Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: A Whole New Mind

It took me quite a bit longer than it probably should have, but I finally finished Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind (2006). There is much to process in this book, and the "Portfolio" sections at the end of most chapters offer practical suggestions that could keep one occupied for a lifetime.

One topic Pink deals with in the book is abundance. At the time A Whole New Mind was published, 13 percent of all homes purchases in America were second homes. Pink notes that the "United States spends more on trash bags than ninety other countries spend on everything" (quoting Polly LaBarre). There have been some substantial economic shifts since he authored this work, but our lifestyles of material over-abundance are no less apparent. I wonder what these kinds of statistics are now.

Arguing that "right-brainers will rule the future," Pink contends that creativity is largely a practice of seeing connections, or relationships, that no one else sees. As I read how he developed this concept, I couldn't help but think of our education systems. Frankly, it is hard to be creative in public education precisely for this reason. (We could probably benefit from Sir Ken Robinson's input on this topic.)

It is easy for educators to critique the fact that there is too much isolationism in our schools; what some call the "silo effect." Many departments, grade level teams, etc. act independently of others with little communication between different groups. Ironically, at the same time, many educators also are so strapped for time that every meeting, conversation, or task that is required of them elicits the question, "What's in this for me?" If it appears to be unrelated to their primary responsibilities, then it is viewed as a waste of time.

We recognize the problem with the system overall, but we forget that the system is made up of the individual parts. If each one of us chooses not to cross boundaries (that really only exist in our minds because of how we are organized), then the overall system remains stagnant and unimproved.

But, as with any insights, I have to look in the mirror to truly reflect on this thought. I see that I could improve in this area. I get so busy that I hardly talk to teachers of different subject areas or grade levels or those that don't teach the same kids I do. On the surface, this makes perfect sense. Who has time to do that with everything else going on?

However, what if the art teacher holds the key to motivating students in my remedial math classes?

What if the science department has figured out effective goal-setting strategies for students, but I never carve out time to observe and learn from them?

What if the way the workers in the cafeteria prepare meals for hundreds of people everyday could shed light on how the office staff could be more efficient?

These are only a couple highlights from the book. There were many others. I enjoyed the read and recommend Daniel Pink's writing to anyone that likes to be challenged with thought-provoking material. In fact, I just went here and signed up for his newsletter, which is accompanied by a free e-book.

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