W O R D S F R O M T H E R I
G H T - S I D E
-- O u r I n v i s i b l e C h i l d r e n
by C. S. Franklyn
CHAPTER I BROWSE
T H E C H A L L E N G E
S O F L E A R N I N G
A child never understands why he or she does not learn. And if the adults do not understand what is happening, especially parents and teachers, the problem becomes one of growing frustration. As they make less and less progress in school, they become a part of the "invisible children" who are tolerated and automatically passed on to the next grade. Severely hurt by this bureaucratic indifference, as the loss of learning continues, the adolescent finally "drops out and is hopelessly lost!
This scenario -- far too common in a Nation that spends more on Education than any other country -- is without question a national tragedy. At this moment, the problem remains not only unsolved, it is unappreciated and unaddressed.
The implications of poor learning permeate and impact all of our economic, industrial, social and national goals. For many reasons, school administrators are much too willing to categorize the child as a "poor learner" and let it go at that. Public education in the USA is presented much like a free meal: take it or leave it!
The failure to solve the poor learning problem has created a population that is able only to perform work at the lowest skill levels. Able to do but one job, probably taught to them by their first employer, they are not adaptable to higher-tech work. They lack the learning tools and skills required to make upward improvements in their ability. ADAPTABILITY is the key characteristic found in the well-prepared worker. To be "adaptable", one must have a set of intellectual tools, well-honed and immediately available. Intelligence is not enough. Undeveloped raw intelligence is not only a sad spectacle, it is dangerous in lands where citizens are privileged to select their leaders via democratic elections.
Pondering all the above, I trust the reader will realize that while Learning is the theme of this book, we range more broadly into how the National Learning Deficit -- now in its thirty-eighth year -- is the direct cause of radical and dangerous changes in the American Democracy itself. That is a sub-theme to this work, however, we should not lose sight of that fact as we share these words from the Right-side.
More than three-quarters of the students graduating from our high schools today are unprepared to take a job in our industrial/commercial system. This has been true on an increasing basis for fifty years. Not only do they lack fundamental skills; they have a deep resentment and disrespect toward "learning and education" per se. Such attitudes are translated into animosity toward those who have learned and are viewed as "educated". Being better educated does not automatically translate into being better off, as so many believe. But that perception is powerful and pervasive in the USA.
These feelings against the "better offs" are not simple, innocuous sentiments. They burrow deep into the minds of many and establish a pattern of hostility and cynicism that often lasts a lifetime. More and more, our society is breaking up into narrowly defined groups that resent each other. Today, this process of division has segregated us into groups defined by a sharp gradient in intellects, skills and relative wealth.
As these groups grow larger and their characteristic mentality becomes more perverse, this sharply defined intellectual gradient has given birth to an unnatural and grotesque political environment. The results of these conditions are about to surface in many disturbing ways. Its most disturbing characteristic is the number of people who no longer respect morality, ethics and who believe without question that "the end justifies the means". The very best and noblest precepts of Christian thinking and actions have been demeaned and rendered less and less acceptable in the Land that devout Christians -- our forefathers -- established through privation, endless toil and Faith in God!
Result: America has lost its way!
We may have reached that point in History that Thomas Jefferson foresaw and feared most. A nation cannot let the education of its people continue in a downward spiral without an eventual crash. The crash has occurred, but there is no agreement on where it has failed, nor is there much indication that rescue is at hand. Instead of solutions and the taking of hard decisions, our leaders give us ‘more politics’ steeped in ideological mumbo-jumbo! There is even clear evidence that this infatuation with Ignorance is part of a diabolical plan to end the American Republic!
It does not take a genius to understand that adults who lack skills and are unemployable will become a national liability. The fact is reflected by unemployment statistics and welfare programs. The greatest damage resulting from this gigantic learning deficit is the personal deprivation it will cause throughout the Life of those who are poorly prepared. Happiness is not the product of Ignorance. On the strength of that axiom, we may confidently conclude that the United States of America is the unhappiest country in the world in spite of its alleged Affluence and Influence in the World. Both, in my judgement, are greatly exaggerated. A Nation that owes more than $6 trillion in public debt (circa 1990) and whose People save little or nothing of their earnings cannot be judged ‘Affluent’!
