Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air

A memoir so human, deep, and breath-taking.

Holding a delicate small figure in his hands, he brings the new human close to his chest. As her eyes slowly opened up to view the world, Paul knew that this was why he pursued his job as a neurosurgeon: to discover the meaning of life. For him, the child was a valuable being—someone’s first daughter, cousin, and grand-daughter.

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(blog1.bookstore.washington.edu)

An Indian American neurosurgeon and writer, Paul Kalanithi graduated from Stanford University and earned a Bachelor and Master in both literature and human biology, two rather contrasting subjects. After earning his degree, he took philosophy at Cambridge University wherein he became curious about what life is. To discover answers to his questions, Kalanithi joined a medical team at Yale university as he believed that neurology—the subject that deals with the birth and science behind human knowledge—would help him. After ceaselessly working in the operation room and explaining to the patients the reason for the failure of a surgery in the white beds, Kalanithi himself ended up lying on the same patient’s bed, feeling hopeless and despair due to a terminal cancer. In an effort to share his experience as a doctor and then a patient, Kalanithi wrote a memoir even till his death in March 2015.

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(amazon.com)

 

“Even if you are perfect, the world isn’t. The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”

The novel is divided into two parts, the first about his experience as a doctor and the latter as a patient. What fascinated me most is the former section in which he shares his initial drive to undertake the job of a doctor. Students these days, especially Koreans, are sensitive to the divide between liberal arts and STEM for both the students and parents hold misconceptions on the two areas. Take KIS students for instance: many of my friends who claim to be more on the STEM side set their entire high school courses and extracurriculars solely to those pertaining subjects, such as biology or maths. Even I, as a student who is still struggling to discover her career, have always believed that I should belong to english or maths. As I heard great praises from my teachers and peers on my writing, I expected that liberal arts was the path for me, urging me to preclude any possibility of learning maths or science. However, after reading When Breath Becomes Air, I began to open up the doors to both areas because they complement one another. It fascinated me how Kalanithi could pursue both literature and human biology as they are rather disparate areas that seem odd to be studied together. Nevertheless, his point of view on how they led him to become a more mature and knowledgeable person revolutionized the divide between English and science; Kalanithi claims that though “literature provided the richest material for moral reflection,” he felt that it was “missing the messiness and weight of real human life,” which explains why he took on neurology.

kalanithi.interior-ata-photo---suszi-lurie-mcfadden
(npr.org)

Another beautiful part of this novel is how the author writes his experiences in a clear voice that really speaks to the audience. I used to have a negative view on doctors as I felt as if they were mostly corrupt due to the media depiction of them today. But he intertwines illuminating lines when explaining about the surgeries he conducted that compel the readers to view doctors as utterly humane people who experience the value of life, making me even further empathize with my own father who is a doctor as well.

“The physician’s duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.”

Despite how impressive and alluring the novel is, there were some aspects of the novel that I was disappointed with, including the epilogue and the interjections of famous lines. Though numerous fans find the epilogue from Kalanithi’s wife as the apex of the novel that made them weep, I found the epilogue rather dry compared to the author’s strong voice. As the ending of the memoir was a potent saying from the author to his daughter, I expected that the novel would end there, leaving the readers with tears and excitement. However, when I read the epilogue afterwards, it did not make me feel that heart-warming feel I got from Kalanithi’s words since his writing is stronger than that of his wife. Another part of the memoir that I disliked was how the author includes famous saying from other famous authors. Although I was able to grasp some of the quotes, there were many that I was not able to comprehend, digressing the novel away from me.

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(goodreads.com)

Nevertheless, When Breath Becomes Air is a heartfelt novel that I believe will resonate with me for a long time as it has taught me not only the value of life but also what it means to be a knowledgeable, humane person. If students are more aware that there is no set formula of courses to be prosperous in the future, they will become more successful in the future and enjoy their learning. After all, Kalanithi has proven to us that regardless of whether the subject you undertake is on the STEM or liberal arts side, if you have the passion and will to take value from the things you do, you will be content with your work and life.

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Featured Image: http://cupofjo.com/2016/01/when-breath-becomes-air-by-paul-     kalanithi/

Single-Sex vs. Co-ed Education

It has been hotly debated: Single-sex education or Co-ed Schools?

“I want my son to realize that women have roles in society as well.”

“I don’t want my daughters to have a phobia against men when they grow up.”

These are some of the common arguments from parents who are against single-sex education. In fact, the growing disdain towards same-sex education contributes to the recent decline of single-sex education : over the past three decades, according to the Guardian, the number of single-sex state school declined from 2,500 to just over 400 while 130 schools in the UK do not offer it. 

