At birth, a child’s mind is tabula rasa; he has the potential of awareness—the
mechanism of a human consciousness—but no content. Speaking metaphorically, he
has a camera with an extremely sensitive, unexposed film (his conscious mind),
and an extremely complex computer waiting to be programmed (his subconscious).
Both are blank. He knows nothing of the external world. He faces an immense
chaos which he must learn to perceive by means of the complex mechanism which
he must learn to operate.
If, in any two years of adult life, men could learn as much as an infant learns
in his first two years, they would have the capacity of genius. To focus his
eyes (which is not an innate, but an acquired skill), to perceive the things
around him by integrating his sensations into percepts (which is not an innate,
but an acquired skill), to coordinate his muscles for the task of crawling,
then standing upright, then walking—and, ultimately, to grasp the process of
concept-formation and learn to speak—these are some of an infant’s tasks and
achievements whose magnitude is not equaled by most men in the rest of their