Archive for September, 2010

Not too long ago, I decided to do something about my web skills (or lack of) and enrolled on a home study course in Dreamweaver and Flash.

The course was valuable, not because of what it taught me about website creation, but because I finally managed to nail down what it was that had made me decide to be a complete autodidact, rather than try and follow course programmes that had been structured for the more typical learner.

The first problem is that courses tend not to be structured for the visual-spatial learner.

If you haven’t read Linda Silverman’s book “Upside-Down Genius: The Visual Spatial Learner”, then I strongly recommend it, especially if you have anything to do with teaching.

I have noticed almost without exception with these computer courses that the course pack, tutor, or onscreen guide takes the student through a whole sequence of steps first, and then expects you to realise the result of taking those steps. In other words, without having first been told the purpose of the exercise, the student is then supposed to retrospectively remember the steps taken to get there.

When learning a new application on the job, the purpose always comes before the steps – I am working on a document, and I need to know how to format this table. My colleague shows me what I need to do, and because I already have that purpose in mind, I am more inclined to remember the steps she showed me in order to achieve the desired outcome.

In the case of the course, I would doubtless have to go back to the beginning and go over the steps again to make sure I have remembered them. In the case of being shown at work, where I know what it is that I’m trying to do, I probably won’t need to be shown again. That’s because I, as a visual learner, tend to mentally peg the procedure onto the purpose, rather than just automatically remembering a sequence of instructions, as an auditory-sequential learner probably would. Personally, I find this frustrating.

No doubt if someone were to quiz the manual writer on whether the course had been compiled with the visual-spatial learner in mind, then he or she probably would have answered with a resounding “Yes” on account of the fact that most pages were almost entirely taken up with full colour screenshots. Yet despite the glossy, printed screen captures, the way the manuals were put together was still auditory-sequential in style, as strongly evidenced by its step-by-step lesson plan.

What a visual learner wants is a course designed like a tree structure or mindmap – each major branch is the purpose of what is to be achieved in that section, and the lessons move from the overview and purpose down to more specific details, and as much or as little detail can be added as required for the student to understand it.

The second problem is when a totally uneven learning curve is presented.

The first five lessons of the web design course moved at a snail’s pace through the blindingly obvious: don’t use garish colours that clash and make your page hard to read, pictures can be placed either to the left or right or in the middle, avoid typing in huge fonts with all capital letters, etc. etc.

Suddenly, almost without warning, Lesson 6 gave the grand tour of what goes into a style sheet, but without digging deep enough each of the concepts so that they could be thoroughly digested by the student. It was obviously considered by the author of the course that this overview version was sufficient foundation to go on piling on additional pieces of information, which in their turn were not presented in sufficient depth.

In the end, I resorted to borrowing a manual on web design and CSS from my brother, which discussed the topics much more exhaustively, and made a whole lot more sense.

If I were to draw the relative levels of difficulty of each course element as a line chart, it would look something like the stats of this blog: in the beginning, nothing moved for ages, and then almost overnight I was getting a sharply increasing readership!

Where the course presents material that is too simplistic or obvious, often repetitiously, then even though I really WANT to learn, I find myself shutting down and switching off. I feel as though I haven’t learned anything.

When the course merely skates over the surface of what is doubtlessly a very meaty topic, I am left feeling that I don’t understand it. Possibly covering a topic in such a shallow and piecemeal fashion works for many, but I need depth and detail if I am to feel that I am able to competently achieve results with that information.

Thankfully, I have sufficient understanding of my own needs as a student to fix these problems when they come up. That’s the beauty of Study Tech: it’s very empowering, if you wish to learn anything or teach anything.

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Let it be known that I will not tolerate bullying in any form, whether it be at school, in the workplace, or in the home.

I feel that there is a general lack of understanding among the majority of people regarding what bullying is and does. Where a person has never been affected by bullying then it may be understandable that he or she might not have a personal reality on the subject. What is totally unforgiveable, however, is where someone sets him/herself up to give advice, and that advice is just plain wrong or even damaging.

At a first glance, it appeared that Dr. Irene’s website actually gave some promising advice about verbal and emotional abuse at home. Then I saw this page –  http://www.drirene.com/abuservs.php – where the author writes:

A Mini Quiz:
1. What do the abuser and the victim have in common?
They both are responsible.
2. What is most out of balance in their relationship?
Power – the abuser has it all.

OK – here’s the first challenge. Read Dr. Irene’s first and second questions on her mini-quiz, and tell me what you see.

Did you spot the contradiction?

She goes on to say:

The idea for this page was spawned by a highly relevant phrase a reader used in a recent email: “Without a victim, there is no abuse.”

No, Dr. Irene, without an ABUSER there is no abuse. A woman (and it is usually a woman) doesn’t enter an abusive relationship wearing a hat on her head saying “victim”. A victim only becomes so because the onslaught of verbal and emotional abuse wears her down over time.

