The most powerful lure of the myth is probably the idea that we might develop psychic abilities, or at least gain a leg up on the competition by improving our memory or concentration. All this is available for the asking, the ads say, if we just tapped into our most incredible of organs, the brain. It is past time to put this myth to rest, although if it has survived at least a century so far, it will surely live on into the new millennium. Perhaps the best way to combat this chestnut is to reply to the speaker, when the myth is mentioned, “Oh? What part don’t you use?”
You did not learn that your 15-year-old students were pregnant from their answers to vocabulary quizzes. You did not learn how to teach functionally illiterate high school students to appreciate Shakespeare. You did not design lessons to teach students close reading skills by starting with the lyrics to pop songs. You did not miserably fail your honors level students at least in part because you had no books to give them. You did not struggle to teach your students how to develop a thesis for their essays, and bask in the joy of having taught a successful lesson, of having gotten through to them, even for five minutes. You did not struggle with trying to make SAT-level vocabulary relevant to students who did not have a single college in their county. You did not laugh — because you so desperately wanted to cry — when you read some of the absurdities on their final exams. You did not struggle to reach students who proudly announced that they only came to school so that their mom’s food stamps didn’t get reduced.