In spite of the numerous advantages given by proponents of single-sex education, there is an increasing number of people who defy them. Diane Halpern, former president of  American Psychological Association, claimed that segregating females and males not only “foster sexism and stereotypes” but also proves futile; there is no concrete evidence that substantiates the widely held belief that single-sex education yields benefits. For instance, an analysis of 184 studies that tested 1.6 million students from 21 nations failed to discover any advantages of single-sex education.

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(dailycampus.com)

An interesting perspective brought forth by a staff columnist for the Daily Campus, Alex Oliveira also brought into question on whether or not single-sex education bridges the gap in gender decisions on STEM careers. Oliveira describes such education as an “oversimplification” that “ignores the fact that all students are individuals” who learn all differently. She further goes on to argue that dividing girls and boys will confuse the divisions in their “expectations for each other” since we are in fact establishing a set goal for the genders: girls to STEM and boys to arts. Another obvious argument is futuristic: if students do not engage in works with the opposite sex, they will not be able to cope when in the workplace. Canberra Grammar School (CGS) and other single-sex schools have recently transitioned to co-ed for the purposes of the future.

As a student who has attended a girls school in Australia for several years, I find the arguments of those who are against somewhat ludicrous. While attending Canberra Girls Grammar School (CGGS), I was able to develop strong interests in a variety of subjects including maths, creative writing, and textiles; the upperclassmen there have taken up even careers such as mechanical engineering  and actuarial studies after they enrolled in a building class at CGGS.

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(cggs.act.edu.au)

As classrooms are orientated for girls, they engender affinity and understanding for one another as they participate much more actively. Of course, when transitioning to a coed school, it was difficult to adapt to having both genders. However, it was not that bad of a transition because I had opportunities in and out of school to interact and work with males, and I think this is where most miss the point: going to a single sex school doesn’t mean you are completely precluded from the opposite gender. You can still have numerous outside of school activities that you can participate in, and even activities at school. For example, CGGS interacts with the boys’ school several times a year in musical festivals, formals, and other collaborative activities.

There’s a lot less to worry about since you didn’t have to be as careful as you would have to be in a coed school. Even if you get in a verbal fight, things were settled within minutes…we had much tighter bonds than guys do in coed school since we went through a lot together and I still miss this brotherhood.” —Geo Han (’17), student who attended all-boys school. 

When asked to Karen Kim (‘18), who attended a girl’s boarding school, maintained that she disliked the school. Karen noted that while many believe that it is safer to attend a single sex school (especially for girls), she disagrees. Others who were interviewed repeated the idea of “dullness” without both genders. However, for mothers, it is divergent as they hold strongly to the belief that it is better and safer for their kids to go to single sex schools.

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(education.net.au)

As the gap between those who are for and against single-sex education enlarges, it is vital for us to take into account both sides of the case. Even though coed schools may be advantageous to those of single sex, there is no doubt that there are still people who prefer single-sex education over co-ed. So what do we do?

We should not diminish single sex education and those who do attend them. There are students who prefer them and others who don’t; it all depends on their personality traits and learning styles.

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Sources:

Homeschooling: Myths and Misunderstandings

Homeschooling is a distant world for most of us. What are a few myths and stereotypes we may be inadvertently believing, and what does it really mean to be homeschooled in the 21st century?

“So, are you sure your kid is doing okay?”

“But it’s just not the same.”

“Did you really have to do it this way?”

There are people who are met with these questions everywhere they go: parents who homeschool their children. Many of us take school for a granted part of our lives, which is understandable- in the 2011-2012 school year, only 3% of U.S. children were homeschooled [1]. But being such an overwhelmed minority gives rise to the problem of being highly misrepresented, while they take up a very real part of society. There is a need for greater awareness on what it is actually like to be homeschooled and to clear away the misunderstandings.

Before trying to discern between fact and myth, many are misinformed on the basics of how homeschooling works. It is a battle of preparation, needing multiple steps to build and fortify- parents who homeschool usually begin the process with vast amounts of research, having great caution to ensure their child receives the best education possible. They often join local homeschooling support groups or online forums for extra help from others who are more experienced [2]. Then they either choose an available homeschooling curriculum, or derive their own based off of other resources. Towards the end of the child’s homeschooling education, they will likely take the same standardized tests that other students take, and obtain a parent-issued diploma.

