Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Predicting Future Happiness

[September 2008 - "Realism and Illusion in Americans' Temporal Views of Their Life Satisfaction" - PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE] Some people are naturally optimistic or pessimistic, but how accurately they predict the level of satisfaction they may attain in the future depends on a variety of factors, according to research published in PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE. In a study led by Brandeis University psychologist Margie Lachman, subjects were surveyed over a nine-year period. In the first survey, in 1995-1996, participants between the ages of 24 and 74 rated their satisfaction with life now, with life 10 years earlier, and with how life may be in another 10 years. They were asked the same questions again in 2004. Lachman and colleagues discovered that there are age-related differences in how individuals view both the past and the future; those age 65 and older rated the past and present equally satisfying but predicted that the future would be less satisfying. Those under age 65 were more optimistic about the future and believed they would be more satisfied a decade hence. "These more negative expectations from older adults may be their way of bracing for an uncertain future, a perspective that can serve a protective function in the face of losses and that can have positive consequences if life circumstances turn out to be better than expected," says Lachman. More

Monday, September 29, 2008

Gardner Promotes "Five Minds" for the Global Future

[29 September 2008 - By Steven Dahlberg - Report from the Global Creative Leadership Summit] "What kinds of minds do we want to cultivate?" asked Howard Gardner last week at the Global Creative Leadership Summit. "What kinds are most important?"

Gardner, who is a professor of education at Harvard University, described five minds that are important -- disciplined, synthesizing, creating, respectful and ethical -- and require different kinds of intelligence.

"You can't have it all," he said. "There are tensions between these kinds of mind." He suggested that education policies need to address these conflicting tensions. He further described each of these "minds":
  • DISCIPLINED: knowing something well and working on it.
  • SYNTHESIZING: the ability to deal with inundation of information; understanding what to pay attention to, what to ignore; and how to put this information together.
  • CREATING: thinking outside the box; having new ideas. "You can't think outside the box unless you have a box," said Gardner. "You need the disciplined mind, too."
  • ETHICAL: asking what one's responsibilities are as a worker or citizen; not "what are my rights?"
  • RESPECTFUL: more than tolerance of differences; cultivating respect and emotional and interpersonal intelligence.
Gardner added that sometimes respect and ethics can clash.

"You can't develop all these minds in every single person," he said. "The society in which one lives decides what we should be emphasizing." For example, Gardner pointed out that some East Asian countries overemphasized discipline at the expense of creativity.

"Each person needs to figure out the right blend of these minds," concluded Gardner.

Gardner shared these ideas during the Global Creative Leadership Summit opening session on "What If? Scenarios: The Futures of Globalization." It was held September 21, 2008, in New York.

ABOUT THE SUMMIT AND SPONSOR: The Global Creative Leadership Summit, sponsored by the Louise Blouin Foundation, is a three-day forum that brings together great international minds -- including heads of state, CEOs, Nobel Prize-winners and acclaimed artists -- to address pressing global issues, including geo-economics, foreign policy, education, health, poverty and climate change. The Summit also has a goal to work with developed and developing nations alike in order to best address global issues. The Louise Blouin Foundation is an international nonprofit organization that seeks to provide a globalization platform to address challenges in such diverse areas as international trade, foreign policy, education and the environment through the lens of culture and neuroscience.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Are We Failing Our Geniuses?

