It has been said, in current times, that the difference between human and other animals is primarily based on the way the forehead part of our brains develop. This part is the foundation of our movements, and also rules our intelligence. In other words, our sense of ‘self’ (ego) resides in that part of the head. There is a true story from America about a normally gentle and warm hearted man who turned into a crude and boorish character as a result of a severe head trauma (an iron bar piercing his forehead).
Insufficient development within that part of the head hinders personality development. According to brain scientists, this part of the brain develops well if people have something to discover, pursue and enjoy. However, if an individual suffers continuous and intense stress, this area fails to develop properly. Such subjects tend to obsess on one thing and their behavior is often confused. This part of the brain develops in the time up to elementary school age but development beyond this period is not so easy. So it is often said, ‘if we are not serious in bringing up our children to protect them from society, we will have to protect society from our children.’
From this, the importance of early childhood education (for infants and lower elementary school children) is significant. Educationalists say that education also serves to nurture inspiration and deeper emotions in people. As such, education has a big aim ‘to nurture hearts that treasure and respect the lives of others, and to nurture motivation for solving problems with a zest to live’. This is necessary in the face of the multiple trials and tribulations in our lives.
There is also a concern about young people losing an interest in science. It is said that this is because children today have such little experience playing with animals or with any physical play. As a result they have inadequate ‘material’ in their heads for understanding science later on in their lives. So parents need to provide their children with an environment sufficient to help them develop an active interest for new things and for nurturing an enquiring mind. These are the well-springs of human life.
Educationists say ‘knowledge based on books and images, not on actual experiences, is a form of impoverishment’ and that ‘the more experiences children have, the better they will understand their textbooks later on’. They also say that, because we human beings are also a species of animal, experience with other animals is essential for children.
Yet, when a child asks if he/she can keep a pet, they are likely to be asked ‘but can you look after the animal properly? You can only have a pet when you are old enough to look after it well.’ As a result the child may never get to keep a pet at all and consequently never gain any understanding of other animals.
I hope more parents will keep pets in the child-raising environment, bringing up both simultaneously, a caring communication existing between all. If a child is so eager to have a pet, or begs and cries to have one, I encourage parents to get the pet and let your child be thankful to you. Animals have a direct communication with children, so they cannot be treated lightly. Getting a pet will result in a grateful child. Not getting one could trouble the child permanently. I ask that both children and parents care and protect a small life together.
Incidentally, current education guidelines in Japan (for kindergartens and elementary schools) obligate them to have animals and plants on the premises. In the case of keeping animals they do however need advice and support from a local veterinary association. Indeed, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology states the need ‘to have support’ in their guidelines for elementary schools. So, today, there are some veterinary associations actively providing support and officially commissioned by their local authorities. Most local veterinary associations are now also moving in that direction.