Hell is other people: a different kind of diversity

So, reading this article by Michael Godsey at The Atlantic about how modern schools may make life difficult for introverted students made me laugh, but not because it’s funny. Because imagining myself in a classroom where it’s all group work all the time is so laughably horrible.

Near the end of my observations last week, I told two teachers on separate occasions that I’d feel incredibly exhausted at the end of every day if I were a student at that school. To my surprise, both of them responded by immediately laughing and then agreeing. One recalled learning best when arranged in rows, while the other concurred, “I know, right? How exhausting it must be to have another student in your business all day long.”

I never minded the occasional group project, if I could work with people I felt comfortable with (a big if) and if the group work was broken up by quiet independent work. Are all teacher extroverts? Surely introverted teachers would see how they are constantly pushing introverted students out of their preferred learning environment? Oh, wait, the quote above indicates they do see this — and sometimes just let it happen.

I’m glad to be able to look back on plenty of quiet reading and study time at my schools when I was an introverted little kid.

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9 thoughts on “Hell is other people: a different kind of diversity”

  1. A few years ago we had a fluffy team-building exercise at work which the instructor based on Meyers-Briggs: he, unsurprising given his job, was an obvious extrovert.

    I chatted with him during a break and casually mentioned that “it’s an extroverts’ world”. He was visibly struck by this insight, which had obviously never occurred to him before. Yes, despite his job. >headdesk<

  2. The article starts by reference Susan Cain’s QUIET, which I’m slowly reading at the moment. It’s good. I’d hate the situation in modern schools, too, and hated group work back in the day.
    The Teen also had issues with it all.

    Cain has evidence that most of it is .. shall we say, less valuable than claimed, whether in schools or business.
    My husband politely revolted when his employer tried to switch to open office – no private space. He got his private cubicle. I think he gave the decision makers QUIET to read to back up his arguments.

  3. Charlotte, I KNOW. I think I physically recoiled when I read that chirpy togetherness statement from the Georgia College person.

    Craig, I bet. I’m sure lots of extroverts . . . and the people insisting on all this togetherness in classrooms . . . have absolutely no idea. But then, it’s a morning person’s world, too, so at least I have that going for me.

    Elaine, honestly, I very strongly suspect that group work is indeed less efficacious than claimed. But it sure can boost student performance under the right circumstances. To my personal knowledge, if the teachers simply let students take tests in groups, why, the average test scores do indeed go up substantially. True, many of the students can’t then pass the next math class along in the sequence, but hey! Passing rates sure are higher in the lower-level math classes.

  4. It’s always been an extroverts’ world. But back in the 90s Neil Howe and William Strauss predicted in their book Generations that the generation that’s now twenty-something would be very group and team-oriented. (Since according to their theory, they would be the same generation-type as the WWII-era GIs, who likewise took to regimentation and togetherness like ducks to water from the Depression Civilian Conservation Corps to military service to the Big Project era of the interstate highways and Apollo.

    I’m never 100% sure that my sense that Strauss and Howe hit on something isn’t confirmation bias, combined with the sort of general descriptors that can be broadly made to fit. (Not unlike Myers-Briggs.) But for whatever it’s worth, when our nieces and nephews showed up we noticed that they and their peers did seem to be a lot more team-oriented than we were, and seemed to get more reinforcement for it. (E.g., a song from school about how “the more we work together, the better off we’ll be.”)

    And my observation is that students do seem to naturally gravitate to working together even on ostensibly individual assignments more than I remember doing. (Though of course I’m an introvert, so maybe others were doing it all along.) Our university’s main library has done an expensive reconfiguration from cubicles to tables (each with a monitor and various digital hookups) for collaborative work.

    I’m not sure if that means that introverts of different generations wind up adapting differently, or if some generations are just really bad ones to be an introvert in.

  5. Mike, I have a feeling that introverts *must* be able to adapt to compulsory togetherness, because think of hunter-gatherer societies with their longhouses and so on. Stick a longish stage of that in human history and, well, I have to believe that we evolved to handle it.

    But I also suspect that *real* introverts probably had a tougher time in those kinds of societies, and in togetherness generations now.

    I read Generations, too, and I have to say, the theory has always felt right to me. Not that that disproves confirmation bias, but still.

  6. I enjoyed reading Susan Cain’s Quiet; it puts intro- and extrovertedness in a different, more expansive perspective.

    According to Cain, the (Western) world has not always belonged to the extrovert. In the first chapter, she presents many factors that contribute to the current reality, which she calls the Culture of Personality (verses Character), and also argues that the shift from Character to Personality occurred in the beginning of the 20th century. Very engaging.

    One of the reasons I like the concept of Montessori schools is that they seem to well-suited to introverts. Don’t know how true that is though.

  7. I’m starting to think I need to read this book. Also, can we please, if the Culture of Personality is a new thing, can we please, please ditch it immediately and move on to something else? (Or back to Character, that sounds good, too.)

  8. Do read QUIET, it’s very interesting.
    Cain puts thinks a lot of the Culture of Personality goes back to Dale Carnegie, who started much earlier in the 20th century than I realized. How it works, how the ideas got started, how when you actually look at results they don’t match the claims – fascinating stuff, and a fairly easy read.
    I’m interleaving it with Torgeson’s CHAPLAIN’S WAR (so far v. good) and the Teen reading and obsessively discussing Rohan’s WINTER OF THE WORLD so it’s going slowly but undeniably interesting.

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