The World We Live In: A Clue to the Misdiagnosis Epidemic
For all our advances in education, our increased knowledge and our superior educational assessment capabilities something is still going very wrong. Healy explains “Our knowledge about how to teach has actually improved… I have been around university education departments since the fifties; during that time professional training has been considerably upgraded. Thoughtful research on how children learn has paved the way for dissemination of better classroom methods and instructional materials as well as a much clearer understanding of students who have trouble learning in traditional ways. It hardly seems reasonable to believe that the majority of teachers have suddenly become so much worse. In any school visit I find many good, dedicated professionals. They claim tried-and true methods aren’t working anymore. Why?”( Healy p17 )
As educators we read or hear in the media that schools need to reform or that schools are failing but often these judgments are made from a narrow view of the structure and concerns educators face. Most educators say they are not doing what they know is best because of curricular requirements, standardized testing pressure or everyday stresses that overwhelm our schools. Educators, well read and aware of the state of education are also very concerned about making our schools viable communities to engage the young people we are privileged to have in our care but for very different reasons than our critics understand. We don’t need to change because the political party of the day needs more votes or because some world marketing conglomerate needs to have access to our children for more sales or because one group or another needs a scapegoat; we don’t even need to change because our own colleagues suggest we must. We do, however, need to change!!!
We need to change because our student population has changed dramatically. Their actual minds have changed, their abilities and very considerable gifts have altered dramatically. “Environmental events are really causing molecular changes in the brain… It is frightening to think that we may be doing some very dreadful things to our children” (Kotuluk p85). Many brain based theorists, the constructivists, the sociologists, the neurobiologists, the neuropsychologists and a multitude of educational experts continue to warn us that the world we live in is actually biologically altering our children’s minds. They have been telling us for decades that children’s minds are changing as fast as the world they live in. “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” (Diamond & Hopson p293,4)
“Our technology, economy, and society are transformed at ever greater rates, while our institutions hold ever more tightly to outmoded ideas, perhaps it is time for some really fresh thinking-especially from a quarter where it might have been least expected. The old measurement scales do not quite fit, as many have long known, in spite of what they were told. And many have suffered for no good reason as a consequence. (West preface) Educators and educational institutions have not kept pace with our changing student’s minds. When we consider the issue of changing brains we must acknowledge that not only will students 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.
What we can be sure of is that our students will need to be able to learn independently, think critically, cooperate effectively and solve problems creatively.