There are challenges and finger pointing on both sides of such a wide-spread problem. Who IS responsible for the unraveling of our Democracy? School administrators run our schools with the approval of local school boards whose members too often abdicate their oversight role. School boards remain much the same as they were in the beginning: political tools to hold down local taxes!
Administrators and teacher's unions control everything that happens in schools today. Unions oversee the indoctrination of our children on such things as Political Correctness, Tolerance, Diversity. Principals, with teacher's help, assume many pupils do not want to learn. Or that they are incapable of learning due to inherited traits. Whether right or wrong, educators believe they are psychologists, marriage counselors and other things. This Aristotelian Effect seems to possess many people involved in intellectual activity. They believe since they are experts in one field, they are experts in everything! Because of this, many problems in our schools are subjected to conclusions that have no real bearing on the matter. This veil of arrogance, too often found in faculties, account for the poor rapport between Teachers and Parents. Parents must share some of the blame, however.
The recent discovery by a National Education Standards group that the USA has no single unifying educational philosophy in Math and Physics caused marked surprise by the group led by a number of State Governors. That surprise in itself reveals the naivete of our leaders who, in another forum, would be the first to support "local control" of schools. Absolute 'local control' of schools assures the absence of "a single unifying educational philosophy". It guarantees insularity and entrenchment. And, we have both __ Big time!
Oh, such a unifying philosophy could exist. But the big problem is COMPLIANCE by our school faculties. It need not be that way. But we have not found a way to enforce teaching standards from the top down which means from the Federal/State level into the local schools. The "carrot (i.e., money) and the stick" approach apparently does not work. And that is the only method governments understand or seem willing to try.
It is time to climb to a higher mountain from where we can get a better view of what is wrong with our so-called ‘educational process’ in this country. We will climb two mountain peaks and explore them, namely:
1. Create a ‘developmental’ approach rather than a “passive education” process.
2. Introduce and practice Left Brain Right
Brain phenomena into the
Learning and Education environments.
3. Integrate and introduce “brainwave” science into the psychology of Learning.
DEVELOP VERSUS EDUCATE!
To “educate”, we merely try to lead a human being “from the ways of Ignorance”. From the very first day this Republic was formed, our leaders have misread the imperative that brought about our current school system. Schools were created over a hundred years ago to “lead our people out of Illiteracy and into Literacy”. Somehow, during this expensive process, most of our people have become Non-literates: those who can function only on an oral basis, who neither Read much at all nor can they Write anything intelligible! What they ultimately believe is based upon the influence (and propaganda) of the Media -- chiefly TV, radio, publications, etc -- none of which are required to tell the Truth.
The recommended Development process puts an end to the pupils privilege to “put in time in school”. It enforces criteria that prepares them to take their place in America as a Citizen, Parent and Worker/Consumer.
LEFT BRAIN RIGHT BRAIN TECHNIQUES
A thoughtful reading of Left Brain/Right Brain research activity indicates there are physiological reasons for poor learning that has nothing to do with genes, economics, culture, race or standards. One of these relating to the growth of the brain's cortex (i.e., our gray matter) has some relevance but may be far from useful application. The other has to do with my Life's experience which unfolds in this manuscript. The techniques for correcting the anomaly of "locked" hemisphericity, can be started today by parents in the privacy of their homes. The biggest step for Parents is that they recognize that their Child has a learning problem that is tied to an anomaly in his/her two brains. And, it can be corrected!
We can no longer wait for politicians, bureaucrats and government agencies to deal with these problems. What and how our children are “developed” into adults is OUR RESPONSIBILITY, first and foremost! Schools have been adrift for more than fifty years. How much longer can this Nation wait?
As a physical scientist and journalist, I have watched “brainwave” science develop slowly and aimlessly. Brainwaves have done well in the medical field but I believe they have tremendous potential to solve learning problems. They represent the only reliable path of communications with the brain. It is time we begin to listen to what our brains are trying to tell us!
Thanks to a small group of researchers, I believe it is time to bring “brainwaves” forward and join that inquiry with that of Left Right Brain research in the learning environment. The National Science Foundation should be the funding source. An inter-disciplines program is needed involving Physiologists, biofeedback experts, neurologists, educational psychologists and other related disciplines.
