The Mystery of How Children Develop: Some Examples
How children grow to adulthood is one of life’s great mysteries. Can we foresee the adult in the child? Can we see the child in the adult? As a child in Lower Bavaria, Adolf Hitler took singing lessons, sang in the choir, and even considered the priesthood. With promising talent for painting with watercolors, he wanted to become a professional artist. Twice failing the entrance exam, he was told that his talent was better suited to architecture. In fact, a strong architectural streak runs through his many works which were influenced by classicism—Greco-Roman, Italian Renaissance, and Neo-classicism. When conflicts persisted between him and his father who viewed his artistic gift as frivolous, Hitler rebelled and turned elsewhere for inspiration. By his own admission, he was an artist and not a politician.
At the age of seven, Maya Angelou was raped by a dubious relative, who was let out of jail and found dead that same night. Angelou thought that she had caused the man’s death because she had reported his name. She stopped talking for five years. But good came out of evil. In those years, she read every book in the black school library and then from the white school library. She memorized poems of the black poets, James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes. She memorized whole plays of Shakespeare and fifty sonnets, all the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe, Longfellow, de Maupassant, Balzac, and Kipling. When she decided to speak, her vocabulary was vast and vastly beautiful. Maya Angelou rose to become a revered author and poet.
Dr. Ben Carson, Sr., the world-renowned neurosurgeon, grew up without the presence of his father, a Baptist minister who had divorced his wife when his son was ten. The boy got into trouble, almost succumbed to killing with knives, and earned bad grades. But his mother’s motivation and her insistence on academics, and reading in particular, changed his destructive behavior to a life spent in doing good. He is the first successful surgeon to separate twins who were conjoined at the head.
Why do most Asian children score well in education beginning in pre-school? Confucian culture places a high value on education because it is viewed as the way of succeeding in life. From infancy, this is drummed into the children. Today, children from Asian homes excel in virtually every discipline, including the arts. Some educators observe that the demands are excessive.
The Judeo-Christianity greatly exalts the human person: all human persons are created in the image and likeness of God. The Psalmist reinforces this truth: “You have made them a little lower than God, with glory and honor you crowned them” (Ps 5:8). Not just their hearts and souls but their whole persons as well are to be educated, for we are forming tomorrow’s citizens and future saints.
From infancy, children learn discipleship in the Lord, or they do not. James Foley’s Catholicism was not a minimal, external Christianity, and in observing the Foley family, we sense that Catholic faith unites that family, especially in this hour of sorrow.