Here is an interesting and poignant cartoon I came across.
You might realize that many of the qualities listed above are on the right-side of the brain. The book authored by Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, focusses on the right brain as an important element in the jobs of the future in America. Pink writes,
The left hemisphere is sequential; the right hemisphere is simultaneous. The right hemisphere doesn’t march in the single-file formation of A-B-C-D-E. Its special talent is the ability to interpret things simultaneously. This side of our brains is “specialized in seeing many things at once: in seeing all the parts of a geometric shape and grasping its form, or in seeing all the elements of a situation and understanding what they mean.
Pink says further, “The left hemisphere specializes in text; the right hemisphere specializes in context.” How are ‘context’ and simultaneity graded on standardized tests? How are right-brained talents evaluated?
In fact, what about the entire model of high school that exists today in the United States? This model, suggested by Andrew Carnegie, was based on what would become known as the Carnegie Unit. The unit was developed in 1906 as a measure of the amount of time a student has studied a subject. For example, a total of 120 hours in one subject—meeting 4 or 5 times a week for 40 to 60 minutes, for 36 to 40 weeks each year—earns the student one “unit” of high school credit. Fourteen units were deemed to constitute the minimum amount of preparation that could be interpreted as “four years of academic or high school preparation.”
In 1906? When my grandfather would not permit a telephone in his house because ‘neighbors could listen in to their affairs.’ When lights were gas-burning. When radio was in its infancy. When William Kellogg invented corn flakes. Before the Model T. Before cellophane.
And we still use it in American high schools.
Not only that, but IQ tests too- a test formulated the previous year named the Binet-Simon test. The test evaluated left brain thinking and there was no consideration of the qualities surrounding the boy in the cartoon above. What other vestiges from 1905 do we still revere here in the 2nd decade of the 21st century? Cellophane?
Daniel Pink notes that the type of education modelled in high schools was focused on turning out ‘knowledge workers.’ He notes that they are skilled at the “ability to acquire and to apply theoretical and analytic knowledge.” Like trained monkeys. Most of our fathers held jobs that required this knowledge. And this worked for them [and their children]. In fact, as Pink points out, “Our left brains have made us rich. Powered by armies of knowledge workers, the information economy has produced a standard of living in much of the developed world that would have been unfathomable to our great-grandparents.”
Yet he notes, “But abundance has produced an ironic result: the very triumph of Left-Directed Thinking has lessened its significance. The prosperity it has unleashed has placed a premium on less rational, more Right-Directed sensibilities— beauty, spirituality, emotion. For businesses, it’s no longer enough to create a product that’s reasonably priced and adequately functional. It must also be beautiful, unique, and meaningful, abiding what author Virginia Postrel calls “the aesthetic imperative.””
Pink’s hypothesis, as the subtitle of his book suggests, is that left-brain thinking is now passe and the jobs of the future here in the US will almost exclusively be located on the right-side of the brain. Production has already left the US and is done in low-paying countries in the far East. Yet he also notes that the design [engineering] jobs are now rapidly moving to India and Pakistan where they graduate 250,000 engineers a year! That leaves innovation for US citizens.
However, innovation is NOT an imperative of the Carnegie Model used in American high schools. Our high schools are still training students for the 20th century. Worse yet, legislators in Congress and in the states still ‘believe’ in the Carnegie Model and mandate our students to become knowledge workers. The recent frenetic push towards mandatory testing exhibits this backwards-looking thinking.
There it is. And I don’t have the foggiest idea of how it will be changed. My fear is that we will continue onward until it is too late. We Americans are quite often too late in our thinking. If nothing else comes of this post, at least you can help your grandchildren hone their right-brained skills and point them into careers which nurture and utilize right-brain thinking.