Shichida book review: Children Can Change Through Right Brain Education

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July 11, 2013

in Book Reviews, Brillkids, Early Learning, glenn doman, preschool education, Shichida

When I started researching early learning methods, the name of Japanese educator Makoto Shichida kept coming up and I heard great reviews from parents who attended Shichida courses in East Asia. There is very little information on him in English on the web beyond the vague hint that he teaches “right brain education” and provides “image training“. I was very curious but couldn’t find out more on the web, which is very unusual these days. I searched for English versions of his books on amazon and only found versions in Mandarin. I searched “download Shichida books in English pdf ” but got no results. Finally, I landed on the page of the Shichida Group in Japan that distributes English versions of two of his main books, “Children Can Change through Right Brain Education” and “Right Brain Education in Infancy: Theory and Practice “.

How to buy the Shichida books
Obtaining the books is not easy and the process is somewhat old school. You need to email them, then they send you a form in doc format, then you fill it in and send it back, then you need to call them to provide payment details, and then they ship the books from Japan. They do not provide electronic versions. Each book costs 1,800 yen and when you add the shipping and handling fee, in the end for the two books I paid almost $100! I don’t expect many of my readers to go to the same lengths but I am sure many are curious about the contents, so I am going to write an in-depth review and summary of each, starting with “Children Can Change through Right Brain Education”.

Contents
shichida_childrenrightbrainIn the Introduction, Shichida discusses three prerequisites for bringing out a child’s abilities: love, mind and brain. Fear and criticism shut down creative abilities of the brain and are therefore the number one enemy of true genius. Love and encouragement provide the safe environment needed to let ideas flow. The mind works best when it is relaxed, not under pressure, as evident from the fact that even 10 minutes of meditation before a class greatly enhance learning. The right brain has very powerful abilities that can be used as long as it is not dominated by the left brain or shut down by lack of love and stress.

Chapter 1: A Relaxed Mind Will Change a Child’s Brain discusses the harmful effect the setup of current school environments have on a child’s brain. Ranking, shaming and academic pressure suggest that tests and academic performance are an end in themselves, and make many children feel inadequate, rather than teaching them to use the powerful abilities their right brain has.  Shichida believes that all children and human beings are geniuses and that a failure to thrive tends to be a result of overemphasis of left brain abilities (verbal, conscious, academic abilities). All children can discover their amazing abilities once their right brain powers are trained: visualisation, visual memory, intuition. Shichida lists six helpful ways to help your child relax in order to bring out right brain powers:

  1. “Do not acknowledge your child’s shortcomings. Find and praise his strong points.
  2. Do not regard his current phase a finished one. Believe he will continuously improve.
  3. Do not be a perfectionist. Try to remember it is ok not to be perfect and it is ok not to be able to do certain things right away.
  4. Do not compare. Remember your child is growing at his own pace.
  5. Do not consider academic achievements as most important.
  6. Learn to see your child as perfect, just as he is. Do not evaluate your child negatively. Accept your child’s current condition as is.”

If you are a follower of Glenn Doman‘s early learning books, these points will sound very familiar to you. If you are more of a follower of the Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother, this is probably the opposite of what you consider the right way to raise a child! Shichida’s point is that high academic achievement is not an end in itself, and a pure focus on it can harm overall achievement and contribution to humanity of a child. It should come as a by-product of a child using his full abilities and talents and not come about because the child is trained to outperform others and deprioritize all non-academic matters from his life.