Perhaps the most prevalent myth to address is the misconception that students who are homeschooled never get the chance to develop their social skills. Contrarily, they have plenty of chances to interact with various groups of people- having positive family relationships at the core, they often attend group activities such as local sports teams or religious organizations, as well as regularly socializing with friends and neighbors in the community. Additionally, with the rise of the era of internet and technology has also altered the dynamics of “social skills”- there is plenty of connection to be found from online peers. Some even claim that homeschooling exposes children to a more positive social experience and eliminates negative influences, but this is debatable. What is clear is that any homeschooling that does not enable the child to socialize is homeschooling done wrong, not representative of the lifestyle itself. A traditional school is not the only place where a student can meet people.

Another common concern is that homeschooled children will not receive an education that matches the standards of a traditional school. In fact, figures suggest that homeschooled students are more likely to attend college, the percentage being 74% as compared to the 46% of traditional school graduates [3]. Homeschoolers also receive higher GPAs in college, and outperform their traditionally schooled counterparts in standardized tests. Of course, figures alone cannot argue that a certain educational style is better, but they do prove that homeschooled children perform better by standard gauging methods. Even apart from the numbers, homeschooled children often have more opportunities to base their learning around their interests, optimizing the flexible quality of their curricula so they get the most out of who they are as students.

One last myth to shed light upon is that parents are not qualified to teach diverse or advanced subjects. This is, in fact, true: no one can be an expert on everything. But the misunderstanding is that homeschooled children learn everything from their parents. Often, specific course material designed for homeschooling makes a wide spectrum of subjects accessible with only the assistance of a guardian. But more importantly, the entire world around them functions as a classroom and teacher for homeschoolers: whether it be a museum, a local park, or simply a community of people. Options for homeschoolers extend far beyond just the parent. Many families hire tutors for specific help in certain subjects, and it is also common to attend community college classes or form study groups. Various sources of learning can come together to create a unique, combined homeschooling curriculum.

But apart from clearing these large, factual misunderstandings, perhaps what society really needs is an elimination of the cultural stereotype placed onto homeschooled children. The image of a conservative Christian mother sitting with her sheltered and antisocial child at the kitchen table from morning through afternoon with stacks of textbooks and a bible, while extreme, is not uncommon. And it is even more common to subconsciously accept at least one part of that extreme stereotype. It is time to wipe the soot off what is now a changing, dynamic definition of homeschooling: not a school confined to home, but a simple deviation from a standard, public education system- a school that can be built with no limits.

[1]https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=91

[2] http://www.home-school.com/Articles/getting-started-in-homeschooling-the-first-ten-steps.php

[3] https://www.hsamf.org/1002/custom/18259

[4] Featured image: http://media.salemwebnetwork.com/cms/CW/family/13602-homeschooling-dad-kids-work-books-wide.1200w.tn.jpg

 

Regurgitator vs. Impacter: The Need for Applied Learning

“What is the purpose of learning?”

Incessantly studying till three in the morning; cramming in math formulas; and memorizing concepts for exams. Sound familiar?

Photographer: Clare Na Hyun Kwon
Photographer: Clare Na Hyun Kwon (’18)

When taking college applications become imperative as students transition to their senior year that many tend to study for the sake of GPAs. Of course, grades do play a role in applying for college—but are they truly worth studying for?

Kelley Shim, a sophomore student, claims that in a world where there is pressure to enroll in a prestigious school and occupation, “memorising concepts for school exams is worth doing” because you receive high scores. She further argues that as high school students, our main objective is to “do well in school”, not necessarily to think about how to use it. Her point of view on studying is just one out of the whole student body, as many have similar views as Kelley. Students strive on academics by excelling in school exams and getting a 4.0 on their grade book. However, when asked about how they will apply their learning to life, many struggled to answer.  

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(insidetheheadcom.com)

To start with the definition, applied learning is an open-ended term: the Deakin University claims that it is a method to “motivate students” in developing “key skills and knowledge required for employment, further education, and active participation,” while others have defined it as a mean to incorporate concepts learnt at school into life.

As a student who has been pondering on what applied learning is, I had the invaluable opportunity to interview Genevieve Fowler, a Yale Graduate who is currently teaching at Groton School. She has studied mechanical engineering and is fascinated by applied learning, a skill that KIS has started to implement this year. When discussing  how applied learning can be assimilated in the Korean society, she suggested that students should realise that there “is more than grades once you enter college”; she even asserted that we should strive to find our interests, whether that is a sport or subject.

