Education for the
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board
of Psychiatry and Neurology
The human brain has many
parts, but our present educational
system only addresses a small percentage of those.
Most of our education today focuses
on a narrow segment of the brain, located in the left portion of the
Isolating certain parts of the brain
does not promote
cohesion: ideally, all parts of the brain
should work together.
According to research conducted at the California Institute of
the 1950s, the left side of the brain gives us the ability to analyze,
use words, and work with numbers. Conversely, the right side of
the brain is responsible for our ability to unify concepts - to put
details together resulting in the formulation of a complete picture -
and to be creative.
Much as people are right or left handed, most
people are right or left- brain
dominant. Left-brain dominant people are most successful in our
current educational system, which limits creativity, and relies mostly
upon words and numbers.
Our system neglects to consider the needs of right-brain dominant
individuals; the 50% of the population that is dubbed "functionally
illiterate" by some educators.
There are many parts
of the brain that do different things, as described in
footnote one, but knowing these details is not essential to your
understanding of our story.
Each brain has a
unique personality, which is determined largely at the moment of conception, when egg and
sperm join together. This uniqueness entails that every person
will require a different educational experience. In our culture,
however, these differences are not recognized, and most students are
lumped into an educational system that caters to the needs of
left-brain dominant individuals. Our society severely neglects
the limbic system and the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain.
This is very damaging to the development of mindfulness.
When the limbic system is excluded from proper stimulation,
subjects become dull and lifeless. Emotions and their
connection to thoughts are completely ignored; we are constantly given
the message to stop feeling.
people cope with the
harshness of society by not showing emotion. As this becomes a
habit, emotions are denied altogether. When abuse, forced
busyness, or control from external authorities is imposed upon a
student, the result is anger, apathy, and an abandonment of the sense of
Over time, these feelings become so
painful that the brain severs neural connections between the limbic
system and awareness. The student, in order to adapt to the pain,
unconsciously looses touch with his emotions.
with its foot caught in a trap will chew its own leg off in order
survive. Similarly, the brain
dismembers itself in order to preserve its more basic functions.
This enormous loss is dealt with through denial.
During their training, psychotherapists
encounter this phenomenon first
hand. In most psychotherapy training
forced memorization is halted, and the student is asked to assess his
true feelings. Usually, the results of this comes as a very
disturbing shock. When the soothing effect of denial is removed,
the student realizes that he has lost touch with his emotions. By
protecting ourselves from pain, we also inhibit ourselves from
experiencing heightened degrees of happiness. The loss of such
emotions is every bit as severe as the loss of an arm or a leg.
An inevitable byproduct of this process is
self-directed anger. Anger directed toward the self
results in depression, the occurrence of which has reached epidemic
proportions in our culture. Anger directed outwardly results in
cruelty, scapegoating, violence, and also epidemics in our society.
Footnote 1: Located at the center of our
brain is the limbic system, which controls our capacity to form
relationships with others. The basal ganglia, large structures
deep within the brain, are responsible for our mental activity.
Situated near our forehead, the frontal cortex enables us to make
judgments and decisions, construct plans, and restrain ourselves from
acting on impulse. Furthermore, it ensures that we stay focused
and attentive to our tasks. The part called the 'cingulate
gyrus,' over the corpus callosum, gives our brain the ability to shift
our thoughts from one subject to another. (The word "gyrus" means
a convolution.) Below the temple are the temporal lobes, which
enable us to remember events, facts, and faces. A large
bundle of fibers, the corpus callosum, joins the two sides of the outer
shell - cortex - together, and transmits messages from one side of the
brain to the other.
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