I suppose even a hundred thousand years ago, when our ancestors walked the yellow grasses of Africa, some of us were gatherers and some were healers, some of us were hunters and some were scouts, some of us were warriors and some were shamans.
I’m not inclined to believe those roles were fixed and rigid. A gatherer might also be a healer, a healer also a hunter, a hunter also a warrior, and so forth. But you see even today how people are born a little bit more this than that, a little bit more the artist than the athlete, or the athlete than the doctor. We seem at birth to have predispositions — I often call them talents — for certain skill sets. And, as individuals, we tend to be more strongly predisposed towards acquiring certain skills than we are predisposed towards acquiring others.
Of course, it’s possible to make both too much and too little of those differences. The evidence strongly suggests the ancient hunting/gathering societies were remarkably egalitarian. More egalitarian than almost any society today. So, during the bulk of our evolutionary past, individual differences in talents must have been almost insignificant compared to whatever pressures there were towards social and political equality. Hence, we can certainly make too much of those differences in talents.
Yet, we can also make too little. I was reading someone the other day who professes to be an expert on raising children. But it seems he wants to raise them all the same. In some profound way, he doesn’t recognize that children have any innate talents or dispositions: He doesn’t understand the implications of the fact. And so I’m left wondering how the expert could know less about kids than even I do.
Perhaps he knows more about the needs of the social order, than he knows about the needs of children.
I think the challenge for adults is to help kids turn their talents into skills and then employ those skills in a socially responsible manner. I do not believe the challenge is to turn out kids who are all alike, who fit perfectly into society, who vote a certain way, or follow any particular ideology or religion. The expert and I must agree to disagree.