In matters involving slow learning and the poor learner, can we be sure -- in the early school years -- that we are dealing with a youngster who "can't" or one that "wont" learn? So far, the child, its parents and the school have not solved this dilemma. We might ask: "Does anyone care?"
Is there any problem in our schools that is more important than solving the dilemma of the Poor Learner? Perhaps one: those who refuse to study and create by their rowdiness and disruptions an unfavorable learning environment for other children. The second makes matters worse for the first. We could start the process of solving the problem by re-introducing Discipline and Deportment into the Home and School.
The theory offered in the coming chapters is that we do not know how to approach such problems, let alone solve them. Indeed, we are looking in the wrong places for solutions. Furthermore, insights into this problem have existed for many decades yet educational psychologists have shown little interest in them. They enjoy more enticing theories and postulations generated inside their own disciplines.
As a small boy whose father had died and whose mother was stricken with Multiple Sclerosis soon after, I faced an unpromising Future. Lack of healthy parents and a home are voids that a child cannot fill by himself. Fortunately, I realized that I had to be a good pupil if I was to overcome these serious shortcomings. Knowledge meant Independence and that would lead to Success and Happiness.
For that reason, I fought my inability to learn by adopting various tricks to help me understand and remember. Many things were learned but in a unnatural way. Accuracy in arithmetic was erratic. It took forever to do an assignment. Had I not been attending a school located on the campus of a teacher's college, I believe the story of my Life would have been much different.
My teachers did not abandon me. Contrary to comments above, I want to make it clear that, in the absence of parents, my teachers became more than teachers. They were dedicated, mostly unmarried ladies, poorly paid but highly capable, not only in teaching subject matter, but also, insisting on good behavior and appropriate social conduct. They were allowed to teach the “whole” pupil without fear of being sued by litigious parents and unscrupulous lawyers.
In the beginning, I tried to write everything in "mirror image" or backwards. Over a period ending at age 15, my performance "appeared" to be almost normal, however, arithmetic and reading were accomplished by secret methods that I managed to hide. My mental orientation was not like the other children, a condition that continued into my middle years. By the time I was in high school, I achieved better grades, but at a very high cost in Time spent on homework. My study habits were methodical and required a complex system of Visualization and Multi-sensory perception to retain new information. Almost all reading had to be done out loud. That which I tried to learn by eyesight became involved in an inexplicable conflict that prevented me from remembering or understanding what I had read.
I could not learn by rote, the process of mechanical memorization. Rote has been the major process for learning in American schools since their beginning. In my case, I had to "understand" something before I could actually learn (i.e., retain) it. How does a youngster explain the need to "understand"?
When I told a teacher that I did not "understand" the lesson, sometimes a "brighter" pupil would be assigned to help me. My classmate would tell me that I didn't have to "understand", just "remember". Not much help, really, but it was obvious I was not absorbing my lessons the way others did. They seemed quite satisfied to not understand what was happening. What they learned by rote was retained long enough for them to pass tests. "Isn't that what we are here for," summarized my classmates view of school. That was not my view of schooling. There was a fundamental issue of intellectual honesty in all of this which I could not articulate when I was young.
The real issue in "rote" versus "understanding" involves the dilemma that only teachers truly appreciate. The difference in terms of teaching for "understanding" is a matter of "superficial" versus "in-depth" methods. Thorough education that covers a reasonable number of fundamentals in any subject requires an approach quite different than anything used in this country since the close of World War II. "Quick and easy" has been the criteria in recent decades. While some have been pointing this out since the 1960s, little attention has been given our effort to awaken America -- the "sleeping giant".
To test for "understanding", we must use a different testing method. It requires answers in essay form rather than a true/false or multiple choice -- the quick way. Correcting such examinations requires much more time because each exam has to be read, then interpreted and then evaluated. A simple plus or minus or a number choice is much easier to grade.
Subjective or essay tests involved another difficulty that educators opted to eliminate: students could NOT write well enough to answer essay type questions. Simply by going to true/false and multiple choice, the testing process could be automated. Even the most illiterate among us can make an X! Teachers could spend less time on testing. They did not have to look at illegible writing and the resulting eyestrain. This evolution began in earnest after WW-II and culminated in the past decade as schools stopped homework, also. The downward spiral into lower and lower depths of Mediocrity continues!
I often wonder where the Bottom is!