Special Word to Everyone Who Seeks to Improve the Schools

Current Regards on Building Brains and Improving Human Intelligence

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
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For 150 years, schools have succeeded in one thing. They have succeeded in blocking every meaningful positive reform that has been proposed, allowing in only window-dressing changes to palliate public pressures that were upon them at the time. Some of those reforms “did everything right” in how one should go about advancing their cause. Several represented benefits likely as great as those offered by our modern maieutic Socratic Method. What makes us think that our (Project Renaissance’s) new thrust with Modern Maieutic Socratic Method can do any better?

Here is this one point, where the war will be won or lost.

Indeed, we can start winning it today.

Other reforms have required expensive professional skills, experience, training, often expensive equipment, expensive materials, and have demanded scarce attention and time from teachers. In contrast, besides all the benefits—immediately felt and actual —experienced by the students, there are all the benefits—both immediately felt and actual—which are experienced by the teachers. The teachers like this modern maieutic Socratic experience so well that the teachers’ labor union for their city has endorsed this reform in teaching method!

Productively applying some forms of Modern Socratic Method is wondrously EASIER on and for the teacher than what teachers are doing now. Moreover, teachers don’t have to abandon what they are doing now, nor do they have to abandon hard-won skills and experience they have built with their currently used methods. Instead, some of these forms of Modern Socratic Method provide profound respite to teachers in mid-lesson, allowing them to regroup their forces and focus and to execute, by their own preferred methods, the remainder of their current lesson far more effectively than they otherwise could have. —And to be not harried but instead fresh and flushed with success and confidence heading into the next class session.

Modern Maieutic Socratic Method also allows teachers the opportunity to casually observe their own students in action. The easy kind of observation which gives them a far clearer picture of how their students are receiving and handling current lesson content than can be obtained through all that clutter of paperwork ordinarily used in most classrooms. This provides another form of respite for and saving of the teacher’s attention.

This respite-to-the-teacher aspect is unique to what we are offering in Modern Maieutic Socratic Method. The Cooperative Education movement, closely comparable in some respects, offers some really fine teaching methods and, as another form of Modern Socratic Method, is the method closest in nature to what we offer. However, good as it is in most regards, Cooperative Education requires years of study to master, and considerable special skills and attention by the teacher. Also by all reports received thus far, students by our Socratic forms more immediately go to deep levels of understanding in whatever topic is involved—though admittedly that might be more a function of the individual teachers presently using one form of such a method as compared to the other. Time and testing can determine the answer to that question.

We will “win this war” to get better methods used in classrooms, where all other meaningful reform efforts this past century lost it, if and as we find ways to make this information real enough to teachers for them to try it—that our Modern Maieutic Socratic Method is how a teacher can find immediate relief, respite, and opportunity to regroup his or her thoughts in the midst of classroom and school-related pressures… and that this method is also a keen opportunity to immediately observe his or her students in action, grappling with the current information being taught to them. What are all the ways to make it overwhelmingly REAL to teachers how much easier, wholesome, human, and restorative this method is than what they have been doing?

Make that point and we can almost but not quite relegate the remarkable excellence of our student outcomes to parentheses amd still gain acceptance. Such excellence of outcomes has not been the deciding factor in acceptance of methods. The responses—and comfort— of those who serve in the trenches, our classroom teachers, will determine which methods advance and which join the scores of other reform efforts in the present limbo of forgotten breakthrough techniques.

If teachers start looking at this on their own motivation, the war is won. If the teachers do not find personal motivation, or find their way TO personal motivation through all the confusions and bitter bickering now burdening them, no matter how excellent our outcomes are, the war will be lost the same way it was lost by each of the other many worthy reforms which could not make their way through the schools the past hundred or so years.

Conversely, alert individuals who are both bright and well-positioned may spot this unique aspect in what we propose, and identify a winning ticket. We could see this method adopted with sudden surprising speed, and will need to prepare for this eventuality, both in terms of availability and of quality control.

Correspondingly, once the doors are opened for one meaningful positive reform, several or many others may also be able to enter and flourish. The next few years could become an astonishingly positive period in the history of our schools.

We cannot follow the same strategy for reform as was pursued by dozens of other programs and methodologies, some of them indeed truly excellent but all of them defeated by the unresponsiveness of the already-burdened survival-desperate teacher so reluctant to take on yet another load of methods and concerns and attention-absorbers. Sociotectonics sees education about to break in a high-Richter quake. The system appears to be breaking down, or negentropically breaking upward a la Ilya Prigogene, and this is our opportunity to help make it do the latter.

