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The Tiresome Carpenter



Ladies and gentlemen, the book we are discussing today is called "The Gardener and the Carpenter" This is a book I particularly like, and I’ve known about it for a while. Just from the title, you can tell that choosing to be a gardener or a carpenter is an obvious choice in the field of education. Everyone understands that children are living beings, so we should be gardeners, not carpenters, who "chop" children into a certain shape. However, many parents and teachers feel tired because they have done a lot of "carpenter's" work, neglecting the things a "gardener" should do.


It's not difficult to come to this conclusion, but the "why" is challenging. The core theory of this book is based on developmental psychology (developmental psychology studies the occurrence and development of lineage and individual psychology, with child psychology being the main content), and the author is an expert in developmental psychology. After reading this book, we can thoroughly understand why it makes sense to choose to be a "gardener." First, let's talk about the word Parenting, which in English means the upbringing and became popular in the late 20th century. Our parents' generation, for the most part, didn't consider enrolling their children in early education classes or planning their education, because they were mostly busy with life and work, so children played on their own. But as more and more people put effort into parenting, both parents and children became increasingly unhappy. Moreover, we haven't seen a significant improvement in educational outcomes, but rather many worrying signs. So why has this situation arisen?

There are two paradoxes in a person's growth. The first is called the paradox of love, and the second is the paradox of learning. What is the paradox of love? The first tension is between dependence and independence. Children will eventually become independent of us, so we want them to learn independence. But learning to be independent doesn't mean it's better for children to be independent as early as possible. Foals and calves become independent not long after birth, but humans are much more complex than horses and cattle because humans can become better independent through a long childhood dependency, so this is a tension. The second tension is that you love your child in a special way, but you hope that he can have universal adaptability in society, which is also a tension between the universal and the special in love.

Next is the paradox of learning. As children grow up, they will need to work and face various burdens in society, but their growth is achieved through play. This is difficult for many parents to understand; they feel that if children need to learn and work in the future, then they should properly learn something useful. For example, many early education institutions will tell parents that playing certain games can help children grasp numbers, colors, sense of direction, and learn many things. However, many parents will ask: can we skip the play part and directly focus on learning? Unfortunately, that's not possible. It's a paradox that to teach him to work, you must let him play well.

Are we teaching children for innovation or for heritage? Many parents say we definitely hope our children will have the ability to innovate in the future, but we need to let them inherit a lot before they can innovate. You'll find that there's a lot of contradiction in grasping the balance between heritage and innovation. For instance, some parents think their children are too innovative and have not fully inherited their own experiences. All these are reasons why many parents and teachers get education wrong; it's full of paradoxes and different from our usual thinking.

The author believes that Parenting, the "upbringing" we talk about today, is actually a terrible invention. The more you value upbringing, the less happy you are. In a nutshell, chaos and disorder are the main themes of childhood. Adults believe that teaching a child order, focus, and problem-solving to make him like a little adult is our most desired goal, but it goes against the main theme of a child's brain. Because chaos and disorder are our advantages in the brain, that's why we are smarter than horses and cattle. Horses and cattle are sensible too early, and their thoughts become similar to those of their parents early on, so their variability is poor. Our chaotic and disorderly childhood makes us full of evolvability, meaning what a person will become after growing up is unpredictable, which is interesting.

The greatest strength of the human brain is its ability to adapt to the environment, to randomly generate many possibilities, and whether to retain or delete some depends on whether he thinks these things are commonly used and effective. So, not letting children play means only allowing them to generate fixed things, making them only able to generate things similar to those in your mind, then the child will learn worse and worse than you. Although he may become someone who can cope with exams (because you taught him all the exam content), besides that, his brain neurons have not grown sufficiently, he doesn't even qualify to delete some things because they haven't grown at all. So, we need to understand the development process of the human brain.

