How We Learn


"How We Learn"

By Jeremiah Cameron, Ph.D. (September 2, 2001)

The cry of the day is that children are going to school, but they are not learning very much. It is a negligent notion that schools are the primary houses of learning. All of the stimulations in the environment and in the head, neither of which is limited to the schoolhouse, go into the learning process. If the brain cells, neurons we call them, for memory, by which we measure learning, which is a process of brain cell interconnections itself, are not developed before children go to school, then schools are going to be very limited in what they can do to produce learning or learned children.

These articles that I am doing on the brain—which teacher training schools, churches and significant social agencies seem to know tragically little about—are directed at things that parents and all those who deal with children can and need to do to secure proper brain development in those impressionable years of early childhood. Ignore them and, as Shakespeare would say it, the child's learning skills will be lost in the shallows.

The common saying goes right to the point: "USE IT OR LOSE IT." If we are going to produce learning children, then we must create for them—in the home and in the rest of the community—situations that encourage the use and then more use of the brain cells and interconnections that have to be there for learning to take place. Let's review again the operations basic to learning—the actions of neurons that create learning and memory. By encouraging children to use their heads, to think, to memorize (by pointing out things for children to observe; by letting them talk; by letting them draw pictures and designs; by asking questions that make children think and reason), we create the use of nerve cells necessary for learning. The problem with many poor children is that they are permitted to grow like Topsy—without observing; thinking; imagining; and reasoning.

Learning involves stimulations of neurons all over the cortex of the left and right hemispheres, as well as the limbic system. Once again consider this sketch:

impulse traveling through brain cells

Impulse Traveling Through Brain Cells

The DENTRITES of a nerve cell receive some kind of stimulation (like 5 + 5). Electro-chemically the stimulation (perhaps, "Who was our first president?") moves through the cell body and along a longer arm called the AXON, which produces NEUROTRANSMITTERS to the dendrites of another cell body. This is the learning process, which may require stimulus after stimulus (practice, we may call it). The home, the community, as well as the school, must make the children repeat this process or the cells will, not being adequately used, die. USE THE BRAIN CELLS FOR LEARNING OR LOSE THEM. After the loss, what the school can do is limited—despite money and resources.

This is THE problem of the Kansas City, Missouri School District—if the school board, Judge Whipple, and Arthur Benson only knew it! (Judge Whipple and Arthur Benson are the judge and lawyer involving long standing litigation concerning the KCMSD.) The heart of the problem involves basically inadequate Standard English.

The Jeremiah Cameron Articles