Linear thinking LO22825

Steve Eskow (
Wed, 6 Oct 1999 16:32:04 -0600

Replying to LO22800 --


You write:

>The right brain / left brain research does a nice job of helping me make
>sense of varied learning styles, an issue I contend with daily as an
>adult educator..

Since this list is about learners, learning, and learning communities, and
since left brain-right brain metaphors, theories, and research are clearly
influencing many educators and learning organization practitioners, the
matter of the status of that research, and the conclusions practitioners
are drawing from it all of some importance.

You seem to be making a bit of fun of William H. Calvin, whose sense of
humor invites the conclusion that he is some offbeat character.Actually he
is a quite respectable mainstream neurobiologist at The University of

What he and other serious investigators are trying to do in this matter of
brain geography is to counteract the widespread belief that somehow brain
localization phenomena have implications for education and learning

Several of his books, including THE THROWING MADONNA, are now on the web,
complete, and you and others here may want to consult the texts to see
what he says about left brain, right brain.

I'll quote here his summary of his Chapter 10:


Does the vocal left brain dominate the poor artistic right brain? Or does
the popularization of left-brain dominance involve the 'worst kind of
mixed metaphor, the kind kind that mixes up metaphor with reality'? an
examination of lateralization and a modes proposal for a splashy new
best-seller guaranteed to make the book clubs salivate: COOKING ON THE
RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN, for a new holistic school of cooking which avoids
mixing ingredients in sequential order (left brain, an obvious no-no) by
dumping everything into the mixing bowl simultaneously."

The literary method here is humor: the intent is deadly serious.

He is saying, and I think his now the predominant view of serious
researchers today reviewing the evidence on brain lateralization on the
evidence for one sided dominance and the educability of that side, or the
other that there is little or nothing to do it, and it seriously
confuses practitioners.

That is: it seems to be that if there are people who in fact are compelled
to eat all the meat before tackling the vegetables, or master each nuance
of a paragraph before going on to the next, their problems don't relate to
their brain geography or structure, and thus can't be fixed by brain

In my own teaching I've run across very few compulsively linear thinkers
of the kind you describe.

Whitehead suggest (in his AIMS OF EDUCATION) a kind of approach to
teaching--and thinking--that might be relevant here.

He begins with the stage of "romance": exploratory,"global," wndering:
designed to interest the learner, provide a stock of information and

Next is the stage of "generalization": we try to find the "pattern" or
"patterns" or "designs" that give shape to the stock of information
accumulated in the first phase.

And finally, the stage of "precision": which may or may not mean accurate
and precise linearization.

To adapt your terminology, then, one might start "global" and end up

Since the language in which we communicate is inevitably linear, to tell
you what I have experienced, or learned, or want you to experience, or
learn, I have to organize my "globalities" into "linearities."

(I waive for the moment the possibility of communicating with you, here or
eslewhere, by drawing pictures for you, or singing or playing an


Vanna Prewitt wrote:
>This is certainly something I would consider. I am unfamiliar with
>Calvin and a cursory search for his works on the Internet retrieved some
>eclectic writings, including
> " How the Shaman Stole the Moon
> (Bantam 1991) is my archaeoastronomy
> book, a dozen ways of predicting eclipses ^
> those paleolithic strategies for winning fame
> and fortune by convincing people that you're
> (ahem) on speaking terms with whoever runs
> the heavens.">


Steve Eskow <>

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