Everything Begins With a Wonder
Thomas Nguyen, Division 3, College freshman #ws18e-s3d3

All throughout our society, we constantly hear endearing stories of empowerment. The #MeToo movement grants voice to the sexually abused, the civil rights movement equalized rights for women and people of all races, and president Theodore Roosevelt popularized “Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” to give reinforcement to the bullied. All of these stress an underlying importance on being true to ourselves, and to refuse to allow any adversity to affect our individualities. No matter the color of our skin, the ethnicity we represent, the culture we come from, the sex that we are born as, or the shape of our bodies, society now embraces the empowerment of the self and a sense of comfort within who we are. And yet, society, from time to time again, refuses to acknowledge and suppresses one of the largest groups of people in the country: the Introverted.

Soon, the bell tolls, echoing throughout campus. I enter my English classroom, my peers already discussing their various intrigues of the day. My teacher begins the class with an analysis of a passage, and we sit in silence for a mere 5 minutes as we attempt to digest and find significance within the text, drawing as many connections and notes as we can. Then, the class discussion begins. Ideas whiz around the room and I suddenly find myself paralyzed in hesitation. I can find numerous details and beauty in the depth of the symbolism in the text, and yet I simply cannot formulate my thoughts to create spoken words. I need time, I need preparation in order to articulate my thoughts. No matter how much I try, I cannot muster the ability to speak and use improv to craft my argument. As more time passes and more of the ideas in my head become used by the class, I find my heart accelerating its beat. A lack of participation during discussions results in a lower overall grade in the class, and this thought echoes within my mind, compounding with my nervousness and further disrupting any chance I have to come up with something to say. Before I know it, the teacher concludes the discussion and moves on with the day’s activities, and I sit there in dismay as yet another day results in my grade slipping ever further away from me.

Why must speaking be such a strenuous task for me? Am I not adequate enough for society? Often, my friends and I pose this question to ourselves, frustrated with our inability to communicate as well as our peers. We try to reassure one another that we’ll endure through our experiences and improve, but I always feel this aching ping within me that I won’t ever grasp the art of communication as well as everyone else.

As I leave the classroom and begin the journey back to my dorm, and I can hear the conversations of others surrounding me. People discuss the latest social trends, the popularity certain people in their friend groups, and the latest gossip circulating their friend groups. Thus, I began to wonder. Why do the more popular people in society seem more outgoing? Why are all of my classes tailored in some fashion towards effective communication with others, when some of our personalities inherently cannot fathom the thought? Why is society and why is my education forcing out the introverted parts of my personality that I’ve come to embrace as who I am? I understand that one should leave their comfort zone to explore new experiences and grow as people, but doesn’t tying all of my grades to extroverted assignments seem punishing?

Why do we as a society only celebrate and favor the social, the outgoing, and the articulate?

Thus I’ve come to realize that the issues lie not in my capabilities and existence as an introvert, but society’s lack of acceptance and selection against introverted traits. Almost all of my classes possess some sort of activity that forces students to rely on extroverted abilities, from presentations to speech crafting, and my grades have suffered as a result of it. I understand the need for effective communication with many majors, but graded spontaneous presentations and discussions push the limit. While some people may craft their speeches as they progress throughout it, I and many others require time to articulate and prepare for such events. Will we truly ever need to craft presentations of major importance out of thin air throughout our livelihoods? Will we require such abilities without the preparation and consideration of our words to make us comfortable with speaking?

The issue and problem behind education is that the extroverted ideal isn’t explicitly stated. It is a mindset that underlies all of our interactions, our behaviours, and our mental psyches, and has become so pervasive as such that it still exists today without opposition. It has become a part of the ideal that the unconscious mind now lures us towards. Rooted within the minds behind democracy for centuries, the Greeks denounced those who did not participate in discussion as “Idiots.” Business and politics has relied on effective communication in order to proliferate their influences since the founding of our country. The extroverted ideal has simply thrived within this society’s democratic roots, having never been challenged.

From time to time again, I meet students throughout campus who give the sense of a facade of positivity and outgoingness, and yet possess a nervousness behind every forced, uttered word. More often than not, I meet students who have perfected the craft, seamlessly following the norm on how people should interact in social situations as if they had been born with this personality. I realize that people forgo the experiences and lives that have shaped who they’ve become, and are sacrificing their personalities in order to chase after this social acceptance from being extroverted. People are sacrificing their individualities in a society that embraces the empowerment of the self. Is a lack of sincerity of the self truly worth the effort and potential to further fit in with a crowd that don’t truly appreciate you for who you are worth it? Why has our mindset throughout our social lives in school and society reached this point?

I do not hate extroverted people. I do not wish to create a division between extroverted and introverted people. Almost everyone possesses both introverted and extroverted traits, including myself. I enjoy the occasional amiable talk with others on subjects that they feel passionate for, and discussion has become essential to understanding the major political topics that we as a society fight for, and determining as a society what we should fight for. However, while certain extroverted traits prove rather helpful in many situations, society hyper-focuses on them far too often. Society has depicted the extroverted ideal as the dominant personality to strive for in order to be successful and avoid social shunning. The extroverted overrides parts of people, when all I want to see in life is all parts of people, truly feeling comfortable and embracing their own unique individuality.

As an individual, I care strongly for the disregard of the introverted, and the suppression of our traits throughout society. However, I would be selfish if I were to extend change to only my education. Yearly, the extroverted ideal tolls on the mentalities of students of Ivy-League schools, faced with the pressures of networking and the need ingrained in them as children to socialize. I personally have friends throughout the country who often question the issues with their personalities and how they think, and suffer from depression as a result of society’s inherent favoritism towards the extroverted. Change cannot only exist in an isolated area. Change can only successfully act as a wave, with the mindsets of everyone across the nation agreeing in unison.

The change we need begins with us as a society. We must acknowledge that introverts are currently less favored by our societal standards for the simple existence of their personality traits, and that in the pursuit of freedom of the soul, we must accept everyone as equals. We must acknowledge that introverts possess an ability equal to their counterparts, but simply are expressed in different ways, and accept that.

Our educational experiences act as the ideal facilitator for change. To teach that all personality types can find acceptance and success in life, instead of enforcing presentations and group work. While training communication skills provide worthwhile experience and preparation for future careers, classrooms shouldn’t force students to perform unrealistic feats of outspokenness and go against their personalities. Classrooms should help detract value from social trends and towards meaningful conversation. Education should become a place where all can feel free and accepted.
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