Most Difficult Tasks Learned at Home
1994-2005 by Ed Dickerson, all rights reserved.
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Three Most Difficult Tasks

Taught by Amateur Teachers

Schools have dominated our culture so long and so thoroughly that certain false notions have assumed the status of received truth. One of these false notions holds that learning tasks perceived to be exceptionally difficult, such as reading or physics, require professional teachers, textbooks, sophisticated techniques, or special programs. Industries and institutions have arisen to meet this alleged need. But a little reflection exposes how fraudulent this notion is.

The three most difficult tasks a child ever learns are learned in the home, under amateur supervision, usually before the child reaches the age of five. The child learns to speak, to walk, and is "potty trained." If you doubt the difficulty of these tasks, consider the following. Try and learn a foreign language yourself. Most people consider that one of the most difficult tasks. Or, ask someone who has been in an accident or suffered from disease which requires them to seek physical therapy to learn to walk again. We'll look at potty training further in another column.

Simply because children learn these tasks without formal instruction does not mean that they are either simple, nor that they require little effort from the learner. Speech is a complex and highly abstract cognitive (thinking) activity. Associating patterns of sound with real things in the environment, and even with intangibles--children early learn to say, "I love you"--is an intellectual feat of no small significance. Walking is a complex physical (psychologists call it "psycho-motor") task. Physical therapists go through sophisticated training in order to help people learn to walk again.