Routine is good. But not all the time.
How much routine is too much? When should we admit something isn’t working and make a change?
In recent posts I have looked at issues around literacy. Many discussions on literacy are currently taking place, as the seriousness of literacy issues begin to come to light. Have we made mistakes? Should we return to tried and true ways of teaching, undertaken by previous generations ? Should we embrace a range of learning styles and alternative ways of teaching a child to understand content, and concepts? A combination of both?
While much of that discussion pertains specifically to reading and writing skills, I would like to share an article I read recently on adaptability, and how this relates to us all, beginning with our understanding of symbols and developing into a greater comprehension of, and comfort with big things, like life.
Our brain chemistry, social networks and even our basic instinct for survival will resist (the) change. To master the art of the shift, we first need to master ourselves. –
In his article, on the Creativity Post titled Why We Fail To Adapt, Greg Satell discusses the many ways in which we humans resist change, and the subsequent impact this has on our brain chemistry, forming neuron pathways, which in turn affect our behaviour, and create a dynamic in which our ability to adapt becomes compromised.
Adaptable thinking is important when it comes to understanding language. The importance of literacy as open mindedness and breadth of understanding, beyond just repeating back words, and writing them down, could or maybe should, be shot at people’s front doors with a bow and arrow, bellowed from the rooftops, or broadcast over the shopping mall easy listening station.
Quality of understanding in place of haste, would benefit all.
It follows that when young minds are encouraged to understand things holistically , the interconnectedness between things, and the impact of each on the other, there is a greater chance of creating a practice of adaptable thinking.
This usually begins in a family unit, whatever that family unit may look like, and most families practice this already, whether they like it or not, due to the relentless nature of children’s questions. As families become communities, communities become Nations, and so on, it is good to keep those questions coming, as inconvenient as they can sometimes be!
The idea of different kinds of literacy which exist outside of reading and writing, are not new.
American educator David W. Orr, with Fritjof Capra, introduced to the world the idea of Ecoliteracy, in the 1990’s, which investigates in great detail the importance of becoming literate in a whole sense, and the interconnectedness of the systems in our world. This is too big of a discussion for this post, but can be revisited.
In terms of adaptability, Satell’s article outlines the aspects of human activity which inherently resist change. Despite the fact that our world is heavily invested in change, on some level we believe we can’t survive within change, that change is counterproductive because it will require too much effort, that it will create a cavalcade of chaotic events, or that it simply isn’t right, otherwise we would have done it by now. As Satell points out;
While our previous experiences tend to blind us to new developments, those around us will help reinforce common beliefs. In fact, a series of famous experiments done at Swarthmore College in the 1950’s showed that we will conform to the opinions of those around us even in if they are obviously wrong.
But who is this WE, we speak of? When did we become subject to THEY?
Since it makes more sense to keep being who we are, than to upset the whole apple cart and look at another Us, we instinctively set about building little fortresses against real internal change. This behaviour does not go unnoticed by the thriving neuron community in our brains, and as Satell remind us “ the neurons that fire together wire together” meaning of course, that we become less and less able to adapt to new ways of thinking, the more we stay with the known and comfortable.
This is important when it comes to the development of young minds, (and equally so, with our minds as we age,) and draws our attention to the ways in which those minds become influenced early on. Returning briefly to the debate around when to start your child reading, and to what degree instilling language in the brain too early, may take the place of creative thought processes, the same concept applies to whatever we teach our children. That is, if a certain path is taken, and those neurons begin to fire together, then another is necessarily not taken.
If there are ways of keeping your child’s mind open, and increasing their chances at becoming adaptable adults, and then adaptable elders, which in the face of such a rapidly changing world, has got to be a valuable asset, then these are worth considering.
Adapting the old and finding relevance and a place within the new is true evolution, and a concept familiar to many brilliant minds. Satell cites Einstein as suffering in his development as a progressive thinker due to his inability to adapt, where his peers were more able to do so.
Joseph Campbell, talked of the importance of adaptability with deeply re-assuring ease. Having dedicated his life to the study of world mythology, Campbell recognised that universal themes exist across cultures, to be found in their mythologies. But while Campbell recognised mythology as a consistent and repeated pattern of symbolic representation, capable of providing important clues for our life choices, and ways of understanding the choices we make, he urged us to keep mythologies current, to create new stories and new ways of understanding our world.
Embracing the wisdom of the past is important in that it may inform our future, and fortify us in our endeavour to become adaptable progressive thinkers.
So how is this relevant to literacy?
If we view language as a structure imbued with meaning often invisible to us, so too are our cultural stories, social mores, policies, National Holidays, indeed all that surrounds us. When we teach someone to read, but not to understand the whole meaning of those words, we ask them to accept the rules of language, and give over to them.
If you have ever tried to teach someone to read, you will find this moment comes up again and again. That’s ok, and to some degree necessary, as there are many rules we must accept to live in society. But as an early learning experience, for young minds, this experience can be very frustrating, demoralising even, as though they on some level perceive they are giving over their personal freedom to the greater force of the system. If relinquishing this control goes on for too long, we eventually resign ourselves to knowing less than what we are told, and it becomes difficult for us to challenge the status quo as we grow.
Importantly, when we are called upon to accommodate a great need for change, (and the need for change has usually been hanging about for a while before it actually gets the attention it needs,) we then struggle to make room for this change.
Changing our habits to reduce the effects we have on our environment, accepting our individual responsibility as humans on the planet to help those in need, or simply just not having that SAME argument with a family member, over and again.
How to implement change?
Satell reminds us, that it is difficult to build new thoughts when we are consistently exposed to the familiar. You may not be able to accommodate a jaunt across the Himalayas, but there are many life affirming behaviours we can easily adopt, such as taking a different route to work, walking into the cluttered curiosity shop you walk past every day, or depending on your relationship with routine, just having something else for breakfast.
When it comes to literacy, embracing a range of experiences, materials, and concepts,which you may think too sophisticated complex or plain ridiculous for kids are often a huge amount of fun. Perhaps it may follow that such experiences would create neuron communities who get excited about innovation, uncharted grounds, building emotional intelligence, and from there, acceptance, tolerance and compassion. Whole literacy.
For most children, adaptability comes naturally. Happily they are often not yet seared by cynicism, propelled by anxiety, or buoyed by denial, and despite the fact that children have a lot of structure in their lives, they are good role models for adaptability.