The following conversation took place between
Joseph Chilton Pearce and Casey Walker on May 20, 1998 with the
production assitance of KVMR, a community-supported radio station
in Nevada City.
Casey Walker: Will you begin by assessing
education as we know it today?
Joseph Chilton Pearce: Over the past thirty
years I've given some 2,500 talks to thousands of people on these
issues, and it seems our whole nation's mental set is too locked
into a radical denial over education. I'm pessimistic because of
our capacity for denial - what 14th century Spanish Sufi, Iban Arabi,
called "our enormous capacity for self-deception" - and
our simple desire to maintain things as they are. The other criticism,
of course, lies in looking at schooling as a concept. I don't think
it is at all correctable as it is.
I recently received a beautiful paper from a school
teacher who spent twenty-five or thirty years right in the front-line
trenches, in the classroom. She gives the perspective that armchair
generals sitting back in their ivory towers just don't have. Her
title tells it all: "Torch This Tower." She states there
is no facet of the American school situation which is at all redeemable
and believes we ought to eradicate the entire thing down to the
very rock bottom, clear the grounds totally, and rethink what do
we do from here. This has been my position for years and years.
If we look at any system and find that it has
an error within it, we can address the error and consider the possibilities
of correction. But, if the entire system from beginning to end is
one whole, integrated, total error, then there is nothing that can
be done. There is nothing, zero. That, I believe, is the American
school situation today. Nothing can be done.
Further, the school system produces - as John
Gatto claims - exactly what the system needs to keep itself going,
and that is uncorrectable. We can't change institutions. And, we
can't give the public an answer to a question they are not asking.
People simply aren't asking the questions that everyone is rushing
around with answers for.
My one exception would be a Waldorf education,
and I think the original Montessori had a lot of great, great value.
But, I would champion a Waldorf approach as a true educational procedure.
Unfortunately, Waldorf is beginning to modify and accommodate, little
by little, and take on some of the dreadful errors of the public
school system in order to survive.
In its original, genuine sense, Waldorf is
not preparing the child to be a dollar commodity in the marketplace,
but is meeting each stage of a child's life with the environment
that allows the child to be fully and completely and wholly a child
at that time. My statement has always been that the three-year-old
is not an incomplete five-year-old, but a complete, total and whole
three-year-old. If a child is given all the nurturing to be here
as a three year old, they'll be the perfect five year old later
on, and so on.
The first thing I would say about any true educational
system is that it is not founded on the notion that we are preparing
a child for life. The theory we are preparing the child for life,
or for the future, is a terrible travesty which betrays every facet
of the human being. We don't prepare for life, we equip the child
with the means to live fully at whatever stage they are in. The
idea we're going to train a child at seven to get a good job at
age twenty-seven is a travesty of profound dimension. It makes for
a world where every 78 seconds a child is attempting suicide, as
is true today. It is this kind of terrible despair we breed in our
children when we don't see the difference between preparing and
equipping our children to be present to life.
Will you speak to the
neurological damage in modern children, as you've described in Evolution's
End, which renders them "ineducable"?
It's been ten years since I wrote Evolution's
End, and, believe me, the situation today has worsened
by thousands of percentile. Most people involved in educational
reform are speaking of curricular programs when the truth of the
matter is the children they are dealing with now are, by and large,
damaged past the point of educability in any real sense. The public
has yet to recognize this is so. The clearest indications of such
damage recently came out of Tunbingen University
in Germany with a twenty year study of four thousand people. It
shows three significant findings as a result of the failure to furnish
appropriate sensory stimulation for growth. First, there has been
an average of one percent per year reduction in the sensory sensitivity
of the human system and the ability to bring in information from
the outside world.
Compared to children
twenty years age, the children we are looking at now are comprehending
or registering information from their environment at eighty percent,
which simply means they are twenty percent less consciously aware
of where they are and what is happening around them. Secondly, the
kind of stimulus that does break through the reticular activating
system in the ancient reptilian brain, the brain stem, is only highly
concentrated bursts of over-stimulation. That is, the only signals
they're really bringing in from their environment are those bursts
of stimuli which are highly charged. If it's sound, it must be a
loud sound. If it's touch, it must be an impact. If it's visual,
it must be intense. Subtleties cannot catch their attention because
they are not sensitive to their environment. One comparison is that
twenty years ago a child or young person was able to differentiate
360 shades of red, and today are down to something like 130 shades,
which means the subtleties are lost to the pure, heavy impact of
red now necessary to penetrate the reticular system. Once we look
into the whole developmental system, the implications are profound.
The impediments to proper development from birth
on are attributable to a whole raft of causes -- from technological
childbirth, a failure to nurse, day care. Often what occurs is a
substitution of proper care with highly inappropriate, massive over-stimulation
of non-growth stimuli of the kind a child gets with the average
day care, exposure to the television and music meant to pacify and
entertain him or her.
