“The air that they breathe”

Susan Cain wrote a book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking*, on introversion in contemporary society. We reserved types get little respect: students are forced to work in groups rather than independently; office spaces are more and more often based on an open plan (mine is, and I wish it weren’t); and if an introvert doesn’t act like an extravert, she and her ideas will probably be overlooked because others won’t shut up and listen. Cain would put it more politely, I’m sure, but that’s the situation, and she argues in the book that the world is missing out. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s one of the next on my list.

{Rant:} On the point of classroom arrangements forcing kids to always work in groups, there’s another problem that has less to do with introversion, although I wouldn’t be surprised at all if introverts are more often the victims. If you make kids work in groups, and grade them as a group, the “good” students will get stuck doing most or all of the work while the other half watch and get the same grade for doing nothing. This happened to me countless times in school, and since I didn’t want to be labelled a nark and treated worse by classmates who already thought I was (gasp) a nerd, I didn’t complain to teachers most of the time.

There was a project in middle school social studies, for example, where we had to write a report and design a pamphlet about a foreign country (Zambia, in my case). We were put into groups of three or four, and when the other two in my group heard that I was the third, they both exclaimed “Yesss!” loudly enough for the teacher to hear, though she paid no attention. They knew me well enough to know that they had a free ‘A’ on the project just by being in my group, because I cared enough about my own grades to do nearly everything myself, however much I wanted them to suffer the consequences of their laziness. There were no consequences for laziness in group work, if there was one straight-A student, unless she was willing to sacrifice her own grade and get an ‘F.’ I was not willing, and they knew it.

And this didn’t happen just in middle school, it happened at every level of the educational system that graded group work: in a college art class, I and two other freshmen had to let the upperclassman in our group get away with contributing nothing (or worse than nothing–she wasted our time by asking us for the information she had agreed to research herself, before emailing us a one- or two-paragraph write-up that wasn’t worthy of a second-grader, so we had to write that section of the paper from scratch when we should have been putting on the finishing touches). We explained the entire situation to the professor when we turned in our report, and she basically said we had to suck it up because she couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything based on our word (and our copies of the girl’s email and each draft of our paper).

This is why I’m utterly opposed to graded group work at, really, any level of the school system. Working in groups is fine and sometimes useful, especially for talking ideas through, but putting a grade on it encourages cheaters and freeloaders to sit by and get a free grade at the expense of those who, through peer pressure or hopelessness, won’t rat them out. {/rant}

(Sorry.) Anyway, now Cain has given a TED talk, and it’s quite good. Do introverts everywhere a favor and watch (and share!):

From the talk:

“So I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why we were supposed to be so rowdy or why we had to spell this word incorrectly.” 😀

“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”

“Solitude matters and…for some people, it’s the air that they breathe.”

“I wish you the best of all possible journeys and the courage to speak softly.”

* With a pretty lovely cover design. I mean just look at that ‘Q’! Beautiful. 🙂 (/fontnut)

Free wallpaper for your Nook: Trillium

Here’s a screensaver image of a trillium that I found at the edge of the Redwoods in May 2008. You can’t tell from the black and white image here, but it’s a purple trillium–I’d only ever seen white ones before. 🙂

As before, you’re quite welcome to download this picture and use it as a wallpaper/screensaver on your Nook; just don’t change the image or pretend you made it. If you like the image, there’s more of it (in color! 🙂 ) in my gallery over at Zazzle.

Image no. 3: Trillium

Free wallpaper for your Nook: ‘Geometric’

Playing in Photoshop feels so good. 🙂 Here’s another screensaver image for you; this one, called “Geometric,” is of the roof of the welcome center at the Panajachel Nature Reserve. I took it at Pana (Guatemala) while visiting my brother in 2007.

As before, all I ask is that you don’t change the image and don’t pretend you made it. If you like the image, there’s more of it in my photo gallery at Zazzle.

Without further ado, image no. 2 (click for full 600×800 size):