Chapter 2: The Amazing Power of the Right Brain starts with a short history of right brain development, which started in 1981 when Professor Roger Sperry of Caltech received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his research. Right brain powers include photographic memory, visualisation, intuition, extrasensory perception (ESP), high processing speed. He gives the four following functions discovered in the right brain: 1) Resonance function 2) Imaging function 3) High-speed mass memory function and 4) High-speed automatic processing function. The resonance function is the most intriguing. Shichida states that all particles in the universe resonate or vibrate and that this activity is invisible to the conscious left brain, but these vibrations can be picked up by the right brain if it is tuned in (and this tuning ability is enhanced through right brain education and meditation). This is what can explain extrasensory perception (ESP) such as telepathy or clairvoyance. This may sound slightly esoteric to some ears, but there is actually good evidence that these effects exist. Shichida himself doesn’t list any evidence and states the existence of ESP as is, but if you want to read more about the science of ESP, I highly recommend the books “The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena” and  “Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality” by Dean Radin. I have also personally had a couple of very powerful experiences of telepathy that cannot be explained away by statistics or science, so I am quite open to these ideas, even though I know not many scientists like to admit to this because it can damage your credibility badly. But most people can hopefully agree that nature and human beings have a spiritual side and that there are forces in this world that are hard to capture via words. And according to Shichida, the right brain can capture and use these forces.

In Chapter 3: Raising an Intelligent Child Who Uses the Right Brain’s Five Senses Makoto Shichida goes into detail of right brain exercises and how to stimulate the right brain. The right brain is said to be dominant in children up to three and still very active in children up to the age of six, but it tends to get overshadowed and dominated by the left brain from age 6 upwards. The Western equivalent of this idea is probably Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophic view of imaginative, creative children who have these qualities until the age of 7 and lose them unless they are nurtured in a creative and imaginative way. Shichida promotes right brain exercises in order to keep the right brain active and enhance the communication between left and right brain, rather than having the left brain take over and right see brain powers wither away over the years. The following are components of right brain education:

  • Right brain memorization methods: “children who suffer from poor academic grades have a poorly functioning language-based, left brain memory.” You have probably heard of mnemonics and memorisation of large lists by visual association used by memory champions, even in the West, and Shichida bases his memory and image training on these methods. You cannot expect immediate results by using visual association for memory if you do it the first time, so it is important to practice visual memory constantly, which will build up right brain dominance in your memorization processes. One example of instant memorization training used in Shichida academies is a sheet of paper with fifty images that children learn to memorize instantly. The exercise helps to memorize more items in less time each trial
  • Flash images also help activating the right brain, especially when pictures are flashed too fast for the left brain to get involved. This reminded me of research that shows human behavior can be influenced by words flashed on a screen so fast that people who see them don’t even know it (again, Shichida doesn’t cite this research and simply states that this is how it works. If you’re interested in finding out more about this, I recommend this article in the Scientific American about “How Unconscious Mechanisms Affect Thought” and you can also read this Wikipedia introduction on subliminal stimuli)
  • Picture cards help infants associate words with images, raining this automatic link between left and right brain from the beginning
  • Meditation and breathing are important for activating brain waves required for using the right brain and toning down mind chatter of the left brain that interferes with instant memorization and visualisation

shichida orange cardFrom Chapter 5 onwards, there are many repetitions of content previously covered though enhanced via case studies of Shichida students and examples, so I will give an overall summary of the content for Chapter 5 to 8. Shichida outlines another specific exercise used at the beginning of visualization and photographic memory training: the orange card afterimage exercise. You have probably experienced yourself that if you look at a very bright object, and that could be the sun or an orange, for a longer time, even if you then turn away and look at a white wall, you will see the afterimage projected on the white wall because the neurons on your retina are still firing. Shichida academies use this exercise at the beginning to show the concept of how our brain takes a “photograph” of an object that can be accessible in perfect proportion even after we stop looking at it. It is the first step in building up photographic memory. He also advises teachers and parents to use inspirational stories of human powers to make children aware of their potential if they overcome fear and doubts. Drawing images from your memory also helps retrieving images stores in right brain memory. Musical performance is another activity cited as helpful right brain stimulation, but it is important to remove stress and evaluation that lead to suboptimal performance, and rather focus on feeling the music and letting the automatic processes of the right brain take over (this does involve some amount of practice, obviously!). Shichida also highlights visualisation techniques used by musical performers and athletes in order to boost their performance. This again has been shown to be a highly effective technique and is a result of process automization that occurs in the right brain from regular visualisation practice.