Has an actual, physical
atrophying been documented?
Yes, it's a physical atrophying of the whole sensory
system. This is right in line with Marcia Mikulak's work that I
wrote about in Evolution's End. Fifteen years ago, she found there
was anywhere from a 20-25% reduction in sensory awareness of the
technological child as opposed to the pre-literate, or "primitive"
child in the grass shacks of the jungles.
The third finding of the
German study is that the brain is maladapting on a level which seems
almost genetically impossible. That is, the brains of these young
people are not cross-indexing the sensory systems, so there is no
synthesis taking place in the brain. Sight is simply a radical series
of brilliant impressions which do not cross index with touch, sound,
smell and so forth. There is no context created for sensory
input, each is an independent, isolated event. It explains why so
many kids get intensely bored unless they are subject to intense
On hearing a certain sound, it doesn't bring up
all sorts of memory patterns and other senses that resonate with
it. They are single shot affairs in the brain system. All of this
is from the failure of appropriate stimuli and the massive over-application
of inappropriate or high level, artificial stimuli. Now, Jerry Mander
and I just spent a weekend in New England at a conference with a
medical doctor, Keith Buzzel, studying the effects of television
and computers. There is simply an unbelievable amount of medical
research on the neurophysiology of television viewing that shows
a serious breakdown in the whole genetic encoding. Bruce Lipton,
a cellular biologist and brilliant man, has pointed out that the
internal emotional state of these children is radically altering
the whole DNA structure.
So, I can't talk about education, the future and
so forth, unless I'm willing to deceive myself about the halt and
reversal of damage now being done to the majority of children in
the first three years of life. If we could just get that across!
Appropriate nurturing in the first three years of life is critical.
Of course, there are always a small number of people who are aware
and trying to do something about it, but most err in trying to change
institutions with hundreds of billions of dollars of vested interest
in the television industry, in medical technological childbirth,
and all the rest of it.
I was in Thailand last year at a birthing conference
put on by the World Health Organization and UNESCO. Thailand imported
our American way of birth and television about thirty years ago,
and they are now in complete shambles - their family structure destroyed,
their schooling in shambles, their whole social structure collapsing.
They were once called, "The Gem of the Orient, The Land of
the Smiles." Few will look at the fact that Thailand imported
our two deadly twins of medical technological childbirth followed
by television, both of which deny appropriate sensory stimuli for
growth and substitute the radically inappropriate stimuli which
brings about a totally conditioned mind. Huxley's
Brave New World was timid, a lollipop, compared to the type of conditioning
that comes with interfering with the natural processes of a mother,
child, and community.
these are the three issues. First, we have to realize that education
really begins in the womb and that the first three years of life
are when ninety percent of it takes place. Secondly, never waste
effort or energy on trying to bring down institutions, but put every
bit of effort and energy into doing what must be done for as many
children as can immediately be reached. Look to the tangible and
real need in a child, in a family, or in a neighborhood.
Let's turn to the idea
of intelligence - what we are yet to understand - with a systemic
function between the body, the heart, and brain.
Yes. To me, the most exciting single thing happening
- which I touched upon in Evolution's
End throughout the whole last part of the book -
is about the heart. The medical and scientific world is just now
producing evidence to verify much of what I explore through my last
three books: the intelligence of the heart. Hard core researchers,
including the National Institute for Mental Health, have massively
ignored these questions.
I thought I had put it together pretty well -
what the heart actually was and what was going on - but I was a
babe in the woods. I knew nothing. In 1995, I came across the Institute
in Boulder Creek, California, and found that they were gathering
together research from all over the globe. They brought me up to
date on neurocardiology, which is the general title of the newest
field of medicine. Oxford University brought out a huge, thick volume
of medical studies from all over the world entitled, Neurocardiology,
which includes studies that haven't worked their way into the journals
yet. Discoveries in the field of neurocardiology are, believe me,
far more awesome than the discovery of non-locality in quantum mechanics.
It is the biggest issue of the whole century, but it's so far out
and so beyond the ordinary, conceptual grasp, that a lot of the
people doing the actual research are yet to be fully aware of the
Close to a century ago,
Steiner said the greatest discovery of 20th century science
would be that the heart is not a pump but vastly more, and that
the great challenge of the coming ages of humanity would be, in
effect, to allow the heart to teach us to think in a new way. Now,
that sounds extremely occult, but we find it's directly, biologically
I can't in a brief time share with you the full
implications of neurocardiology except to say three things. First,
about sixty to sixty-five percent of all the cells in the heart
are neural cells which are precisely the same as in the brain, functioning
in precisely the same way, monitoring and maintaining control of
the entire mind/brain/body physical process as well as direct unmediated
connections between the heart and the emotional, cognitive structures
of the brain. Secondly, the heart is the major endocrine glandular
structure of the body, which Roget found to be producing the hormones
that profoundly affect the operations of body, brain, and mind.
Thirdly, the heart produces two and a half watts of electrical energy
at each pulsation, creating an electromagnetic field identical to
the electromagnetic field around the earth. The electromagnetic
field of the heart surrounds the body from a distance of twelve
to twenty-five feet outward and encompasses power waves such as
radio and light waves which comprise the principle source of information
upon which the body and brain build our neural conception and perception
of the world itself. This verifies all sorts of research from people
such as Karl Pribram [+,
++] over a thirty year period, and opens up the greatest mystery
we'll ever face.
Roger Penrose, for instance,
in England, has just recently come out with a new mathematics to
prove that where dendrites meet at the synapse - of which you've
got trillions in your body and brain - is an electromagnetic aura.
And, we find that the electromagnetic field of the heart produces,
holographically, the same field as the one produced by the earth
and solar system. Now, physicists are beginning to look at the electro-magnetic
auras as, simply, the organization of energy in the universe. All
these are operating holographically - that is, at the smallest,
unbelievably tiny level between the dendrites at the synapse, the
body, the earth, and on outward. All are operating holographically
The next discovery is of unmediated neural connections
between the heart and the limbic structure, the emotional brain.
Now they've found that neural connections go right on up through
the amygdala or the cingulate cortex into the pre-frontal lobes.
Now, the pre-frontal lobes, or neocortex, are the latest evolutionary
addition to the human brain because they were only rudimentary until,
perhaps, 150,000 to 40,000 years ago. They are what we call the
"silent areas" of the brain simply
because we are using only the lower part of them so far. The higher
parts of the pre-frontal lobes are not even complete in their growth
patterns until age twenty-one, which is about six to seven years
after the rest of the brain is complete -- when we thought the whole
show was over.
And yet, if you look at Demasio's recent work
in Descartes' Error, he writes about the role of emotion in reasoning
and about the lowest levels of the pre-frontal lobes. He talks constantly
about the pre-frontals being the whole show, but he's talking only
about those parts that are developed in the first three years of
life and the great, long dormant period following. Around age fifteen,
the pre-frontals undergo a huge growth spurt and begin a massive,
rapid growth which isn't complete until about age twenty-one. It
is that area that then remains silent and unused.
At twenty-one, Rudolph Steiner said the true ego
is designed to come down into the system and begin what he called
the exploration of the higher worlds. Now, of course, that hasn't
happened historically because of the entrenched positions of the
lower structures of the brain system itself (which means that the
entire thing is biological). We resort to philosophical concepts
and moral, ethical issues -- but we're really always talking about
the biology of our body and brain.
Even Paul MacLean at the National Institute of
Mental Health, who is one of the brightest in brain research over
the past fifty years and is still doing research in his eighties,
spoke of the pre-frontals as the "angel lobes," as the
origin of all the higher human virtues. That is exactly what Demasio
was pointing out in Descartes' Error, and yet both are only talking
about the lowest of the pre-fontal structures, which complete themselves
in the first three years of life, and not of the new growth that
takes place between fifteen and twenty-one.
For this reason, I am the arch-optimist of all.
I think these discoveries, the implications, are terribly exciting.
Of course, our whole cosmology will shift dramatically when we realize
what I call the "holographic heart." But, you see, at
the very time we're moving into a period of total chaos and collapse,
this other incredible thing is simply gathering. I
think of Ilya Prigogine's comments that so long as a system is stable,
or at an equilibrium, you can't change it, but as it moves toward
disequilibrium and falls into chaos then the slightest bit of coherent
energy can bring it into a new structure. What you find in Waldorf
families, and people who read Wild Duck Review, and others, may
seem small, but they will be the islands of coherent energy which
then bring about the organized, entrained energy for a new situation.
I think it will happen very rapidly.
In the next issue, I expect
to work with the idea of one's capacity for metaphor as one's capacity
for a full life.
Jerome Bruner once said the great beauty of human
language is its metaphoric capacity . . . that we could represent
the world to ourselves metaphorically, mutate our metaphors and
change ourselves in the world. Bruner came up with that very beautiful
and brilliant insight thirty or forty years ago.
There is a book by a medical doctor living in
Seattle, Leonard Shlain, called Art and
Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time and Light. In it
he says art is always presaging what will happen in the whole scientific,
social world. He gives the most incredible defense of this idea
over the past 600 years -- how art has always shown exactly what
will happen in the scientific and social structures a century later.
The great Margaret Mead once said, "No education
that is not founded on art will ever succeed." I think the
beauty of the Waldorf system is that they don't teach art -- it's
not a subject. Art is the way by which everything is taught and
learned. Art is "high play" and only through high play
does real learning take place. Yes, this is the way to a real life.
The rest of it is conditioning to another's employ, another's motive,
another's idea of life.