From time to time I encounter stories of feral children. Although tragic, they are also fascinating because they let us glimpse important truths about how humans learn and possible hidden potentials.
There is a history that goes back thousands of years, of hundreds of children raised by animals such as goats, dogs, wolves and monkeys. The stories tell of strange abilities in the children such as the catching of birds and rabbits with bare hands, lapping food from the ground, communicating with hisses, howling and barks, panting like a dog, drinking milk from female animals, running on all fours, scavenging constantly and eating raw and even rotten meat. Many such stories have been dismissed as myths but modern technology is beginning to document such cases.
In 2010, a young Ukrainian girl, Oxana, who was found living with wild dogs, was actually filmed and studied in depth once rescued. Unlike many such children, she was finally able to be somewhat “re-humanized,” learn human language and walk on two feet.
Shinichi Suzuki, the world famous founder of Suzuki music education, after studying feral children, said “To survive, man instinctively adapts himself to his surroundings. A tremendous and sublime life force works to grasp the components of our environment. I am filled with awe at the thought of this power.”
I share not only his awe, but a huge sense of responsibility as I work to design a learning environment equal to this potential for learning ( and a future that is, at this time, unknowable.) Realizing that the child will adapt to the surroundings, it is a serious business indeed, calling for all the deepest insights and love that can be brought to the task. If you are inclined to help and advise, you are most sincerely invited to do so.