But as naive as the child may be, heís running circles around us as far as learning is concerned.
Long thought to be a clean slate to which information could be added at any time, the brain is now seen as a super-sponge that is most absorbent from birth to about age 12. (Chicago Tribune)The same study that published this conclusion also stated that:
Stimulation directs cellsí organization, scientists have found, and the basic framework is complete by about age 12.Though it is true that we spend many years as adults learning new things, the most active period of learning is between birth and the age of 12. The most successful period of absorption of knowledge is during the period that the little child playing with blocks and toy cars is presently living through.
And not only this, but it is during those early formative years that the brain has the least difficulty reorganizing itself:
Information flows easily into the brain through "windows" that are open for only a short duration. Then the windows close, and the fundamental architecture of the brain is completed. "A kind of irreversibility sets in," said Felton Earls, a child psychiatrist at Harvard University.Hence the expression, "you canít teach an old dog new tricks." Well, perhaps you can teach an old person new tricks, but it becomes increasingly difficult to do so as they grow older.
What is the process for evaluating information, and making a decision? For the most part, information comes in through the senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch), is digested, and reassembled in the form of trillions of connections among brain cells that are constantly growing or dying, becoming stronger or weaker. These form the brainís physical maps that govern things such as vision, language, and hearing.
What is remembered by the brain becomes the intellectual framework used throughout life by the person as he or she progresses in life. After the age of 12, doctors and psychologists are finding out, a person becomes more and more prepared to rely on old information as the basis for evaluating new information, as the "windows" of the brain close.
The drama of this new understanding of how the brain works comes from appreciating how crucial quality education is between the ages of birth and 12 years. A personís whole approach to life can be set, basically, at that time.
Thus a person can no longer say that I donít believe in Torah because such a belief doesnít make sense to me, at least not without first doing a thorough investigation into Torah itself. On the contrary, the person might not believe in Torah because, from an early age, they never received the crucial information necessary to properly evaluate the validity of Torah.
This becomes even more obvious when one considers the source of their information between birth and 12 years of age. They are, principally:
Therefore, how is an adult, who grew up with very little understanding or appreciation of God, expected to easily accept the notion of His existence? How is a person, who grew up with the belief that Torah is ancient and archaic, going to be able to easily open his heart and his mind to its infinite wisdom?
This is why Judaism places such great emphasis on the philosophically-based education of children from a very early age. After all, the whole future of the adult life is being decided, to a large extent, in the first decade of life! Not knowing this, people later on in life can and will delude themselves into thinking that the way they perceive reality is the only way to perceive it.
Torah is full of axioms of truth - Godís perception of reality. It is the information we need to know to build an accurate and complete intellectual framework, one that will allow us to recognize truth when confronted by it, and to act on it when in a position to do so.
In a very real sense, Torah is like a pair of glasses that allows one to see things to which previously one was ďblindĒ. As a person learns Torah, and extracts its principles from either the stories or the commandments, that person expands his or her intellectual framework, which directly expands oneís perception of objective reality. After all, though seeing is often believing, more importantly, believing is seeing.
The end result is going to be constant pleasure, because Torah helps to merge personal subjective reality with the ultimate objective reality, and it is sensing the objective reality and acting within it that makes life a constant thrill.