By itself, a well-tended professional reform isn’t going to make it through. We MUST go the route of a popular mass movement. We will play our cards for the well-tended professional reform as well, but we have to do what it takes to create a massive popular movement, first among teachers and then also among parents and communities as they see something positive finally starting to happen.

For education, there are other great developments besides our own—Some needed features of education by Year 2020 which are not yet widely found in our deeply lagging schools

How much can your own mind and vision add to what is listed here? This catalog is only a seed-starter for your own further perceptions as we attempt to explore toward a more hopeful future —a future where our schools, after 100 years of totally resisting and defeating any meaningful reform (as distinct from stylistic, trivial and window-dressing “reforms”), have finally made the adjustments in our schooling which will make our society, culture and civilization once again viable and this time truly human.

Here are a few of those features, not widely found in our schools today but which must be quite soon if we are to make it into a truly human future:

1. Modern Maieutic Socratic Method

…techniques for “drawing forth” into the focus of consciousness one’s subtler awarenesses, where they can be made readier use of.

A. Source

  • Win Wenger and Project Renaissance and the Center for Modern Socratic Innovation
  • Cooperative Learning Movement, longer and more complex to learn
    and handle, but already accepted in several previously well-funded parts of the Establishment.
  • All CPS and creativity-related methods which, like Socratic
    Method generally, are methods for figuring out things – hundreds of such methods currently exist.

B. Status: 

Development is underway but the field is still new. Major texts and training programs are already readily available. The student body of the first school to use Win Wenger’s version of these techniques, on average is, according to tests, gaining substantially better than four years per year in academic achievement.The eightfold increase in rate of gain recorded in one especially enjoyable and stimulating class is expected to become the new norm for average performance.

C. Characterization:

The Project Renaissance based methods have pursued development not only of greater effectiveness and depth of understandings, but of simplicity and ease of use in teaching and learning. Some of the techniques can be learned and applied to advantage, literally in mere seconds. This simplicity, immediacy and ease of use may be the means to finally achieve overdue reform throughout the educational system. Presently our new book, 3 Easy Tactics To Use In Your Classroom is the leading example of this drive to utterly useful simplicity.

2. Projective Screen Techniques 

Use external visualization with “points of resonance in the environment,” to detect and develop subtle internal attitudes and awareness

A. Examples:

B. Status: wide-open, virtually untouched for development, professions and careers to be made.

C. Distinction: Modern Socratic-type methods, and indeed most of our learning methods (as well as are our Creative Problem-Solving and creativity-evoking methods), are ways to get at subtler awarenesses to bring those awarenesses into useful focus. These types of method differ in that the modern Socratic is more directly verbal while Projective Screening orients around external visual perceptions.

3. Spontaneous Inner Imagery

…as distinct from directed visualizations, is probably the most sensitive of all methods for reaching, detecting, and working with one’s subtlest and deepest awarenesses, whether for creativity-related and problem-solving purposes or for educational ones. A complete curriculum of instructions how to learn, perform and teach ImageStreaming (the main form which works with this spontaneous inner imagery, is contained in this cluster of interlinked articles:

A. Source: Nearly all of this has developed from the work of Win Wenger and Project Renaissance, and is embodied in various texts, audio courses, web site exhibits and training programs, as offered by Project Renaissance and, from New York State, the Center for Modern Socratic Innovation.

B. Status:— Developed in tandem with and almost as well as is modern maieutic Socratic method, but this field is still new, wide open for further development, and there are professional careers to be made in this context.

4. Train Basic Skills via Computer Games

An initial example is Brainware Safari, which uses a well-designed sequence of computer games to train up each of forty-one basic cognitive skills. Mathematical “times tables,” grammar, language and second-language skills, indeed everything now done as a drill in school, can and will soon be organized into such computer games and developed with ease and entertainment instead of drudgery. Computer software is infinitely replicable and is therefore headed toward inexpensiveness and universal availability. The computer can be infinitely patient, and it attunes readily to individual and changing differences, conserving the work of teachers toward more human uses in education.

A.  Most important, BrainWare Safari-like softwares can make it not only feasible but easy to train up invaluable skills now beyond reach of schools and educational systems. Examples:

  • Mozart-like internal musical skills and, to varying levels,
  • Musical performance skills.
  • The best forms of Fast Math.
  • Repairing or enriching key aspects of human development.

