Formal schooling is for juveniles
The transition from human child to juvenile stages of development includes what many psychologists call the «5-to-7-year-old transition». This transition is a shift of cognitive ability and physical behavior. The mental and behavior changes allow juveniles to attend and benefit from formal education. One example of the impact of the transition is that if you explain to your 5-year-old nephew that his mother is your sister, he stares at you in disbelief. His 7-year-old sister, however, immediately understands that her mother could also be someone’s sister. The dramatic change from child to juvenile cognitive functioning is needed to participate in the kinds of education activities provided by formal school. Physical behavior changes in ways that allow the juvenile to meet school requirements to sit in one place and carry-out repetitive learning activities. There is more abstract thinking and inhibition of impulsive behaviors. Language, math, and science abilities also change at about 7 years of age and these skills are part of formal schooling. There is, of course, much individual variation in the age and the speed of the transition from child to juvenile. Some 6-year-olds are more ‘juvenile’ than some 8-year-olds, but on average age 7 years is the time when most young people begin formal schooling in places around the world.
The photographs above show Maya juveniles at school. On the left are students attending a private primary school established in the 1970s by university-trained Maya teachers who were not able to find work in the state school system due to long-standing racist policies against the hiring of Maya teachers. On the right are Maya-American students at a State of Florida public primary school. The parents of these children were forced to leave Guatemala during the 1970s and 1980s due to civil war and Guatemala Army atrocities against Maya people. Born in the United States, the offspring of the Maya refugees were awarded American citizenship, the right to attend public schools, and other rights of American citizens. Our research shows that the Maya-American students are about 11 cm taller (5 inches) and 12 kg heavier (26 pounds) than Maya children and juveniles in Guatemala (ages 5-12 years old). Tallness indicates better health, nutrition, and emotional security, but the extra weight indicates greater fatness and risks to health. The migration of the parents comes with mixed blessing for the younger generation and shows that human growth and development are highly sensitive to the quality of the physical and social environment. [Barry Bogin]