by C. S. Franklyn Copyright (c) 1993-2000
HOW TO RECOGNIZE RIGHT-BRAIN DOMINANCE
As a youngster I was an avid builder of model planes and boats, and a compulsive drawer even though I did not draw well. In time, science became my "natural" subject. When I began Algebra and Geometry, I discovered that I was more “comfortable” with its more abstract nature. Algebra provides a process for step-by-step logic by which one can rationalize or reason. The process provides a step-by-step approach that is understandable. You begin with what you know and proceed to use it to find what you don’t know. Interestingly, my classmates who were great in arithmetic, did not seem to adapt well to Algebra. That was a clue to the differences in our mental makeup, but, of course, I could not interpret it then.
In Geometry, a problem could be laid out on paper where I could see it. That was a clue: reading WORDS was a problem. Reasoning based upon diagrams and sketches improved my comprehension. Graphics and pictures were more friendly than words. What did it mean?
Words were not useful tools because they seemed to have too many meanings. Words, indeed, are proxies for ideas and concepts! Even oral instructions were difficult for me to interpret correctly. What I heard were words, not phrases, sentences and thoughts. When I wrote, sentence structure/syntax was poor. If you do not read well, you will not write well.
The most significant sentence in the first paragraph, however, is about my sense of "comfort" when I began to learn Algebra. Algebra has a natural tendency to bring the two brain hemispheres into "balanced" or resonant cooperation. Abstract thinking is akin to dreaming and visualizing. The fact that Algebra is taught to very few of our students today is both the reason for and the result of Right-hemisphere oriented pupils finally dropping out. They have never discovered the comfort I have described. It means comprehension without doubt; it is the feeling one has when he or she feels they "understand" something.
John Dewey, a renowned educator, introduced the concept of “belonging” as an essential component of making a child ready to learn. Now, I would like to add the concept of “understanding” as a necessary component. Teaching a child for the purposes of “understanding” rather than just "remembering" is a much different world, I assure you!
The dropping of Algebra in our schools is the fault of aggressive parents and weak school boards who permitted the retirement of this critical subject. Algebra is the most effective subject for developing analytical and logic skills. From the 6th grade onward, it should be required at least through the Sophomore year. It teaches one how to THINK, analytically and rationally. Those are basic skills that prepare the Citizen to THINK productively no matter whether he or she is in their own business or work for someone. It is indispensable when it comes to deciding who you will vote for!
After a long and varied career in business and industry -- including Education as a math and physics teacher -- I know the learning problem I speak of exists in many families. But there is good news for those concerned with learning difficulties. What I have not seen, however, is a detailed self-analysis by a person who has suffered through a learning difficulty like mine. Most have forgotten those unpleasant school days. I have not forgotten and I believe that such unsolved mysteries should be explored, shared and more widely known! That is why I have written this paper!
What this work may lack in scientific terms, is counter balanced by an accurate and authentic case history. The insights gained through this long and tedious journey are being shared so other parents and their children with similar learning difficulties can know they are not alone. And, -- more importantly -- that they can overcome many of those difficulties! With help, of course!
Scientists have been studying how the human brain functions for over a hundred years. The brain continues to be the least understood organ in our bodies. In a practical sense, our brains are a total mystery even at this moment! Most of what is known seems to be moderately verfied.
Learning, as a process of acquiring, manipulating, storing and retrieving information is becoming better understood, however. The process has been slow because most of the early work has involved patients with head injuries and diseases like epilepsy. As I have studied research papers, the implications of Left/Right Brain phenomena, in matters that could affect a person's learning, have become dramatically evident. The "learning deficit" problem has been downplayed and neglected because educators tend to believe that every pupil has the same kind of a brain! They don't!
Useful information on how the human brain operates may be years away. The challenge may easily exceed our current adventure into inter-stellar space. Since "learning ability and reasoning" is the defining capacity between Man and other animal forms, L/R has the potential to radically change Civilization as we know it today. Its impact in terms of improving the Human Condition will exceed anything accomplished thus far on this planet, in my judgment. I believe this because nothing contributes more to our Happiness and Self-Worth than being Useful, Productive and Independent. This opinion does not reject all the other wonderful goals in Life. It merely highlights that if we have too few skills and are not employable (i.e., useful) none of the other goals can possibly be reached.
