Theorists Have Asked: Are We Endangering Our Children’s Minds?????
For decades theorists have been warning us about how we are endangering our children’s minds. Offered here is no opinion but rather through the words of the theorists we can make our own decisions based on our circumstances and personal situations.
Jane Healy in Endangered Minds began to sound an alarm to educators several decades ago. Long enough for several generations of school children to graduate. At the time Healy wrote Endangered Minds it seemed her greatest dilemma was “Could I explain to non-scientists that changing lifestyles could be altering our children’s brains in subtle and critical ways” Now with technological advances and imaging systems scientists can show us her greatest fears coming true. Scientists now explain that children’s experiences do in fact alter significantly the brain because much of the brain’s structure does depend directly on the way it is used. Every different experience of learning alters the physical structure of the brain. A small but very real example in today’s society suggests that children “hurried from one activity to the next may get lots of sensory input but will be short changed on the time consuming process of forming associations and networks to understand and organize meaningfully” (Healy ) When we consider the issue of changing brains we must acknowledge that students may display profound differences in processing information, decreased attention span, an inability to regulate emotional life and a deterioration in non-intellective factors needed for efficient learning.
Marion Diamond in Magic Trees of the Mind suggests..”We are dramatically under realizing the true potential of human beings, so that if you took random selections of one hundred humans at conception and looked at their potential in areas of anxiety regulation, emotional connectivity, and cognition these would be far greater, far higher than the average you see when they grow up. Even in the best settings, in many healthy families in very healthy communities, there are a whole host of unrealized experiences that leave portions of our population underdeveloped in every domain of brain function…Since experience impacts the organization of the brain, we can literally evolve or devolve, depending on how we value and treat the learning and stimulation of children”
To acknowledge individual differences is not a luxury it is a necessity. We cannot continue to lose large numbers of students by either having them drop out of school or dulling their minds to the point of utter frustration. “Boredom is more than annoying..it may be thinning our brains” (Jensen) It is not that these students are intellectually incapable but rather that their natural styles of learning are in direct opposition to the structure of the existing organization of schools. We as educators, cannot afford to ignore the potential we are wasting in many of our young people. Although as educators we acknowledge the concept of individual learning differences in theory, we often deny it in practice.
NOT ONLY FOR PARENTS BUT ALSO FOR SCHOOLS
As many theorists have expressed, (Darling-Hammond, Healy, Kohn, Greenspan,Perkins & Jensen) personalized learning is not just an interesting, unique concept to be considered but rather personalized learning is a necessity. My absolute favorite quotation in anything I have read recently is the following quotation from The Right to Learn. “When students are engaged in active learning around meaningful tasks, they are experiencing teaching that supports their cognitive development. However, many schools seem bent on ignoring development. As Tracy Kidder (1989) remarks: ‘The problem is fundamental. Put twenty or more children of roughly the same age in a little room, confine them to desks, make them wait in lines, make them behave. It is as if a secret committee, now lost to history, had made a study of children and, having figured out what the greatest number were least disposed to do, declared that all of them should do it…’ Developmentally attentive schools start from the presumption that the school should be user-friendly. (Darling-Hammond p118)
Darling- Hammond in studies of successful schools found the alternatives to be the most successful, vibrant, thought producing institutions. She suggests “The schools that showed the most extraordinary successes were those that differed most from mainstream practice: their teaching was most experiential and inquiry oriented and their governance systems the most democratic” (Darling-Hammond p10) We need to allow the extraordinary to become the norm.
SEE ALSO: Hurry Sickness, The World We Have Created & especially Alarms for Parents and Educators for more expert quotes