Giving Emotions Their Due

Posted: September 19, 2014 in EC&I 831 Social Media & Open Education, Ed Tech, Life lessons
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Rick Schweir, retired Edtech professor, gave my Social Media & Open Education class a snapshot of the history of education technology, from the days of the first printing press to today’s plethora of digital choices. In our discussion he spoke about David Brook’s TedTalk, “The Social Animal” wherein Brooks speaks about the ‘revolution of consciousness’ that is upon us. Here’s my summary and reflections on that TedTalk.

“People learn from people they love.”

A powerful sentiment for educators to take in. It’s the reason we teachers get into the business of teaching in the first place, isn’t it? How refreshing to hear that, according to Antonio Damasio’s research, emotion is the foundation of reason. Based on this new wave of thought, Brooks declares…

“We’re developing a revolution in consciousness, a new view of human nature, a new humanism, a new enchantment.”

Here are 3 key insights he shares about this revolution and my interpretations:

1) “Consciousness writes the autobiography …while the unconscious mind does most of the work.” In other words, going with your gut is legitimate, valuable, and probably right.

2)Emotions are at the center of our thinking.”  He refers to Antonio Damasio’s work in stating “emotions aren’t separate from reason but they are the foundation of reason because they tell us what to value. So reading and educating your emotions is one of the central activities of wisdom. As an arts teacher I love when research supports the tremendous benefits of self-expression that are so integral to the arts.

3) “We are not primarily self contained individuals, we are social animals not rational. We emerge out of relationships and are deeply interpenetrated with one another. We re-enaact what we see through others.” What a powerful image. Nothing happens without relationships first and things are stunted without them.

While reason is often weak, sentiments are strong and trustworthy correcting the “dehumanizing bias.”

What does this mean for how we value Human capital?

Brooks shares 6 unquantifiable gifts humans possess:

1) Mindsight – We “download models” or “hoover up knowledge” from those around us. Another poignant thought for teachers.

2) Equal Poise – We have the ability to read biases and over confidences in our own mind, the ability to examine our own thoughts and self-evaluate.

3) Metis – We have the ability to pick up patterns in the environment. In others words, we have special sensitivities, street smarts, intuition.

4) Sympathy – We have the ability to work in groups and groups are smarter than individuals. Group effectiveness is determined by communication skills (ex. turn taking) not IQ.  Face to face groups are smarter because 90% of communication is non-verbal! Wow, read that again…90% is non-verbal. What does this mean for us given the way technology is evolving how we communicate?

5) Blending – We have the ability to pretend or take on the characteristics of another. What most think of as child’s play is really a complicated process of blending identities. Another shout out for the arts! Unfortunately these activities we revel in as children are suppressed as we age. Another point for teachers to ponder.

6) Limerence – Brooks defines this as a drive or motivation. Though our conscious mind might hunger for achievement, ourunconscious mind hungers for transcendence.” Have you ever had that perfect moment of synergy with a group? Amazing. I’m not pursuing a masters to add letters behind my name or to get a pay hike, though both of those would be nice. I’m taking classes to become a better teacher, to contribute, and to hopefully have more of those moments of limerence with my students. Yet, if we are social animals do we not need/want to be valued for our contributions? Is that the same as being an achievement junkie or praise hound? Hmmm…old habits die hard.

Bring on the revolution.
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