“Asking children where the sun, moon and stars come from may seem strange. We ourselves haven’t had this idea for years, and when we did, we hesitated for a long time before putting it on. in practice because we were afraid that the children would think we were making fun of them, but there are no absurd questions for children: to imagine where the sun is coming from is a little more embarrassing than to imagine where the rivers come and the clouds where the smoke will come. “

“Discovering a kind of embryology of intelligence”

Jean Piaget, the young Swiss professor of psychology, philosophy and sociology, was the first in the 1920s to have the idea of ​​talking to children aged three to eleven about the origin of the stars and to take their answers seriously. To be taken seriously as answers which could provide information on the history of the development of human knowledge.

Jean Piaget was born on August 9, 1896 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, the son of a professor of medieval literature. During his high school years, he worked for several years as an assistant to a zoologist who ran the museum in his hometown. Later, he belonged to the private discussion group of his philosophy teacher. This made him aware of epistemological problems.

“Ultimately my goal was to discover a kind of intelligence embryology suited to my biological training.”

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Typical spirits for different ages

After completing his studies in 1918 with a thesis in biology, Piaget expanded his knowledge in the psychological and psychopathological field in Zurich and Paris. His work in the laboratory of French psychiatrist Alfred Binet has become a key event. Piaget was supposed to standardize American intelligence tests for Parisian children. He noticed that the children regularly answered some questions incorrectly. He didn’t dismiss them as bad, but saw them as typical ways of thinking for different age groups.

The claim that his research on children’s world views was limited to their cognitive abilities prompted Piaget to investigate children’s moral judgment in the early 1930s. His presentation of the results began in an original and vivid way with a examination of child marbles. In doing so, different stages with regard to observing and knowing the rules became recognizable and thus also differences with regard to moral quality.

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“From a psychological point of view, it is very different whether one considers the same rule in a 7 year old child, who considers it sacred and inviolable, or in the case of a 12 year old child who, without as a result of this, it is based on mutual agreements considered valid. “

Intermediate link between biological organism and scientific thought

Faced with the discovery of various stages of development, also in the moral field, an important question arose for Piaget: “How is it possible that democracy in the ball game of boys aged 11 to 13 is so advanced?” , while adults are still so unfamiliar in many areas? ”

His decisive explanation was: “11-13 year olds are the oldest at the game of marbles. The children whose reactions we are studying are not pressured by partners who impose their point of view on them because of their prestige.

The development of the intelligence of the child made the link between the biological organism and scientific thought, discovered by Piaget. “Genetic epistemology”, doctrine of the genesis of knowledge, becomes the title and the central theme of its various researches and commitments. More than 60 assistants and hundreds of students were part of his team in the heyday of the Geneva “International Center of Genetic Epistemology” which he founded in 1955.

Jean Piaget died on September 16, 1980. He is today one of the classics of an interdisciplinary variety of problem-based and creative research.