06/25/2013 05:37 pm ET Updated Aug 25, 2013

Left-Brain Schools in a Right-Brain World

I remember an activity from my early childhood.

When we were in elementary school, my sisters and I used to play "school." We'd get the chalkboard, the chairs and a map out -- and one of us would be the teacher. Sometimes, we'd get the G.I. Joe's or stuffed animals involved, to enlarge the class size a bit. When we didn't know what we were doing, we never lost our passion. We just got creative and made something up. It was a blast.

I noticed over time, my whole perspective changed. School became somewhat of a drudgery. I stopped "playing" school. More than that, however, I stopped looking forward to it and began looking for ways to get out of it. Sadly, I was like most kids. School and learning were fun when we were young, but eventually they came to mean toil and boredom. For many, school is even repulsive.

I know what some of you are thinking. Education isn't meant to be fun. That's not its purpose. I agree, education is not just entertainment. The purpose of school is not pleasure and amusement. However, based on our research, education that sticks in the minds of students is usually connected to three elements:

1. A healthy, trusting relationship with the teacher.
2. An interactive learning community.
3. Creativity and innovation that stimulate the "right-brain."

Maya Angelou wrote, "We are all creative, but by the time we are three or four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else."

Right Brain Students

Daniel Pink shares some helpful insights about how our brains function in his book, A Whole New Mind. He describes the difference between left-brain and right-brain thinking. He argues that the old world is a left-brain world. The new one is a right-brain world. Part of our dropout problem can be summarized in one phrase: we are preparing students in "Left-Brain" schools to enter a "Right-Brain" world. The school does not resemble the world they'll enter after graduation. If they graduate at all.

The left-brain is about FACTS. The right-brain is about CREATIVITY. The left-brain is calculated and definitive. The right-brain is innovative and dynamic. Certainly both are necessary. But more and more, our world is driven by right-brain thought. Sadly, consider what's happening today in schools. With a poor economy, budget cuts are being made across the country. The first courses dropped by public schools are right brain courses: art, music, and drama.

Albert Einstein once said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." What he meant was this: knowledge is finite. Imagination can take a person into the infinite. Knowledge includes only what has been already developed. Imagination is about our dreams, which have no limits. Unfortunately, our educational institutions revolve around self-contained silos of existing information. They're about lecture, drill and test. Testing involves students regurgitating facts they've heard from instructors that semester.

How about you?

When you teach students, are your more of a left-brain teacher or a right-brain teacher?

More on this next week.