Child is Father of the Man

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Review 2016 : The Background

In the previous introductory post, Review 2016 and Preview 2017, I wrote about the phenomenon of New Year Resolutions and Review of the previous year. It is time to get into the details and initiate Review 2016 with the theme of “Child is Father of the Man”.

Why start with “Child is Father of the Man”?

The year has witnessed dramatic actions across diverse areas, making it difficult to identify the starting point for Review 2016. Suddenly, the immortal words of William Wordsworth  – “Child is Father of the Man” – rung a bell and I decided to start with children.

This started making more and more sense, as we need to look at kids of today if we want to learn from the past year to navigate the coming year. Here are a couple of interesting experiences that I have had along with my children in 2016.

IIT Delhi opens up

IIT Delhi observed an Open House on 23rd April 2016 and I attended the event with Tanish, my 12 year old son. It was intriguing to see him engaging in animated discussions with IIT students, deconstructing the science behind their projects. He often second guessed the underlying technologies, especially the embedded software. He shared details of his robotics projects with the IIT students and they found it similar to their Engineering projects.

There are a lot of thoughts that were bobbing in my head that day. Far too many, to include in this post. Let’s sample one.

Children in the 10-12 year age group are capable of understanding and executing (at least some) projects that are being done in IITs. However, what are these children likely to do over the next 6-8 years? Probably, “waste” the most creative years of their life preparing to get admission into IITs. At what expense? Apart from the monetary expense, some are sent away to Kota and others enroll in multiple coaching classes. What is sacrificed at the altar is the creative spark and the fun of learning by doing.

Ironically, in the times to come, the one thing that these kids will need most to navigate the disruptive world is a creative bent of mind.

Back to the Drawing Board

If you are done thinking about the future of the future generation (or if you are not inclined to do so); let us come back to your plans for the coming year.

Are you the prisoner of some habit, convention or tradition that is forcing you to take a circuitous route to achieving your goals? Or, are you putting the cart before the horse? There may be implicit beliefs or biases that are causing you to do X to achieve Y but the process of doing X is taking you farther away from the Y state.

The answers are there in your head; they were always there from your childhood days. All we need to do is clear our minds of the accumulated cobwebs and re-create our neural associations of younger days.

Now, let us look at another example that transported me back in time.

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

Move over Tanish, it is now the turn of Tanvee, my daughter in 5th grade, to take over.

As a child, I loved Maths and I was trying to help Tanvee with the first few chapters. I came across tests of divisibility and couldn’t help but notice that it included test of divisibility by 7 – something that I had never learnt as a kid.

My bruised math-ego drove me to a bout of math-thinking. I said to myself “If there existed a divisibility test for 7 and I didn’t know about it, there must be a way to test for other prime numbers”. I went ahead and deciphered a pattern that holds good for all double digit prime numbers. There appeared to be only four variants to the rule that can test for divisibility of a number by any number, whether the divisor is 7 or 13 or 47 or 89. The variant to be applied depends on whether the last digit is 1,3,7 or 9.

I will write a separate post next year explaining the rule and the pattern that I discovered.

Back to the Point

However, that is not the point that I am trying to make (at least not for the time being). I used to love Maths as a kid and even played Maths teacher to some of my classmates; set question papers for them at home and you get the picture. However, my discovery happened ‘accidentally’ after nearly 25 years!

The learning from this episode can be generalized for each one of us.

Connect with your childhood experiences and memories. You never know how the dots will connect and what magic might come out of it. The past few years may have weakened some neural associations, but all you need to do is re-activate them. Exercise makes you stronger and the same is true of mental faculties as well. The more you exercise a particular part of your brains, the stronger will be the neural associations.

Go ahead and explore your hidden selves and exploit the massive power within. Your brains are one of the most amazing super computers available at your disposal.

Looking Ahead

Children retain the creative streak and unsullied curious mind, that we all possessed once. This natural curiosity has sparked Rise of Autodidacts, that I wrote earlier. Hope you are able to spend some time in the coming year with the Child who is Father of the Man.

Go ahead and reclaim your lost mental kingdom and have a wonderful year ahead !

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