Do you have children?
No. I'm working on a novel right now to address the irony of spending so much of my professional life focused on children, yet not having children myself. It's called Childless. My wife is a psychotherapist who works with children and adults in sandplay therapy. So we're both working with kids -- just not having them ourselves. This may sound like rationalizing, but I think there's a certain detachment that people have who don't have children, that they can use in helping to better the lives of all kids. I think of my own teachers in elementary school, many of whom didn't have kids, and yet who helped me (and others) quite a bit.
In The Human Odyssey, you discuss "Adapters" and "Rememberers," using the industrialist Leland Stanford and the poet Emily Dickinson as examples. How are the "Adapter" and the "Rememberer" keys to living life?
"Adapters" are concerned with fitting into the world that is, with all of its demands for conformity, ambition, and street smarts. "Rememberers" are always thinking of what is possible -- they're concerned with what it means to exist, to realize one's potential, to explore the depths of one's being. The fact is, we need to have both of these qualities in order to live a full life. A parent has an obligation to help her children "adapt" to the world's demands, but she must also help her child "remember" who she really is (her gifts, her essence). Some parents focus all the attention on the adapting, and their kids lose their souls. Other parents go the other way, and try to protect their child from the real world, and this also creates an unbalanced personality. In The Human Odyssey, I talk a lot about Odysseus in Homer's epic poem, and how he had both the "adapter "and the "rememberer" in him. That's part of what made him such an archetypal personality.
You're critical of much early childhood education these days. What's the biggest problem?
During early childhood kids shouldn’t have formal lessons in reading, math, or any other subject. This is a time of life when brains are plastic and being dynamically wired to the world; if they are exposed to abstract letters and one-dimensional computer screens, that's what the brain will be wired to. What they need is to be exposed to rich multi-sensory environments.