Additionally, more and more people are studying epigenetics nowadays. What is epigenetics? It refers to the idea that not all genes are destined to be expressed in corresponding traits; there's a trigger, some genes can be expressed, and others can't. This is another angle to understand the reasons behind chaos and disorder. Why can humans afford to play? Why can our childhood be so prolonged, while foals and puppies grow up to be almost like adult animals so quickly? What's the answer? It's love. Love makes disorder possible. This is a grand choice in human evolutionary history. That is, people choose not to hunt or forage for a period, hunting and foraging are not our entire careers, we need to take time to accompany children, ensure their safety, and let them play, which is so "luxurious." Such a "luxurious" thing allows our children to live a childhood life until they are about thirteen or fourteen years old. Children have such a long childhood that they don't have to work but choose to play. The nature of play is that it does not produce results, but it enables our brains to generate a multitude of possibilities. It's these vast possibilities that have made humans increasingly strong in the process of evolution.

I'll read you a sentence, see if anyone can understand: "Crows are more like foxes, while chickens are more like hedgehogs." I believe many people don't understand the meaning of this sentence and don't understand why it's comparing these four animals. Let's talk briefly about foxes and hedgehogs. There's an ancient Greek saying: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." We've also analyzed this saying in detail when we talked about "On Grand Strategy." The meaning of this saying is that the fox knows many things, is very smart and cunning, while the hedgehog just curls up into a ball when faced with danger. Why are crows more like foxes, while chickens are more like hedgehogs? Because crows, like foxes, have a very long childhood. The big fox doesn't kill the prey it catches but brings the small prey back to the den for the little foxes to play with. Therefore, the intelligence of foxes is generally higher than that of other animals.

The author says, "Even as adults, our brains consume a lot of energy: when you just sit there doing nothing, about 20% of the heat in your body goes into your brain. A one-year-old child consumes far more heat than that, and by the age of four, a full 66% of the heat enters the brain, more than any other developmental period. In fact, the physical development of children slows down in early childhood, to compensate for their brains' explosive activities."

Do you understand why our childhood is so prolonged? It's because our brains use too much energy, so children grow slowly. Children grow slowly before adolescence because 66% of the energy is consumed by the brain. Therefore, the author tells everyone that "fine carving" of children is futile. So how should the child's brain be "pruned"? His living environment will prune it for him. Thus, we must first understand the principle of the extra-long childhood, which determines our intelligence.

Next, the book talks about love as the guarantee of continuous evolution. Humans are more powerful than foxes because humans have "three-pronged preparation" in caring for children. The first preparation is the spousal relationship. The author says that from the perspective of mating, there's bad news: there are no animals in nature that mate for life, including swans. People often think that swans are very faithful, but swans also have more than one sexual partner. However, many animals choose to live with their mating partners, such as swans, while mandarin ducks are not. People always say mandarin ducks frolic in the water, as if they are very affectionate, but in fact, mandarin ducks often change partners, while swans don't, but they also have more than one mating partner.

In the history of human development, in primitive society, fathers played a casual caregiver role. This means that a father might have many different spouses and children, so he is a casual caregiver. But in the process of evolution, people found that the more monogamous fathers are, the safer the family is. Because fathers can provide more security, protect the family to have enough food, then mothers can accompany children, and children can become smarter, so slowly a stable spousal relationship formed.

So for humans, the first layer of security is the spousal relationship of parents, the care of parents is very important for a child's childhood. Some children are not so lucky, for example, if their parents were eaten by tigers, what should they do? The second layer of security is the grandmother (and maternal grandmother, possibly because the author herself is a grandmother and will also take care of her grandchildren and grandchildren). The author believes that there is a very interesting phenomenon that female primates closely related to humans, such as monkeys, gibbons, orangutans, etc., die soon after menopause, but human grandmothers (and maternal grandmothers) live a long time after menopause. The author explains the reason, because grandmothers are the connection between children and history, and they often take on the responsibility of caring for children instead of parents. This is not like now because everyone works in the city and cannot take care of children, so they ask parents to come and take care of them. Since ancient times, both in the East and the West, grandmothers (and maternal grandmothers) are a very important force in caring for children, which is the second hand.

