This week Miss Boever delivered a very provocative talk about what has become known as the “Forbidden Experiment.” This is an experiment which involves taking a newborn baby from birth and locking it in a room, denying the child any form of human communication or interaction. In essence, the experiment is, to anyone with an ounce of humanity, a sinister one based around testing how a child would develop and communicate when denied the usual social interactions and language. The child would then be let out of the controlled environment to see how they communicated. To many, this would be considered a form of abuse; nevertheless, a consideration of the language issues raised was fascinating.

This experiment clearly takes us into the rather unnerving realms of how we, as humans, develop language, and how would we communicate if we could not speak. Additionally, the key question raised was: which is the purest language? Which was the first language spoken by the first people on earth, Adam and Eve? Would the child that has been denied all forms of communication and language speak this “pure” language? However, is it even in any way moral or ethical to deny a child the ability to communicate? Surely this is the path to darkness and takes us into the realms of “playing God”?

Language consists of many forms: from sign language and gestures. Miss Boever discussed the case of those that are born deaf and considered the fundamental differences of one form of communication (or language) from the more commonplace medium of communication, speaking.

Language plays a pivotal part in our development and interaction as human beings. This talk was eye-opening but also made for uncomfortable listening as it took us into areas of scientific ethics that is highly controversial. However, this is what these Saturday sessions are all about really – thinking about issues that take us all beyond the confines of our classroom studies and getting us to question.

Guido Weiser
Y10 Academic Scholar