Thursday, November 30, 2006

49 Up: "Give Me the Child Until He is 7..."

If you haven't seen it yet, here's a remarkable movie / documentary recommendation - 49 UP. Based on the Jesuit saying "Give me the child when he is 7, and I will show you the man," the Up Series chronicles the lives of English children of different socioeconomic backgrounds - beginning at the age of 7, then revisiting (when his interviewees allow) every 7 years.

It's a touching and thought-provoking work that gives credence to the Jesuit idea. At 7 years old, Tony (above) was fidgety, hyperactive, and pugnacious. Today he would almost certainly have been diagnosed as ADHD. At the time, the movie director predicted he'd find him in prison as a young adult. But what Apted missed at the time was the positive side of Tony's restlessness, his big plans for himslef, his doggedness, and his willingness to learn from mistakes.

The whole series is very moving and touches on issues common to everyone- the different cycles of life (teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50), life's challenges and disappointments, and decisions to make a meaningful and happy life. At 49 UP, it was gratifying to see most of the original group find peace and satisfaction in their lives. For parents and professionals working with kids, it's also exciting to see how the sparks of interest and idealism seen in children just 7 years old, really could predict achievements and passions of later life.

Seven Up! - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
First Run Features: Meet the Director
Interview: Michael Apted, Director, 49 Up - Cinematical
Tony Walker's Home Page
49 Up at Amazon

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  1. I've seen all the 7-up movies so far except this one, which I can't wait to when I finally get a chance .. it is simply one of the most amazing movie series I have ever seen

  2. I believe the original intent of the Jesuit saying was not so much that observing the child's early behaviour would be a good predictor of later development, but that if someone (presumably a Jesuit priest) could mould a child's experiences up to the age of 7 they could then guarantee that child's allegiance and religious belief as an adult. While the movies sound interesting, I think the original intent had more to do with imprinting myself.

    Judith Warner gives a relevant quote in a NYTimes column yesterday;
    It is worthy of remark that a belief constantly inculcated during the early years of life, while the brain is impressible, appears to acquire almost the nature of an instinct; and the very essence of an instinct is that it is followed independently of reason,” Charles Darwin wrote in “The Descent of Man."