In this article we will discuss about the educational implications of heredity vs. environment.
1. Awareness of the Laws of Heredity:
Every educator or teacher must be fully acquainted with the processes and laws of heredity:
(i) He must know that every individual is born with certain in born traits. As these are innate, he cannot change these. There is a limit to the improvement that he can make in this regard, as is said, ‘thus far shalt thou go and no further.
(ii) But although the inborn traits are there the child may or may not use his special talents. Much depends upon how he uses these. “The cards of life,” says Radhakrishnan, “are placed on the table. The success of the game depends more upon the players than upon the cards.” Nunn also emphasizes the same point when he says that the principal factor in the process of development is the child himself, and that he can make what use he will of his hereditary endowment and his educational opportunities.
(iii) Every child is gifted with some virtues and assets. Hence it is the duty of each teacher to get complete data about the inborn traits and virtues of each child. Many children get wrong guidance or no guidance because their talents were not discovered in time. Full many a flower both blossom unseen.
(iv) The teacher should not waste his time in teaching something to a child for which he is not at all endowed with capacity to learn. He will live in a fool’s paradise, if he endeavours to convert an idiot into a doctor or engineer. Every teacher should, therefore, have full picture of the intelligence, aptitude and personality traits of the child.
(v) The teacher must know the mechanism of heredity and influence of environment. He must know that man is born with instincts, and these instinctive urges can be modified. Instincts themselves are acquired characteristics. Modifications of instincts for our higher culture and civilization will prove of high dividends for future generations.
(vi) The knowledge of the laws of similarity, variation and regression will help the teacher to solve some confronting problems. Out of ignorance he may say, child is extremely careless, because born of an intelligent father, his achievement in the class is low. Actually, child A may not be as intelligent as his father, vide law of regression. Two brothers of the same parentage are presumed by the teacher to have similar intelligence and consequently similar achievement. But according to law of variation, there are possibilities of the two brothers to be distinctly dissimilar.
2. Guidance and Heredity:
In order to provide psychological guidance to the maladjusted and problem child, he shall have to trace the heredity factors, the constitutional makeup of the child. Sometimes the children inherit mental abnormalities of the parents such as extreme sensitiveness, neurosis, impulsiveness, feeble-mindedness, criminal tendencies etc. No educational and vocational guidance is possible without having a full picture of the inborn traits and talents of the child.
3. Theory of Evolution and Education:
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was mis-interpreted by his followers, when they applied principles of (i) natural selection and (ii) survival of the fittest society. Thus survival of the fittest would lead us to think that only the developed nations deserved to exist and the underdeveloped countries should perish.
This was actually the Nazi doctrine in World Wars I and II. In education it would mean that only the capable children should be educated and others neglected. But educationists of the day are against such a principle. Each individual has his unique contribution to make. ‘Every child born into the world has his own peculiar contribution to make to mankind as a whole, and that it is the main task of education to enable him to make his contribution’.
Again, we believe that man is not the slave of his environment. Animals may have been slaves to environment. A number of species might have perished for not being able to adapt to the environment.
But man can:
(i) adapt himself to the environment around and
(ii) adapt the environment to himself.
Education should not, therefore over-emphasise adaptation of the child to the physical environment.
4. Culture Epoch Theory:
The theory of evolution leads to a significant doctrine – the doctrine of recapitulation:
(i) It has been discovered that an organism in his own life time recapitulates his racial evolution. Any human organism, during to parental months repeats in a blurred form the ascent of man from the lowest forms of life. This is physical recapitulation.
(ii) Recapitulation in the mental sense also is true. The mental development of the child recapitulates the mental development of the whole race. Stanley Hall explains the principle of parallelism between racial and individual development. So the child learns as the race has learnt. He traverses the epochs of world culture.
This culture-epoch theory has its bearing on the methods of instruction in the school. It is believed now that the best methods of teachings are the echoes of ways in which the race learnt. The child may start with concrete and then go to abstract. He should begin with experiments, collect data inductively, generalise (as our ancestors did) and then apply deductively. The logical or synthetic process should proceed the experimental or analytical process. In the study of literature, the child will love fairy tales, myths and legends which have found favour with our ancestors.
5. Providing Suitable Home Environment:
The home environment of the child should be conducive to proper development of the child.
An analysis of cases of children having adaptive difficulties reveal that very often these are caused by bad home conditions. Sometimes, the parents are unsympathetic, their treatment is harsh and unjust, they constantly complain about the child, they misunderstand his capabilities, and thus create difficulties of adjustment on the part of the child.
Sometimes the parents are over-indulgent, giving undue protection to the child. They leave little room for the child to develop the sense of responsibility and freedom, and thus develop in him the habit of doing nothing for himself and losing self-confidence.
Where the child is in a broken home, with parents at logger-heads, he has, a constant mental strain, which hinder his normal achievement. Poverty, economic pressure, unwholesome conditions at home, unhealthy social environment, unhealthy dwelling with bad sanitary conditions – all have disastrous influence upon the growth of the child. If the parents are educated regarding the effect of environment on the child, they can take enough of precautionary measures.
Where the parents are confirmed fools, and no improvement is possible in the home environment, it is proper to send the child to the foster home, so that he is saved from adverse influence of the home environment.
6. Providing Suitable School Environment:
It is the duty of the teacher to provide a suitable environment in the school for the proper physical, mental and social development of the child.
Physical environment of the school should be most attractive. It must train the child in aesthetic sensibility, give him a pleasant comfortable place for the longer stay, and provide enough of space to roam and play with freedom. The urban schools without a playground or compound cramp the individuality of the child, more so when there is overcrowding of students.
The Mental Environment:
The mental environment in the school must be such that (i) it stimulates broad interest, (ii) provides opportunities for self-analysis, (iii) provides adequate amount of self-control, and (iv) affords an opportunity for harmonious growth and development of the mental faculties.
In this respect first requisite is the mental health of the teacher himself. Teachers who exhibit temper tantrums and mental imbalance have perverse effect on the life of the children. Secondly, there must be an enriched programme of instructions and co-curricular activities. The library facilities must be adequate. The teaching and instructional guidance must be efficient. A proper system of internal assessment will effect regularity in studies. The staff must be qualified and trained. The equipment must be adequate.
7. Providing Suitable Social Environment:
Social environment of the school is all the more important. It is also called ‘social heredity’. The first factor of social heredity is the playmates of the child, and the social environment at home. Much depends upon the company he keeps. When he goes to the school, there also he mixes with students of his age-group, class-fellows etc.
It is there that he acquires a number of social traits, and fulfills his instinctive urges of self-assertion, gregariousness and combat. Thirdly, the child comes into contact with the society around, and its civilization and culture. Here he gets knowledge of the laws, customs and traditions of the society descended from generation to generation.
If a child is surrounded by good cultural environment, good family background, fine family and social traditions, and has ample opportunity to participate in the social activities, he unfolds his latent capacities, imbibes social culture and develops into a cultured citizen. The social heredity is considered to be of high significance for the progress of civilization and culture. Education is sometimes considered to be synonymous with transmission of culture or social heredity.
Thus we see that a child’s development depends upon both nature and nurture. Neither of the factors should be over-emphasized. A school cannot turn out equal minds. The function of the school is to enable each type of mind to realize its own capacity and then develop it accordingly. Environment provides an opportunity for doing this function.
Thus the function of the environment is selective rather than productive.
A psychologist verdicts:
“Nothing can be developed from nothing. Without heredity, there is no beginning; without environment no continuity; without will no individuality. They are internal, external and directive forces of a human being.”