Showing posts with label humanities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humanities. Show all posts

Monday, June 04, 2012

Education for Misfits and Neurodiversity

From Schumpeter in the Economist, In Praise of Misfits reflects on how classrooms and marketplaces seem to love opposites. Educational experts are working diligently to turn out well-rounded graduates, while... "Software firms gobble up anti-social geeks. Hedge funds hoover up equally oddball quants. Hollywood bends over backwards to accommodate the whims of creatives. And policymakers look to rule-breaking entrepreneurs to create jobs. Unlike the school playground, the marketplace is kind to misfits."

It reminded me of a study from Vanderbilt a few years back. There are reasons that teachers and humanities majors may not understand engineers and career mathematicians and vice-versa. 

The researchers close with a quote from the 60's from I.M. Smith: "The qualities which make for greatness in scientists and engineers are of a different kind; ability to think abstractly and analytically together with a skill visualizing spatial relations in two and three dimensions..."

It's not just that school curriculums in general don't spend enough time cultivating spatial skills and talent; it's also that educators as a group skills and talents that are almost opposite to young or old engineers. It's not only that spatial instruction may not come naturally to teachers who otherwise excel in the basics of education like reading or writing, but it may also be likely that educators may not be able to recognize the spatial talents of their promising young engineers, just engineers and business people may not be able to appreciate the high verbal talent of budding humanities scholars.

So it takes all kinds. As we head into this 21st century of education, we hope this myth of a 'well-rounded education' for all is finally pounded flat. Ideal neurodiversity-aware classrooms and workplaces will recognize strengths and weaknesses as they see them and dedicate as much if not more time on what people do well as on what they don't.