Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to a fascinating documentary about moral development in children, entitled Babies: Born to be Good?
(That link says the video is only available in full in Canada. I’m not sure if American viewers might have more luck with this one. If not . . . well, there’s a preview available, as well as a short recap).
The documentary is about 45 minutes long, so if you don’t have that kind of time right now but are interested in the subject, I highly recommend you set aside some time to view it. It’s very accessible and engrossing, yet packed with interesting science.
(It’s hosted by David Suzuki, whom I know a lot of conservative Christians don’t like because he teaches kids evolution. But I hope that won’t immediately put off any Christian readers. There’s a little bit of evolution-talk, but most of it is normal psychology).
In the video, we see babies as young as three months old showing a preference for puppets who act kindly rather than selfishly. We see toddlers volunteering to help strangers pick up items they can’t reach, and willingly sharing all their toys. We see eight-year-olds sacrificing their own Skittles to ensure that others get their fair share. (Granted, we also see a five-year-old laughing victoriously when he gets more Skittles than his partner. Children aren’t purely filled with goodness).
I find this subject particularly interesting in light of the way conservative Evangelical Christians have historically understood children as naturally evil and rebellious. This view of children has, naturally, influenced the way Christians parent, and are advised to parent — with the assumption that children need to be taught goodness by parents.
(I’ve written a bit on the subject already).
I’ve been mulling over these issues quite a bit since I watched it (and, frankly, for the last year or two). Sadly, I haven’t gotten a chance to write them out yet. I’m currently in the middle of making tortillas, bread, yogurt and ice cream (Lydia is napping at the moment, so I pounced on the computer to pound out this short note).
So I’d love to hear some of your immediate reflections if you get a chance to watch it. What do you think?
(Update: more thoughts on the documentary here).