Conformity is great when you’re building a workforce but to revolutionize, change or invent one must see things, well...different. When I think about the people who really changed the world I see similarities in many cases. People thought they were weird, they often struggled in school and they were thought of as misfits along the way. With the world changing at an ever increasing rate and the global economy hanging in the balance I hear people calling for revolutionary new ideas and solutions. Maybe it’s finally time to value and nurture the misfits.
You see them in the hallway, the locker room, the playground and the lunch room. They try not to be noticed but their clothes, hair, tendencies and hobbies give them away. They keep to themselves often with only a loyal inner circle to keep them company. They just want to survive school without being beat up, humiliated or singled out by their popular and more socially acceptable counterparts.
Their biggest strength are often their biggest weaknesses in school culture because they are seen as weird, different, strange, dorky, nerdy or freaky. Kids spot them as early as preschool with their obsessions with trains, horses, drawing, Smurfs, Pokemon (long after other abandoned them) D&D, Star Wars, Star Trek, Sci-Fi, the Renaissance or some other non-mainstream thing. Their near obsession with the things they love provides them a laser focus and when nurtured these kids can push their interest area in new directions. How a system or culture sees these different kids is important because eventually it affects the way they see themselves.
We see these kids shine and be accepted by other kids in art class and in choir, band, chess club (there should be lots of clubs!) and plays but could a school culture actually be nurtured that would allow for more behavioral diversity to be embraced in any hallway? What would make this difficult?
We know that non-conformists sometimes become great creative achievers, not all by any stretch but what would happen if it wasn’t so hard for these kids to get through public school?
The thought that came to me was all the kids who might have unique interests and talents, but they don't even make it to the manifestation stage because of the pressures to conform.
You could also argue that conformity is not great even when building a workforce, but has been a model that served certain interests well and now we're understanding the limitations and consequences of that view. :)
Right on the reference to the industrial model!
With all the talk lately of creativity and innovation being so important to future/entrepreneurial success, why haven't we been able to get kids to value nonconformity more? My son is in Kindergarten and you can be certain he already knows not to wear, do, or say anything out of the ordinary. KINDERGARTEN! Makes me cry.
But for all our "talk" is it just that and not actions that tell our kids the real story? While we may laud the few nonconformists who make wonderful innovations, are they really such a small number that the vast majority of non-corformists out there are still trying to keep their heads down instead of standing tall?
Have you ever taken a work style test? I do these informally in professional development a lot. The vast majority of educators come out as Amiables, or 3's (I don't know the "true color" for this off the top of my head). The ones who don't rock the boat. The ones who willing sacrifice creating something fantastic to create something good, but keep everyone from fighting or feeling left out. I wonder if this is relevant.
I do think that a desire for conformity is part of the human condition, and yet so valuable to teach about--and it seems to me that in the teaching therein some freedom is given. There is value in conformity, but also danger (genocidal societies), and I think it's an important part of who we are to discuss.
Fascinating connection with teacher work/personal "styles," and probably a real part of this story.
I am trying to wrap my head around how the workstyles do play into this. I definitely think they play a big part and am going to pay a whole lot more attention to the intersection of faculty work styles and school culture/culture of learning... hmmm..