W H E R E A R E W E ?
The "dual" nature of the human brain has now been described by research experts and there exists a growing body of knowledge on how the brain handles information. The cerebellum (i.e., brain) has two separate but interconnected hemispheres. And these two halves have their own sensory inputs and respond to similar perceptions but in different ways. Each hemisphere controls one particular side of the body and is served by its own sensors. The Left eye, for example, feeds visual information to the Right hemisphere. The Right hemisphere controls the actions of the left side of the body (e.g., arm, leg,etc).
The Left hemisphere is where numbers and letters are learned; the Right hemisphere has intuitive or instinctive and perceptive powers. It can visualize and dream things and comprehend things through feel as a blind man learns what a person looks like by feeling the person's face. It handles things like drawing and art and tonal information used to produce music or recognize unique sounds. Thus far, there is no proof that the brain structure itself is different in the two halves. Such data could explain why they handle different kinds of information. I doubt that there is a difference. The Brain is like a computer: the input it receives from the earliest moments of conception establishes the unique nature of the brain lobe involved. For example, the brain half that is functioning first -- probably during the 2nd to the 4th month in the womb -- will become the Intuitive half. In real life, this is about 10% of the human population. Not all humans, however, have their Intuition or Creativity resident in their Right-lobe! Sometimes, the Left-lobe is the Intuitive brain. This anomaly merely proves something I concluded many years ago while studying statistical analysis: there is no such thing as an absolutely perfect generalization! Usually, 10% of the samples or cases are anomalies that refute a logical generalization!
However, the reason certain work is done by one and not the other, I believe, relates to which hemisphere is older and begins functioning first. If we turn to the modern Personal Computer for an analogy, our Right hemisphere contains the Read-Only-Memory (ROM) chip into which Nature has placed the fundamental intuitive power and controls that we need especially during the gestation sequence and the early stages of infancy and childhood. The Right hemisphere contains many wonderful things given to us by Nature or an Almighty Power.
Is it possible that under certain conditions, we actually can have two brains
rather than one? And are they truly autonomous? After all, we have two
of many other things in our anatomy. We may have two states of
consciousness, the Left which is the Consciousness of an individual's
experience, education and community -- the External or extroverted
persona. And the
Right which is the Consciousness of Genes, Emotions, Personality, Ego
Soul -- the Internal or Introverted persona. The Left side appears to
the place were all "acquired" learning is received, manipulated, stored
retrieved. The Right side processes those personal internalized
features -- those things "known" (i.e., intuition) as if by endowment
such as what is Right and Wrong. These are attributes NOT learned from
the external world. They are the incontrovertible things that define
our Human Nature. But where did they come from? Who put them there? The obvious
-- God -- comes to mind! Dare we go one step further and conclude that it is
HOW IT ALL BEGINS!
In the normal human being, because the two hemispheres are joined by an interconnecting nerve mass called the Corpus Callosum, the two halves must operate cooperatively. Once mature, they share the daily workload. But in infants and young people, these two hemispheres -- for some, at least -- experience a long and troublesome journey into adulthood. The process called “maturation” -- more precisely its Timetable is not the same in each human being. Each has its own clock and event schedule! As a child reaches the age of five or six, the Right hemisphere begins to share control of the intellectual process with the Left hemisphere. In the beginning -- assuming we are talking about the typical Human Brain configuration -- the Left lobe has very little data in it! This is the Normal child, more or less. When the Right lobe does not begin to share or "hand over" certain tasks to the Left lobe, bad things begin to happen. They appear in the form of Conflict and Interference between the two hemispheres.
Serious work on L/R in this country began in the 1950s when Professors Sperry and Meyers at the California Institute of Technology, produced the first major finding in this field. Their work on the brains of cats led neurosurgeons Vogel and Bogen to separate the brains of human patients suffering from extreme epilepsy. The results were dramatic and proved that the two brain hemispheres have unique capabilities: they can and do function separately! Many old theories of what would happen if the hemispheres were separated proved to be wrong. Those whose brains had been "split" surgically, were not only able to function but for the first time we learned that information observed by the Left eye was recorded and recalled only by the Right-brain! With the Right eye closed, the Left-brain saw nothing and remembered nothing. Conclusion: in the normal brain use, information is transferred via the Corpus Callosum between the two brains or hemispheres! Data is being handed-off from one to the other constantly!
