This afternoon saw me reasserting my "scientist" side. All through uni, even though I was doing a Bachelor of Science, my computer scientist friends scoffed at the fact that Psychology was a science subject. At the pub on Thursdays the physicists regularly mock my psychology background as not being scientific. Today I was aligning myself to the science side of the fence. I was at a Brain Gym workshop.
I've often wondered about the Brain Gym hype, and been interested in trying the exercises with some of my younger, more restless classes. I've done a 'human programming' exercise with most of the S1/2 pupils where they have to follow a set of instructions precisely like placing their hands on the desk with thumbs touching then stretching out their arms. It worked well at just calming them a bit and focussing their attention, so I though the Brain Gym workshop would show me some more examples.
I was amazed at how little we were 'taught' in two hours. They started by saying they wouldn't show us lots of exercises and instead would explain the reasoning behind them. Their reasoning wasn't particularly logical. What I was suprised at though was how unquestioning and obedient the other teachers were being, quite apart from the fact that the paired work consisted of reading paragraphs in the handout out loud to each other. At the point where everyone was finding their "brain buttons" (it's apparently just below your collarbones) and pressing their other hand on their belly ("it 'grounds' you") I was sitting (not doing it, oooh I am a rebel) feeling like I normally do at the Christmas midnight mass when everyone else is chanting the Lord's Prayer.
We were told to touch our fingertips together as our fingers have alternate polarities (your left thumb is apparently positive, left index finger negative, etc) and that if you sit with your fingertips touching the polaraties neutralise and you feel better. Hmmmm. I've heard more credible explainations in Return to the Forbidden Planet when they 'reverse polarity' to take off. I'm sure interlacing your fingers then moving your hands up and down above your head make you feel better too!
In some ways I don't understand why there is the need to add the pseudo-science to the sessions, but I do realise that it is all to do with money. Teach people how to do four movements, add lots of scientific sounding gobbledy-gook to slightly confuse the well-educated professionals who've forgotten most of their degree knowledge but don't want to admit it, show them lots of happy customer and happy kid quotes, then sell them lots of nice but overpriced books and CD-Roms with bad illustrations so you're not quite sure if you're doing it right. Then when it doesn't miraculously turn your kids into the wonderful readers and thinkers that everyone else seems to manage you sign up for the four day course. Meanwhile you chat in the staffroom and say how fab the two day course way (because the school paid a fortune and you don't want to admit it was junk) so several other teachers decide they should go on a course and find out what the hype is about.
I'm tempted to start my own
cult educational approach. I'll hire a lovely retired couple who remind you of fairytale grandparents, a yoga expert, and a bad illustrator so do some vague drawings on handouts with phrases like "attentional intelligence" (I don't remember Howard talking about that one!). I'll get them all to watch Space Cadets to study how much real science needs to be mixed into the workshops to make it seem valid. Just to get it all started I might employ a few people to stand on street corners asking people if they want to come to a meeting (oops sorry, wrong cult!). I might even get my long lost third cousin, a hypnotist called the "Great Scroudini" (REALLY!! He's a relative on my dad's side of the family) to suss out the teachers more susceptible to the power of suggestion and send the science teachers to the bar for a free drink instead.