B. Sources: Brainware Safari and Lumosity

C. Status—Wide open, virtually untouched, and with practically a universe-full of computer programming and gaming skills already developed and ready to pour into this application. Professions and fortunes to be made in this context also.

5. Neurophysiological Development, Repair and Enrichment

Where most of the above relates to improvement in the information contents and programming of the human brain, this topic addresses how to improve the basic equipment with which we perceive and think. The recent surge of scientific studies in brain plasticity has finally given overdue “permission” for researchers, clinicians, educators, and high-achievement coaches to think about how to elevate “intelligence” in all its forms and to an apparently limitless extent.

A.  Initial Source: Glenn Doman’s Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, in Philadelphia.

B. Status: Well-developed within certain sectors of application. This field is otherwise virtually untouched, wide open for far-ranging

C. Further significance: Our experience of being human, necessarily involves as much of our intelligence as is available, not only intellectual but in all dimensions. A main basis for discriminating against some people, and in favor of some exclusive ingroup, has been the assumption that some people are not intelligent and there is nothing which can be done about that. Thus it is held that there are some sectors of life to which they must not be admitted because they will only stumble around and make messes.

It is increasingly apparent that, like “deliberate creativity”, “intelligence” in all its forms can be learned and built and, so to speak, “earned” by deliberate practice. This excuse for discriminating, against any group of people, on the assumption that certain innate traits are necessarily inborn and unchangeable, has finally crumbled now that brain plasticity is so widely recognized, though the significance of that in all quarters has not yet apparently penetrated most people’s thinking.

6. Application of Modern Socratic Technique to Distance Learning

Already, contemporary electronics and the Internet have brought us the circumstance where the best lessons on any subject or topic, developed anywhere on the planet, can be disseminated everywhere on the planet to everyone on the planet. Combine this implication with this further one stemming from recent experiments where homeless street children, in every instance where the raw equipment was made available to them, quickly taught themselves and each other how to get onto and browse the Internet! We believe you can see much of the near-immediate future of education just in this combination of two very powerful implications.

A. Face-to-face live interaction. The one key missing ingredient in distance learning, however, has been live interaction with other participants in the lesson or class, especially with a re-processing of the lesson contents to induce Socratic interchanges. Learners need to interact with each other— and if possible with the instructor—on a face-to-face live basis, for all the reasons that they need to interact with the content material in order to actively learn and assimilate it. Further, the face-to-face interaction and shared reactions both liminal and subliminal, provide entire dimensions of context for the learning. All human learning is in and through context.

Also, the face-to-face interactions and shared reactions provide a ratification process for what is being learned. Ratification is needed at two levels—one’’s peers, and the authoritative instructor or facilitator. Without these factors involved in the process, it is much harder for the various learnings to ‘take.’ A very basic principle here should be incorporated into distance learning programs: Interrupt the best existing recorded lessons in every subject at key points, with Socratic challenges and questions, cueing students (face-to-face, two or three of them per computer terminal,) to focus on and articulate and develop their key awarenesses relative to that point in the lesson. All students should be in the presence of and have at least one other student face-to-face, or be with a small group of co-learners, to whom to articulate their responses to such provoking or evoking questions, and to hear out and interact with the responses of their peer(s).

B. Organizing such facilitation. While the interactions with the original professor or teacher are usually mostly only one-way, from the instructor to the student, any reasonably competent facilitator who can follow simple instructions, whether or not he knows the subject at hand himself, and can induce students in his presence into a depth of understanding in the subject almost as great as if they were in an intensive small-group seminar directly with a highly expert instructor.

Thus, two new services will emerge on the education scene, each with almost the impact of the internet itself. One service organizes and preps or “Socratizes” the best available distance- learned lessons. The other—and it can be the same organization providing it—organizes students into face-to-face groups, each student working from his own or a shared computer terminal, and providing those groups a facilitator with general facilitation skills to nurture the best-quality exchanges among those students.

C. Status. The lessons exist but as yet are not prepped in this fashion. Effective methods for Socratic facilitation have been simplified and made more effective. This combination, however, is as yet untouched, and is wide open for development.

D. Sources are, as with Modern Maieutic Socratic Learning—Project Renaissance; the Center for Modern Socratic Innovation; the widespread abundance of CPS programs and techniques; and Cooperative Learning. The free lessons from M.I.T. have gained some fame, and lessons of varying quality are available from many institutions of learning from all over, thousands of sources.