Follow-up work by others looking
at the brain as a organ that responds to environmental enrichment,
conclusively that the more we use our brain, the better developed it
Exercising the brain directs more life-giving blood to it. As a result,
it increases the work area, makes it stronger, more energetic just
same as exercising other parts of our bodies. Elderly people who
PCs which forces them to study and learn puts vital blood into their
keeping arteries functional and less prone to "strokes" and dementia.
me to digress for a moment. If you want to review a fuller background
of work done by outstanding people in Psychology and Psychiatry, I
recommend you use the Search Engines on the Internet to bring up the names of the following scientists:
Penfield B.F. Skinner
Stephen Binet Jean
THE MYSTERY UNVEILED!
As I have read about this research, and then related it to my own learning dilemma, I became convinced that thousands -- actually hundreds of thousands -- of children have failed to learn because they are Right-side Dominant thinkers. Drawing upon the experiences of my entire lifetime, this work attempts to identify the specific evidence (from studies) that prove the existence of a learning problem I now call Negative Dominance Transition Syndrome (NDTS). A child whose "learning behavior" remains under the control of the Right hemisphere suffers from NDTS.
children who do not learn
are not stupid. They are deceptively normal yet they are unable to
due to a specific physiological anomaly. It is associated with how the
hemispheres begin to function and how they share work activity during
the early years as the brain and other cognitive sensors are maturing.
At birth, the human body has a number of stages to pass through which
usually ends at about age 18-20. These stages are much like
shifting gears in an automobile. The NDTS child is one whose cognitive machine
gets stuck in low gear! Like the transmission (i.e. gear box) of an automobile,
there are three crucial shifts from (1) Infant to Child, then from (2) Child to
Adolescent, then from (3) Adolescent to Adult! The Normal Child makes these
mental shifts with little effort. However, the NDTS Child fails to shift gears
at the proper time due to a number of anomalies that are due to interference
with the physical or mental "programming" of the individual!
Ideally, the Normal child (that 70% who experience the same "shifting pattern":) is the child for whom our public schools are designed to teach. That is perfectly logical. Present education methods are not able to teach, evaluate nor understand the maturing of the Right brain, however. Teaching designed for the Left brain only confuses the Right side.
Most American schools pay little attention to the Visualizing child who is the Right hemisphere dominant type. In fact, my observations of many non-learners has indicated that they begin to fail about the time the normal pupil begins to use and depend more and more on his or her Left brain! Evidence of this anomaly begins to emerge (at the latest) in the 7th and 8th grade. The pupil who does not show progress in learning comprehension by the 8th grade, needs remedial help. The proper strategy is to find NDTS pupils as early as possible -- say, for example, the 3rd and 4th grades -- so help can begin then, not later!
Today, educators are forcing parents to medicate children suffering from Attention Deficit Syndrome (ADS), now called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disease (ADHD) so they will behave like the Left-side dominant children. Many of these children, in my judgment, are suffering from a brain maturation anomaly, which I have named NDTS.
Imagination and Creativity -- already at a premium in our Nation -- continues to be neglected as an important component of the normally intelligent person. There are better ways to deal with youngsters with learning difficulties. Many of them have great potential to do unusual work on behalf of Society, not in spite of, but because of their strong Right Brain modality. I do not want to leave the impression that the NDTS child cannot be normalized. Some, those who are gifted with unusual capabilities in certain fields must be handled with great care!
My mentor, Dr. Allen D. Patterson once commented: "Many pupils do not understand the lesson, but very few have the gumption to tell the teacher. That's why we give tests -- just to find out for sure. Even that does not tell us whether the pupil has really learned!" Not anymore, it doesn’t!
