Give me the child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man
Posted by Arjendu on January 2, 2010
During the Fall, I taught a Cross-Cultural Studies first-year seminar called “Growing Up Cross Culturally”, which looks at the birth-to-death arc in the United States, compared and contrasted with other cultures around the world. As part of this class we used films and extensive clips from the remarkable Seven Up series by Michael Apted, where a set of children are filmed and a snapshot of their lives recorded every seven years. I had seen one of these films (35 UP) as a graduate student in Austin, and it was unforgettable. I was thrilled when my co-teachers (there were 4 of us teaching different sections of this seminar this year, it’s a team-built syllabus) were also very struck by the films and made room for them in the course.
The premise is a quote attributed to St. Francis Xavier “Give me the child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man”. The specific context for the series was strong class boundaries in the UK — the film-makers thought they would be able to show how class origins determine the possibilities of your life. Whether they succeeded in that or not, they certainly made a compelling sociological study as they track the subjects over their lives (they are now over 50 years old). I’ll let you discover the movies for yourselves (and you can watch pretty much the last one and ‘get’ the full series, so it’s not a massive commitment) and/or follow the links above, or read this essay.
What brings them to mind for me today is that my child is turning seven shortly. And I can’t help but wonder if I can see the woman she is going to grow up to be in the child she is now — precocious reader as she is, for example (show-off/startled dad data-point: starting in late Oct and lasting through early December, she blitzed through the entire Harry Potter series, and in the last week, has read Dickens’ Christmas Carol and Kipling’s Just So Stories among others).
Coincidentally, my brother just sent me a copy of a family photograph taken when I was about seven years old, and I keep looking at that as well to see if I can see my present self in there. If it’s personality I am looking for, I think yes — I am just about as nerdy, bookish, shy, absent-minded as I used to be. And my brother, even at 4, has that familiar fierce squint.
The up-coming term, starting Monday: Quantum Mechanics. Yay!