Steven Pinker: ‘What could be more interesting than how the mind works?’

Colleen Walsh in the Harvard Gazette:

Q: Can you tell me about your early life? Where did you grow up and what did your parents do?

ScreenHunter_628 May. 18 18.56A: I grew up in Montreal, as part of the Jewish minority within the English-speaking minority within the French-speaking minority in Canada. This is the community that gave the world Leonard Cohen, who my mother knew, and Mordecai Richler, who my father knew, together with William Shatner, Saul Bellow, and Burt Bacharach. I was born in 1954, the peak year of the baby boom. My grandparents came to Canada from Eastern Europe in the 1920s, I surmise, because in 1924 the United States passed a restrictive immigration law. I can visualize them looking at a map and saying “Damn, what’s the closest that we can get to New York? Oh, there’s this cold place called Canada, let’s try that.” Three were from Poland, one from what is now Moldova. My parents both earned college degrees. My father had a law degree, but for much of his career did not practice law. He worked as a sales representative and a landlord and owned an apartment-motel in Florida. But he reopened his law practice in his 50s, and retired at 75. Like many women of her generation, my mother was a homemaker through the ’50s and ’60s. In the 1970s she got a master’s degree in counseling, then got a job and later became vice principal of a high school in Montreal.

More here.