Dr. Irene then quotes an email she received from a reader:
“I’m a 51 year old female, married to the same man for 29 years and just discovered Pat Evans’ books on Verbal Abuse. I also read the book Boundaries and many of Melanie Beattie’s books on Co-Dependency.  Subsequently I am learning to set boundaries for the first time in my life, recovering although slowly and gradually from codependency AND recognizing verbal abuse and just realizing how many controlling and abusive people I have allowed to trample on my self esteem and inner peace. Not only my husband but also some friends, my sister, and my 3 daughters have been abusive. I have been the codependent people pleaser, and hoop-jumper. The more I attempted to gain the intimacy and approval I longed for, the worse the abuse and control would become. FINALLY its like a “DUH” to me…I see that it takes two to tango. Without a victim there is no abuse”.

With the very greatest of respect to this lady, if she had really read Patricia Evans’ books and taken on board what Evans says, she would know that abused partners are NOT co-dependent. Few people choose to “allow” others to trample on their self-esteem, it is a process that starts with the abuser making a few utterances or engaging in a few minor behaviours that first of all surprise or confuse his target. Over a lengthy period of time, the abuse gradually moves up a notch, and then another.

Evans also stresses that, where such a couple seek therapy, it is VITAL that they go to a therapist who has experience of dealing professionally with verbal abuse and understands the dynamic at play. Otherwise, the therapist may simply assume that the couple have trouble relating to one another and assign an equal share of the responsibility to both partners for sorting out their relationship dynamic. She warns that when this happens, the abusive partner may feel empowered or mandated to continue with his established pattern of behaviour, since “The Doc says it’s your fault too, of course.”

Dr. Irene asserts:

This lady “got it.” She understands that in her need to get stuff from other, she allowed herself to be mistreated. Nobody made her do it. Her power is in her recognition and acceptance of that fact as well as in her freedom to purposefully act otherwise. She recognizes the damage she allowed to be inflicted on her self esteem and inner peace. She understands that she is the gatekeeper and caretaker to these essential parts of herself. It is up to her to clarify her limits and permit no trespass.

While taking responsibility for your own life may sound terribly lonely to the uninitiated, it is the most wonderful and natural place to live!

No, Dr. Irene, I’m very sorry, but your correspondent is about as far from “getting it” as can possibly be.

If a person is allowing herself to be mistreated, and allowing damage to be inflicted on her self esteem and inner peace, then what an onslaught of psychological warfare must have been waged against her over a sustained period of time!

No one “accepts” that sort of behaviour just like that. If an abuser behaved badly on the first date, there would be unlikely to be a second. The only way such a behaviour pattern can become entrenched and escalate to the point where the victim’s self-esteem has been destroyed is because it has been established incrementally.

Personal Responsibility

The abuser and the victim do not take responsibility for themselves.  

The victim gives away the store to get love and approval. The abuser expects the loved one to give them the store. Or else…

This bargain does not work because the exchange of care taking duties are no substitutes for self-esteem, self-regard, and self-love. Esteem et al can only be granted by the Self. They must be earned, and cheating doesn’t work.

Responsibility starts with recognising who instigated the behaviour. There is such a thing as “wrong cause” – incorrectly blaming self for situations that were in fact caused by another. Police stations regularly get all sorts of nutcases “turning themselves in” when news of a murder appears in the press. Blaming self for a situation that another caused is on about the same level of (ir)responsbility.

If the abuser is ranting and raving, who should correctly be named as the instigator of the tirade?

The author continues on a similar theme for some paragraphs, repeating in different words and phrases the general themes above.

During the course of her writings, either she pre-empted, or perhaps someone else pointed out, the fallacy contained therein, as further down she writes:

On Blaming The Victim

Some may interpret that this viewpoint somehow blames the victim. Not so. Neither the victim nor the abuser are off the hook. Each has to work out their own stuff, which has absolutely nothing to do with the other person’s stuff. There is no other way out. Nobody can do it for you.

Oh dear. This is so ridiculously simple, I shouldn’t be having to spell it out: If an abuser is abusing, then the “stuff” is coming from HIM! What the target did was be on the receiving end!

You know, I wonder if anyone has actually carried out any case studies where the abuser persists in engaging in his abusive behaviour, but the target, having received some training in human behaviour and recognising what he is trying to do, responds accordingly.

It seems unlikely that the abuser, faced with such a scenario, would simply say, “Oh, alright then”, and give up trying to abuse. It is more likely that he would step up the pressure to try and wear his target down. Again, this is not the target’s “stuff” – it is HIS!

If someone commits a serious crime, only the defence lawyer argues that it was the victim, rather than his client, who was responsible for the crime (and then that’s because it’s his job). Why should bullying and abuse be regarded differently?

