School As Introvert Prison Sentence

Leads To: Knowledge Monopolies: The University

I got pretty good grades in school.  Homework was easier for me than for most kids.  Yet as an adult it’s easy to look back and realize that none of that was important.  Once one gets into college it doesn’t matter.  Once one decides not to go to college it doesn’t matter.  We were told grades were important by all the authority figures, but it was a lie just to try keep us all in line for another day and to justify the system in which every one of us was trapped.

I look back on twelve years of schooling and can’t think of much beyond basic literacy that was truly important in the long run.  Even with literacy, my first reading lessons took place at home, not in school.  Classes at school did teach me useful things.  A lot of the classwork that was boring for other kids was pure fun for me.  Yet did it really need to consume 12 years of my life?  By the time we’re 18, the better part of our youth is irremediably spent on years of school.  Yes, humans have higher life expectancies now but the fact is we start our slide into aging soon after we hit biological adulthood.  With schooling, we get barely a decade to be active in the world at our peak.  People in past generations generally had begun adult-level activities by their early teens or even younger.  Now a college graduate at age 21 is only beginning to be functional in the adult world.  Is our increased life expectancy nearly as great when we have nearly a decade less in which to do things?

What is it all for?  One obvious purpose is the simple containment of youth who would otherwise be roaming around the streets all day.  With child labor laws, there’s nothing better to do than lock them up.   The result is a strange combination of minimum security prison and daycare.  It just doesn’t make much sense to the Subtle understanding.  To really ‘get’ the spirit of school it is most illuminating to examine the extroverted view and justification.

Every well-adjusted person I’ve talked to gives me the same message when I dare criticize compulsory education and public schooling.  “But it’s for socialization!”  Having tipped my ideological hand more than was wise, I end up with an earful of reminiscences about fun extra-curricular activities.  This always confounds me.  Whatever happened to the 7 hours a day sitting at a desk doing nothing?  That wasn’t fun!  It wasn’t particularly social either.

When I express desire for there to be some alternative from regular schooling, I get a blank stare for a second or two followed by “Your kid wouldn’t be able to develop properly.  He/she would be lonely and cut off.”  Every time I hear this ubiquitous answer, I pause for a few seconds before finding a way to just change the subject.

As an introvert in the system, I felt lonely and cut off.  I didn’t fit into the school society at all.  I was non-socialized in school.  I can pass as mostly normal now, but when I first graduated high school, I still had the social skills of a small child.  I’ve spent the last several years learning everything from scratch and I’m finally feeling as though I’m somewhat caught up.  I’ve been through several halfway houses, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m establishing a life for the first time after a long prison sentence.  I spent a good portion of that time, especially the later years in something akin to solitary confinement.

It took me a long time to figure out why extroverts assign such importance to collective schooling.  Every well-adjusted person seems to understand the reasons on some intuitive level but lack the ability to analyze their beliefs and articulate them.  I will do my best to translate the idea of ‘Socialization’ into Subtle-ese.

I gather that extroverts value schooling primarily for its ability to imbue millions of children with a common formative experience so that they may smoothly interrelate as adults.

This ability to relate to others is like being able to speak the same language.  It is one of the most critical things we’re supposed to learn.  It’s the base of belonging we need to be able to establish romantic relationships and find careers.  In Subtle terms, I suppose we could consider compulsory schools as a massive network of commonality factories.  In the Surface world, these factories are not idle or pointless, they are busily producing vitally important social commodities.

I think the idea of social adjustment helps explain why nerds are portrayed in popular culture as morally stunted, silly, contemptible, short-sighted, petty people who have missed everything that is really important in life.  The nerds were focusing on all the wrong things in school and they serve as  symbols of everything one should not become.  They are representative of defective units that were never properly calibrated despite the best efforts of the factory workers.  In the movies, nerds are rather unsympathetic characters because they usually rudely reject the efforts of well-adjusted people to save them.  The overall thesis:  social adjustment is open to everyone, but there will always be a few who insist on being self-destructive.

The truth that they never realize is that most people don’t ask for a clash with the system.  Some people are going to have the wrong configuration as they roll down the assembly line.  The standardized parts that seem to fit with most other people just don’t apply.  The true introvert frame reaches the end of the assembly line not only bare of all the necessary components, but dented and bent from going through a long series of incompatible processes.

When I tell a regular person that “School was awful.”  I am often met with agreement.  If the conversation goes on, it becomes clear that most of the perceived awfulness for the Surface person stemmed from completely different problems.  They don’t complain about homework or classes usually.  They talk about all their human relationships and ultimately how it was a time for social learning and tough lessons in human interaction.  From the way they talk about it, it doesn’t sound like it was awful at all.  Most of the time it seems they were having fun, but it got bad for awhile whenever  some conflict arose.  When I realized that this is their definition of  ‘awful’ it was clear there could be no bridging the gap.  In moments like that, it becomes clear we don’t even speak mutually intelligible languages and that we’ve lived our lives in separate universes.  I have difficulty explaining my experience precisely because I was never properly adjusted.

Introverts vs. Extroverts: Learning

Leads to: Extrovert Critic: “You Read Too Much”

The acquisition of knowledge has a very different meaning to introverts and extroverts.

Extroverts:  Learning is a means to an ends

Introverts: Learning is an end unto itself.

Extroverts learn something so they can get something.  They usually have a very precise goal for pursuing information.  What is their goal?  It is almost always to get some kind of socially recognized title or certificate.  Without some kind of tangible end result that manifests in one’s social relationships, there is no reason at all to learn.  It is a very typical pattern for an extrovert to plow through countless dry textbooks in order to be awarded some crucial social distinction and then be perfectly happy never again reading another book.  After all books are a waste of time once one has ‘punched the ticket.’  Thereafter, from the Loud perspective, it’s the water cooler interactions and the networking that matters.  For an extrovert, learning is something that is done to you by others.  To teach oneself would be unthinkable, and well, even if it could be done, it would be boring.  Most importantly, one would go through endless hours of trouble without even a promised social stamp of approval at the end.

Introverts learn something because it is fun.  There may not be any immediate or tangible goal.  Or rather, there are multiple goals, some of them tangible and others more in the realm of dream.   Learning is the lifeblood and life purpose of the true introvert.   They will acquire whatever knowledge is necessary to make it in society, but will continue to both broaden and augment their knowledge throughout their lives.  Or often, the recreational accumulation of knowledge and skills gives an introvert everything they need to succeed.   It is a very typical pattern for an introvert to get the skills they need and then keep on learning and expanding just as before.  They read books to get where they are, they keep on reading until the grave.  For the true introvert, all learning starts with the personal volition to learn and love of knowledge.  Learning starts with the self and not with society and social institutions.  An introvert gets formal instruction because they too need formal stamps of approval and because they genuinely enjoy social interaction that revolves around the exchange of information.  However, the instruction of others is just a tool that facilitates the process of self-learning.  From the Subtle perspective learning is not done to us.  Rather we do it to ourselves out of love of knowledge and get help from others along the way.  Social stamps of approval are nice, but they never were the source of motivation.  There is no end to learning.  Instead, it is a personal lifelong journey.