"School days, I believe, are the unhappiest in the whole span of human existence." - H.L. Mencken

Weirdness, conformity and schools

Why conformity is so highly valued in schools.
by Geeksta

It is natural to be weird. Everyone is weird at some level. Yet, at schools, to be weird is to be mocked, to be an outcast and a loner. I never could understand this. After all, weirdness goes with intelligence and creativity, both of which our society values.

Now, I think I understand all of this. I could be wrong: you can always be wrong. However, what follows is my best efforts to understand the seeming paradox of the fact that the same traits our society values so much will make a person into an outcast at our schools.

First, we need to know what weirdness is. To be weird is to be “strange or bizarre; to be out of the ordinary.” This is key. Everything that is weird is by definition not normal; anything normal is by definition not weird.

Conformity means “acting according to certain accepted standards.” In other words, by conforming, we lose some or all of our weirdness. Our society values intelligence and creativity, however we need to remember that school is not like the rest of our society. Indeed, it is often completely different.

At school, conformity is valued more than anything else by the teachers, and as with anywhere else, the views of the people in power rub off on everyone else over time.

If you don't believe that statement about conformity being valued at school, think back to the assignments you did in school. How many of them judged your ability to think? How many judged how well you could regurgitate what the teacher told you? If you had more of the latter, you are like the vast majority of us.

Indeed, it is possible to lose marks on school tests if the knowledge you put is beyond what the teacher knows, and there are wrong opinions in class assignments. The students are thus taught from an early age that to be like everyone else, even to think like everyone else is key to life.

Thus for the majority of people, school gradually removes their weirdness. Over time, weirdness stops being a part of them, and it becomes something few people have. For a large number of people, possibly the majority, it becomes an object of fear.

There are two people who form an exception to that: the creative and intelligent. Creative people have new, original ideas. These ideas would not be new or original if other people had them first. Thus creative people are all those people who for any reason did not conform. The reason could be anything, but the outcome is the same: a person who sees the world from a different perspective than normal people do.

The intelligent people escape this effect through a different method. For the exceptionally intelligent, the schools themselves treat them differently. This leaves them with a different perspective, and everyone knows they are different, so although they feel pressure to conform, they never can. This might leave them mentally damaged for life, thus also explaining why intelligent people are more likely to be depressed.

Finally, there is one other significant path to escape the conforming effect of school: to see how stupid the conformity truly is. Every time you copy anyone else, you give up a piece of your individuality. Most people don't realize that until it is too late to undo the damage, and many will never realize it. The end result is that a very small number of people refuse to conform because they know how absurd it is. These people are often more intelligent than average, and even if they are not, over time they become more intelligent where as most people begin to stop valuing knowledge or creativity.

Written by: Geeksta
3 April 2011

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