Friday, 10 May 2013

Prioritating Brain Structure over Schooling Traditions

I just finished reading an interesting book about the brain by Jill Bolte Taylor. She is a neurologist that got a stroke and recovered - and hence the bestselling book "My Stroke of Insight", the TED-talks, and the inter -views (one of the links is in Swedish, the other in English!).

Picture by Katherine Domingo

In this book, Jill Bolte Taylor points out very valuable knowledge: that our brains are different. Our brain communicate with us and we can communicate with it - so each of us can actually decide what kind of person we would like to be, combining the input from both brainhalves, focusing on the kinds of thoughts we prefer to have and listening to the information that our body gives us (sleepiness as well as how we perceive an atmosphere in the room we step in to). Awareness is one of the best ways to take care of ourselves.

Which, of course, makes me think of how we use this knowledge. For example, how is this dealed with at... schools? How is it possible that some children flunk in many subjects at school, even when they try to work hard? My high school teacher said that some decades ago, in France, students committed suicide when they realized that they had not passed the final exams - because they had "lost their ticket" to a future that would give them a job, as I understood it. Yet, many of the creative souls out there as of today - say, the British entrepeneur Richard Branson and the Swedish program leader Cissi Wallin - had bad grades. They have become successful regardless of how they did in school, and that could be examined differently: either the schooling was not stimulating enough - what should one know to survive the day anyway? - or the subjects that they were talented at were not well represented at school.  

Except for deciding what to teach and how to teach, it should be motivated why something is to be taught - and the stimulation of the brain halves' should be one of the criterias for this. (I shall get back on the topic why some things should be taught.) In the best of worlds, I believe that the entire brain should be stimulated every day at elementary school, until you can choose youself what you want to study. The right part of the brain is known for "being responsible for" creativity, such as painting and empathy, and the left one for logical, structural thinking, like mathematics - so painting and mathematics could be on the schedule the same day in order to stimulate all the kids in a class. Not to forget that some people can not talk but sing to communicate - and when that happens, both brain halves collaborate, so subjects that stimulate that kind of brain activity are very welcome, too.