The third preparation is called alloparenting. Although alloparenting cannot be said to be unique to human society, it is relatively more common in human society. Even if you pick up a child on the roadside, you might take him home to take care of him. We might even raise the children of our enemies. Or if your parents, grandmother, and maternal grandmother are not there, then your aunts, uncles, and maternal uncles will raise you, which is alloparenting. With these three layers of security, humans can let children have a long childhood and enough time to play.

In the process of human evolution, the love generated between caregivers and children is a particularly magical thing. The goal of love is a kind of commitment, love is a completely altruistic cooperation, which is an expression of human genes. We will be unconditionally altruistic, cooperate unconditionally, even love children more than ourselves, that's love. With love, we can more easily let children have a safe childhood. Then how is love generated among non-blood-related alloparents? Because of care, there is love. Just like in "Les Misérables," Cosette was raised by Jean Valjean, although there is no blood relationship, no impulse brought by genes, but because of long-term care, this love is also deeply rooted. Therefore, love is the guarantee of our continuous evolution.

So how do children learn? Next, let's reveal the methods of children's learning. The first method is called learning by watching. The author believes that learning is rarely achieved through deliberate teaching. Many people may say that's not right, we all learn by going to school. You can think back, how much have you learned in class? Most of the things you've learned in your life are what you wanted to learn. Human learning starts with imitation, from birth. A baby, when he can see the world clearly, if you stick out your tongue, he will follow suit, which is imitation. We used to think that children's imitation is simple, you show something, he learns it. In fact, it's not. Children's imitation is more complex than we imagine, both advanced and efficient. The human brain is amazing; it's not like a machine, not like a mirror, whatever you do it does, the brain is not that simple, it chooses. During the process of imitation, the child is studying how objects and people actually work, always learning causal knowledge (how one thing leads to the occurrence of another).

Moreover, children's imitation will surpass the creativity of adults. We give children toys like brain teasers to play with, and many preschool children play better than adults. The reason is that adults have too many constraints in their minds, but children will creatively solve problems. This will allow us to understand how a teacher should teach children and how to let children play more creatively. For example, a teacher walks into the classroom, says in the teacher's tone "I'm here to teach you this game", and demonstrates a way to play, then many students will only use his method to play, which is complete imitation. But if the teacher says "What should we do, I don't know how to play, can everyone think of a way", then the children's play will be varied. So, the process of children's imitation cannot be "designed".

Many parents feel that since children like to imitate, then I must pretend to be reserved in front of the children, I want to deliberately behave in a certain way. This is useless because children observe you in all aspects, twenty-four hours a day, and the ten minutes you perform with spirit, he can't see at all, what he sees is the normal you. If you hope your child will get better, you don't need to perform in front of him, you just need to slowly improve yourself, you need to really make your own behavior, cultivation, and attitude better and better.

There's another kind of imitation called ritual imitation. Ritual imitation produces a sense of cultural belonging. People in the same area, the same ethnic group have the same habits, such as using chopsticks is a sign of the Chinese, which will produce a corresponding sense of cultural belonging. Of course, ritual imitation can also produce constraints, such as some developmental psychologists teaching origami in a Maya tribe, finding that Maya Indian children living in such primitive tribal villages learn origami much faster than American children, because they hardly have to wait, do not judge, have no constraints, they just completely watch how you fold, and they learn. This is the bondage that cultural belonging brings to us. We think we should wait for the teacher to demonstrate first how to do it, not to step over the line, etc. But those children who have not been influenced by these cultures are freer, and he can imitate more like and faster. The final suggestion to everyone is, do it with the children, instead of "do as I say". Now the vast majority of families are making demands on children, letting children do as you say, in fact, children will not do as you say, you can only do it with the children. This is the first method of children's learning, called learning by watching.

