• As Kenya introduces the new competency-based education system, the discourse of how this will affect left-handed people has once again come to the fore.
• Some people claim that left-handed people are more intelligent than their right-handed counterparts, but scholars have taken different positions on this.
Today, August 13, is the International Left-Handers Day. It was first observed on August 13, 1976, and promotes awareness of the inconveniences faced by left-handers in a predominantly right-handed world.
Research shows that about seven to 10 percent of the world's population is left-handed. Many left-handed people have to adapt to using right-handed tools and objects. The day’s objective is to spread awareness about the special needs of left-handed children.
As Kenya introduces the new competency-based education system, the discourse of how this will affect left-handed people has once again come to the fore. The competency-based curriculum (CBC) is designed to emphasise the development of skills and knowledge, and how to apply those competencies to real-life situations. This means the new system is modelled to give learners practical experience and relevant technical skills.
But does left-handedness affect how a learner acquires skills and knowledge, especially now that we are moving into a regime where more emphasis is on competencies as opposed to mere knowledge of the skills and attitudes? Simply put: is there a correlation between left-handedness and a person’s intelligence quotient (IQ).
Some people claim that left-handed people are more intelligent than their right-handed counterparts, but scholars have taken different positions on this. Some scholars argue that left-handed people are more likely to have IQs over 140 vs right-handed people. Some studies hold that lefties are more likely to be schizophrenic, alcoholic, dyslexic, and delinquent yet others have found that lefties make up more of the extremely gifted and more of the severely compromised.
Righties fall in the middle. The intellectual discourse can go on and on but left-handedness has continued to draw humanity’s attention for centuries. What is not in dispute is that being left-handed has a major influence on one’s mental and physical development, which is why our educational experts need to factor in this group in their strategy as we reform our education system.
Indeed, some researchers have argued that lefties have more brain symmetry than righties and better communication between the two sides of the brain. This makes them faster at adapting to changing surroundings and circumstances. It also aids in communication of new ideas to others.
In many parts of the world, there are still very strong cultural stigmas against left-handedness. In some cultures, the use of the left hand is deemed to be very disrespectful and rather insulting to the person one is communicating with and stories are told of parents forcing their left-handed kids to become right-handed. Such sanctions and stigma have led to some left-handed people being able to use both hands.
In many Muslim parts of the world, in parts of Africa as well as in India and China, the left hand is considered the dirty hand and it's considered offensive to offer that hand to anyone, even to help. This discrimination against lefties goes back thousands of years in many cultures including the West, and Kenya may not be an exception.
Amidst this unfortunate cultural reality, some of the most talented and influential people through history share this one trait that has given them incredible abilities in other ways. In the past few decades, the US presidency, for instance, has veered more and more to the left – not in policy, but in handedness, with five of the last seven presidents being left-handed: Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.
Closer home our own President, Uhuru Kenyatta, is left-handed. Other amazing high-achieving lefties include Aristotle, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, John Pele, Sir Bobby Charlton and Oprah Winfrey, Isaac Newton, Julius Caesar, Queen Victoria, Bill Gates, Steve Forbes, Henry Ford, David Rockefeller and former UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
The above list demonstrates that lefties seem to make exceptional leaders, inventors, artists, musicians and communicators. Left-handers have achieved greatness in many walks of life, but particularly in creative, sporting and artistic fields, where their natural talent for lateral thinking and ingenuity have made a huge contribution to all our lives.
It is, therefore, an incredibly sagacious step if we all moved to unleash the power and genius in our left-handed children by aiding their learning environment as Kenya moves to the much-hyped competence-based curriculum.
Happy Left-handers Day!
The writer, a left-hander, works for KPC’s Morendat Institute of Oil and Gas. The views expressed here are his own.