Warning: Rant Pending . . . and although I reference Willa’s post, this rant in no way is directed at her but simply an extension of my frustration at society’s educational value system and how hard it is to shift our thinking because of its prolific nature . . .
Willa at Every Waking Hour wrote a post called “Thinking Outside the Box”. I would like to make yet another attempt at sharing my perspective compared to how our culture views the right-brained learner. This societal view is so prevalent and so accepted that even as we parents come to discover that we need to understand it better because one of our children fits the description and are struggling in the typical valued learning environment, it is still filtered through this viewpoint.
Frankly, it frustrates me. Am I the ONLY person who “sees” what I see? And, of course, since I’m a parent, I must wonder if I’m insane to think that the lowliness of who I am can actually think I’m onto something that needs to be investigated. But, upon attending the conference held by Pat Farenga called “Learning In Our Own Way” where he brought in a handful of professionals outside the realm of homeschooling who support the premise that each person is unique with their own learning style and should be valued for it; not negatively labeled for it, I realized there was professional support for my perspective and experience. Pat brought in Thomas Armstrong; John Taylor Gatto was there, of course; and a panel was convened to discuss “learning disabilities” which included Dr. Richard Falzone, Dr. Robert Kay, and Dr. Ken Jacobson who each specialized in their own areas. Each of these people shared eloquently about the value of various learning styles, which included the right-brained learner. During the panel, there was a general consensus that each understood that various learning styles should be honored versus labeled. During the question and answer period, I stood up and asked why it is that these professionals are not being heard about their valid views? Dr. Armstrong frankly didn’t know except that the cog of current acceptance of the status quo is hard to stop and be scrutinized.
I think some professionals totally get it; people like Thomas Armstrong (who was a learning disability specialist and quit because he no longer believed in it), Howard Gardner, Jeffrey Freed, and John Taylor Gatto (a New York Teacher of the Year who doesn’t believe in the system). Then there are professionals who seem to get it, but direct their knowledge toward how to work in the existing system and seem to believe in it as useful; people like Linda Krieger Silverman, Mel Levine, Dana Scott Spears, and apparently the author of the article Willa quoted.
Again, I’m frustrated.
For instance, Willa said these things in response to a document she read from a professional’s point of view:
Of course, you want a VSL to be able to communicate this perceptiveness and order it, so he may need some strategies to cross over to his left hemisphere. But auditory-sequential learners, the article points out, can benefit from some crossing over to the other hemisphere — they can learn to access a more holistic, perceptive way of acquiring knowledge.
How big of the author of the article to include the “crossing over” benefit for the left-brained learner. When you read the excerpt that Willa includes in her post, I “see” something completely different from the conclusions reached by the author. There is always things spoken of regarding the right-brained learner such as there is “confusion” at times or the two hemispheres are “not communicating correctly” or, hey, but the brain is elastic and can form “new pathways” that then create a person who has “unique traits” that cannot be measured, yada yada yada.
Remember, any person can take any data and any observations and bend it to their perspective. How about there is “confusion” when a right-brained learner is forced to learn in a left-brained fashion? How about there is a lack of communication between hemispheres because this particular person doesn’t need to communicate in the manner in which you desire it to. How about “problems” arise or are noticed because they are not yet ready to learn in that manner or those skills yet because it has not yet hit the timeframe in which this particular brain processes interrelate? Why do we continue to measure everything about a right-brained learner by our left-brained value system?
So, in other words, when a “professional” makes these types of conclusions, it is simply because he/she was looking for a solution to a “problem” that others say exists. What if the problem doesn’t exist, but we created it? How about supporting right-brained learners in a right-brained value system and THEN do some studies and testing to see if that learner’s brain doesn’t work out its own way to interrelate? Oh, but when it does, they simply say, “oh, look how elastic the brain is . . . it ‘fixes itself'”. NO! How about it was never broken!
Alright, so we then are still so conditioned to think in a left-brained fashion that when this author concludes that there are ways to “intervene” with our right-brained children in order to help them “connect to their left-side” because, hey, they will benefit . . . How will they benefit? So they won’t “think outside the box” so much anymore? They will conform a little bit here and there? Why does a right-brainer have to “order” their gifts? Isn’t their gift the very fact that they are random thinkers? This author just finds yet another fancy way to convince parents that “here is a broken piece that I can give you exercises to fix or to improve upon” (i.e., conform to society’s expectations, systems, and educational values).
Right-brainers are not broken! If there are left-brained learners and right-brained learners, why isn’t there a plethora of negative labels for the left-brained learner? Each type of learner should be valued for what it offers. Each learner should be allowed to flourish in the environment that supports their timeframe and process. Just because the left-brained value system is so prolific in our society and culture doesn’t mean it is superior. It means it is accepted, which means the supports are in place, which means it is easier to value what already exists. “The box” isn’t necessarily meant to be a good thing. It means that our culture created a common practice, a “norm”, a stereotype, a mold. So, when the term “thinking outside the box” is used, it means one is outside the norm or the common practice, not that they are weird, eccentric, broken, or disabled.
I feel we are at the place in our society and intellectual freedoms and pursuits to dismantle the box completely and finally recognize each learning style and its inherent optimal timeframes and processes as valid and embraced for what it offers! The intellectual and emotional health that would prevail would be enormous, and these would be the benefits from which I feel our world would prosper!
Rant done . . . does anyone “get” my perspective? I believe with all my heart that it is we parents that can affect real and lasting change in our culture for our right-brained learners! What the professionals are unable to do, our voices, when united, are unstoppable. The parents of children with autism proved that in their realm. We can, too 🙂