Unfortunately, in that day, tests did not measure what the pupil understood. It did measure the pupil's short term memory system. The same is true today. Examinations used today are the type that measure salient points of knowledge which I call "milestone learning". They give little proof that the subject is understood. In an environment that is "process-oriented" as opposed to "results-oriented", this is as much as we can expect. Obviously, it is not enough!
Human beings, young and old, will do almost anything to cover up the fact that they do not understand something. Our Egos protect us from embarrassment. Especially, in the midst of our contemporaries. My concern for my future outweighed this protection and I often admitted in class that I did not understand the lesson. Every child wants to be as smart as his friends and classmates. Evidence of my Father's intelligence and accomplishments were always nearby, although he had died when I was six. And my Mother had been a good student, excellent in language and an accomplished pianist. "Why not me?" occurred to me frequently. More haunting as I grew older: Was I really their child? Only when I reached 70 did I learn the answer to that question!
A Right-side Dominant child uses the part of the brain that is served by the Left hand and the Left eye. For many years, there was a belief that when a naturally left-handed child was forced to use his/her right hand, behavior and learning difficulties would occur. Like many old attitudes that are based upon empirical observation, this belief now has some new credibility. Which hand we naturally use has some bearing upon which is our "leading" or dominant brain hemisphere!
In fact, the realization that we have two brain entities that control our behavior, leads us into a whole new world of possibilities and speculations. It especially begins to explain many things which we will discuss in later chapters. These are notions that go beyond the individual child's learning difficulties. They reach all the way into the broader problems that are now revolutionizing our way of Life. Everything in human affairs begins and ends with our MENTALITY.
Why are some children Right-side Dominant? Research has shown that 90% of us use the Right brain for Visualizing and Imaging. It may be the seat of our Common Sense. The Left brain handles language, arithmetic, analysis, those things acquired from our human world. It is our Toolbox, the kinds of tools that equip us to perform intellectual operations: writing. speaking -- literal stuff!
I started as a left-handed child and was converted to being right-handed. Our children held their bottles with their left hand. Very quickly, my wife overcame that tendency simply by repeatedly placing spoons and other objects into their right hand. Why are others with Left-side Dominance considered the "normal" children? Who says so?!
As noted above, most of us begin Life using our Right-hemisphere first! What triggers the switching from Right-mode to Left-mode? When does it happen? What happens when the "switching" does not occur? These are crucial questions! The quick, short answer is that as we grow from infancy to adulthood, we are developing (called the maturation process) and this step by step coming on-line of more and more capabilities takes fully 18 to 25 years! In that period, we are acquiring more and more information from many sources. As the Left lobe stores this information, we refer to that place where we keep "numbers", "letters" and all sorts of things are waiting to be used and reused!
If the left hand serves the Right-side (the brain lobe that has the skill to handle graphics, art, etc), then is it not understandable why the left hand prefers to use the pencil? The left hand is the servant of the Right hemisphere. To a child, printing and writing are kinds of drawing or art and nothing more. For the infant, everything begins as imitation and mimicry. If a right handed parent extends the bottle to the infant, it will extend the arm on the same side toward the parent. That arm happens to be the left. The tendencies to do something like reach for and hold a bottle is controlled by the Right-hemisphere. It is, by Nature’s design, the tool of the oldest half or the more experienced part of the brain.
As the Left hemisphere learns words, numbers and reading, the two halves begin to achieve a state of balance and cooperation. Normally, that is to say! This is not true, however, when the Right-side insists on keeping control or remaining DOMINANT. Strong-willed, stubborn children, who are troublesome, in the preschool and early grades, can be expected to be suffering from Right-brain dominance. That is my conclusion at this point in time.
Here lies the problem with the poor learner and a group of youngsters who -- sadly -- are now identified as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disease) pupils! The drugs given ADHD children mainly suppress the Right hemisphere's unstable attention tendencies. A consequential loss occurs to the child's natural and excessive alertness to his or her environment. In a more subdued state, he or she manages to absorb and retain new information in the Left-side. What we see in this rather extreme measure -- medication -- is an example of how we often treat only the symptom and fail to focus on and, hence, understand, the underlying problem. The process (medicating) essentially "decouples" the two hemispheres. A later chapter discusses many techniques for decoupling the hemispheres, thereby, permitting each half to operate in a less stressed atmosphere where each half can “free-wheel” and be less competitive. The hyperactive behavior of such children is due to extreme alertness, nosiness and a desire to participate in everything going on around them. Such agitation arises from competition between the Right-side and the Left-side!
