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Final macvarish leuven


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Dr Jan Macvarish's keynote presentation to the Leuven Conference, 'How Important is Neuroscience for Educators?', 22 May 2018

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Final macvarish leuven

  1. 1. HOW IMPORTANT IS NEUROSCIENCE FOR EDUCATORS? 22 May 2018 Raising children with the brain in mind: Is neuroparenting a problem? Dr Jan Macvarish Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, University of Kent And Birkbeck College, University of London
  2. 2. Great product! My wife and I are new first time parents, and are as anxious as any new parents that we’re going to do something that will either be bad for our son or miss doing something that could have really helped him long term. I read this book by John Medina, Brain Rules for Baby, where he says that for optimal brain development your baby should hear (from a live person) 2,100 words per hour so when a friend of mine mentioned the starling I got pretty excited. How else would I know how many words we’re speaking to the kid? Who knows how important this stuff really is, but I’m a pretty data driven guy and there’s certainly no harm. We check our word count every couple days…so far so good. Great idea Starling
  3. 3. ‘neuroparenting’ ‘a framework for understanding the obligation of parent to child in which the primary parental role is said to be the nurturing of the baby’s ‘brain’ development. Priority is given to the idea that emotions are neurologically determined in the earliest years of life by parent-child interactions and that ‘correct’ neuro-emotional development is necessary for humans to function adequately as social beings.’ Macvarish, 2016
  4. 4. The Mozart Effect? When Samuel Mehr and colleagues reviewed the literature they found only five studies that used randomized trials Of the five, only one showed an unambiguously positive effect, and it was so small — just a 2.7 point increase in IQ after a year of music lessons — that it was barely enough to be statistically significant.
  5. 5. Policy to make parents ‘better’
  6. 6. Challenging ‘the science’ ● Based on old knowledge (most not neuroscience) ● Based on animal studies (rats and kittens) ● Based on children in very extreme conditions
  7. 7. A question of interpretation 1. ‘Explosive synaptogenesis’ in the early years: babies’ brains are amazing, we should revere them, they will tell us how to live and how to love.
  8. 8. A question of interpretation 2. ‘Critical periods’ of development: certain things need to happen at particular times. e.g. aspects of visual development and auditory development.
  9. 9. A question of interpretation 3. Neurological sensitivity to ‘the environment’: human relationships matter a great deal to babies.
  10. 10. ‘the research tells us’ ‘we now know’
  11. 11. Breaking the bonds of parental solidarity ‘the notion that we are living in a complex and permanently changing society’ breaks the ‘possibility of historical continuity in family practices’, this in turn legitimises ‘greater recourse to expertise and the expansion of measures to manage the inner life of families’ Vansieleghem (2010: 341)
  12. 12. The magic of reading - medicalised
  13. 13. The ‘first three years movement’ ‘…an alliance of child welfare advocates and politicians that draws on the authority of neuroscience to argue that social problems such as inequality, poverty, educational underachievement, violence and mental illness are best addressed through ‘early intervention’ programmes to protect or enhance emotional and cognitive aspects of children's brain development.’ (Macvarish et al. 2014)
  14. 14. ‘a cultureless blue-print’
  15. 15. International dissemination of neuroparenting
  16. 16. Mediating family relationships ‘We’re using the lever of parent talk to get into the parent-child relationship’ Dana Suskind, founder of the Thirty Million Words Initiative
  17. 17. Infant Mental Health: Invasion of the Experts? ‘…health visitors and early years workers are ideally placed to explicitly ‘scaffold’ parents to adopt a reflective stance when trying to make sense of their infant’s behaviour…beginning in the prenatal period.’ Angela Underdown (2013) ‘Parent-infant relationships: Supporting parents to adopt a reflective stance’ Journal of Health Visiting, Feb, 1(2) Deputy Director of Warwick Infant and Family Well-being Unit, Warwick University Medical School
  18. 18. Neuroparenting and Neuroeducation ● Blurs the boundaries between home and school: Parents as ‘first teachers’; schools teaching ‘emotional regulation’. ● ‘Optimising’? For what purpose? Which knowledge? Which values? ● ‘Earlier’? Anticipating problems (denormalisation); fatalism (‘8 is too late’). ● The brain as mediator in the classroom: Avoidance of adult authority? ● Self-diagnosis defeats self-determinism?
  19. 19. Mothering requires training