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Schools for Everyone, Not Just the Noisy

Cultural biases are causing us to label healthy, normal behavior as pathological. But great minds like Gandhi, Steve Wozniak, Dr. Seuss, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks were introverts.

 

Plato told us to 'know thyself.’  It’s easy now that you can take a Myers-Briggs test.

The test will reveal your psychological type and identify just where you stand on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. An extrovert is a person who derives energy from being with others, while an introvert prefers independence. Although the Myers-Briggs Foundation claims that there are benefits to being on either side of the line, social scientists have detected cultural biases that favor extroverts.

When discussing a shy child, I was once told by a child psychologist that, “introverts need to learn to be extroverts to be successful in the world.” Negative stereotypes of introverts are many: unfriendly, unsocial, loner.  But great minds like Gandhi, Steve Wozniak, Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel), Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks all shared introverted characteristics.

Who will speak up for the introverts?

Susan Cain is a self-described introvert and author of the book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She is worried that these cultural biases are causing us to label healthy, normal behavior as pathological.  Even though half to a third of all people are self-described introverts. She says, “Our most important institutions, our schools and our workplaces, they are designed mostly for extroverts.”

In her TED Talk, Ms. Cain says in school, “Even in subjects like math and creative writing, which you think would depend on solo flights of thought, kids are now expected to act as committee members. And for the kids who prefer to go off by themselves or just to work alone, those kids are seen as outliers often or, worse, as problem cases.” Talkative and outgoing children have an advantage, but not better ideas. Solitude is a crucial ingredient in creativity.  Ms. Cain continues, “The vast majority of teachers believe that the ideal student is an extrovert as opposed to an introvert, even though introverts actually get better grades and are more knowledgeable, according to research.”

Traditional classrooms just don’t work as well for introverts.

How can we break the bias and create classrooms that honor all children’s personality and learning style? Consider Montessori classrooms that support individual work, collaboration and multi-age configurations. Children thrive in a system that honors their ability to choose how they work. Montessori classrooms, like those at Evergreen School, are quieter than traditional classrooms and put a premium on student empowerment. In the right environment, children, whether extroverts or introverts, can find their ideal way to learn.

To learn more, watch Susan Cain’s TED Talk, "The Power of Introverts" here: http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html?quote=1383

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John DeMarchi March 15, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Are you an introvert or extrovert? Do you think that schools favor one type over another?
Linda March 16, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I am an introvert. I think extroverts usually get most of the attention because they demand it and I believe they are favored at school and work. It takes longer for an introvert to be noticed or recognised because they do things quietly. I'm half way through the book 'Quiet'. It is well written and does show that as a society we have bought into the idea we all need to be extrovert. Anyone who has worked with myers briggs will know that there is a wide range and you can be at extreme ends for both extrovert and introvert or you can be closer to the middle. The important thing is to understand appreciate we are all different and there are benefits and disadvantages to both.
John DeMarchi March 16, 2012 at 07:35 PM
I agree-- "the important thing is to understand appreciate we are all different and there are benefits and disadvantages to both"-- so often we make assumptions based on our own experiences. It is imperative, especially for teachers, to recognize our own biases.

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