Power to the introverts

Our culture is designed for gregarious team players, says Susan Cain, author of Quiet, in this TED talk on The Power of Introverts.  Schools require children to work in groups, “even in  the most solitary of assignments, such as creative writing,” she complains. Students need the chance to think and learn on their own too. “Solitude is the school of the soul.”

Diana Senechal’s Republic of Noise also criticizes the mania for group work, collaboration and “groupthink,” rather than solitary contemplation.

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  1. I’m waiting for a school board somewhere to ban groupwork, or at least groupwork that’s graded.

  2. The quote “Solitude is the school of the soul” appears to come from Rabbi David Wolpe, who has a guest post on Cain’s website.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius.”

    My book criticizes excessive group work in detail–but my take on the matter is different from Cain’s. When discussing solitude, I focus primarily on solitude of the mind–that is, not physical removal from others, necessarily, but our inherent separation from others and our ability to shape something (including associations) out of this separation. I do not see this in introvert-extrovert terms.

    Solitude is an important part of friendship; to take in another person, we must have some room to consider their words and actions, and we must have something to bring to them. Something similar can be said about groups and teams. In a quartet, it is essential that each member (a) be able to play in the first place and (b) spend time practicing alone.

  3. Actually, the second quote appears to be by Edward Gibbon, not Ralph Waldo Emerson. (I do not include that quote in my book.)

  4. Thanks for the insight about introverts in school. There’s an article about the science of being an introvert or extrovert that you might find interesting here: http://the-scorpion-and-the-frog.blogspot.com/2012/03/social-butterflies-or-wallflowers-two.html

  5. It’s not necessary to be an introvert to find constant interaction wearing. It’s just necessary to NOT be a total extrovert. Vey few workplaces except retail sales, and very few family situations, require people to be “on” all the time.