Wired To Learn

nlclogoEver feel like you are far more capable than what society expects of you, even far more capable than your expectations of yourself? I know I do. Remember being a teenager, and school being less about a passion to learn and more about getting good grades. How many times did you sit in class bored and desperate to just get AWAY!!!

Every teenager in the world has felt that sometime in his teens and Albert Einstein acted on it. At just age 15, he was sitting in class and all of a sudden he decided that enough is enough and got up to walk right out the door. And HE NEVER WENT BACK.

“It is almost a miracle that modern teaching methods have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry” ~ Albert Einstein

Remember being a kid and just wanting to play around with stuff, pull things together, and knock things apart. To which the grown-ups were saying – No No No ! Or being called “GOOD” for sitting still and “NAUGHTY” when you couldn’t bear to sit still any longer. It is all well-intentioned of course but that doesn’t make it any less INSANE! Because the fact is that our capacity to inquire and learn knows no bounds and scientists have proved it by research as well. With the development of MRI scans in the last 25 areas, it has allowed scientists to observe which parts of our brain is used in different kinds of thinking. We now know infinitely more about how we learn and what makes up “HUMAN INTELLIGENCE” and its extraordinary.

So, want to know what we are really capable of?

Then read on, let’s start at the beginning.

A baby’s brain is amazing. It doesn’t take 9 months to create. It has taken 7 million years and more than 350,000 generations. All the skills, knowledge and talents cultivated by our ancestors are stored inside it. All of them are like numerous software programs which can only be activated by the baby engaging with its environment. Here is the striking thing – If not activated at the most appropriate time they simply disappear. Take language, if a child doesn’t hear language by around the age of 8 they may never learn to speak. So, you may begin to see just how vital our normal interactions are. They ignite our dormant intelligence and reinforce it too. There is something else; we have evolved to learn things by looking at things from different perspectives and making connections between different things and we do that by play. So wouldn’t it be amazing if we bore all this in mind when we are raising kids and letting them play when they are younger and older too?

In conversations with my one of my mentors, Glen Martin who is psychotherapist with decades of experience under his belt dealing with kids who have had all kinds of disorders stamped on them. I learnt that the human brain undergoes “pruning” successively at regular intervals of time while we grow up. Those areas of potential which go untapped only make it harder for us to work on later in our adult life. It’s not that we can’t do it later, it just gets more harder to do that. Yes, for some kids the medium of instruction is vital, for some the environment matters, but in general freedom to learn by doing and learning from play, failure being encouraged is what cuts across all kinds of learners and learning styles.

Charles Darwin’s teacher once remarked that “He’d never amount to much because he spent too much time looking at insects”. So let children play, because it’s never just play. Of course, it takes more time and energy to do this. But, when you are deciding where to focus resources for kids learning. You couldn’t do better than focusing during pre-puberty. That’s when we learn by copying the people around us. After the age of 12, it’s all about change. Say goodbye to sweet, pliable, innocent and easy child say Hello! to rebellious challenging teenager. Arrrgh! Many parents would go nuts when their kids begin freaking out in their teens. (Jokes apart). 😛 (Mine did as well)

Ah! Well. Let’s understand what is happening in that brain. Loads of the connections made during childhood are breaking up and re-forming. From 12 – 20 – the equivalent of a earthquake takes place in a young person’s brain. No more going along with what the grown-ups say. The adolescent brain needs to go it own way.

To this, Oh No! Say the parents. But,

Oh yes! Say evolutionary scientists.

Because if we hadn’t developed this urge to do things differently, we wouldn’t have made it this far. Up until about 60-70,000 years ago. It was okay for the children to grow up like their parents. But then came the ICE AGE. Thank goodness for the handful of our ancestors who chose to break away from their doomed parents freezing to death in their ancestral caves. They built rafts and set off across the ocean hoping to find warmer climate. Critically, this made risk-taking the essential feature of adolescence. We shouldn’t undermine it. We must learn to honor it for what it really is. The defining struggle, the moment when the next generation challenges the status quo and pioneers new ways of thinking and being that ensure our survival.

Just imagine if we actually gave adolescence the freedom to enjoy that struggle. Rather than forcing them to sit passively in class.  How about we begin trusting that their earlier clone like learning now will enable them to spread their wings and work things out for themselves. If this sounds terrifying, it needn’t be. Because if we allow their natural curiosity to flourish in childhood. They will be bursting with a longing to learn and climb unscaled mountains of the mind. That’s not scary, it’s fucking exhilarating! ( I can speak for myself here with a 100% gut conviction) \m/

This is the way we have evolved to be. It’s what makes us fulfilled well-adjusted human beings. Let’s stop trying to live in a way that so goes against how we are hard-wired to live. Let’s allow ourselves and our next generation to reclaim the gift of our ancestors. Adolescence isn’t a problem; it is but an opportunity that we are setting fire to everyday in most schools around the world. Personally, I don’t know if me being right-brained had anything to do with me breaking all the rules, getting in all sorts of trouble during my adolescence but it sure did build in me the heart to experiment things my way. Yes, there were a lot of beliefs that I had to bust and a lot of backtalk’s with parents, family that happened but it helped me find my own way and still am exploring it. Yes, sometimes it feels so unsure/ There have been days where I had to depend on some unknown force in the universe to get me through and things did work out but my contention is this.

I can summarize my process of learning as follows:

  • Observe
  • Copy / Imitate
  • Research
  • Practice
  • Vomit
  • Deconstruct
  • Craft
  • Voila! ( My own piece of genius) 😀

isn’t it about the adventure? Learning to learn, learning from failure, learning from everything around. This is a much better, fun filled path I’d choose any day than doing things the conventional way.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s