Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Is the world right-brained or left-brained?

Or, put another way, why is my book, Raising a Left-Brain Child in a Right-Brain World, "frequently bought together with" Left-Brain Children in a Right-Brain World?

In an earlier post, I discussed how author Jeffrey Freed and I ascribe overlapping characteristics to "right-brain" and "left-brain." In particular, both his "right-brain" and my "left-brain" characteristics include:

-being good at puzzles
-shying away from hugs
-performing better on one's own than when working in a group
-unusually dependent on structure

But what about the world? Is it left-brain, as Freed claims, or right-brain, as I do?

Like my "world," Freed's "world" mostly encompasses the education system. This, he argues, "has been fine-tuned to accomodate and encourage the kind of thinking that happens in the left hemisphere of the brain." In particular, he claims:

-"Lectures and reading assignments--left-brain teaching methods--are still the norm."
-"Homework is repetitious and a left-brained effort to hammer concepts into children's brains."
-Teachers rarely "use spatially dominant activities as anything but a passing fancy in the classroom."
-Students frequently say things like "I've never met a teacher who isn't a total geek."
-Subjects are "compartmentalized" rather than integrated.

Freed's perception of the education system leads him to advocate for such changes as:

-"hands on activities and experiential activities such as building models, measuring things, performing science experiments, and going on field trips."
-more use of color
-less use of phonics in reading instruction
-interdiciplinary project-based learning

But as anyone who spends any time in the classroom knows, such practices are commonplace, particularly in our model schools, while lectures, textbooks, geeky teachers, and compartmentalized assignments are becoming rarer and rarer.

So there are two possibilities.

Either Jeffrey Freed, like too many other authorities who dabble in education (cf here, here, here, and here), hasn't spent enough time visiting actual classrooms.

Or the education system has changed drastically since 1997, when Freed's book was published--perhaps because more and more schools have been following his advice.

Either way, when it comes to the grade school classroom, it's an increasingly right-brain world--so much so that even many of Freed's right-brainers are in trouble.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The heart of the problem is that we aren't teaching anyone successfully. Teachers want my left-brained kids to verbalize things they can do intuitively, to role-play instead of read. There is no progress there. My right-brained kid is perfectly comfortable with talking and modeling, but she's not learning either because there is no CONTENT to the lesson, no objective other than to communicate. She was born communicating; no progress for her.

Hainish said...

Students frequently say things like "I've never met a teacher who isn't a total geek."

He says this like it's a bad thing.

Hainish said...

Seriously, though, I've read the book and saw a lot of my (former, childhood) self in it. One of the reasons I want to go into teaching is to advocate for students like these. Obviously, the public school world is not made for them, and it's a tremendous waste--of talent, of potential, of happiness.