by Anne White
I recently finished reading Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.
One of the ideas that struck me the most was Cain's assessment of cultural extroverted expectations. Raise your hand if you (or your children) were ever told by a teacher that you (or your children) needed to "speak up more in class." Raise both hands if you were told this by almost (to punctuate it currently) Every. Single. Teacher. Even if you thought you were "speaking up in class." Raise both hands and a foot if, on top of that, you were frequently told to "stop reading, go and play with the other children."
When this goes on for years and years, it's no wonder that introverts feel like they're not good enough, don't belong. Even good grades don't quite make up for not fitting into the General Agenda for Normal.
According to Cain, a great deal of this started about a hundred years ago, with Dale Carnegie, personal confidence, and the belief that success in the new century was as much about public face as it was about hard work or intelligence or personal honour. Those who could present well, be sufficiently aggressive or persuasive, got the job, got the client. Think advertising agencies.
With the new demands for common standards, education for many children is, more than ever, the demand that they measure up, academically and socially. Private schools and homeschools can reduce that pressure, to some extent, but we can still find ourselves pushing children to meet our own agenda or someone else's. It might be a required standardized test. It might be one of Charlotte Mason's lists of "attainments," which I personally think have taken on more weight than they should have; they were not intended to be timetables, just potentials if everything else was in place.
Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education is radical. Like Christ's "yoke that is easy," it removes burdens of expectations. It is about training in character, but without demanding a perfect result. It is about drawing in notebooks rather than colouring in the lines. It gives us permission to grow and learn freely, without standing against a measurement chart. Introverts, extroverts, slow learners, fast learners, those who excel in one thing or another, can all belong. Each of us has value because we are made in God's image.
We have permission to be us.
(Did you think I was referring only to the students?)