Saturday, January 4, 2014
CAN ELEPHANTS RAISE THE GRADUATION RATE IN BUFFALO?
An elephant has a REALLY BIG BRAIN! Studies have shown that the elephants brain is the largest of any land mammal on planet earth. Although it weighs more than a human brain, the elephant's brain increases in learning ability as it grows just like a human brain. Do bigger brains contain more knowledge? If we put bigger brains in Buffalo classrooms would we increase the graduation rate?
Although being much larger in mass, the elephants brain is smaller than a human brain in proportion to its size. The male elephant has a larger brain than the female elephant in mass but not in proportion to body size. The female is more of a nurturer in caring for her young. The males are more aloof and independent while the females interact socially and form close knit bonds. That sounds eerily like the lifestyle that we witness on inner city streets; independent males, children dependent on females.
Elephants have been observed mourning and grieving their dead. They pick up bones and hold them tenderly. They cover body parts with leaves. Elephants will even stop and remove bones from the trail and hide them. Elephants will mourn for days in what could only be described as a funeral process. The elephants also take care of the sick among them. They are very emotional creatures who demonstrate their affections in many ways.
Human beings are generally understood to be deeply emotional people. We are supposed to hurt for each other and help each other. Sadly, in the inner city it seems like it's more like a "survival of the meanest" mentality. Schools are constantly in "anti-bully" mode. Neighborhoods have cameras at most intersections taking snapshots of anti-social behavior. In gang violence, there are no emotions. It's like a Mafia culture where someone tells you: "It's nothing personal, it's strictly business" as they put a bullet in your brain. The size of your brain doesn't matter. I wonder, is it the shape of the brain that matters?
Adolescence is a time of exponential growth for children. Their brains will grow larger but the most important component in the growth appears to be the shape of the brains growth. Synapses are the connections between brain cells or neurons. Some connections disappear through not being used and others are strengthened though experience. The experiences of inner city students are less learning conducive that their suburban counterparts; poverty, violence and prejudice are norms.
The brain of an adolescent has the same scholarly ability as an adult. That same brain is not developed in the areas of goal setting, decision making and planning. The adolescent brain is also being bombarded by hormonal missiles that affect connections between brain cells. It would be fair to say that children may be physically developed while the brain is still in the shaping process. So how do we shape the brains of children? Maybe a better question would be: Do we shape the educational curriculum around the un-shapeliness of the children?
Creating learning experiences that combine the core curriculum with social/emotional learning opportunities will increase the likelihood of children becoming lifelong learners. We cannot insert elephants into our city schools. The size of our brains is less important than how they are shaped. Learning potential and learning capacity are 2 distinctly different intellectual measurements. Given an a nurturing learning environment, those 2 measurements may reach an unlimited equality in time. Potential is the yet unreached ability of a student. Capacity is the retention and understanding in the present moment. All students have unlimited potential. Teaching children and grading them only on their current academic capacity may prevent them from reaching future potential.
Young male elephants without adult male role models have been documented as troublemakers. They became violent, intimidating and disruptive to their neighbors. When adult males were brought in, the young males behavior took on positive changes.* Mentoring will change the the shape of the young brains in our city schools and raise the graduation rate.
Thanks for your time.
Go do something nice for somebody.
*Information taken from a "60 Minutes" episode entitled: "The Delinquents."
Teen Brain Under Construction http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml
Picture and information gleaned from: