This page contains articles and links to interviews with prominent thinkers from the world of philosophy, psychology, business and education. 

Iain McGilchrist 

Iain is a British psychiatrist, writer and former Oxford literary scholar. He has written a ground-breaking book entitled, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brian and the Making of the Western World.

 

I travelled to the Isle of Skye to interview Iain McGilchrist last year. I wanted to ask him about his views on education and life. 

  

A new documentary, Thedividedbrain.com, highlights McGilchrist’s work.

From the trailer: 

The world is in crisis. 

But this scientist thinks the real problem is inside our heads. 

We act like people with right hemisphere brain damage. 

Treating people like things to be sorted, used and thrown away. 

But there is an alternative. 

A more balanced way of thinking. 

We need to relearn how to use our brains before it is too late.

If you are interested in McGilchrist’s fascinating work, visit his website: iainmcgilchrist.com 

 

Lord Digby Jones

Lord Digby Jones is a British politician and businessman. He served as the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, and was the Director General for the CBI (Confederation of British Industry). He is also an author, publishing his first book in 2011, Fixing Britain: The Business Of Reshaping Our Nation. In which he writes:

Britain should be in the game of maximising individual talent, not subordinating it to a common standard that excuses poor performance by both pupil and the system.

His second book was published in 2017, Fixing Business: Making Profitable Business Work For The Good Of All.  In this book Jones tells us that young people are being taught outdated skills.  He quotes UNICEF’s Global Head of Education, which describes this type of education as “static knowledge.” 

Lord Jones also writes about the worrying levels of social exclusion and says young people falling behind, and falling out of the system. He believes that these problems are evident not just in what we teach but also how we teach.  Our schools and colleges are already struggling with a generational learning gap, so how do we ensure that today’s digital natives make sense of the cold formality of classrooms and lecture halls?  There is a crisis of relevance, not only in educational subject matter but also with the educators themselves. 

We are failing our children just at a time when we need them to be the most versatile and resilient generation in history. 

 

On the back of the Fixing Business book, the broadcaster Nick Ferrari says:

How refreshing…an expert who writes precisely the way he talks: with candour, professionalism and wit. This should be required reading in every boardroom and for every politician.  It wouldn’t harm to put it into sixth forms, colleges and universities too!

 

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, Lord Jones was kind enough to send a signed, personalised copy of his business book to all of our students. It was an excellent tool for them to read about business in an accessible and interesting way. 

To find out more about Lord Digby Jones, please visit his website: digbylordjones.com

Robert Sapolsky

Robert Sapolsky writes about the Pre-frontal Cortex (PFC) which, he says, is the “most human part of the brain.”  It is the most recently evolved part of the brain and “makes you do the harder thing, when it’s the right thing to do. It makes you do what is difficult, when that is what you should be doing.” 

The PFC is responsible for logical thinking, long-term planning, controlling impulses and emotional regulation.  What is the PFC regulating?  That would be the amygdala. 

The amygdala is part of the limbic system, an almond shaped set of neurons, and the fear centre for the brain. If it is the fear centre, does it generate or contribute to the production of fearful emotions which we give voice to in our head? Or create fearful messages, which then affects our emotions? 

Whichever way it works, Sapolsky says it is the PFC’s job to dampen down the amygdala and control the fear-based emotions before it lashes out and does something regretful. In an interview, he says: “Judgment goes down the tubes when the amygdala is running the frontal cortex, rather than the other way around.”

In Sapolsky’s book Behave, one chapter is entitled, Adolescence; or, Dude, Where’s My Frontal Cortex?In it, he tells us:

The final brain region to fully mature (in terms of synapse number, myelination, and metabolism) is the frontal cortex, not going online until the mid-twenties.

 

Sapolsky also tells us that the PFC is the part of the brain which shapes adolescence, all other parts of the brain are fully matured and going at full throttle, whilst the frontal cortex is “still working out the assembly instructions.” He says this is the reason adolescents are “so frustrating, great, asinine, impulsive, inspiring, destructive, self-destructive, selfless, selfish, impossible and world changing.”

He also says that this is the time that brings the most risk-taking and novelty-seeking behaviours. This is the time when young people will make huge decisions which will affect the rest of their lives. This is the time of “peril and promise.”

In posing the question why it would take so long for a crucial part of the brain to mature, Sapolsky proposes that it is nature’s way of “getting it right.” It seems Mother Nature will provide you with genes to get you started, but wants you to really develop your persona through experience. 

Sapolsky says: “Ironically, it seems that the genetic program of human brain development has evolved to, as much as possible, free the frontal cortex from genes.”

So, if the voice of reason, and therefore reasonable emotions and behaviour are reliant on a quiet amygdala and a fully functioning and mature PFC - and if the PFC is developed through external experiences – what are those experiences, and where exactly, are those experiences to be found?

It turns out there are two places we can find those experiences, the first is through play, and the second is through perspective-taking. 

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"This was when it hit me -  the experiences the students were gaining from the drama projects were literally strengthening neural connections in the Prefrontal Cortex and restraining fear-based messages from the amygdala.

These changes would forever shape the structure of the brain, therefore altering attitudes and behaviours! 

Straight from Sapolsky - one of the most brilliant minds of our time, from his words to me, to this page: 

"In order to evolve into a fully functioning mature adult, you have to practice perspective-taking."

 

From: The Right To Connect - Diane Elliott