[16 August 2007 - Time magazine] Any sensible culture would know what to do with Annalisee Brasil. The 14-year-old not only has the looks of a South American model but is also one of the brightest kids of her generation. When Annalisee was 3, her mother Angi Brasil noticed that she was stringing together word cards composed not simply into short phrases but into complete, grammatically correct sentences. After the girl turned 6, her mother took her for an IQ test. Annalisee found the exercises so easy that she played jokes on the testers--in one case she not only put blocks in the correct order but did it backward too. Angi doesn't want her daughter's IQ published, but it is comfortably above 145, placing the girl in the top 0.1% of the population. Annalisee is also a gifted singer: last year, although just 13, she won a regional high school competition conducted by the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Annalisee should be the star pupil at a school in her hometown of Longview, Texas. While it would be too much to ask for a smart kid to be popular too, Annalisee is witty and pretty, and it's easy to imagine she would get along well at school. But until last year, Annalisee's parents--Angi, a 53-year-old university assistant, and Marcelo, 63, who recently retired from his job at a Caterpillar dealership--couldn't find a school willing to take their daughter unless she enrolled with her age-mates. None of the schools in Longview--and even as far away as the Dallas area--were willing to let Annalisee skip more than two grades. She needed to skip at least three--she was doing sixth-grade work at age 7. Many school systems are wary of grade skipping even though research shows that it usually works well both academically and socially for gifted students--and that holding them back can lead to isolation and underachievement. So Angi home schooled Annalisee. But Angi felt something was missing in her daughter's life. Annalisee, whose three siblings are grown, didn't have a rich social network of other kids. By 13, she had moved beyond her mother's ability to meaningfully teach her. The family talked about sending her to college, but everyone was hesitant. Annalisee needed to mature socially. By the time I met her in February, she had been having trouble getting along with others. "People are, I must admit it, a lot of times intimidated by me," she told me; modesty isn't among her many talents. She described herself as "perfectionistic" and said other students sometimes had "jealousy issues" regarding her. The system failed Annalisee, but could any system be designed to accommodate her rare gifts? Actually, it would have been fairly simple (and virtually cost-free) to let her skip grades, but the lack of awareness about the benefits of grade skipping is emblematic of a larger problem: our education system has little idea how to cultivate its most promising students. Since well before the Bush Administration began using the impossibly sunny term "no child left behind," those who write education policy in the U.S. have worried most about kids at the bottom, stragglers of impoverished means or IQs. But surprisingly, gifted students drop out at the same rates as nongifted kids--about 5% of both populations leave school early. Later in life, according to the scholarly Handbook of Gifted Education, up to one-fifth of dropouts test in the gifted range. Earlier this year, Patrick Gonzales of the U.S. Department of Education presented a paper showing that the highest-achieving students in six other countries, including Japan, Hungary and Singapore, scored significantly higher in math than their bright U.S. counterparts, who scored about the same as the Estonians. Which all suggests we may be squandering a national resource: our best young minds. More

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Creativity, Education and the Brain

[22 September 2008 - By Steven Dahlberg - Reporting from the Global Creative Leadership Summit] In his introduction to the panel on "Education, Creativity and the Mind," neuroscientist and moderator Antonio Damasio raised several questions about the intersection of these three topics:
  • How might education promote cultural understanding? Not just skills and knowledge; but becoming citizens who understand the working of societies, or respect the well-being of the other.
  • How might culture be used to promote the well-being of others?
  • How might the arts and humanities fields be used in schools to promote cultural understanding?
Damasio is a professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute. He said classrooms and textbooks are no longer the necessary basis for what's going on in learning and education. When they are used, they need to be put to the right service to be effective.

He said one way that neuroscience can be used in support of education is to better understand how neurobiology illuminates the social process -- what brains are doing when they are engaged in social interaction..