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(insideebiz.com)

By interviewing Fowler, I now have a firmer grasp on the importance of applied learning and the idea of it. Like what most students believe, I thought that applied learning consisted of actions done outside of school, such as volunteering at shelters or creating an organisation to help others. However, I discovered through the interview that the projects and discussions we do at school are essentially applied learning; for instance, freshmen students had to write a narrative piece on an image taken during World War II for their joint English and East Asian Studies project where they had to create, think, and empathise based on a single photo. By doing so, they were able to develop understanding and compassion for those who suffered during WWII—an act of applied learning. Furthermore, in art classes, students create automatons wherein they have to intertwine their knowledge in physics and art. 

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There is no doubt that helping others who are in need is an act of applied learning, as you are using the skills developed at school to aid others. However, what students often forget is that school is also a place to exercise applied learning, not just a pressuring environment to earn high grades.

If students shift their focus from simply memorising and studying to taking advantage of learning, they can greatly develop and employ skills. Time to time, we need to ask ourselves: “how am I going to use this unit/concept in real life?” After all, how are we going to solve the problem of world hunger, inequality, and other issues by memorising formulas and regurgitating vocabulary terms? These are questions that we need to ask ourselves and reflect upon, as it is important for us to know the true value of learning: applying the learning.  

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (‘19)

*full profile of Genevieve Fowler: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2016/09/181_213627.html

*Source:  http://dro.deakin.edu.au/eserv/DU:30007994/harrison-whatisappliedlearning-2006.pdf

Things That Should be Taught in School

How much of the real world is captured by the subjects covered at school? Read on for an opinion on all that lies outside of the current scope of education.

School is an institution of society, built to educate the youth and prepare them for adulthood. This is where students take their first steps into society, and spend the pivotal years of their early lives, forming their identities. But the focus of school tends to drift to subjects for which progress is easily measurable, in an attempt to quantify the intelligence of children and teenagers- when in reality, school means something much more than that. Classes could be capturing so much more of the world than than SAT and AP scores. There are many things that could be taught in class to encourage a fulfilling life- to take a broader viewpoint of “education”.

The first is morals. While some people may claim that this enters the territory of what is the parents’ responsibility to teach, the same level of moral education cannot be guaranteed for all students if it is simply left for individual families. Studies conducted for a Korean documentary, “The Private Life of Children” (KBS 아이의 사생활), show that having high moral standards has a strong correlation with earning good grades. Students need a class in which the significance of common ethical issues that arise in school can be considered, such as bullying or cheating. More than being lecture-based, the class would consist of plenty of time for students to discuss moral issues amongst themselves and have honest, quiet reflections by oneself. Studies have shown that many people only need a “moral reminder” to correct one’s actions for the better (research by professor Dan Ariely)- why not put moral reminders into classes?

Another subject that students could benefit from is art appreciation and evaluation. Of course, KIS offers a rich arts curriculum, including the visual arts, music, and theatre. However, these courses focus on teaching students how to create art themselves, and appreciation of existing art is a skill that is treated as some sort of a “side lesson” that comes from taking the course. This prevents a multitude of students from learning how to truly appreciate and evaluate art. For example, a student could have a great interest in learning about the history and complexity of music, but play no instruments and lack confidence in his singing voice. Another student may love to go to art exhibitions in her free time and would love to learn more about the analysis of visual art, but feels she lacks the talent to take a particular course, especially when the majority of students taking art in high school are well-experienced and specialized. The Arts is what enriches our lives, stimulating imagination, philosophy, and creative thinking- why not give students a chance to appreciate the beauties of life?

The third is mental health. An underestimated percentage of student populations suffers from mild to severe mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety. But these issues tend to be ignored in contrast to their physical counterparts. Mental health is a vital part of life that deserves more attention in schools. While KIS has taken a step to solve this problem by hiring a school psychologist, this seems to serve a certain minority rather than give the general student body a proper education in mental health awareness: of how mental disorders are no more “weird” or “embarrassing” than physical disorders, how we should be aware of those surrounding us who may be suffering from one, and when and how we should get help. It is only logical that schools place the same amount of emphasis on mental health as well as physical. The class doesn’t always have to deal with specific disorders: general mental health, such as dealing with stress, is a big part of what could be the mental health curriculum.

A final class that students may need is sex education. Of course, unlike some other “courses” previously mentioned in this article, sex education already exists and is widely taught in schools. But- that’s right- KIS does not have a proper system for sex education. This means that high schoolers graduate without ever having properly received education on one of the most important and relevant topics in their lives. In some cases, a lack of formal sex education leads to students relying on their friends or the internet for information, which can be highly dangerous. While it may be a somewhat awkward subject for many students, it is clear that this is an unavoidable part of the curriculum of life.

