Monday, February 11, 2008

"In the Mind's Eye" by Thomas G. West

Words such as "imagination" and "insight" reveal a connection between vision and creative thinking, yet visual thinking is not an important part of the educational curriculum. To make matters worse, certain kinds of visual thinkers find it difficult to survive in classrooms that teach reading, writing, and anthmetic in the traditional manner. Is dyslexia a "learning disability," or simply a different way of seeing the world?. Some people who see the world differently also think about the world differently, and more than a few of those people have been labeled "genius" rather than "disabled," Albert Einstein was a poor student, but he was able to think in terms of images. Nikola Tesla not only had the ability to think in images, but was able to design machines (such as the electrical dynamo he is credited with inventing) in his minds eye. Tesla could visualize a design of a machine, then set the machine "running" in his imagination and check it to see if any parts were.out of balance. As this book attests, Einstein and Tesla were among dozens of similar geniuses who might not' make it. through third grade today.
Thomas G. West investigates the connections between dyslexia, visual thinking, genius, and education. In the process, he shows how educational systems that concentrate on verbal abilities and assign visual thinkers to a "disability" category may be weeding out the very creative thinkers our culture needs. West also points out that the visually oriented computers and multimedia technology now beginning to emerge may prove to be useful tools for helping train visual thinking talents. The case histories are fascinating, the scientific explanations are easily readable, and the bibliography is extensive. --Howard Rheingold
In an effort to comfort parents and children, it is often pointed out that a number of famous people -- artists, writers, scientists and others -- were able to achieve a great deal despite of having had, apparently, some form of dyslexia or learning disability, or, at the very least, some substantial form of learning difficulty. Hans Christian Andersen, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Gustave Flaubert, Harvey Cushing, Auguste Rodin, Leonardo da Vinci, George Patton, William James, King Karl XI of Sweden, Woodrow Wilson, Nelson Rockefeller, William Butler Yeats and others have been identified by various writers as having had some form of dyslexia or learning disability.
If we continue to turn out people who have primarily the skills (and outlook) of the clerk, however well trained, we may increasingly be turning out people who will, like the unskilled laborer of the last century, have less and less to sell in the marketplace. Sometime in the not too distant future machines will be the best clerks. It will be left to humans to maximize what is most valued among human capabilities and what machines cannot do -- and increasingly these are likely to involve the insightful and integrative capacities associated with visual modes of thought.

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