The second method is called learning by listening. In this part of the content, the author cited a scientific experiment from a book we talked about before, "Third Million Words: Building a Child's Brain". After many years of tracking in this experiment, people found that the number of words spoken by parents to children in different family environments is completely different, and there can be a difference of thirty million words in vocabulary over three years, and this thirty million words in vocabulary will affect the development of the child's brain. So what you say to the child, how rich, will affect the establishment of his brain neurons.

The attachment pattern between children and parents determines the child's trust in what the parents say. We have mentioned in many books, attachment patterns are divided into secure attachment, avoidant attachment, and anxious attachment. Simply put, children with secure attachment are relatively normal, when you leave him he will be sad, you come back he will be fine. Avoidant attachment and anxious attachment will be a bit deviated, the characteristic of anxious attachment is that he will cry when you leave him, even if you come back, he is still crying. The characteristic of avoidant attachment is that he pretends not to see when you leave him, and he also pretends not to see when you come back. Different attachment patterns are related to whether the child trusts what you say. A very interesting point is that children with anxious attachment actually believe every word their parents say because he is extremely afraid of you leaving him, so at this time he will treat every word you say as a decree, whatever you say he believes. Children with secure attachment will judge, the right part you say, he will believe; the wrong part you say, he will question and oppose, this is secure attachment. Our attachment pattern with children determines the degree of trust he has in us.

What else is characteristic of children? Of course, children are easier to deceive, and boastful people are more likely to gain the trust of children. Children like to listen to confident people, and if this person speaks very confidently, children are easy to believe. Words that are easy to form a consensus will also affect children, such as several adults all say so, children are easy to believe. Because children have not yet fully established critical thinking, so the characteristics of children are such. But remember, children are not "a random sponge", he does not believe everything, not what you say he can accept. And children can identify fiction and hypothetical, such as a child who particularly likes SpongeBob SquarePants, also particularly likes Batman, but he will correct adults, saying Batman will not be with SpongeBob SquarePants, because one is in the sea, one is in New York, the child's mind will naturally distinguish these things.

Many children particularly like to ask "why", what is the reason? Especially around the age of three, you tell him a thing, and he keeps asking you "why". The process of children constantly asking why is actually seeking a better explanation, he wants to understand the part that best reveals the causal relationship. So for adults, patiently answering children's "why" questions is a very worthwhile thing. If you really don't know the answer, you can even search or ask others, but you have to value the "why" asked by children. In this process, the child's mind is constantly enriched, and more causal relationships can be established.

And the language we use to explain to children will also affect the child's way of thinking. For example, there's a concept called essentialism. What is essentialism? It is to attribute any one thing to a certain nature, and believe that this nature determines that it will definitely be how. Further down, it might become "a certain kind of person will have a certain kind of nature" "this kind of person will be how and so." Essentialism sometimes produces a lot of very bad results. We extend from the essentialism of objects to the social cognitive essentialism, such as saying different races will have different opinions.

If the words you say to the child are all generic language, it is easy to establish an essentialist recognition method. And changing to non-generic language will be much better. What is generic language? For example, when a child cries, some parents will say "boys don't cry", which is a kind of generic language, it contains the implication that the essence of boys should not cry, which will form a big burden for the child. In fact, if you extend it forward, you will find that including different jobs, different races, different levels of education, may all become essentialist statements. So what is non-generic language? For example, "We don't need to cry about this thing", meaning I am targeting this thing, we don't need to cry about this problem, not men don't cry. This actually raises a higher requirement for parents, that is, when we talk to children, we also need to learn to improve ourselves, improve our cognition, and continuously advance our values.

The child's trust in you will surpass all methods. The author says: "Being a stable and reliable learning resource provider is more valuable than being a direct instructional caregiver. In the study of attachment relationships, we see that children adopt different learning methods based on different people and their feelings for these people when acquiring knowledge. The most basic trust in the relationship is more important than teaching methods."