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Most people seem to think that possessing exceptional cognitive talent would be “cool”, “a great laugh” etc. Yet many of those same people get frustrated or irritated when presented with such a person, wondering why they are that way, and why there are circumstances under which he or she doesn’t behave “normally”. In other words, it would be “cool” to have those qualities of mind as long as they can ace their exams or whatever. But what seems to be universally missed is that having a mind like that is not something that can be turned on and off at will.

There are other ramifications, which are bound sooner or later to impact on various areas of that person’s life.

I’m going to take you through an imaginary journey, just to provide a little personal perspective. Or, if you like, this is WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE ME!

Imagine you are an average person, who borrows a gadget for a couple of weeks that will temporarily boost your IQ to stratospheric levels.

Suddenly, you find that nearly all the people you meet aren’t interested in the things that you’re now interested in, because they don’t understand them. On the other hand, you now feel bored and frustrated with the seemingly superficial stuff that your friends are into. Popular culture now looks rather odd to you. You may find you lose interest in the “expected” bodily pleasures like alcohol and sex. I bet you’re already running through in your mind what your friends are likely to think of that.

Thrill-seeking (in the usual sense of high-speed rides etc.) may seem like an extreme stimuli overkill. However, thrill-seeking in the sense of spending an invigorating afternoon studying something you were always curious about, or perhaps creating in the artistic sense, puts you on a personal high that lasts for hours, if not days.

You may find you have become sensitive to things that you never gave a second thought about before. Certain clothes are irritating – the labels are annoying, the collar is too tight, or the fabric itches against your skin, the garment whose sleeve got accidentally wet must be changed immediately, or it will simply continue to annoy until it dries.

You may find you are extraordinarily sensitive to the temperature and texture of foods, not just their tastes. Additives may be a problem. You watch your friends scoffing junk food and wonder what the appeal is of eating stuff that just makes you feel unsettled or ill.

Certain noises are now unbearable (loud amplified music for instance).

Well, let’s consider the reason for these sensitivities. You didn’t really think for a moment that a mind sensitive enough to spot logic patterns etc. that 99.9????% of the population can’t perceive wasn’t going to be that sensitive to other things, did you?

You may find your emotions become so sensitive you can no longer watch much of what’s on TV, and you are deeply affected by what people say.

Then there’s the burning intellectual insatiety – how do you cope with sleepless nights because your mind is driven to ponder and solve things that other people don’t even care about?

How would you cope with being a person stuck in a routine job, when you feel driven to constantly learn and grow? And then of course there’s the matter of careers and qualifications – the thought of studying the same university textbook for the entire semester is abhorrent to you (you could probably polish off such a publication in a matter of days), and your interests move on too fast for you to complete any official course of study, never mind stick it out long enough to forge a career. (Ever wonder why the very brightest people aren’t rich?)

In the absence of the company of university professors or other people who might understand your deepest ponderings, your only recourse for real discussions is to join one or more of the various high IQ societies. Yes, some people think it’s sad, but where else are you likely to go? The education system isn’t geared up for you, as it works towards harmonization and systematization, rather than being interested in your tailor-made education. The result tends to be a self-educated, but officially unqualified, individual. Most career paths aren’t geared up for you, being tied as they are to expectations of certain durations of “experience” before one is usually offered promotion. The result tends to be the person who is regarded as a butterfly.

So your interests move on as your extraordinary mind starts compelling you to reach for the next level of self-growth, and you drop out of that degree or that career that for you personally has served its purpose. Again.

And perhaps I should mention the social pressure, if word should get around that you are not the average bunny. Any mistake you make suddenly brings your entire BEING into question.

People develop the idea that you’re “stuck up” or “up yourself” even if you’re not. The fact that you are, for example, teaching yourself another language doesn’t bring commendations from others for being willing to improve, it becomes yet more “proof” that you’re just out to polish your medals.

Then there are the people who just want to bring you down, as described so eloquently by a comment on another site: “Yes, he’s very clever, but perhaps TOO clever for his own good, because HE’S ALSO SILLY! At least we the normal (barely sentient, low to mid IQ people) aren’t silly! We’re shrewd and streetwise, and those “intelligent” folks could never acquire our simple-yet-robust both-feet-on-the-ground-thinking (as-seen-on-Jerry-Springer) style.” Brilliant!

Despite all this, I wouldn’t trade my place out here on the far right-hand tail of the distribution curve. Not because I have had to learn to deal with the way I am, but because I have learned to deal with the way other people are about it, and all the overt and covert ways in which that is manifested.

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Common Sense

One of the chief accusations that seems to be levelled at the gifted by the masses is that the former have no common sense.

I have therefore coined this ironic definition of common sense:

The level of mindreading expected by those who apparently do not possess the capacity or the inclination to communicate their requirements precisely.

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