The “blank slate” view of human development was first documented in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and is generally credited to Locke and Rousseau. The idea is that a child is born completely free of any predisposition or vulnerabilities, and that everything the child would become was due to the effects of the environment. With advances in biotechnology, neuroscience, evolutionary theory, and psychology, this view has all but been completely discredited today.

Most people are now thought to have significant “pre-programming” from genes that have some influence on almost every want, trait, feeling, thought, and action. However, although we are bombarded right now by news about gene X being responsible for enjoying Saturday morning cartoons, it is important to remember that families, communities, peers, schools, culture, and parents have at LEAST an equal part of making us who we are, even if Rousseau was wrong.