Quiet, by lawyer-turned-consultant Susan Cain, is a good antidote to what I call our BS society. In short, she shows that it is okay to be short with your words to the world and others around you.
Our society forces everyone in it to be an extrovert—and if you’re not, you’re just too weird to be liked, hired, or kissed. We learn this from our early days in school when the point is to be socially adept and get along with others. Cain correctly points to the “politically progressive roots” of this phenomenon in our society. However, she doesn’t really nail or name the ultimate culprit: John Dewey. Democracy demands that we socialize kids, not really teach them anything or make them think very deeply, Dewey basically said.
I always like to refer to that scene in To Kill a Mockingbird when Scout tells her father, Atticus, “teacher says we’re not supposed to read outside of school.” (This is 1932.) That’s because of the see-and-say method then coming into vogue to (not) teach kids to read. Just be nice and social, my dear little Scout, and don’t think too much. This is all Dewey. Atticus, great man that is, says nuts to the teacher.
This is the whole “cooperative” approach to learning, and if you as a teacher don’t do it that way, you’re out. Talk to just about any K–12 teacher these days about their classes and you’ll eventually hear this: “. . . and then I put them in groups.” As a once and former teacher, I say, “Screw the group work!” Everybody but everybody knows that one kid does all the work and the others just copy off him or her. And “group projects” usually aren’t.
How did I get off on this rant about education, anyway? Because everyone just blabs all damn day long, and no one can think their way out of paper bag.
Cain offers research study after research study on the mental, emotional, spiritual, and even physical characteristics of extroverts and introverts, complete with fMRI tests. Seems that introverts literally do have thinner skin. But it all sort of melds together pretty quickly, and one chapter is just like the next. Yet, we can come to see that most people really are introverts by nature—I forget what stats she gives, and she doesn’t say this herself—but we force ourselves to be extroverts in order to get, to get the girl…the guy…the job…the sale.
Sorry, folks, but one more time I have to say this: “What do editors do these days?” Quiet could be much tighter. The research findings are often interesting, but if I ever write like this, shoot me: “On a sunny but overcast, rainy but dry, day that was getting hotter and colder at the same time . . . in walked/approached me/sat down an unassuming man/woman/child of a certain age . . .” I mean, at the start of every chapter!
Read Susan Cain’s NYT article, “The Rise of the New Groupthink“, and the corresponding commentary at BigThink.com
F. Scott would really just like to talk when he wants and shut up when he wants.
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