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The Chemistry of Genius?, Part 2

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This is part 2 of a 2-part article.

Read Part 1 Here

Seratonin, Adrenaline and Myelin

Science is now beginning to show the reasons why quality in education increases with individualization.

Studies have shown for a long time that students receiving personalized, caring and quality mentorship learn more effectively than those required to conform to a deeply structured and systemized model.

Elites have historically been successful in engaging tutors, mentors and individualizing private schools over less personal conveyor-belt schooling options.

Scientists are now discovering that the individualized method (personalized mentoring, deep practice, long hours of inspired and enthusiastic academic effort) results in drastically higher levels of the neural insulator myelin than the standardized system of education.

Students with higher levels of myelin learn more and remember it longer. It is especially valuable for gaining, maintaining and polishing skills.

As Daniel Coyle writes in The Talent Code:

“The talent code is built on revolutionary scientific discoveries involving a neural insulator called myelin, which some neurologists now consider to be the holy grail of acquiring skill. Here’s why. Every human skill…is created by chains of nerve fibers carrying a tiny electrical impulse—basically, a signal traveling through a circuit.

“Myelin’s vital role is to wrap those nerve fibers the same way that rubber insulation wraps a copper wire, making the signal stronger and faster…each new layer adding a bit more skill and speed.”

This research is in its infancy, but it is already helping us understand that there are neuro-chemical factors in our basic psycho-physiology that are impacted by our learning environment.

Montessori, Charlotte Mason and other great educators have taught this for many years.

Personalized educational models, with dedicated and caring mentors helping learners achieve depth and inspiration in their studies, achieve better results than assembly-line education.

Mentoring Matters

Quality mentors help students learn at least three key things:

  1. How to see their internal greatness and potential.
  2. How to study and practice in ways that greatly increase the flow of learning.
  3. How to repeat this kind of learning experience at will.

These are nearly always individualized lessons; and when they are applied, researchers are finding, the level of myelin and the resultant quality of learning increases.

To increase myelin levels and create talent hotbeds, Coyle says, mentors must create an environment of individualized coaching, be perceptive in seeing individual needs in their students, use shock or intensity to open student minds and then share valuable information, and find ways to really connect with each learner.

All of this is traditional leadership education, based on the same principles as the 7 Keys covered in my book A Thomas Jefferson Education:

  1. Classics, not Textbooks
  2. Mentors, not Professors
  3. Inspire, not Require
  4. Structure Time, not Content
  5. Quality, not Conformity
  6. Simplicity, not Complexity
  7. You, not Them (example)

It would be interesting to study the myelin levels of each. Say, for example, a study of myelin levels in students whose teachers emphasize the “inspire” approach versus those with more “requirement-oriented” methods. There could be many other examples.

Individualization Breeds Innovation

One thing is clear, if not yet scientifically studied: Most parents and teachers who apply the 7 Keys see significant, drastic and lasting increases in the quality of their students’ and their own learning.

Personalized education is more effective in helping students learn in their areas of interest, and it also outperforms generally in math, science and technology.

In the decades ahead, as in decades past, many of the most innovative ideas and projects are likely to come from talent hothouses outside the mainstream—places where dedicated and caring mentors help young people see their huge potential, start to discover their great inner genius, and feel inspired to do the hard and effective work of getting a great education.

Individualized, mentored, intensive learning has better results than standardized, rote and minimum-standards systems.

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The Chemistry of Genius?, Part 2