7. Function-Boosters

Are there performance-boosters for intelligence, thinking and perceiving, which are counterpart to steroids used and misused to boost physical strength and performance? The answer is, yes.— And like steroids, there are a variety, some with harmful side-effects, also affecting different people differently, also whose use raises serious ethical questions, also increasingly difficult to enforce strictures against their use.. This is the one sector we definitely do not recommend for immediate application, but in this listing of breakthrough features which must characterize the near future of education, it is definitely one which is in great need of research, including research to clarify our choices. This may also be the sector with the highest potential of promise for the future of humanity.

8. Other methods and applications. Any one of these may prove to be as revolutionary as the above are likely to be.

  • Eye training, developed from behavioral or developmental optometry and ophthalmology – how smoothly our eyes track and work together controls how readily we access different kinds of information.
  • Held-breath underwater swimming increases respiratory capacity, the ability to sustain and work through a thought or perception, attention span and awareness span, and through boosting circulation to the brain, improving the physical condition of the brain itself.
  • Entrainment of various brain functions and brain states can facilitate learning. Learning can be much better tailored to meet widely differing individual student needs, intelligences and characteristics.

A. Sources:
(1) For eye training, Developmental Optometry.
(2) For held-breath underwater swimming, Project Renaissance
(3) For entrainment functions, various meditations and the sound-and-light machines.
(4) For brain states, various meditations and Suggestopedia
(5) Also revisit the classical works of neurophysiologist Donald O. Hebb, whose studies of how the brain and nervous system learn makes up much of the basic knowledge of the fields of psychology and educational psychology today. Very little of those (or of other classical findings) has yet found its way into classroom application but a little ingenuity in this area could itself have immense consequences.

9. Improved Content of Learning

…as distinct from improved methods of teaching and learning.

A. Examples from a much larger field—

  1. General Systems Theory and Chaos Theory, especially effective for developing an understanding of dynamics which applies in every subject and topic—a ready-made, easy recognition basis that in effect constitutes a highly accelerated learning method for those subjects and topics.
  2. Teaching Reading, Math, etc. to babies, through parents and older siblings, and through a network of volunteers trained to work with babies and toddlers in families’ homes and to make highly visible the child being competent with his tutor.
  3. As young as possible, induce the child to go meta to his own thoughts and perceptions, stimulating, enriching and accelerating his emergence and development.
  4. From as early as possible, a solid and exploratory grounding in the Epistemological Continuum and in other key branches of philosophical inquiry. Branches whose universal questions relate to and provide highly retrievable conscious “sticking points” for more elements of experience throughout life.
  5. Quick math, easily accounting for the range of concrete mathematical operations.
  6. A vocabulary for emotions and feelings, and techniques for emotional relief and self-control such as the Calm-Breathing Patterns, from as young an age as possible.
  7. Such basic social vistas as that afforded by non-zero-sum game theory.
  8. Some various methods for creatively solving problems, including one’s own problems, and including the community’s.
  9. Restoring music and the arts as being crucial in the curriculum to supporting and redeveloping key intellectual skills and brain functions.
  10. Restoring playground recess and more systematized forms of phys-ed such as yoga or Tai Chi to the curriculum, moderate physical exercises which improve intellectual function as well as health, and which also support other functions and values.

This working brief is adapted from proceedings of the 2010 Double Festival, 18th annual conference of Project Renaissance, coinciding with the publication release of Win Wenger’s new book 3 Easy Tactics for Use in Your Classroom—Teach Smarter, Not Harder. This briefing implements the strategy described in the opening of this paper, whereby a reform of classroom methods which yield great results with students is also bringing respite and reward to teachers as well, and which is immediately and easily implemented by a wide range of teachers. This boon to teachers should lead to much broader use in schools and classrooms than occurred with other positive reform movements which did great things for students—but which were opposed by teachers who felt distracted, harried and overworked and who saw such reforms primarily in terms of being yet more extra work burden on them.

If this strategy succeeds, progress and spreading success in our schools should also enable other worthy additional reform methods and programs to come into play. Using even just a few of these together in various synergistic combinations should lead to some very nice positive outcomes well beyond reach of any single methodology working alone, and an education system fit for a fully human future.

We would like to hear from representatives of some of these other breakthrough methods and intended reforms, to explore areas of possible cooperation including that of how we might help toward creating easy-tactics versions and strategies for their own methods—a way how their resource, like ours, may be enabled to serve the needs of many more students and teachers than presently are being reached. The job to be done is larger than all of us put together: we’d best make a start on it.

From where you are and from what you know, what can you do to bring such a future nearer?

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