Friday, April 4, 2008

Why should grades favor left-brain students?

As I've discussed in three earlier posts (one, two, three), low academic standards combined with high standards for sociability and for "normal" development (in penmanship, organization, and paying attention) cause today's left-brainers to get lower grades than many of their less academically skilled classmates.

So what? Experts like Howard Gardner (of Multiple Intelligences fame) say schools have long been biased towards such left-brain skills as math, logic, and verbal reasoning. Perhaps now they're finally righting the balance.


1. School should be about skills that require explicit teaching--e.g., how to write coherently on the causes of the Civil War. It shouldn't be about skills that children normally develop on their own, at their own rates, without classroom intervention. Except for those who are way behind schedule, there's little reason for classroom instruction and classroom activities on how to interact appropriately, listen attentively, transition between tasks, and stay organized.

2. School should be about skills that children don't have better opportunities to learn elsewhere: e.g. how to read and multiply, as opposed to how to get along with people and dance to music. Reading, multiplying, and academics in general just happen to involve lots of left-brain thinking.

3. Teachers shouldn't grade students on developmental skills like cooperating in groups, but on what they've learn specifically because of going to school.

4. All this means that grades should mostly assess left-brain skills and, as a result, end up favoring left-brain learners.

5. Finally, as we'll see in my next post, left-brainers depend much more on good grades than other students do.


K9Sasha said...

and stay organized.

I agree with everything except this. I think children should be taught how to organize their desks and papers. It's not a skill that develops naturally for many children, and it will help them do better in school (they can find their papers to turn in) and in life.

lefty said...

That's very true! Indeed, I recall this being a major point made in The Learning Gap: that one reason why students in Japan and Taiwan perform better than ours do is that teachers have high expectations that children keep their materials organized.