The term "minimal brain dysfunction" (MBD) is now in its midteens and viewed anthropomorphically it is indeed experiencing the turmoil and controversy appropriate to adolescence. Since I am a neurologist, I may be accused of bias toward the term, with "brain" the stressed word, out of enlightened self-interest alone; or it may be objected that the issue of terminology is undeserving of much attention except to neurologists, famous for their obsessive-compulsive personalities.
"Neuroplasticity" is a term that has been used to refer to the capacity of the brain to recover from the effects of damage. One could reasonably include under neuroplasticity changes that underlie learning or adaptation to rearrangement, but as Teuber has stated, "there is trouble enough with the concept of plasticity as defined by claims for repair or readjustment of central connections postnatally in mammals.'' At the human level, it is often difficult to define "damage," let alone the determination of the effects of damage on recovery.
On the basis of what the brain knows of itself, it is the most complicated and remarkable instrument in the known universe. It is therefore surprising that in this age of machines and computers we give so little thought to educating ourselves about the structure and functions of the brain. To call attention to this deficiency in our education is not to point a reproving finger at our educators. We do not need to blame anyone. Since the brain accounts for everything we do, the blame lies clearly with the brain!
Mental development is manifestly linked to and limited by the development of the child's brain. Because of recently uncovered facts from the neurosciences, we can now suggest a new frame of reference for educational strategies, curriculum planning, and evaluation of educational experiments. To aid the reader in grasping the data and following the arguments supporting the above contentions, I begin by summarizing the main contents of this chapter.
In this concluding chapter we shall identify and comment briefly upon those themes that seem to emerge with great force from the information, the empirical findings, the provocative hypotheses and theories, and the implications contained in the preceding chapters. We shall be especially concerned with the themes that have particularly strong implications for education.
Education and the Brain is the first volume in the yearbook series of the National Society for the Study of Edueation to be devoted to the brain sciences and education. In a sense, its publication is similar to the publication in 1942 of The Psychology of Learning, which appeared as Part II of the Society's Forty-first Yearbook and was devoted entirely to psychology and education.
Five arguments are presented as to the inappropriateness of Piaget's "stage of formal operations" as the final stage of cognitive development.
This article is an examination of one particularly crucial and generally overlooked aspect of teaching: what the author calls "translation."
This paper will attempt to dull the distinction between conceptual and rote learning.
The author reviews studies to date and concludes achievement motivation training courses improve school learning by improving classroom and life management skills rather than by changing achievement levels directly.'
The author contends that the bland, insipid content of first-grade readers not only complicates the process of "learning to read," but may, in fact, later contribute to an adolescent's anxiety.
An examination was made of the sex role models portrayed in primary reading texts during six contiguous historical periods in the United States from 1600 to 1966.
Seeking artistic forms to express experiences
The author examines some of the paradigms which have emerged in the development of a science of learning. The behaviorists, he believes, have never moved far enough beyond the S-R approach with its presumption of a passive, reactive learner. Drawing his conception of reflective teaching from Deweyan experimentalism, the author concludes that cognitive-field learning theory provides a paradigm most suggestive for "problem-centered, exploratory teaching."
The more we know about diverse children, the more complex becomes the problem of readiness. The author reviews relevant research and proposes a number of suggestive new guidelines.
The author emphasizes the personal relationship involved in teaching and learning, the importance of authority and the conception of an active learner. The purpose of teaching, he writes, is to cause "a personal discovery"; and he reviews several methods for achieving that end, with a special focus on the teacher's own rethinking of what he is communicating to his students.
The author's concern is to examine three teaching environments—the talking typewriter, the coursewriter, and the SAID system (a speech auto-instructional device).
The more significant of Dr. Thorndike's contributions to lexicography are described in this article. Thanks to his influence, all school dictionaries now have readable type.
The reports in this issue of The Record are, with the exception of President Russell's tribute, those that were planned to be presented to him as a birthday greeting, with a few minor modifications.
Review of E.L. Thorndike's book: Selected Writings from a Connectionist's Psychology. Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1949.
Rather it is our intent to mention briefly some of the more conspicuous educational and psychological developments that have combined to produce the interest evinced in the problem at the present day. One of these developments is the study of the psychology of genius, of the factors contributing to the achievements of great men—and the allied studies of mental inheritance; another is the natural attention to the subnormal child, with its obvious implication of attention to the supernormal child; another is the perfecting of adequate instruments for measuring capacity for learning; another is the reaction against the mechanizing tendencies of the modern system of school grades.
Can we afford to rely, at the present advanced stage and development of our science, on any one of the above criteria, or on any single test in the hands of an average teacher, as a basis for diagnosing and evaluating a cross section in the entire school life of a child? It must be remembered that the tests, scales, or judgments are but single shafts sunk into the very complex nature of a developing child, and that these devices used, perhaps only annually, may be very misleading and misrepresentative of the rich soil or deposits which they are supposed to essay.
Whatever may prove to be the explanation of the present status of official thinking on the subject of the varying abilities of children, and the consequent responsibility laid upon school managers as soon as the variability is acknowledged, it is certainly a fact that there is much administrative timidity before the problem of organizing and conditioning practice to meet the newly conceived needs of superior children.
Many of the studies relative to the education of gifted children made heretofore have dealt largely with the methods of selecting the children and the high records of such classes in certain standard tests. It is the purpose of this particular study to ascertain if possible what are some of the standard practices relative to such questions as—housing; equipment; qualifications, expedence and salaries of teachers; cost of instruction; advantages and disadvantages of the idea; size of classes ; and other points of administration.
An examination of the replies to questionnaires sent to those who are making special efforts in the behalf of gifted children indicates the need of establishing some fundamental principles to guide makers of curricula for gifted children.
It is probable that there are close to 500,000 boys and girls in our elementary schools whose verbal intelligence as measured by a Binet I.Q. is above 125. It is also very probable that there are a half million more of like intelligences in our high schools. Altogether American public schools are now responsible·for the training of upwards of one million children of distinctive mental ability.
Whenever speeial provision is proposed for gifted children, particularly provision that tends to accelerate them beyond children of their own chronological age, there is certain to be some opposition raised by those who would have us believe that gifted children as a group are physically and socially immature, inclined toward 'bookishness,' and prone to show neurotic and psychopathic tendencies. Since the advent of wide-spread interest in children of superior endowment, no small amount of research has been devoted to ascertaining the nature of their non-intellectual traits.
A great controversy has arisen not only in the press but in every country village over the proposal to differentiate American education on the basis of intelligence tests. The opposition may easily be dismissed by confident exponents of a new program of education as another instance of the ignorance and superstition of the average man or it may be examined more closely to discover if possible the significant sources of its strength and persistence.
This research was made possible by two subventions from the Commonwealth Fund, totaling $34,000, supplemented by $8,000 contributed by Stanford University.
This chapter deals with the educational achievement of the 643 gifted children with whom we were concerned in the preceding chapter. Part I, by Terman, gives a general summary of their educational achievement; Part II, by De Voss, describes the treatment to which the achievement test data are being subjected in the analysis of special school abilities.