Think about when you were in elementary and middle school, why did you do well in some subjects and not well in others? You ask the child to know, the reason is very simple, the child will say "I like this teacher". If you say this teacher is not competent, the child will say "I just like him", he is willing to learn this course well. Now many parents have given up the naturally formed good relationship with their children and want to switch to being a home tutor. This is equivalent to stepping down from the position of parent and becoming a family tutor, the child "has no parents", his situation becomes a group of "family tutors" surrounding him, who can stand this? Now you can understand the second method, called learning by listening, children will develop neural connections through language.

Next, the third method is even more powerful, called learning by playing. Play is learning, but play has five important characteristics. The first feature, play is not work, so play does not produce any results. The second feature, play must be interesting. If it's not fun, it's not called play. The third feature, play must be voluntary. It's that the child himself wants to play. The fourth feature, only on the basis of a sense of security can one play. The fifth feature, there are patterns filled with repetition and change in play. There is a pattern of repetition in the play, repeated over and over, such as when we ran madly on the playground as children, you chased me, I chased you, and there are also patterns of change. These are the five features of play.

For many children, roughhousing as children is actually a kind of social rehearsal. Psychologists have done such experiments, dividing rats into two groups: one group is rats that grew up normally roughhousing; one group is rats that grew up alone, not allowed to roughhouse, and as soon as they roughhoused they would be separated. Observing the behavior of these rats after they grew up, it was found that those rats that did not experience roughhousing as children, had difficulty interacting with other rats after growing up, did not know how to socialize, that is, they did not have social adaptation skills. When we observe rats roughhousing or wolves roughhousing, sometimes it looks quite scary, they all bite their companions' necks. But in fact, they have their own measures, they will grasp the measures, not to cause too much harm. Sometimes playing too high, there will be a little skin trauma, but more is happiness. Now many parents are overly protective of their children, just afraid that children will have conflicts with other children. Parents always stand by like a bodyguard, pull apart when something happens, and the final result is that the child can't socialize with others.

I remember when I was a kid I grew up on the main street. I grew up on the main street, and after dinner every night, dozens of kids from the whole street would run out and play like crazy. I was almost a child leader, leading everyone to play various role-playing, imaginative games, this group "fights" that group, that group "fights" this group. But, it's in this process that play has trained many of my abilities, such as communication between people, social skills, and the ability to integrate into a team. If a new person came, whether he could be brought to play together, this is all learned in the game.

Intelligent animals are curious when they're young. When children play with toys, they are actually experimenting. If you observe a child's eyes, you'll notice they linger longer on unexpected occurrences. When something surprising happens around them, children will stare at it, captivated, because during play, they are constantly observing and summarizing. Among all play behaviors, there's one unique to humans, called "pretend play." For instance, we played "house" as children, without any actual props, using our imagination to bring things to life. Ordinary animals can't play this game; they can't imagine themselves playing the drums. But children can; they can imagine anything at home and have a great time doing so. This ability signifies that human children have developed counterfactual thinking, meaning they can pretend to see things that aren't visible. This capability is simply remarkable.

However, many parents dislike this aspect of child's play. They feel their children are constantly daydreaming, with heads in the clouds, not focusing on their studies. Parents often wish their children would start doing their homework earlier, but actually, their brains are rapidly developing at that time. Through ample play, children can develop counterfactual ideas, which will later help them understand how others think. This improves their interpersonal relationships and gives them a stronger capacity for empathy. What is empathy? Almost everything you do in society, whether successful or not, depends on your ability to empathize. Leading a team, designing a product, marketing, formulating policy—all these ultimately depend on your empathy. Besides play, reading fiction is another effective way to improve empathy. Reading novels can help us understand others' thoughts better than reading psychology books. Reading fiction is also a form of play, where we use our imagination to fill in gaps.

Play teaches us to cope with the unexpected. Classroom teaching is usually too structured and regulated to prepare you for surprises; you know someone will protect you, someone will set the rules, and everything will follow the textbook. But in the real world, such as on the streets, we may encounter unforeseen situations. For example, what if children fighting accidentally hurt each other? Who takes responsibility? Who talks to the parents? Should the injured child be taken to the hospital? These are situations you have to deal with. This is the author's point: play allows us to learn to handle the unexpected.

