I'm headed to Maine for a super fantastic exciting literacy retreat at the end of June, and in the meantime need to finish this and Friedman's The World is Flat. The two complement one another well, as the former takes on the unique demands placed upon a post-Information Age U.S. worker and the latter is a history lesson in how the economics of globalization has set the stage for individual actors from every single corner of the world to take advantage of opportunities for success.
Basically, Pink's premise is that the combination of outsourcing/globalization (a mix of "Asia" and "Automation") with the presence of greater wealth, "Abundance," has freed up Americans to move from the Information Age into the Conceptual Age, in which right brain capacities or aptitudes will be in higher demand than ever before. Businesses will seek out employees who can do more than complete logical, sequential tasks that can now be done by lower-wage workers or software programs. Gestalt thinking has far outweighed the importance of specialized knowledge. The relationship between consumers and businesses is changing--more emphasis will need to be placed on the intricacies of the relationship between business and customer; consumers now seek products (basic products, not even luxuries only afforded to the wealthy) that go beyond function--that are aesthetically appealing (when was the last time you couldn't find a designer collaboration in most mainstream stores, from Target to Bed Bath & Beyond to Kohl's?). All of these marketplace demands require workers who can put the special abilities of the right brain to work in harmony with the left-brain thinking that has propelled us through the Information Age.
Pink offers 6 right brain capacities that will be necessary to successful interactions withtin the new, post-Information Age: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. Thus far I am enjoying pondering the implications for educators that underly these 6 principles of A Whole New Mind, while simultaneously cringing at the elitism and ethnocentrism I'm detecting. Each chapter is appendixed by a "portfolio" section that offers suggestions for improving one's capacity for each of the six aptitudes. While I find some of the portfolio suggestions uniquely accessible (drawing, writing and game suggestions as well as exercises in empathy-building), others are downright out of reach of a good portion of the population (far-off museums, expensive design magazines, elaborate classes and workshops). I don't doubt that Pink's intentions are good, but I'm not convinced that the presence of "Abundance" in some households extends to free up the general populace to pursue the prescribed right-brain strengtheners.
As far as ethnocentrism goes, Pink seems to suggest that low-wage earners from other countries simply are not capable of the kinds of right-brain thinking at which Americans will excel. He leaves no room for the possibility that individuals working for low wages in positions that require left-brain thinking might be imaginative or creative, and might put their personal talents in right-brain thinking to work as well as any American could.
More on A Whole New Mind as I consider more thoughtfully the implications of Pink's work for today's students and teachers. . .