The Importance of Individual Education

July 12, 2023

The Importance of Individual Education

Am currently reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and loving it. I was expecting a good look at how introverts in general function (being one, I wanted to know what traits were rather across the board and which were my own personal quirks). I am getting that. What I was not expecting was food for thought on more reasons why homeschooling tends to be a better environment for learning than its public counterpart.

Group work came up, for instance. It’s the Cool Thing to do in school these days. School kids do it and so do many college kids. The problem with group work is that study after study has shown that it is not nearly so productive as individual work. Results suffer in group work. As one organizational psychologist put it, in reference to all the research done on the topic, “if you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

My children were born talented and motivated, and I suspect they’re not the only ones. In fact, I just took a break from writing this post to go check on my kiddos. The Striderling was happily building a block tower, which made me cry, because it’s something we’ve been actively working on in occupational therapy. His sister was chewing on a toy and watching him. I think he needed that alone time to play with blocks himself to feel really motivated and curious about how they might work out in a stack.

So if creativity and efficiency are best achieved through private work (please note that in an educational setting, there’s room for direction about said work), why the emphasis on group work? Cain explains it thus:

“… after all these years of evidence that conventional brainstorming groups don’t work, they remain as popular as ever. Participants in brainstorming sessions usually believe that their group performed much better than it actually did, which points to a valuable reason for their continued popularity-group brainstorming makes people feel attached. A worthy goal, so long as we understand that social glue, as opposed to creativity, is the principal benefit.”

Aye, there’s the rub. And my reader’s mind, perhaps hypersensitive to this type of thing, thought instantly of the “socialization” question so frequently lobbed at homeschoolers. While education might be the stated main goal of public schools, so many of their practices make it clear that social cohesion is mostly the name of the game. One fourth grade class room that Cain visited (and I imagine it’s not the only one like this out there) listed among the rules for group projects that a question could only be asked of the teacher if everyone in the group agreed on the question. Fourth grade is an awkward time fraught with peer pressure and I find it a little nauseating (okay, a lot nauseating) to think of the introverts who will never get some of their questions answered because the extroverts in their group out-talk their thoughts and questions. That’s okay… everyone will at least feel attached… ignorance is fine when we’re all connected, right? Who needs to be alone and engaging in creative thought when we can all feel like we all do such a good job together?

(oh, dear. and I didn’t even mean to end up with a Brave New World reference at the end…)

(and, once again, the wonderful illustration is from the ever delightful Grandma’s Graphics)