There is no saying that all the aforementioned topics have to be independent courses. Practically speaking, each has slightly different means of ideal implementation: moral studies and mental health can be incorporated into advisory and counseling, sex education could be placed in the P.E. curriculum, while it is easy to imagine art appreciation as a separate semester course. But the important thing is that all of them- covering the vast, overlooked dimensions of our world- deserve more attention.

It is time we considered on a deeper level what the true meaning of education is. School is meant to assist the youth, and subjects that focus less on the scores and more on “life education” have potential to revolutionize an education system clouded with myopia.

-Jisoo Hope Yoon (’19)

*Featured Image: https://www.nyiad.edu/images/cms/design-articles/six-secrets-setting-free-creativity01-hr.jpg

Breaking The Humanities vs. Sciences Divide

This article is a call to take down the old wall between humanities and STEM fields that is limiting the potential of individuals and the world.

“There’s never a definite answer. I hate it,” Jenny Chung (‘19) speaks about humanities, or mungwa, as it is commonly called in Korea.

“But that’s exactly why I love it!” Hope Yoon (‘19) replies. “Most of the time in STEM courses, there’s only one answer and no room for creativity.”

Most people, especially those of us used to the “mungwa vs. igwa” (igwa being STEM) doctrine of the Korean education system, would look at these two girls- only sophomores in high school- and draw a line between them. One belongs in the sciences, and the other in the humanities.

I would beg to differ.

It goes without saying that this binary is deeply rooted in our society’s thought system. Perhaps this is even more severe in the country we live in, given that Korean high schools in the status quo explicitly divide students into the two categories and teach them different courses. People rarely question that the minds of students are, indeed, divided as such. Following the trend of putting students through earlier and tougher education, children are being asked “which one do you belong in?” at increasingly young ages.

Of course, this mindset is also present in western society, and it follows that KIS silently revolves around this dichotomy as well. A sophomore considered to be “of the humanities” is met with questioning looks when he selects to take AP Biology. A junior’s affinity towards AP Chemistry is best understood by others when she explains that she is “of the sciences”. A freshman considering his extracurricular choices is told that art clubs are useless if he’s “planning to go into STEM”. From course selections to college counseling, students are constantly divided and separated- some kind of academic Berlin Wall.

The Korean government has recently decided to eliminate the official divide between high school students that was aforementioned- a decision that has been met with mixed responses. Many students complain online on how there is even more to worry about, now that the spectrum of education has been combined. It must be noted that Korean students have steadily been shifting towards igwa for years; in the last twelve years, igwa students have increased by about 36,000 students, while mungwa students have decreased by about 17,000 students[1]. This trend is undoubtedly linked to the current job crisis, and how students are told that it is easier to find jobs related to the sciences. Mungwa students are often belittled as “softer” or “dumber” than their igwa counterparts. If the binary first existed simply to assist career selections, it is now clearly much more than that, permeating everything from philosophy to pop culture.

So where does this all come from? A common response to this question raises the theory of certain people having more developed left or right brains. We’ve all taken one online personality quiz or another, telling us that logical analysts are more left-brained and that creative artists are right-brained. In fact, this is a myth that still plagues us. The line between our talents is not so scientifically drawn; not quite as grounded or innate as many think. Neuroscientific research has shown that people show no clear distinction between being more connected or neuron-rich in their left or right brain, or that either side is “used more” in certain people [2].

The humanities vs. sciences divide is an outdated concept. It is a simple trend of people being attracted toward a group of fields, and nothing more- certainly nothing that should be powerful enough to generalize entire populations of students and let them limit themselves to a mere half of what the academic world has to offer them. High school students know only the tip of the iceberg of the diversity and richness of careers in society, and it is foolish to choose sides when not enough career options are explored and when personalities and interests are still so malleable.  Of course, this is not to say that students should never specialize- but that is a matter of numerous fields that are not strictly divided into two categories.

It is also an outdated concept that people on one side of the dichotomy do not need the other. Alexander Nazaryan from The New Yorker breaks this idea through an example of how writers need math, stating that “mathematical precision and imagination can be a salve to a literature that is drowning in vagueness of language and theme” [3]. Mathematician Terence Tao stated that once mathematical study goes beyond the theoretical stage, one enters a much more intriguing field, where good intuition is needed to deal with the big picture. We all need to break out of our boxes. As Julio M. Ottino wrote in a Northwestern academic magazine, technological knowledge is essential for everyone in the current world, since otherwise, one would not be able to understand the impact of new technological systems and make rational decisions about them [4]. On the other hand, arts and humanities are vital because “without a grounding in these fields, an entire range of human experiences and emotions will forever be invisible to us”.

