Should we be smarter or more likable? Do I want to be a Rhodes Scholar or a son of God ? Can intelligence be more helpful than character in life? These are just a few of the questions Anna North addressed in her New York Times article “Should Schools Teach Personality.” North weighs in on both sides making compelling arguments, for and against, how we teach in today’s schools.
Back when I went to school in the late sixties and early seventies, school was boring, you read from the book and were tested on it. Teachers weren’t approachable, and it was either do the homework as laid out or fail. When it comes to education, North points out, “We tend to think people just need to try harder, or have a better attitude,” but “this tends to miss the boat. What really matters is various aspects of the system itself “ (1). North supports her argument that personality is just as valuable as books when she references that the system itself is just not about one point. We must look at the people as idiosyncratic, not bunch their learning into one size fits all. The question arises: what do we as members of this society want around us? This notion is further exemplified by teachers having that one on one experience with their students, like a meet and greets to get to know them a little. This could help an instructor with material with those students instead of clumping them all together as a whole.
Similarly, there are the critics whose belief it is to not change personality, but rather to help students find the right path for what it is they want to do in life. “If you have no interest in classical music or no interest in starting your business, I doubt that you will be very gritty or display a lot of passion and perseverance there” (North 2). North urges us to think outside the box by pointing out that to keep a student engaged we must evoke a sense of understanding needs, not just wants. On the other hand, the naysayers out there are more about uniform in their approach to teaching and feel this is how it’s always been done—so why change it? This illustrates the need to truly look at the education system as an overall unit and ask ourselves what is best for the student, not the teacher.
Another example of teaching personality in schools suggested by North is “If I know that I’m generally an introverted person and I don’t enjoy social events, I can teach myself four or five simple strategies or relate to other people”(2). In making this comment, North argues that we can help develop students’ coping skills to assist us in survival needs to get through life’s daily needs. This confirms we are creatures of change, we want to learn, but we want to learn what we want, not what teachers want. Ultimately, “We wouldn’t want to live in a world where everybody has the same personality” (North 2). Moreover, how boring would it be if we all knew the same, and all talked the same, we all had the same image, or just all of us were one type? Pretty boring. So, should we still be teaching are kids the way we were taught so many years ago, or should we just want the brightest and dullest people we can get? People are people, so why can’t we be together in harmony? Let us all be free to learn.
To further speak to these questions of how to create a good learning environment within education, North asserts “Anytime your teaching any kid, the more I know about their personality and how they learn best, the better I’m going to be able to reach them and deliver that”(3). In other words, teachers get to know your students, students talk to your teachers. The more we interact with one another and understand their needs, wants, and a little about their background the more the kids will get out of school and want to be there. “A good teacher makes a huge difference, it’s not just what the student brings” (North 4). Education is knowledge that no one can ever take from you, so let’s try to understand our students and our teaching tactics as a whole, so these kids will want it, desire it, and behold it. Like John Dewey says, “Education is not just preparation for life, education is life itself.”