Cursive writing involves cooperation between the Left and Right brains. Years ago the exercises used in Palmer Writing Method promoted cooperation between the Left and Right sides, yet no one knew much about brain hemispheres at the time. Penmanship, very much an art skill with a linguistic motivation, is no longer taught in most American schools. Girls always did very well in penmanship, I recall. Dare we conclude that they are naturally Right-hemisphere dominant? Do girls have a better developed Right-side? And, if true, what are the broad implications of our Future as women assume a greater role in business, legal and political environments? An interesting aside, eh, what? Can we agree that male and females have very different ways of looking at situations and issues? Of course, we can!
Is left-handedness a positive indication that the child is Right brain Dominant? Is it a fact that many children who are forced to be right-handed are destined, as a result, to be poor learners? Or is this more proof that we just do not know how to deal with Right-mode dominant children? I firmly believe it is the latter! Another indicator of an Right brain dominant child is which eye is dominant.
Even as I write, educators show no interest in whether a child is Left or Right hemisphere dominant. As parents of four boys and one girl, my wife and I have had experience with Right-mode children. Yes, NDTS is an inheritable condition! I wish I had known that when I was a young parent!
As a new recruit in the Air Force, I learned -- rather abruptly -- that I put my trouser belt on wrong. There is a right or wrong way? I used my left hand to thread it through the pants loops. Without my father at an early age, I had no male supervision during the years when I began to wear a belt. My Mother's MS affliction removed her from closely supervising my growing up. My tendency toward left-handedness had been modified at a very early age when my father was still alive. But other tendencies to be left-handed like putting on a belt were not detected. But are those who remain in a Right-mode dominant status, always left-handed? And, Left-eye dominant? We have much to learn! We need data, data and more samples!
As an engineering draftsman, age 22, I was still Right-hemisphere dominant. I was not able nor comfortable drawing simple line drawings on paper with dimensions. I had to make the drawing look more realistic, like a photo -- much to the displeasure of my supervisor. While the small enhancements that made it look like the sample of the part being drawn took a little more time, I had violated the prevailing drafting philosophy: "drafting is not art!" Draftsmen like engineers are Left hemisphere dominant. Or they should be! This story does not end here, however!
Before becoming a draftsman, I worked as a laborer in the factory, then later as an inspector. I worked with production people, some of whom had to read engineering drawings. Many had difficulty interpreting engineering drawings because they could not “visualize” the part or the assembly. By making the view on the drawing look more like a picture (i.e. like the REAL THING), the production people understood the drawing more quickly and the chance that they might make a costly mistake was greatly reduced. When I went into engineering, my experiences in the production department influenced how I believed a drawing should be made. My error was in believing that the drawings should be understandable by the production people. It has been well repeated that engineers have tunnel vision. Frankly, I have never known one that had any Vision! They are consummate LMOs! (Left Mode Operators)
At the age of fifty-one, I had -- unconsciously, of course -- brought my two hemispheres into a state of peaceful co-existence. Coincidentally, my career had come to an end and for the first time I was able to "see" what I had been doing wrong. Before, I was not always able to recognize when my work output had too much Right-side content. When you can recognize it, you can control it and remove it. Most of my manuscripts completed over the years were discarded or put in storage. I literally began to live a more normal Life soon thereafter. All of these conflicts up to that time had been sub rosa.
My earliest drafts of any manuscript are filled with
Right-mode verbiage. If I attempt to avoid my R-mode "voice", the
initial writing stumbles and falters. But by giving the Right brain its freedom,
I write 15,000 words a day with no difficulty! In later drafts, as I
remove this characteristically Right brain philosophical prose,
the conflict subsides. The much-discussed "writer's block" from my
experience is the result of the Left and Right hemispheres battling
each other to a standstill! Writers, many of them Right-Mode Operators must control
their active, visualizing
Right-brain! When they fail to control the problem, his/her Editor will do it