Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man

That was the Jesuit motto, alleged to be attributed to Francis Xavier, the co-founder of the Jesuit Order. The implication is that the best opportunity to indoctrinate a person in a lifetime of belief and devotion to religious dogma is when they are young.

The Christian Science Monitor ran a story a few days ago that alleges “terrorism experts say radical groups are targeting teenagers as young as 14.”

“As I speak, terrorists are methodically and intentionally targeting young people and children in [Morocco]. They are radicalizing, indoctrinating, and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism,” said Jonathan Evans, the director general of the British MI5, the security service, in November.

He warned that teenagers as young as 15 and 16 have been implicated in “terrorist-related” activities as a result of a deliberate strategy pursued by radical Islamist groups.

I’ve seen first hand the affect that indoctrination into street-gang culture can have on adolescents -and they start getting this indoctrination in some large cities at a very early age. Kids in this predicament are generally from low-income, single-mother households and are usually desperate for authority figures that they can put their trust and loyalty in.

I wonder how the uncertainty and economic strain of chaotic nations in the Middle East affect adolescents there? Could it be any different? Could being raised in a war-torn nation, a theocratic nation, or one in which the only existence you’ve ever known is that of occupation by an oppressing and repressive authority affect your psychological well-being?

Then again, are the young participants of indoctrination camps like the Jesus Camp or the well-to-do students of Mullahs at any less risk of being indoctrinated into a cult of hatred?

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7 Responses

  1. [...] “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man” [...]

  2. I have always admired that quote… but after some years of living, learning, and finding my niche in life, I wonder if St. Francis Xavior was not being a bit simplistic.

    I was the child of a divorced mom who had only an 8th grade education (and I came late to realize that she is one of the wisest people I have known). For as far back as I can remember (age 3? 4?) she said I must get a college education. In that aspect, certainly, the Jesuits are correct.

    From her, though, I have also learned that book larnin’ isn’t the whole answer (though it helps reading copiously can do the same job). Mom was no feminist; just a gentle, wise, and loving person who taught me the most just by being the kind of person she was.

    We all cannot escape being products of our genetics, our environments, whether human or nature (odd to make a difference in that huh!), but even more… I believe we are products of something else which is uniquely ours… unique to each and every human since homo erectus and perhaps before…

    At least to this day, in spite of breeding and inbreeding, science does not claim that any living thing is a natural clone of any other. OK… so, if we accept that each of us is instilled at conception with a quality that has not been precisely duplicated… we have to realize we do possess that hackneyed word: we are special.

    And one other thing we have, and this is legendary in most cultures: we have free will IF we choose… and that choice in itself prooves that premise.

    And so perhaps, like me, others reading this might recall the clusters of things that shaped us, what we are today. Or, are not.

    St. Francis was a wise man, but, I hope without offending, I believe that those first seven years are indeed vital.. but they are only stepping stones. The real man or woman is what we choose to make of oneself across the divide to and through adulthood.

    Most of us can’t help avoid skidding on one or two of the wet stones and go plop :) but we don’t just stay there; we can’t. Getting up is what we do, figuring which stone to avoid next time. We might make waves… let them be the best waves we can make because they are our waves. Let them do us proud.

    • The quote refers to the raising of boys into men and does not actually relate to girls at all.

      There are different psychological and physiological attributes for the genders. One of these being that from around the age of 7 years, boys will subconsciously start distancing themselves from and ignoring female adults. They’re called naughty but really they’re not – it’s just part of differentiating themselves from the female gender and finding their own identity.

      This is especially the case where there has not been strong male influence before the age of about 7.

  3. [...] [5c] Jesuit saying: Give me a child till seven and I will give you the man:http://breakingspells.wordpress.com/2008/01/01/give-me-a-child-until-he-is-seven-and-i-will-give-you… [6] Salat (Prayer): http://www.hajinformation.com/main/c20.htm [7] Muslim Prayer [...]

    • I like your comment. I was persuading my husband just now to take my grandson every Wednesday to the library to share fun reading. The quote popped into my head so I googled it. It didn’t occur to me that extremists might be doing the same thing and spreading hate. Good and the Devil. Good will always win in the end, it’s in the last chapter. xx

  4. i surfed to this site after watching Craig Ferguson’s late late show may 3 2013, In his monologue he jokingly made reference to pope benedict moving back to the vatican and he and the new jesuit pope adopting a young boy. It would be a sitcom called “Two and a Half Popes” And that reminded me of the old line “Give me the boy and I’ll show you the man” or something similar.. It is unfortunate that so many impressionable youngsters are being brainwashed to hate others enough to kill without question.

  5. we are not born w hatred in our hearts,,,people are taught to hate,,,nelson mandela,,,, think that many people take quote ‘give me a child until he seven’ too literaly and assume that the seven year old will be the same person when they reach adujthood, Obviously this wont be thase but the intensity of any given experience in th developing childs first seven yearsll determine the level of influence it may have jn adulthood

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