With the Mind in Mind…Evolution

I won’t pretend to be a lead scholar on this topic and will, where appropriate, link you to the authors that are leading thinkers in this area.  The premise reads like this:

At a recent conference on technology tools for educational use, the statement was made that we “must come to grips with the evolution of the human brain.”  This stirred some controversy in the crowd to say the least.  How can you call this evolution?  What about the studies that point out how the brain can’t handle multi-tasking without giving up long term memory?  What about ….?  Haven’t you gone too far with this…..?”   etc. etc. etc.

So I consulted my handy search engine and found a couple of links to share and will conclude with  my thoughts.

First, from one of the leading theorists of brain research, I lead with the work of Dr. William Calvin and his book A Brief History of the Mind.  His concepts of how the brain has developed over time are interesting and although he lays out a belief that the brain has some catching up to do with regards to biological evolution, he has laid a framework for the next wave of brain “evolution” that is likely now that we have generally gotten ahead of ourselves.

Speaking of frameworks, no discussion of the brain can happen if you haven’t watched the TED video of the speech by Jeff Hawkins – Brain science is about to fundamentally change computing.  Jeff postulates that current theories of brain science lack a framework and, thus, we really know very little about the brain and it’s adaptability – but we are about to see a significant shift in our understanding because of his recent work in this area.

So, the question remains – Is the brain evolving as we get smarter and understand more and more about our world and everything around us?  I can’t answer that question, but I can’t help but look at history and conclude that it seems that the brain is always catching up with our own creativity.  Similar to the classroom, we have people that reach across a spectrum of brain “capability” and those that are at the front of the line are creating a world of increasing complexity.  If we accept the Darwinian concept of “survival of the fittest,” we must accept that these leading thinkers will propel us down a path of increasing brain capability.

The educational connection here is not about whether or not the brain is actually evolving.  I think it is a forgone conclusion that the brain will continue to develop and pass on genetic enhancements over long spans of time.  The real question is how to deal with the growing changes in the world and how to best prepare children to live in this world where brain capacity will determine survival.  If we can’t accept that the mind is changing – and likely faster than other biological aspects of the human species – then aren’t we doomed to delivering another unprepared generation onto society?

Even if we can’t agree on evolution (and don’t get me started on the creationist debates at the root of this), can we at least agree that the challenge of education is the preparation for what is clearly on the horizon rather than what we remember?