06 March 2011

Seven Up

I was in Madison, Wisconsin for a conference a few weeks ago and, in between periods of protesting at the Wisconsin capital, happened to sit in on a session with Dr. Nicholas Hitchon, a physicist. Seeing as the conference was about the intersections of space, time, and literacy, I was a little confused as to why he was presenting, but was excited at the prospect of science goodness within a literacy framework. It turns out that Dr. Hitchon had been one of fourteen British children who had been featured in the 1964 documentary 7 Up, a movie that sought to explore the idea the adult a person is to become is fully seen in the seven-year-old. Michael Apted has followed up with as many of the children as possible every seven years since, following them through some awkward adolescent periods into adulthood. The original program, in some very heavy-handed ways, sought to establish that particular ways of rearing children were more valuable than others. There are some children, particularly Nick, who are painted as childhood tragedies, but life isn't always so predictive.

It's a fascinating study in how our lives are shaped by a strange combination of educational experiences, the circumstances of our birth, our own biologies, and our inner drive. It's also a fascinating look at the ways in which chaos comes into play as we live, while also highlighting just how quickly life moves. I haven't been able to look away, pushing through six of the currently-available seven documentaries.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this! The series is at the top of my Netflix queue. I love that people often pose the question "Are people influenced by nature or nurture?" When the shaping of a human being is much more complicated than that.

    You had left me a comment asking about my Viking sewing machine. I really love it, but I'm not great at sewing and it's the only machine I've used. I love that it's made by Husqvarna, the chainsaw company. It makes me feel really tough. ;)

  2. I seriously love the movie series. The manfriend and I will finish it up tomorrow night - until the new documentary - they're 56 now - comes out later this year.

    Thanks for the input about the sewing machine! I'm bidding on them on eBay and definitely think the Viking is the way I'm going to go...

  3. I thought the Viking was the best... Makes me feel like a crafty Lumberjack. ;)