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Jenna's picture

Neurodiversity and Education

Natsu and Jessica both made good points about the current state of neurodiversity in and out of the classroom.  I think as Natsu stated it is important not to underestimate the neural differences of people from similar backgrounds.  Her example shows that it is not necessary to come from a drastically different lifestyle or culture to have neural diversity.  This once again returns to the problem of how to measure neural diversity.  Is there a test we can use to determine if people in a group are thinking differently enough to increase productivity?  However, due to the general aversion to tests as tools to measure neural processes I think this would be problematic.  I really like the idea that it is not the lack of diversity in students at places such as Haverford and Bryn Mawr that cause our supposed lack of neural diversity but instead the teaching style at these institutions stifles the neural diversity that already exists.  If this is the case, then perhaps it is more important to change the way classes are taught than to worry about the diversity of students admitted.  


This leads to the question of whether it is really important to teach many different ways to answer one problem.  Although I think it is important to appreciate that everyone will solve a certain math problem differently and it is a good exercise to show that all ways of thinking are valid I do not think it is important to structure a whole class around it at upper levels of education.  I think the reason early classes such as kindergarten focus so much on developing neurodiversity is because that is the time when each person figures out their own learning style.  Once someone knows how they learn best they can apply that to the upper levels of education.  It is not necessary for the teacher to teach a variety of different ways because each student has already developed their own problem solving methods.  For example, say a teacher gives a lecture on cell biology and tells students which information is important.  Some people will gain a comprehensive understanding of the material by just going to the lecture, some will read it in a textbook, others will get extra help from the teacher or a tutor, form study groups, draw pictures, make flashcards, or any other method.  It is not necessary for the professor to do all of these things because the students already know which will work best for them and can pursue it on an individual basis.


Finally, I want to return to Jessica’s point that there is important neurodiversity outside of the classroom.  During class it was argued that perhaps colleges should admit people with lower grades and SAT scores to increase neurodiversity.  However, perhaps by admitting those people we are actually decreasing the neurodiversity of the world as a whole.  I think as a society we are more productive if people are allowed certain tracks.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with going to a vocational school instead of high school if you have a passion for a certain vocation and little interest in upper level English and Math.  However, I don’t think that everyone should have to take a vocational course if they don’t want to; just as not everyone should have to take calculus if they don’t want to.  Overall, I think that neurodiversity as a population is more important than having it in each individual classroom.  Since upper level classes are essentially just a different vocational track it is natural that people with similar interests will end up together.  


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