THERE are certain books that impact my thoughts on education. One fun and interesting read is A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, by Daniel H. Pink. I learned about Pink from my college newsletter, then discovered his show on PBS GUAM, Daniel Pink: Living on the Right Side of the Brain. He is a New York Times bestselling author, and his research resonates with me.
My focus on Career and Technical Education (CTE) ties nicely with Pink’s angle, that today’s economic success will lean toward the “right-brainers.” To prepare students and workers in today’s global economy, we need to recognize and promote right-brain thinking.
Whether a student wants to embark on some entrepreneurial project right after high school, go to a trade school or a four-year college, I agree with Pink that young students are now embarking the Conceptual Age, right behind what we grew up with (Information Age), and those of our fathers (Industrial Age) and grandfathers (Agricultural Age).
Using the difference between left-brain and right-brain thinkers, Pink explained why today’s conditions call for promoting and supporting more right-brain learning and working skills. This is so different from the mantras I learned in college, such as trying to grasp the power of computers and the Internet. This required significant left-brain thinking (logic, sequence, literalness and analysis). Though as Pink points out, sadly, these can now be done quicker and cheaper with automation (technology) and outsourcing tasks to places like India and the Philippines, where thousands hold degrees.
Today’s children live and breathe computers and Internet, evidenced by their ease in navigating mind-boggling computer games, programs and the World Wide Web. However, to compete in today’s global economy, they will need to stand out. How do we help them compete in a different world in this dynamic Conceptual Age? One way is to foster learning and thinking that cannot be easily done by computers and overseas labor. This is what Pink identifies as the R-Directed Thinking, characteristic and strengths of the right-brain.
Skills related to our brain’s right hemispheres include creativity, big-picture thinking, and empathy. Of course, both sides of the brain are always operating. But like the author, I believe that these characteristics are fundamental to achieve the professional success and personal fulfillment in today’s Conceptual Age and global world.
The skills employers seek today are mainly right-brain related! According to industry experts, employers are looking for highly analytical thinkers with demonstrated talent for identifying, scrutinizing, improving, and streamlining complex work processes; innovative problem-solvers who can generate workable solutions and resolve complaints; and flexible team players who thrive in environments requiring the ability to effectively prioritize and juggle multiple concurrent projects.
CTE in middle/high school and post-secondary education is an important key. I am working on raising awareness and the development of an authentic CTE system on Guam. We owe it to the multitude of talented and creative students on Guam. As for the rest of us, pick up Pink’s book if you have a chance. Learn from him that by tapping into our right brain skills, we too will be able to get ahead in the workforce.