After avoiding it for days, I finally joined a discussion at the Secular Right blog in a thread entitled, “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God.” It took a lot of turns and had gotten around to a disagreement over whether African natives were as intelligent as other races. Typically, the Leftists thereabouts bristled at any suggestion that all the “Bell Curve” studies and data might suggest that their dreams of creating an egalitarian world might not work out so well in practice. After one challenged another’s actual “on the ground in Africa” experience, I offered the following:
It happens that I have lived in Africa and worked closely with natives of both the well-educated and relatively uneducated varieties. I also have earned my living for the past dozen years assisting children from the age of 2.5 thru 6 years-old to create their minds, so perhaps I have some unique perspective to offer. Education cannot begin until a child acquires the faculty of language, and learns to name things.
Yet, we do not teach our children basic language and syntax, they absorb it out of the environment by listening to adults speak. This is the primary “work” of a two-year-old, and observing the rapidity with which they go from their first attempts to speak, to putting together whole sentences with surprisingly accurate syntax is breathtaking when one contemplates the difficulty of the achievement.
It was incredibly easy to learn “kitchen kaffir,” which is what the pigeon language used for communicating with the African natives was called. Since their language only had about 700 words and very rudimentary syntax, all one had to do was memorize those words and plug them into English syntax. Objects that had no native name were simply called by their English name. E.g. “Faga” was their word for “put,” and “lapa” meant “over there.” It didn’t much matter where one inserted “ashtray” in the phrase “faga lapa” to be clearly understood.
Without language, there could be no rational thought or even human consciousness. Words are symbolic representations of concepts, whether simple or extremely complex, and are the scaffold on which we construct our ideas. The quality and efficiency of our thinking is dependent on our vocabulary. Whole lifetimes of research and contemplation, which can and does fill volumes, can be expressed in the shorthand of a single word, e.g. Marxism or capitalism.
I don’t think it requires getting into the debates over genetics, or nature vs. nurture, to recognize that if a child grows up in an environment surrounded by adults that know and use only 700 words or less in their presence, while they are teaching themselves their native tongue and creating the scaffolding for thinking, they are not going to end up with much to work with.
This is true whether it is in the African bush, or our own blighted ghettos, where using proper English gets one accused of “acting White.” Unfortunately, the sensitive period for language acquisition in the stages of mind development for a child is long past by the time they start attending school, and learning a new language at that point, or even refining the one they supposedly know, is infinitely more difficult.
If then thrust into the typical teacher-centered environment, where they are expected to sit still and pay attention, while the all-knowing teacher fills their empty little heads with “age appropriate” knowledge according to a fixed curriculum schedule, the prognosis is not good. Children learn best by doing and exploring whatever interests them at any particular time, and Socrates was right when he said that true education is more like the kindling of a flame than the filling of a vessel.
All that said, I too reject the tabla raza hypothesis, and think not enough interest has been given the subject of temperament, which all evidence seems to indicate is somehow innate. We all know of siblings with personalities that could not be more contrasting, born of the same parents and raised in the same environment; perhaps intimately. A Meyers-Briggs test will tell one more about the efficacy and structure of a particular mind than any IQ test.
Finally, any suggestion that African natives would be anywhere close to the achievements of Western civilization, without our influence during the colonial period, is laughable. Even today, were all Westerners (and Easterners) to pull out of Africa completely, it would devolve in short order, into the superstitious netherworld, of disorganized tribal conflicts that the White Man delivered them from.
When I was managing that farm where I studied African culture back in ’74, Rhodesia was the bread basket of Africa, and Salisbury was one of the cleanest, safest, and most modern cities in the world. Today, after the hand-wringers and do-gooders of Europe and America used UN Sanctions to force the Whites to turn it over to the Marxist terrorists they were pleased to call “freedom fighters,” it is called Zimbabwe. Ask the now starving natives there if we did them any favors… I rest my case. ◄Dave►