Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Friday, October 1, 2010

Vawter, D. (2010). Mining the Middle School Mind. Education Digest, 74(5), 47-49. Retrieved October 1, 2010, from Library Literature and Information Science Full Text.

A few years ago, I was speaking with a classmate, about 'tweens and teens, who was a Psychology major. She provided the world's best analogy as to why 'tweens and teens are they way they are:

"'Tween and teen brains are like hard drives on a computer. When the computer is being reformatted, the connections to the hard drives are being reconnected, thus, restoring the computer to what it's supposed to be. In essence, when you tell a young person "are you stupid or something" and he or she replies "uh, yes" then they are telling the truth!During puberty the minds of 'tweens and teens are changing so if they do something odd, they cannot help it--they really are that stupid!"

Clearly, all of this was said in jest, but the 'tween mind is going through yet another transition where more wires and connections are being disconnected and reconnected. According to David Vawter (2010), "[m]iddle school students are walking dichotomies. They can talk about world peace and hit the kid next to them. They can recycle to ease global warming only to leave a mess in the cafeteria. Why? Well, scientifically, it's because their brains don't work"(p.47). In this article, Vawter talks about the neurological changes that take place in middle school students that explains a lot, in regards, to 'tween behavior. Although 'Tweens are physically developing at a fast rate, their mental capacity has yet to full mature, which makes this stage in life so difficult. They may have facial hair or larger boobs, but, mentally, 'tweens are going through an intricate process where the brain "destroys more than 20% of all previously built connections"(p.2010, p. 47).  Vawter labels this process as "pruning," which is interesting, but kind of frightening at the same time.

When we are born, our brain develops all these connections and synapses patterns to help us learn and retain new information. If we, as people, are to evolve by learning then why the heck does the brain destroy connections as such a young age? The answer is this: the brain destroys come of these connections because it is simply overloaded (just like a hard drive ceases to function when it cannot retain any more information) (p. 47.) After learning how the brain develops, and how each part of it transforms at different rates. What is interesting is how different the cognitive and emotional aspects of the brains. Vawder provides an excellent example about a young man who graduated high school at age 5 and started practicing medicine at 21. When he participated in a brain study that focuses on the emotional brain, his brain showed that, despite how cognitively advanced he is, he is no different, emotionally, from the rest of his peers. This study reminds me of "Millicent Min: Girl Genius," by Lisa Yee, where we have an incredibly intelligent character, bu is no different, emotionally from her peers. Millicent desires the same things as any other 12-year-old girl, which is to be accepted and have friends.

The article is really, really informative when it comes to explaining how the minds of 'tweens word. Not only do they have to go through puberty, they have to mentally develop as well. I definitely have a little more sympathy for them; however, just because they are "growing up" does not mean we should expect anything less from them. With this new evolution, we as librarians, educators, and parents should challenge them in every way to become better people. :D

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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