Preparing Our Children for the 20th Century

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.


15 thoughts on “Preparing Our Children for the 20th Century

  1. Let me give this quote on left and right brain activity:

    According to the theory of left-brain or right-brain dominance, each side of the brain controls different types of thinking. Additionally, people are said to prefer one type of thinking over the other. For example, a person who is “left-brained” is often said to be more logical, analytical, and objective, while a person who is “right-brained” is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective.

    In psychology, the theory is based on what is known as the lateralization of brain function. So does one side of the brain really control specific functions? Are people either left-brained or right-brained? Like many popular psychology myths, this one grew out of observations about the human brain that were then dramatically distorted and exaggerated.

    The right brain-left brain theory originated in the work of Roger W. Sperry, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1981. While studying the effects of epilepsy, Sperry discovered that cutting the corpus collosum (the structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain) could reduce or eliminate seizures.

    However, these patients also experienced other symptoms after the communication pathway between the two sides of the brain was cut. For example, many split-brain patients found themselves unable to name objects that were processed by the right side of the brain, but were able to name objects that were processed by the left-side of the brain. Based on this information, Sperry suggested that language was controlled by the left-side of the brain.

    Later research has shown that the brain is not nearly as dichotomous as once thought. For example, recent research has shown that abilities in subjects such as math are actually strongest when both halves of the brain work together. Today, neuroscientists know that the two sides of the brain work together to perform a wide variety of tasks and that the two hemispheres communicate through the corpus collosum.

    “No matter how lateralized the brain can get, though, the two sides still work together,” science writer Carl Zimmer explained in an article for Discover magazine. “The pop psychology notion of a left brain and a right brain doesn’t capture their intimate working relationship. The left hemisphere specializes in picking out the sounds that form words and working out the syntax of the words, for example, but it does not have a monopoly on language processing. The right hemisphere is actually more sensitive to the emotional features of language”

    You have declared yourself left-brained because of your interest in math,
    logic, and science. You say that I am right brain because of my history
    interest. While I just wrote another rejoinder to your negative comment
    re Malissa HarrisPerry, it may be just your right brain dominating your
    left brain sense of injustice and hate. You know, I wonder how she would
    portray a black family adopting a white child? Do we really see Harris-Perrys essence here? Is she carrying racial hatred within her? What does her laughing at the remarks indicate? She was going along with it
    And now, she has published a poorly constructed retraction and in what
    vehicle? Twitter! She is not serious!

  2. Oops, mistake, it should be your right brain dominating your left. I know your right brain belief in justice, fairness, love of your brothers and sisters
    equality, etc is there, , but your left brain sense of order is dominating and
    and being reinforced by a leftist bias. Just as the article I quote, there are
    two sides. The struggle is to see both sides and to be able to choose the
    better response. Law and order cannot overrule blatant hate, even for a joke!

      1. The article I referenced says that dominant right and left brain psychology
        is a “myth.” ” Like many popular psychology myths, this one grew out of observations about the human brain that were then dramatically distorted and exaggerated.”

        ” “The pop psychology notion of a left brain and a right brain doesn’t capture their intimate working relationship”

            1. Subjective LEFT BRAIN, my friend. We RIGHT DOMINANT BRAIN people continually scan our world, our environment, our situation to piece everything together.

              The LEFT DOMINANT BRAIN is systematic, literal, vertical and sequential and often gets stuck and fails to see the Big Picture.

              Think jigsaw puzzle. Yuck! Left Dominant jump right in and begin to attach pieces, not particularly knowing or caring for the result. Right Dominant shy away from tasks like this because they need to see where they are going before they begin to attach pieces- if at all. I hate them!

              1. Research on Wikipedia:

                “Broad generalizations are often made in popular psychology about one side or the other having characteristic labels, such as “logical” for the left side or “creative” for the right. These labels are not supported by studies on lateralization, as lateralization does not add specialized usage from either hemisphere.[1] Both hemispheres contribute to both kinds of processes.[2] and experimental evidence provides little support for correlating the structural differences between the sides with such broadly-defined functional differences.[3]

                The extent of any modularity, or specialization of brain function by area, remains under investigation. If a specific region of the brain, or even an entire hemisphere, is either injured or destroyed, its functions can sometimes be assumed by a neighboring region in the ipsilateral hemisphere or a corresponding region in the contralateral hemisphere, depending upon the area damaged and the patient’s age.[4] When injury interferes with pathways from one area to another, alternative (indirect) connections may develop to communicate information with detached areas, despite the inefficiencies.

                Brain function lateralization is evident in the phenomena of right- or left-handedness[5] and of right or left ear preference,[6] but a person’s preferred hand is not a clear indication of the location of brain function. Although 95% of right-handed people have left-hemisphere dominance for language, 18.8% of left-handed people have right-hemisphere dominance for language function. Additionally, 19.8% of the left-handed have bilateral language functions.[7] Even within various language functions (e.g., semantics, syntax, prosody), degree (and even hemisphere) of dominance may differ.[8]”

                1. If you are “right braain” you are subjective, i.e., can only accept your points
                  of view, if I’m “left”. I’m the more open minded person, i.e., objective. Please reference 2ndPara on my first comment above, last sentence.

                  1. Here’s the obvious difference between you and me. I presented an article on education and the types of future jobs for the young generation and you nit pick about what is ‘left’ and what is

                    Small picture/big picture.

                    1. Only because you are supporting a myth. You like to write about myths as in religion and now in suggesting an educational “cure”.

                    2. Let me conclude that neither you or I have degrees in psychology or neurology. Those areas of studies also disagree on right and left brain
                      activity. I have read numerous criticisms of Pinks thesis. It seems
                      to me to apply Pinks recommendations would be a serious mistake for
                      educating children. U.S. education does not rank low because we are
                      not creative. We rank low because our math, reading, and science
                      abilities are lower than the other industrialized nations. Just because
                      you claim to be right brain and, therefore, want a right brain curriculum
                      does not mean this is best for our public schools. In our private, expensive
                      elementary school of k-8, it seems to me there was a good balance of your
                      supposed two dominant brains. We lost that in our private and expensive
                      segregated high school, didn’t we? Was translating Caesar’s “Gallic Wars”
                      a creative experience? We will agree that O’Neill’s writing class was creative, but even his class was dominated by rote vocabulary memorization and testing and exercise after exercise of rote grammar
                      learning. When I went to University what was I tested on for advanced
                      English. Yep, page after page of grammar. The results demonstrated
                      I knew grammar, so I bypassed grammar and was placed in advanced
                      writing. I would say our private schooling did the specific instruction they
                      were to do, i.e., have us learn basic education and attain college. Face it,
                      your parents and my parents sacrificed and did what they had to do to give
                      you and me a fighting chance to succeed. We did the same with our children, and now our children are trying to do the same with our grandchildren. It’s the facts that win!

  3. Melissa Harris-Perry is a gift that keeps on giving from her spiteful dig at the Romney adoption. Her remarks just get more outrageous. Her so-called first
    “apology” says she meant no offense.” Oh, really? Why is she “joking” about a transracial adoption in the first place, and laughing at the “jokes”?
    Why is an innocent baby child made the butt of “jokes”?

    Now, she has come out with another apology that says her “intent had been
    to celebrate the diversity of Romney’s family.” Now, that IS a joke!

    I am writing both MSNBC and NBC asking that she be removed. Moreover, I am writing Tulane University asking for appropriate sanctions. I hope that
    others who call themselves progressive and moral will do the same…..

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