Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Fri, 26 Apr 2002 08:31:27 -0400 (EDT
Random Thought: Two Winged Teaching and Learning

I received a message from a professor at a southwetern university who took exception to my final teaching "MUST": to prime good feeling in each student. "Higher education is be brain-based. There is no place for emotion. That's New Age, feel good, touchy-feely nonsense." I have to admit to ignorance. I never did really understand what "brain-based" meant unless it was an exclusion of the autonomic system in our body. I hope it does not mean to exclude the emotional curcuitry of the prefontal-limbic area and amygdala of our brain which makes our emotion just as "brain-based" as our intellect.

I never have thought it was an "either-or" situation. It's a case of "and." While the intellect and emotional neural systems are separate, they have intimately woven connections. And while academics place a high premium on the intellect, while most academics see emotions as too personal or measurable or "unassessable" to talk about in a meaningful way, emotion plays a powerful role in both the teaching and learning processes. Einstein once said or wrote a warming: we should be very careful not to worship our intellect. However powerful it may be, and however important it may be, it can only serve. It cannot lead.

Of course, we need analytical and conceptual thinking. Sure, we need technical expertise. If, however, we rely on purely cognitive abilities, we'll never have the whole formula. Einstein's caution tells us about missing a critical part of the equation. If you're only in your "head," you will not inspire, motivate, guide, and persuade. You cannot empathizing. You will not be in touch with other people's feelings. It's the "heart" that empathizes and moves people. It's the "heart" that dreams, has faith and hope. It's the heart that loves. It's the heart that generates excitement, creativity, imagination, courage, enthusiasm, commitment, perseverance, and passion, as well as creating an atmosphere of trust, respect, and worth.

Of course, the flip side is that relying solely on "heart," too much of too nice, that touchy-feely stuff everyone throws out, can make the teacher just as clueless as being totally in his or her "head."

I'm not talking about extremes, for anything carried to its extreme, head or heart, is dangerous and/or ineffective. No, it's a matter of meeting and joining and balancing "head" and "heart," intellect with emotion, thinking with feeling, knowledge and mood.

The truth is: no teacher can soar on one wing. Neither can any student. No one can.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
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                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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