Children of the Wild

by nathalie.coronado on November 6, 2013 - 10:05pm

When one thinks of children living in the wild, one can think of Tarzan or The Jungle Book. In those books, both Tarzan and Mowgli are raised by wild animals. In both stories, Disney explores the subject of children living in the wild, but it does not take into account all the consequences that such of way of life can encounter.

What caught my attention about this article is the way Judy Illes, Doctor in Neurology, discusses the neuroethics surrounding feral children and language acquisition. Being a feral child means to be an individual that has suffered either of extreme isolation and abusive, or to be an individual that has lived in the wild for most of their life. According to Illes’s article, the abnormal lifestyle that feral children have experienced can affect their skills to learn a language.

In another article, written by Christina Sternberz, the critical period hypothesis is discussed. This hypothesis says that there is a specific age for children to acquire language. Passed that age, which is puberty, it becomes difficult and effortful to learn a language, and it is almost impossible to master it. A case explored in the article is Genie’s case. This young girl was isolated for the first thirteen years of her life. She was discovered passed puberty. Through therapy, scientists tried to make her learn English. Even though she could do short sentences, she could never speak English fluently. What Dr. Illes said about feral children is been proven true by the case of Genie. Even though through therapy she could acquire some skills necessary to her new life, the habits she had in her past life would always overcome them. Therefore, there is a nurture influence on language acquisition that makes on able or not to learn of to speak.

In conclusion, feral children have to face a lot of challenges when taken out of their primary lifestyle. Not only do they have to get rid of most of their habits because they are judged unusual for humans, but they also have to acquire new skills with a major one which is language. However, due to all they have been through during their time in the wild and their age when they begin therapy, they might never be able to acquire language and to function independently in society. So, the next time you watch Tarzan or The Jungle Book, you should go beyond what is shown and try to imagine what kind of challenges both fictional characters would have had to go through in real life.

MLA Bibliography:

Illes, Judy. "Chimeras of Nurture." The American Journal of Bioethics 7.5 (2007): 1-2. Print.

                Judy Illes is a Doctor in Neurology and is head of the Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia.

                This source is relevant because it is written by an expert on the subject of my academic blog post.


Christina Sternberz. "The Heartbreaking Story Of Genie, A Feral Child Who Will Never Learn To Communicate." Business Insider. Web. 06 Nov. 2013.

                Christina Sternberz is a journalist for Business Insider since 2002. 

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