Highlights and comments from the rest of this session:
  • "Play is a child's work," said Hasbro Chairman Alan Hassenfeld. He is also working to set up one global human rights standard for toy safety.
  • Seattle-based artist Susan Robb said she frequently asks students WHO they want to be rather than WHAT they want to be. She also suggested used Visual Thinking Strategies as a tool for helping young people understand art.
  • Architect Richard Meier said that new thinking and new ways of rebuilding our cities -- such as post-Katrina New Orleans -- are being ignored.
  • Australian neuroscientist Richard Silberstein said there's been an explosive pathologizing of ADHD with three- to nine-percent of the population supposedly afflicted by it. This caused him to wonder if some people being medicated for a pathological condition labeled "ADHD" might actually have something else going on. That is, might there be a spectrum of thinking styles, which ranges from more convergent and orderly thinking (the kind often found in classrooms) to more divergent and dynamic thinking. In a study that is just beginning to produce some results, he is finding connections between ADHD, high IQ and high levels of creativity. Using the Torrance Tests for Creative Thinking and neuroscience measurements, he is looking at connections between creative thinking and the way that regions of the brain communicate with each other. He said that the brain states required for focused work are not the same as those necessary for high creativity. Finally, he talked about the connection between motivation and hope and the importance of a neurobiology of hope. He said hopelessness lowers the neurotransmitters that make learning possible.
  • Allan Goodman, president and CEO of Institute of International Education, said brains need safety. He talked about the issues of mobility and safety for scholars, especially in countries with high levels of threats and violence.
  • Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Majid Fotuhi said that "learning requires a healthy brain." He pointed out the connection between obesity and dementia, and said that childhood obesity is affecting the brains of children both now and in the long term. Brains of overweight children do not get enough oxygen, which in turn affects the overall health and functioning of the brain.
  • Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales talked about the importance of informal learning communities and how technology and informal processes can enhance and encourage creative exploration and the playing with ideas.
  • Oxford neuroscientist Colin Blakemore raised the interplay between common sense, education, science and the brain. For instance, he asked why many schools have not changed their language-teaching curriculums to teach languages to children younger than 10, rather than in middle and high school were many students still begin learning languages. Brain research shows the brain's great capacity to learn languages in the first 10 years of its development, yet schools often teach language after the brain as foreclosed on its peak language-learning capacity. He advocated for a new biologically based science of education, which better integrates neurosciences insights about learning into how society does education. Finally, he talked about the importance of learning in real situations versus structured, metaphorical ways; and the importance of teachers conveying their own passion and enthusiasm. "Great teachers convey the great enthusiasm that drives them."
  • MIT neuroscientist Nancy Kanwisher asked: How can education enhance our capacity to express empathetic understanding? How might we use the Web to create cheaper versions of cultural and educational exchanges for young people, given the great impact of such face-to-face exchanges?
  • Oxford physiologist John Stein emphasized again the importance of active learning as a much better way for teaching children. He said many communities and schools have an obsession with safety that has outweighed the opportunities for play and for being in nature. Talking about visually dyslexic people, he said many of them are incredibly creative, though they have problems reading. He's interested in the ways and the why that dyslexics are creative. He also shared his research about the impact of poor nutrition on learning and the brain. He has found impaired brain cells in dyslexics and his research has shown positive improvements in some people when they increase their intake of vitamins, minerals and Omega-3 fatty acids. He said a deficiency in nutrition can lead to an inability to pick up social cues. In one of his prison studies, he found that by addressing nutrition deficiencies in prisoners, there was a one-third reduction in further offending.
  • The Netherlands Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende summarized what he heard from these contributors: the importance of informal learning and its relationship to the formal classroom; responsible citizenship is core to a good society; the role of culture and art and whether one's country or community has a stimulating climate of culture; and the importance of education for positive social interaction.
  • Gerard Mortier, director general of the Paris National Opera, said art is not an appendage of society, but at its center.
  • Finally, Teachers Without Borders founder Fred Mednick asked how might we scale goodness?
ABOUT THE SUMMIT AND SPONSOR: The Global Creative Leadership Summit, sponsored by the Louise Blouin Foundation, is a three-day forum that brings together great international minds -- including heads of state, CEOs, Nobel Prize-winners and acclaimed artists -- to address pressing global issues, including geo-economics, foreign policy, education, health, poverty and climate change. The Summit also has a goal to work with developed and developing nations alike in order to best address global issues. The Louise Blouin Foundation is an international nonprofit organization that seeks to provide a globalization platform to address challenges in such diverse areas as international trade, foreign policy, education and the environment through the lens of culture and neuroscience.

