BRAINSTORM by Daniel Siegel, Book Review

Posted: June 27, 2014 in Books, Pedagogy & Education

Lately I’ve been finding that much of my non-fiction reading kind of interlocks and contributes to the research on pedagogy and education that I’m exploring for what may, optimistically, turn into a book. That shouldn’t be surprising as when I read an article or listen to a podcast and a book is mentioned, it will either peak my interest or slide by.

I’m just finishing the first chapter of one such book and so far it is just blowing me away. Every once in a while you encounter a book where you say, “I wish I’d written this,” or perhaps “I could have written this.” Brainstorm by Daniel J. Siegel is one such book. It is about research in adolescent brain development and its implications. As I’m reading the first chapter, I’m constantly saying to myself, “I’ve been saying that for years.” There are passages and sentences that I have, in fact, spoken or written in the past, such as:

“For males especially, who seem to biologically need to court danger, in some fashion to “come of age” as young men, to test limits and face risk to prove they can come out alive, there must be some culturally sanctioned rites of passage we can reinvent that don’t involve a two-ton weapon barreling down the road with innocent victims in its wake.”

The first chapter, which, honestly, is as far as I’ve gotten so far, brings forth another idea that has dominated my life for decades. Adolescence is not something to be endured, but rather one of the most important developmental periods in our lives. While there are critical periods in early childhood for sensory, motor and conceptual development, adolescence is a critical period of its own. It is the period where we make important decisions about ourselves involving vitality of life, self improvement, creative exploration and social engagement. Such things are strongly affected by the adolescent years and are fairly crystallized and established by the time we’re twenty-five. Research shows that, usually, it alters very little again until after age fifty. Because of it’s volatility, the adolescent mind can thrive or crash and burn. But there are things that can be done to stack deck in a positive way.

“With awareness, the power of the adolescent mind can be utilized to benefit oneself and others. … The push against traditional ways of doing things and of thinking about reality can yield ways of thinking outside the box that enable new and creative ways of doing things to emerge.”

It is wonderful to find support for the ideas that have molded the youth programs and groups that I’ve fostered over the past four decades. It’s a great feeling to read a few paragraphs and then quietly pump my arm and say, “Yes!!”

I’m very much looking forward to the rest of this book and highly recommend it to those who have, work with, are or have been adolescents.    …Going back to my reading now.

 

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