Posted by: darcymullin | March 6, 2012

A Whole New Way of Thinking


Like it or not, we are on the precipice of change in education today.  I truly believe that the institution known as school, that has remained remarkably unchanged for the last century, will go through a radical transformation in the next decade.  Recently, I finished Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind and I believe he offers some great insight into how our education system can meet the needs of today’s learners.

Pink believes that the economy will change and will no longer be driven by traditional left brain linear thinking.  Leaders will need to excel in the areas of High Concept and High Touch.  High concept is the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty and weave together and connect seemingly unrelated concepts.  The ultimate big picture thinking if you will.  High touch is the ability to empathize and be thoughtful, purposeful and appreciate the joy of human interaction.  These are the skills that will be coveted by employers, but more importantly will be skills that will allow people to lead happy and fulfilling lives.  There will always be a place in society for sequential linear thinking, but increasingly the ideals of high concept and touch are skills that a progressive school system should build and develop.

Pink argues that the Left Brain still matters and will have its place in society, but increasingly the Right Brain will matter more.  He suggests that in developed countries Abundance, Asia and Automation will create a demand for Right Brain thinkers.

He believes High Touch includes 6 senses – Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning.  These senses can be taught, but are fundamental attributes that we pursue intrinsically. In fact, he devotes a chapter to each sense and then has a section called Portfolio that has a number of strategies that people can invoke to practice and develop each of these senses.  Discussing all 6 senses is beyond the scope of this post, but I would strongly suggest that people take the time to look into them on your own.

For the purposes of this post, I want to talk about the sense of Meaning.  In my opinion, this is where Pink’s theories on change, particularly educational change differ from the norm.  Often, educators get defensive (rightfully so) when the economy is seen as the driver of educational change.  Even though his book is about the “new economy”, Pink does not argue for change for economic reasons, rather for Meaningful reasons.  Meaning comes from happiness.

The Good Life is not the ultimate.  There is another form of happiness that is inelctably pursued by humans, and that is the pursuit of meaning…knowing what your highest strengths are and deploying them in the service of something larger than  you are.  Going beyond self in this fashion…allow more people to engage in this pursuit, and as more of us summon the will to do so, Meaning will move the centre of our lives and our consciousness. ~Dan Pink – A Whole New Mind

I would argue a system that developed learners that pursued and valued Meaning above all else would be a system that we could all be proud of.

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