We hear from time to time the suggestion that adults routinely kill the natural curiosity of children. This is an especially popular claim among self-proclaimed creativity consultants who, truth be told, often engage in counterproductive, feel-good exercises with their business clients. For a perfect example, you'll need to pass through the New Yorker paywall. Jonah Lehrer wrote an excellent article debunking pop psych beliefs about brainstorming. Shorter Lehrer on brainstorming research: lack of vigorous critical exchange means garbage in, garbage out; or judgment free zones make for poorer judgment.
Returning to the reasons for the demise of childhood curiosity, the idea is that almost everyone's childhood brilliance has been destroyed by oppressive adult thinkers, and the pop psych writer-consultant is going to unlock your shackled, curious, creative, child genius for just $14.95 or the $1000 an hour corporate rate for an in-person site visit from the author.
Of course adults can cultivate a child's intellectual potential, while abuse or a socially/intellectually impoverished childhood can seriously damage various aspects of cognitive potential along with a host of other critical human capacities. But the idea that childhood curiosity is routinely squashed primarily by adults who have themselves lost the gift of magical curiosity strikes me as questionable based on what we know about development.
Over at James Hanley's blog, a thread derail, mostly my doing in this case, goes over this ground and proposes an alternate understanding of the developmental course of curiosity. I thought about writing an integrated post explaining my thoughts over here, but you can check out the discussion there. I think you'll get the idea.
James is a political scientist and his blog is always interesting, not to mention he hosts an interdisciplinary group of very bright commenters who frequently disagree. While the subject matter (mostly college teaching, politics and economics) may not be everyone's cup of tea, if the subjects interest you, you'll find that the debates are always smart and civil.