Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Socialize Much?

Ever have that moment when you are reading something and suddenly everything makes sense? That feeling that you have found the missing piece of a puzzle you didn't know could ever make a picture? I had that moment yesterday.

I have been working my way through a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking as a bit of homework on myself and my little introvert. It seems that homeschooling your kids often involves homework for mom. Honestly, I love that part. My son is the kind of kid that likes to have one or two friends and needs lots of time to himself. As a recently discovered introvert myself, I am trying to figure out why people think time alone is a bad thing. So, yesterday afternoon during my reading time (ALONE) I was thrilled to find not only some answers, but the answer to a question that has bothered me since I was eight years old; Why do people believe "socializing" in school is SO important?

Here is the excerpt that sent me running through the house to read it to my husband and kids:

The idea of wrapping their social anxieties in the neat package of a psychological complex [Inferiority Complex] appealed to many Americans [in 1924, thanks to Alfred Adler]. The Inferiority Complex became an all-purpose explanation for problems in many areas of life, ranging from love to parenting to career. ... Another popular magazine ran an article called "Your Child and That Fashionable Complex," explaining to moms what could cause an IC in kids and how to prevent one. Everyone had one it seemed...

...now psychologists, social workers, and doctors focused on the everyday child with the "maladjusted personality" - particularly shy children. Shyness could lead to dire outcomes, they warned, from alcoholism to suicide, while an outgoing personality would bring social and financial success. The experts advised parents to socialize their children well and schools to change their emphasis from book-learning to "assisting and guiding the developing personality." Educators took up this mantle enthusiastically. By 1950 the slogan of the Mid-Century White House Conference on Children and Youth was "A healthy personality for every child."

Well meaning parents of the mid-century agreed that quiet was unacceptable and gregariousness ideal for both girls and boys. Some discouraged their children from solitary hobbies, like classical music, that could make them unpopular. They sent their kids to school at increasingly younger ages, where the main assignment was learning to socialize. Introverted children were often singled out as problem cases (a situation familiar to any parent with an introverted child today).

William White's The Organization Man, a 1956 best-seller, describes how parents and teachers conspired to overhaul the personalities of quiet children. "Johnny wasn't doing well at school," Whyte recalls a mother telling him. "The teacher explained to me that he was doing fine on his lessons but that his social adjustment was not as good as it might be. He would pick just  one or two friends to play with, and was sometimes happy to remain by himself." Parents welcomed such interventions, said Whyte. "Save for a few odd parents, most are grateful that the schools work so hard to offset tendencies to introversion and other suburban abnormalities."

So there you have it! The roots of America's need to socialize. I have to say I'm awfully glad I can keep my introvert at home where he can be alone without it being looked at as a "maladjusted personality"!

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