Jane Goodall Seeks Creative, Engaged Kids Who Want to Make a Difference

[22 September 2008 - By Steven Dahlberg - Reporting from the Global Creative Leadership Summit] Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace, made a gentle-yet-impassioned plea for society to support and encourage children's natural creaivity.

Drawing from her decades of work studying chimpanzees, she described how chimpanzee childhood is marked by sheer joy and the freedom to explore. She said that by exploring the social and physical world around them, chimpanzees learn not only their own strengths and weaknesses, but those of others around them, too. Chimps are curious, inventive and adaptive. They are able to pass on learning to others around them.

This natural creativity in early childhood is not unlike that of human childhood.

Yet, "we are depriving children of their childhood," Dr. Goodall said, because of the over-structuring of their lives and free time.

Dr. Goodall described the Roots & Shoots program that she founded to emphasize experiential learning with a focus on the outdoors and nature -- with its goal of "no child left inside." She said Roots & Shoots helps children develop their own passion, empowers them to come up with their own ideas, and provides opportunities for hands-on action in their communities.

Roots & Shoots participants choose projects that will positively impact people, animals and the environment. Through these hands-on experiences, Dr. Goodall hopes young people gain a better understanding of what it means to "live in harmony."

"Every single one of us makes a difference," she said, adding that she frequently speaks with young people whom have never been told this. "We all have a choice what kind of impact we'll make."

Dutch Prime Minister Espouses Creative Education

[22 September 2008 - By Steven Dahlberg - Reporting from the Global Creative Leadership Summit] Opening the session this morning on "Education, Creativity and the Mind," The Netherlands Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende stated it simply: "Creativity and education are so important."

He shared a story from Holland about a business-based, project-based curriculum where 13 year olds translate an idea into the reality of an entrepreneurial business -- managing all aspects of the process. He said the goal of this program is not to make every student a business person, but to recognize different ways of learning and of being creative.

He insisted that society should recognize the importance of children's natural openness and curiosity, and encourage them to follow their passions for things that matter. He said education should focus on developing children's talents.

"Every child carries a seed of creativity inside," the prime minister said. "It's up to us adults to help that seed flower."

Prime Minister Balkenende also described the Design Academy Eindhoven, which Time magazine has described as the "school of cool." This school, built in an old factory, is integrating the role of human and social needs with sustainable goals in design challenges. For instance, he asked how these students might design a transportation system that makes people want to use it instead of driving.

"Everyone has the right to an education that makes the seed of creativity grow and flourish," he said.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Salman Rushdie on Creativity

[22 September 2008 - By Steven Dahlberg - Reporting from the Global Creative Leadership Summit - New York, New York] Toward the end of a lunch conversation that just wrapped up between author Sir Salman Rushdie and Harvard's Homi Bhabha, a Russian audience member asked Sir Rushdie what his "theory of creativity" is. His response:
"I wish I had a theory of it. It's very hard to do. I don't know where it comes from. My experience of it is very chaotic; not ordered and disciplined."
Sir Rushdie went on to say that he just sits down and writes. The next day, he looks at what he wrote and much of it is garbage. Through the process of exploration of garbage, he said, you find yourself paying attention to things that are sticking around -- and eventually you have a book.

As a writer, Sir Rushdie said you "look at the world in which you live and respond to it." Of his approach to writing: "I go to the edges of the possible and push outwards."

He said the problem of being in the business of writing books for so long is that you "have to keep coming up with stuff to write about." When asked whether he feels like he's done enough short stories, he said, "no," adding that he may do more of them.

Finally, commenting about the topic of "human security" and his own experience of living a threatened life, he said: "There is no such thing as security -- only levels of insecurity." If one accepts that, he said, you can learn to function again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

2008 Global Creative Leadership Summit Kicks Off Sunday

I'll be blogging from this event again starting on Sunday ...

