Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is the world right-brained or left-brained?, II

I just came across a new Amazon review of my book that raises this question again.

I should clarify that this is actually not a review of my book, but a review of my book's title (the first exclusively title-focused review I've encountered in all the many reviews I've read on Amazon or anywhere else). Indeed, the author makes it pretty clear that she hasn't actually cracked open the book. She's sure, however, that the title contains a serious error:

The title is supposed to be Raising a RIGHT-BRAIN Child in a LEFT-BRAIN World: Strategies for Helping Bright, Quirky, Socially Awkward Children to Thrive at Home and at School. Hence, it is the creative, brilliant RIGHT BRAIN that these kids use the most, while too much of the population utilizes too much of the LEFT BRAIN. Interesting and kinda scary that no one is catching this mistake.
This title review (what I've excerpted above is about half of it) doesn't give me too many lines to read through--though, to its credit, it contains perhaps six times as many words as those in the title it reviews. I'd venture to guess, however, that there are two reasons why the reviewer thinks my title is wrong.

One I'll discuss in a later blog; the other is seen in her implicit assumption that creativity and brilliance are right-brain traits. The problem with this assumption is that, even if we take the term "right brain" not to denote the actual right hemisphere of the brain, but (as I do in the book) as it's used in the popular culture--i.e., to denote intuition, holistic thinking, social skills, and artistic creativity--it's still not a reasonable assumption. It is, however a widespread one.

Too many people, including too many K-12 teachers, forget that not all creativity is artistic. In my book, I discuss, in particular, the left-brainer's creativity in "abstract ideas and strategies, abstract representations, abstract connections between ideas, and reworking of abstract paradigms":
These are the kinds of creativity it took, in the extreme, Darwin to formulate his principles of evolution, or Einstein his general relativity--the sort of creativity, in other words, that finds little inspiration or opportunity in today's concrete, conceptually easy assignments, and that few of today's teachers are either trained to appreciate or encouraged to reward.
Indeed it's precisely because so many people equate creativity with a certain kind of (predominantly visual) artistic creativity that, as I argue in my book, our world, especially the world of K-12 education, is right-brained, not left-brained.

1 comment:

RMD said...

I think people also miss the mastery aspect of creativity: truly creative people have mastered all that has gone on before them. We underestimate the role that true mastery plays.

For example, I was telling someone about Direct Instruction and its success. They, of course, asked "what about creativity?". They don't realize that true, high level creativity is the result of mastery of the basics.