Seeing What Others Cannot See: The Hidden Advantages of Visual Thinkers and Differently Wired Brains is Thomas G. West‘s third book. I am sooooooooo torn about this work. It is a powerfully reasoned defense of a world-wide, critical movement to recognize the needs and astonishing abilities of people who are visual/spatial/dyslexic/neurodiverse thinkers. Visual/spatial learners may have horrible challenges learning to read and write or memorize “simple” facts like multiplication tables. They may never spell well. Their sense of time can be non-existent and their social skills weak. And they see the big picture as no one else can. They make connections between dissimilar and seemingly-completely unrelated items and concepts with dizzying speed. They often understand the most difficult arguments, theorems, hypotheses of a discipline and/or create entirely new analyses of our world and can be completely unable to explain why in a step-by-step fashion without huge struggle. Their weaknesses get them labeled “stupid,” “lazy,” “careless,” and too many other soul-shriveling names to list. And their gifts are too often sadly trivialized, although, encouragingly, West notes that these biases in worldwide cultures are reversing.
There are wonderful, inspiring biographies of highly successful, “atypical” learners throughout the pages who have often completely upended the understanding of their fields of expertise – Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill. That’s only a partial list of the individuals examined in Seeing. That list alone should be convincing as to why we need to nurture all brains. And giving all students access to appropriate resources and teaching benefits everyone in school: none of us is strictly “typical.”
But Seeing is repetitive. Very very repetitive. I’m not sure, but I think this is a collection of essays. Unfortunately, every essay ends on the same notes. What was convincing becomes tedious. I would suggest reading this book for the biographies, and the arguments in favor of a radical re-vamping of educational systems which are incorporated in those biographies will be absorbed. But don’t feel compelled to read every page.
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