[17 September 2008 - Louise Blouin Foundation] A Hundred of the World's Greatest Minds -- Including Heads Of State, Nobel Prize Winners and Global CEOs -- to Attend Third Annual Global Creative Leadership Summit in New York City ... On September 21-23 at the Metropolitan Club in New York City, the Louise Blouin Foundation will bring together over 100 of the world's greatest minds and leaders from a wide range of disciplines for the 2008 Global Creative Leadership Summit. Following the success of the first two annual Summits, this year's gathering provides a unique platform to address the challenges and opportunities of globalization across fields ranging from geoeconomics and foreign policy and rule of law to education, health, poverty and the environment. Selected participant speeches from last year's event may be viewed on YouTube:
Participating members confirmed for this year's event include: Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; President Bingu Wa Mutharika of the Republic of Malawi; President Manuel Zelaya of the Republic of Honduras; President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of the Republic of Iceland; Nobel Laureates Henry Kissinger and Sir Paul Nurse; Director General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura; technologist Craig R. Barrett, Chairman of Intel Corp; Internet Entrepreneur Craig Newmark of Craigslist; creative visionaries Sir Salman Rushdie and Richard Meier; Chairman and Founder of One Laptop per Child Nicholas Negroponte; attorney David Boies; psychologist Howard Gardner; biotech entrepreneur William Haseltine; blogger and editor Arianna Huffington; journalist Nicholas Kristof; and many others.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

On Problems

"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting
otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem." -- Theodore Rubin

Monday, September 01, 2008

Those with disabilities should likewise create

[30 August 2008 - The Jakarta Post] At the closing session of a recent international conference on "Creative Communities and the Making of Place: Sharing Creative Experiences" at the Institute of Technology Bandung, one of the keynote speakers concluded that in the end, the focus should be on people rather than on cities. This conclusion was certainly indisputable, because a city without people is dead. It is the people in their diversity who make a place lively. As shown by the present range of enterprises in Bandung, people are continually creating new things, either as a hobby, as an expression of art, for research purposes, or as a source of income. Gradually these creative products become an industry, called the creative industry. Not only do people do this creative work for their own benefit, but the urban economy flourishes because of these thriving businesses. ... The most underestimated are the disabled. They constantly face barriers to access physical infrastructure or opportunities for self development. They have the potential to make a significant economic contribution to the city, if only the environment could be more physically and socially friendly for them. People are creative by nature and so are disabled people. By excluding them from development opportunities, the society neglects a rich resource of talented and creative people. People who meet the standard of normalcy in performing creative work, predominate the creative industries. They are the ones who are healthy, agile, not disabled and have the financial resources to start an enterprise. Nowadays, young people are very much involved in creative industries. Thinking creatively, they produce goods with an economic value. Their free spirit means allowing people to be different, which is sometimes difficult in our conformist culture. By tolerating different ideas, their creativity emerges. More

Your Health: Einstein was an image streamer

[23 August 2008 - The New Straights Times - Malaysia] THERE are basically two types of meditation and they are diametrically opposed to each other. One is passive and the other dynamic. One attempts to still the mind while the other follows the vagaries of the mind and the thoughts that go with it. Most people are familiar with passive meditation. However, the concept of dynamic meditation -- called "image streaming" by researcher and educator, Win Wenger, is less well known. As discussed last week, this is a type of medication that Einstein may have used. Except that he described it as "vague play" with "signs," "images," and other elements, both "visual" and "muscular." "This combinatory play," he wrote, "seems to be the essential feature in productive thought." Win Wenger's project of the last 25 years has been to develop techniques and mental exercises, based in part on Einstein's methods. These work in the short term and seem to develop the mind's permanent powers. The Image Streaming technique that Win Wenger developed opens the mind to a flow of symbolic imagery as potent as that of any dream. However, unlike dreaming, you can practise image streaming while wide awake. Best of all, you can do it virtually any time, anywhere. More