Play and teaching have completely different outcomes. The author conducted an experiment with many plastic tubes that produce different effects when pressed. In one scenario, a teacher entered the classroom and said, "Let's play with this toy," emphasizing play. The teacher demonstrated briefly, and then the children freely explored the different tubes. In another scenario, a different teacher said, "Pay attention, I will teach you how to play; this tube makes a sound when pressed." The result was that all the children only pressed the tube that made noise. This illustrates the difference between play and teaching. "Wired" magazine once held a contest to vote for the most fun toy in human history. Guess what was voted number one? A stick. A stick has been the most entertaining toy throughout human history, from prehistoric times to the present.

Next, the fourth method is called "practice through doing," suitable for older children. What does this mean? You should never expect preschool children to control their focus. We often hear people complaining that their child lacks concentration, and parents get anxious when teachers talk to them about it. What you need to realize is that having sufficient concentration comes at a cost—sacrificing variability. If a child focuses too much now, it means they can't do many other things. In primitive times, humans couldn't afford to be too focused; being too absorbed could mean getting eaten. For example, if a caveman was hunting a deer in the forest and didn't notice a tiger approaching from behind, he would be eaten. Hence, the survivors were those who were cautious and always on the lookout. Children are the same; they retain this natural instinct.

During preschool years, children don't need high levels of focus; they need exploratory learning. Conversely, when a child is focused, they are often interrupted by their parents. For instance, if a child is engrossed in playing with a toy and doesn't want to eat, parents often make the child stop playing and come to eat. This disrupts their concentration and the joy of exploring the toy. Why break this naturally occurring concentration to then later try to train it? Let the child explore as much as they want before school age. They might take away different things from a pile of toys or a game, and that's normal because they are exploring a "big forest," which is exploratory learning.

After school starts, from the age of 6 to adolescence, the human brain has an important feature—it becomes calm and rational. In the past, we said that children around seven or eight were disliked even by dogs, but that's not true. Children at this age are the most calm and rational people in the world; they no longer have the fantasies of their younger years and have not yet developed the restless desires of adolescence. During this time, they are capable of calm and rational learning. Thus, the learning method often shifts to mastery learning.

What is mastery learning? It's about turning what you've learned into second nature. For example, if you haven't made driving second nature, and every time you get into a car you have to think through everything your instructor taught you, then you haven't really learned to drive. True mastery means not needing to think; you just drive. Or with English, you speak without thinking—that's turning a skill into second nature. Mastery learning increases efficiency but also rigidity, which is inevitable because we ultimately have to learn certain skills. We can't reach 18 without having mastered anything. Mastery learning may be a bit rigid, but it's also more efficient and requires more repetition.

But if we only emphasize concentration, then we diminish the potential for variability in the future. Variability is hard to understand. For example, I majored in metal materials and heat treatment in college, and I really couldn't learn it; I struggled to pass my courses. Since no one controlled me, I allowed myself to watch movies, wander around the library, and read all sorts of books unrelated to my major. As a result, I pursued a Ph.D. in film studies. What is this? It's variability. When we constantly emphasize children's concentration, their variability decreases.

"We can change schools to adapt to the varying developmental states of children's brains, instead of medicating their brains to fit the school." Indeed, some children can concentrate on one thing for a lifetime. On the other end of the spectrum are children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), characterized by an explosive curiosity. A typical representative of this group is Edison. Edison came from a middle-class family, but no school would take him. His mother sent him to any school, but he would be expelled within days. The teachers found him unteachable; he didn't listen in class, constantly looking outside or fidgeting, which they felt was annoying and disruptive. Therefore, Edison never attended school; his mother taught him at home. This type of person is on one end of the attention spectrum, with highly dispersed attention and creativity, capable of doing many things in a lifetime.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who are extremely focused, determined by their genetics. They are just that type of person. Who are these people? Have you heard the story of the oil seller? "The Oil Seller" mentions the phrase "only through familiarity," meaning I've done this one thing my whole life, so I do it so well. The oil seller is focused on doing one thing. Some people can do a simple job for a lifetime. For instance, Toshiro Akiyama did carpentry, a simple job, for his whole life. Others can work as shop assistants for a lifetime because they don't have many desires or interests in trying other things; they like to perfect one thing. These are two different types of people.

