British philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) is credited with developing the theory that children are shaped by their life experiences and perceptions of those experiences, according to a web page on the University of Eastern Illinois's website. Locke also taught that children do not respond well to lengthy lectures, but would prefer to be treated as rationale human beings who are capable of thought processes of their own.
Innate Knowledge Does Not Exist
Locke professed that children are not born with an innate sense of things. For example, a child does not innately know that 1 + 1 = 2. Nor will he instinctively realize that the sun will rise each morning and set each evening. Children can be taught such facts, and will absorb those facts. They might even use already acquired facts to grasp a new concept, however, none of the knowledge that children have comes to them instinctively or innately according to Locke's theory.
Locke believed that children are born as blank slates, ready to absorb whatever is given to them, according to an article titled "The Educationalists" published by the University of Michigan. It is during the formative years, according to Locke, that all of the child's experiences form and shape a child's personality and nature. While others believe a child's nature is something he is born with, Locke taught that the nature is determined by experiences.
Morality Before Facts
Locke also believed that before a child can assimilate learned facts, the child must be educated in other life lessons. For example, Locke believed that a child needs a strong concept of moral values and virtues before learning to add and subtract. He believed that those first, early lessons would start to mold the child's eventual sense of being and personality.
A child who was taught morals, values and virtue would grow up to be a strong and principled adult, according to Locke's child development theories. As the saying "garbage in, garbage out" implies, Locke believed if a child watched and was taught immoral behavior he would follow that pattern. Locke did not give any credence to the power of genetics or inherited traits.