Most importantly, it must be understood that the two sides of the coin are not mutually exclusive. Each field can benefit from the other, and problem solving is infinitely enriched by utilizing all perspectives. Everyone needs both linguistic skills and analytical skills, both fundamental scientific knowledge and artistic or philosophical understanding. What’s more, in a future job market that increasingly synthesizes diverse subjects, colleges are looking for flexible students with multiple interests as well. Only investing in one well is a strategy of the past.

The reason behind why we are so drawn to dividing ourselves into two types is perhaps best explained in an article by Amy Novotney in The Guardian: “there’s something seductively simple about labeling yourself and others… [it] provides us with an explanation for why we are the way we are, and offers insights into where we fit into the world.” [5] But we are so much more than simple labels. Besides, it is such a big waste of talent to close off one half of the spectrum to young students. Let’s face it: our brains are not set in stone. We underestimate ourselves by limiting our potential- literally cutting it in half, actually. Once given enough time and encouragement to properly explore, who knows what interests students could find in the shifting labyrinths of their minds?

–Jisoo Hope Yoon (’19)

Sources:
[1] Haneul Education Korean Economy Newspaper
[2] http://www.livescience.com/39373-left-brain-right-brain-myth.html
[3] http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/why-writers-should-learn-math
[4]http://www.mccormick.northwestern.edu/magazine/fall-2013/view-from-the-intersection.html
[5] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/16/left-right-brain-distinction-myth
Featured Image: http://theknowledgeplymouth.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Toronto-14-04-09-artscience-cafe-osc-crop-small-505×282.jpg

Consider Your Introverts

Are schools biased against introverted students? Find out why this is a problem and what we should do about it.

Let’s begin with the definition: being an introvert means that you prefer low-stimulation environments. And as opposed to how the term is used in popular culture, introversion doesn’t equate to shyness. Introverts don’t “hate people”, either- they just need to control the amount of time they spend with others, because being by themselves is when they can recharge.

Truth is, most classrooms are built for extroverts, including the ones in KIS. Discussions are encouraged in every course, and no team project would start without a group brainstorming session. It is clear that “interactive education” and “collaborative learning” are the trending classroom keywords. Many classes even involve assessments in the form of a discussion, where students who do not speak up as much or have trouble jumping into a conversation find it impossible to get a good grade. And grades aren’t the only indicators- those further up the extraversion scale are more likely to land club leadership positions or even a simple reputation.

https://www.nwea.org/blog/content/uploads/2015/05/meaningful-classroom-discussion-img.jpg

In fact, studies have found that people come up with more- and often better- ideas when left to think of them alone, instead of being put in a brainstorming group. Simple logic would seem to follow that more heads would produce more ideas, but being put in a group  instantly introduces many limiting factors to creativity: groupthink, anxiety of criticism, overstimulation… the list continues. Research has been conducted on how letting people brainstorm individually comes with many benefits, and yet this is ignored time and time again in the lesson plan.

Schools, consider your introverts. You have too many to ignore. Don’t penalize students for not speaking up- give them other ways to participate. Students don’t need to be told that “working with other people is a crucial part of success”- preferring to work alone does not equate to inability to be compatible with others. When different learning strategies benefit different students, it is only sensible to employ a combined approach with borrowed parts from each.

Students, consider your introverts. If you are not one yourself, there are many around you. Be aware of everyone you are sharing this space with. You learn from each other just as much as from the teacher, and to leave introverts in the blind spot is to forgo so much diversity. The cost of never taking the extra step to listen a little harder or enquiring a little further is high.

It must be said that this is not an argument for eliminating encouragement of social skills. Introverts can develop extraverted skills in school, too. But the best kind of learning occurs when introverts and extraverts can learn from each other, in a flux of being in and out of their comfort zones. We have much to gain by removing the extraversion bias from what is arguably society’s most important institution. No, this is not an argument for elimination, but rather for diversity and acceptance. Consider your introverts. Listen to the quiet.

*Many pieces of data & opinions are referenced from Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. All writing is original.

*While the common term used is “extrovert”, the correct terminology used in scholastic discussion is “extravert”.

–Jisoo Hope Yoon (’19)

Featured Image: quietrev.com