After reaching the age of eight or nine and entering adolescence, children often master skills through apprenticeship training. This is a common training method that involves learning in the process of doing. You can't teach someone to play baseball in a classroom. Imagine taking five years of baseball classes, learning all the theories, rules, positions, and tactics, but never having actually played the game. The child couldn't master baseball skills. It has to be through apprenticeship training that he gradually masters a skill.

Today's school education has invented goal orientation. Schooling is too goal-oriented, especially since exams have become standardized, making those who adapt to exams seem smart. Therefore, we overemphasize concentration, thereby reducing the possibility of variability. I often tell parents that I advocate not scolding children, not monitoring them, and not accompanying them with their homework, which doesn't necessarily mean giving up on their education. Many parents think that without supervision, their child's grades won't improve. However, if you really get to know many college graduates, you'll find that many who went to prestigious schools weren't monitored by their parents; they learned well because they studied in a relaxed manner. The human brain is sufficient, able to handle academic demands while maintaining variability. These children become very impressive after growing up; they not only have a good educational background and knowledge, but their minds are also flexible, with high variability. This book makes these things clear.

The most important learning happens outside of class. If you attend lectures, you'll find that except for the professor who is truly impressive and whose personal charm and temperament have a valuable impact on you, everything else is in the textbook. If you read the textbook thoroughly, you'll realize that the content covered by the teacher is even less than that in the book, and the amount of information in the classroom is very limited. So, what's the value of the classroom? It lies in demonstration. For example, when you see a professor so wonderful, you think he's so impressive, and he shows you the direction of your own life, you want to become someone like him... These messages are not in the textbooks. But if you're just after knowledge, there might be more opportunities outside of class, such as during breaks, where you can learn a lot, including through competition, play, and social interaction.

We've discussed a book called "The Grown-Up's Guide to Teenage Humans", which says that the adolescent brain is different from the childhood brain and the adult brain, representing the third form of the human brain. The impulse control part of the adolescent brain is not fully developed, so adolescents need social rewards the most, namely the respect of their peers. If you can create conditions for your child to earn the respect of their peers, it can help them navigate the impulsive phase of the adolescent brain. If not, you should at least give them some respect and let them feel that they are growing up.

The development of history has a ratchet effect. What is the ratchet effect? Put simply, history's wheels don't turn backward; they have a one-way ratchet that only turns in one direction and can't go back. People don't like boring things or repetitions; what was done in the past shouldn't be repeated, so the ratchet of the times keeps moving forward. We should believe that society is progressing.

The author cites a very convincing example. We often envy our grandparents for being able to raise five or six children together. How did they do it? It's hard for us to raise even one child, sometimes even needing a nanny. They were just a couple, both working, raising five or six children without ever hiring a nanny, and they raised them well. How did they do it? The author believes that this ability will no longer exist in the future, and you don't need to regret it because as humans continue to develop and progress, our generation no longer has this capability. In the future, you may not raise so many children because you've lost this ability, but you've developed new capabilities that the previous generation didn't have. For example, you can use WeChat to make payments, you can understand the metaverse and the internet, which they might not understand, so one generation is different from another. The author suggests that parents always want to be "carpenters" because they can't stand it, thinking their children's ways are not good enough, and they should be like them. Our grandparents might think, what's so difficult about raising just one or two children when I've raised five or six? Although one generation can't stand another, the times are progressing, and the ratchet effect is continuously at play.

