies make your newborn smarter? Is your child's brain unalterably "hard-wired" by age 3? Don't believe the hype, trumpets educational consultant John T. Bruer, Ph.D., in The Myth of the First Three Years. A powerful political element has put its spin on dated, unrelated, and inadequate research, he says, christening it "the new neuroscience." According to Bruer, both Mozart and a study of one-eyed kittens are spuriously linked to the future success of our nation's children and are being used to propel a platform of welfare reform. Disgruntled by the lack of hard, scientific evidence behind the latest policy push, he asks, "But just what is the connection, for example, between the 100 billion nerve cells, developing healthy brain circuitry, and selective TV watching?"
Countering the central tenets of the myth by exposing the research upon which it is supposedly based, Bruer finds, "Apart from eliminating gross neglect, neuroscience cannot currently tell us much about whether we can, let alone how to, influence brain development during the early stage of exuberant synaptic formation." And contrary to the myth, up-to-the-minute research actually informs us of the remarkable plasticity of the brain and its power to continue learning throughout life. Perhaps most insidiously, "the Myth rejects strong genetic determinism in favor of early neural-environmental determinism.... The argument is but one rhetorical move away from an early-environmental version of the Bell Curve."
Less a tool for parents than a fascinating case study for students of political science or public relations, The Myth of the First Three Years slams the policy machine that has hijacked the new neuroscience and redirected it to finance a new wave of entitlements. --Brian J. Williamson
From Library Journal
Bruer, president of the James S. McDonnell Foundation in St. Louis, has written a provocative analysis of public response to the science of brain development. His argument is a combination of anti-big government conservatism and rigorous scientific method. Criticizing the media and misguided politicians, he argues that brain-development studies have been misrepresented in an effort to reserve public money for early childhood public services. He suggests that funds would be better spent on lifelong services, like skills classes for parents and caregivers. Along the way, he levels some well-deserved criticism at reports in the media that misinterpret and oversimplify scientific studies in order to support a popular agenda and cautions against confusing learning that must take place in a developmental sequence with other learning that can occur throughout life. Because his thesis will raise a fair amount of controversy, this book would add balance to any child development collection. Recommended for public and academic libraries.AMargaret Cardwell, Georgia Perimeter Coll., Clarkston
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
But here are three things that I find troubling. 1) The very research studies he tries to debunk in other's findings are the same ones he uses to support his own position. He says you can't use the basic neuroscience to justify the more practical end uses, then he uses basic neuroscience research to support his own position.2) He ignores a huge body of research from studies on attachment, emotional abuse, physical abuse, drug abuse and neglect that supports the critical value of early emotional involvement and the delicate caregiver-to-child process of attunement. This is the underpinnings of emotional intelligence--which may be more important than the standard cognition. 3) He ballyhoos the current trend in schools towards a more brain-based approach, saying that it'll be 25 years before we can apply neuroscience to classroom learning. That's dead wrong. Thousands of educators are already using strategies and programs based on recent research. He apparently doesn't know about them--maybe he does not visit cutting edge schools. As an example, the technology of FastForWord (a software that is treating phonological deficits) is just one of several hearing improvement programs. Other teachers are using research on emotions, stress, memory and the brain's structural constraints to enhance teaching--and scores are going up. Bruer is well-meaning, but not in touch with the cutting edge of learning.
Dr. Bruer also points out that there may be good reason to believe that the brain remains plastic (changeable) throughout life. That's good news for those who came from less advantaged environments! It's also a relief for parents who for whatever reason could not give their children the good start they would have liked to give.
This book is important to read for two reasons: first, it gives a good example of how science can be misinterpreted or even "created" in order to further a pre-set goal. Second, it sheds some light on a potentially dangerous effort to introduce super-early education programs for all children, disadvantaged or not.
But I am holding back a star because Dr. Bruer fails to qualify his arguments with an important point. Even if the first three years do not of themselves determine the course of life, these are the years when habits are formed and the parent-child relationship is established. In other words, if we handle kids well and spend lots of time with them in years 1-3, we are much more apt to continue to do so in years 4-6, 7-9 etc.Read more ›
The prolix nature of the book is the only complaint I have. I guess this may be expected in a book that does need to devote a good amount of time to discussing the science behind these claims, but it could have been a good 100 pages shorter in my opinion. Scientific texts do not have to be boring. This important book should be on the list of a lot of the movers and shakers, though I suspect it isn't!
Most recent customer reviews
i suppose you should take this review with a grain of salt, for i have only made my way through the first chapter. unfortunately bruer is an amazingly awful writer. Read morePublished on May 10 2001 by R. Delapp
This book is terrible.It provides an excuse to many parents who pay little or no attention to their young children.The man is not even a doctor! Read morePublished on April 2 2001 by Nancy Farkas
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