The Closing Chapter: The 21st Century Is the Time of the Consciousness Revolution picks up the argument that our current education systems not only do not use but actively reduce a large part of human capabilities, as they are so focused on sequential, verbal and conscious skills that they neglect the instant, unconscious, visual powers the human brain has. But Shichida does not just see this as a matter of harming academic achievement or scientific discovery. He makes a strong case that the neglect of the right brain has made people worse as  human beings because they become overly competitive and try to take advantage of other people’s weaknesses, whereas tuning in to the right brain would make everyone aware of the oneness of the universe. You definitely see the Buddhist influence in Shichida’s work. His overall goal is to help parents teach their children to use their potential for making the world a better place, which he considers a far higher aim than simply helping your child excel academically. Academic excellence is only a worthy goal if it is used for the benefit of humanity as a whole.

Makoto Shichida concludes with his hope that the 21st Century will be the century of the right brain, in which the following personal characteristics become dominant in human beings: open-mindedness, love, a sense of oneness, gentleness, avoiding harm to others. This was a revelation to me as whenever I had heard about Shichida before, I thought of flash cards and images and photographic memory, I wasn’t aware of a much deeper aim that his academies try to promote. Given the constant academic pressure children are under all over the world, this gentle and humanist approach certainly resonates with me. And as in the case of Glenn Doman, it goes to show that just because you enjoy early learning activities it doesn’t mean you deprioritize the personal and spiritual development of your child.

Would I recommend you to purchase the book? Unless you live in Japan and can obtain it cheaply, probably not. There is a lot of repetition and very little facts or research – he cites a few case studies from his Shichida academies but it’s hard to know how accurate they are (some claims of infants solving complex equations do sound a bit over the top, but I would love to hear from parents at Shichida academies if this can be right). You will not get more detailed description of exercises than what I have mentioned above. I was hoping to get a bit more detail on the science of the right brain but this is very much a “popular science” book in which you are just expected to believe his claims. Luckily, for many examples he cites I happen to know some research that supports his claims (as mentioned above), but there are some claims such as “humans only use 3% of their brain” that I found slightly exaggerated to say the least. I hope this book summary along with blogs by Shichida academy parents and youtube videos on Shichida exercises will give you enough of an insight into Shichida methods that you don’t need to buy this book. See, I just saved you 1,800 yen!!

Have you attended a Shichida Academy?  What was your experience?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Rowland October 11, 2016 at 11:48 AM

Excellent article! Well written and considered — and thanks for saving me $100 🙂 Cheers from the UK. -Rowland

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Rowland October 11, 2016 at 11:52 AM

follow up questions: did you review his other book? And does it have more scientific information about how the brain works? — I’m trying to quickly grasp whole-brain fundamentals so your help would be much appreciated. Thanks

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Rowland October 11, 2016 at 12:23 PM

sorry… forgot to sign up for followup comments via email. ciao 🙂

Genius Experiment November 8, 2016 at 10:58 PM

not yet, as it had a 90% overlap in content. i should just to save people the money, but there is really nothing different in there.

ashok December 5, 2014 at 9:51 PM

a great article by the great writer on the great book.

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MieVee @ MummysHomeschool.com October 9, 2013 at 8:43 PM

Hihi! Thank you for linking to my blog. I’m glad to have bumped into yours, since I love exploring topics on child prodigies and giftedness, and also love math since young. Have subscribed to your blog and look forward to your next post!

Cheers,
MieVee

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Genius Experiment October 9, 2013 at 11:23 PM

Dear MieVee, it’s an honour to welcome you here! I love your blog! Keep in touch!

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Dortha Arva July 24, 2013 at 5:17 PM

Good review, I think this book could be better and it has couple of mistakes.
Dortha Arva recently posted..brylantyMy Profile

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