The author writes: "Parents, especially grandparents, have one important task, which is to provide the next generation with a sense of cultural history and continuity. If we lose contact with history, our next generation will lose a lot. To be a parent is not to nurture children but to be a bridge connecting the past and the future. But I cannot and should not expect my descendants to have the exact same traditional culture and values as me. Good or bad, they will create their own digital age, their own world. It's their responsibility to find out how to live in the digital age, not ours." That is, the era in which children live is completely different from ours, so we don't need to mold them into the gentlemen we want, but should allow them to develop and adapt on their own.

Finally, I want to emphasize one thing: being a "gardener" has nothing to do with wealth. I often hear many parents use a poor family environment as an excuse, saying, "Teacher Fan, the things you talk about are too lofty for ordinary families like ours, we still have to..." I cannot accept this. I think this kind of statement is just an excuse for their own ignorance and laziness, implying "I am ignorant and lazy, and my family is poor, so I can only strictly control my child." What kind of reasoning is that? Being a "gardener" has nothing to do with wealth. Even if you're poor, can you be poorer than the little girl in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"? Her family often went a week without food, then huddled together, pretending to play an Arctic rescue game. Her father told her that they were stranded in the Arctic, waiting for rescue, and they would see if the little water they had at home could last the week. The girl grew up to become a famous writer, and she was psychologically healthy. Because her parents, in dealing with poverty, did not vent their emotions on the child every day, but did everything possible to play with the child, creating conditions for the child to play.

So regardless of wealth, as long as we choose to be "gardeners," we can be "gardeners." Conversely, it's because we want to be "carpenters" that we incur more expenses. Why enroll children in so many classes? Because we don't believe children can grow up on the streets; we believe they can only grow up in classrooms, so we pay a large "intelligence tax." Moreover, when it comes to spending money on children, almost all families are willing to give everything they have, which is a terrifying thing. We absolutely cannot spend everything to mold our children; that would not only be being carpenters but starting a carpentry workshop, turning our home into a factory.

The book ends with a postscript by the translator, Professor Zhao Yukun from Tsinghua University, who wrote a post-reading reflection. I particularly like the title—"Stop 'Burning the Harp and Cooking the Crane' with Your Child." Many people are not familiar with the idiom "burning the Qin and cooking the crane," which means having a good harp but using it as firewood due to a lack of firewood, or having a beautiful crane but slaughtering it for food like a chicken, hence "burning the harp and cooking the crane," a waste of precious things. Many families slowly cultivate a smart, lovely child with infinite potential into a reclusive, selfish, angry exam machine. The reason is simple, remember the term "burning the harp and cooking the crane." The child could have been fine, and you could have been relaxed. All you needed to do was let his brain grow in accordance with the laws of developmental psychology, to develop healthily. But we tried too hard, hoping he would seem stronger than others in a short time. Parents have a face-saving mentality, and if the child's grades don't show improvement after the final exams, parents will "take measures." In fact, a child's happiness is a lifelong matter, and his success is a matter for ten or twenty years from now, but we demand too early for the child to deliver.

The author ends with a very moving passage, mentioning a very famous silent documentary "Nanook of the North," which you can search for if you have the opportunity. The author wrote: "One of the most typical examples I've seen of play being valuable to both adults and children comes from the great silent documentary of the 1920s 'Nanook of the North.' The film recounts the story of an Inuit hunter, Nanook, and his family, who strive to survive in the harshest climate on Earth using their hunting and gathering skills. In the film, Nanook makes a toy sled for his son, who has just learned to walk. Father and son play joyfully in the snow, a scene very familiar to someone like me who has lived in Canada. Let's think about this seemingly insignificant act. Imagine, in a situation where they could barely make ends meet in terms of time and material, this father and son took up sleds to play. Yet Nanook knew that playful exploration in the snow was the best investment for the future for those living in a world of ice and snow. And we, living in wealthy countries, still haven't understood this."

So, I hope this book will spread more widely, allowing more people to understand why we should be a relaxed "gardener," sipping coffee, rather than a sweaty "carpenter" swinging an ax. Thank you, everyone, see you in the next book!


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