Dr. Robert Sylwester is an educator of educators, having received multiple awards during his long career as a master communicator of the implications of brain science research for education and learning. He is the author of several books and many journal articles, and member of our Scientific Advisory Board. His most recent book is The Adolescent Brain: Reaching for Autonomy (Corwin Press, 2007). He is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon.
I am honored to interview him today.
Alvaro Fernandez: Let’s start with that eternal source of debate. What do we know about the respective roles of genes and our environment in brain development?
Robert Sylwester: Genetic and environmental factors both contribute to brain maturation. Genetics probably play a stronger role in the early years, and the environment plays a stronger role in later years. Still the mother’s (environmental) use of drugs during the pregnancy could affect the genetics of fetal brain development, and some adult illnesses, such as Huntington’s Disease, are genetically triggered.
Nature and nurture both require the significant contributions of the other in most developmental and maintenance functions. We typically think of environmental factors as things that happen to us, over which we have little control.
Can’t our own decisions have an effect in our own brain development? For example, what if I choose a career in investment banking, vs. one in journalism or teaching?
We make our own career decisions in life, and most of us make a combination of good and bad decisions, which influence our brain’s maturation.
My father was very unusual in his career trajectory in that he worked at one place throughout his entire adult life, and died three months after he retired at 91. I’ve always thought that it’s a good idea to make a change every ten years or so and do something different either within the same organization or to move to another one.
It’s just as good for organizations to have some staff turnover as it is for staff to move to new challenges. The time to leave one position for another is while you and your employer are Read the rest of this entry »