INDIVIDUAL OR DEVIATION FROM THE STANDARD

Everyday of our lives, we are judged on various standards. Grades in school, Performance at work and even our looks. We are motivated to be someone else – someone conforming to Standard. it is no wonder then that we begin to question our Individuality. If we express our individuality or uniqueness then we are deemed – A deviation from the Average.

“We all strive to be like everyone else – or, even more accurately, we all strive to be like everyone else, but only better. Gifted students are designated as gifted because they took the same standardised tests as everyone else, but performed better. Top job candidates are desirable because they have the same kind of credentials as everyone else only better. We have list the dignity as everyone else, only better. Our uniqueness has become a burden, an obstacle, or a regrettable distraction to the road to success” – Todd Rose, The End of Average

This is one of the questions that I wish my readers answer. Think!

Think really hard and then answer – What do we want for us (if you are a student)? What do we want for our children (if you are a parent?) Is uniqueness indeed in danger because we all want Standard?

So I understand that most people will say that these are one of those questions that have no right or wrong answers. Yet these are questions that require answers, and it is important to find the answer that is Right For You.

Is it right to hide behind the standard because we do not have the strength to battle for the unique?

Is it right that we encourage the standard or the ordinary and then applaud when we see (someone else) extraordinary? Oh yes, but we always add – “he/she had different circumstances”. Sure they did and they faced it and more importantly fought it.

As an education consultant, I encourage students to identify their Skill Pool before they embark on their journey of choosing the best course for them. Skill pool is an attempt to retrospect. Each of us has a different set of skills that we acquire as we go along. Some are even genetic. These together make us UNIQUE. It is therefore extremely surprising that we spend most of our student life and then our youth trying to get rid of this unique feature to try to become the AVERAGE. It does sound like a conspiracy theory to me, does it not?

The Conspiracy is to disregard the Individuality or the Uniqueness. Conspiracy to encourage standardization and make us believe that it’s the best way forward. To recognise and applaud the individuality, the first step is to recognise the flaws of standardisation. If the system recognises the flaws,then the system will have to work to create and alter the existing systems to match the individuality.  Sounds like a lot of work does it not? So what do we do, we carry on with the systems –  not for lack of understanding, but for the sheer magnitude of change that this would require.

We often deem the uniqueness as “Deviation from the standard”. In reality,  it is the deviation from the expectation that we have created as a standard. This standard is, of-course, carefully crafted on basis of many measurements and characteristics. There is no denying that there is a lot of thought and science behind these “Exercises of Standardisation”. Standardised exams, Standardised scores, Standardised course which goes right up-to standardised looks and size too (reserving this debate for another time). As a student, the moment we deviate from these pre-existing standards we are deemed mostly, UNFIT. This – becomes our battle ground.

The Battle – Achieve standard grades in a standard education system studying the standard course in a standard manner. This is where we usually witness the death of uniqueness that the students may harbour in their hearts. How can he take pride in the unique, when you deem him “idiotic” or “useless”? We take away the most important aspect of their lives, their individuality, give them what’s left of it (usually not much) and then ask them to cope. It is difficult to cope in this world with all of your strengths intact, how then does a child cope when you have snatched most of the strength to begin with.

What do you think I am suggesting that you do?  When a student does not perform well in the exams, what exactly is my solution? After all he needs to go to college and he will not make it there with 40%.

My Solution – Fit a round peg in a round cavity or more importantly do not fit a square peg in a round cavity. It will not FIT. Remember that educational toy you got for your 1 year old?

Unlike the 1 year old, we are mostly trying to fit a square peg into a round cavity. When it does not, we use the Hammer. Remember the Hammers? Tuition, cutting down TV Time, I-Pads, confiscate phones, more tuition, more study time, more tuition – all act as the hammer.   And yet, mostly these hammers fail to give us the desired result. The Square Pegs still have the Rough  edges and corners that do not fit into the edge-less circle. What a PITY!!

When it does not fit, we initiate the judgements. Bad grades in class: he must be stupid (for lack of a better word).

When a child does not perform well in the exams, lack of intelligence, is not the cause. There are other causes; we need to look for them. Academic Performance is directly linked to – Academic Perseverance, Growth Mindset, Relevance of Education and many more (I will discuss these in my later articles). It is important to understand this and to find the reason for poor Academic Performance. It could be that we are judging on parameters that are irrelevant to that particular student.

We have, slowly begun to understand the importance of non-standard. We understand that education has to be made relevant to the student if you want the students to truly learn. Some even understand that being non – standard is not a deviation, it is just individualism. Some of the finest institutes across the world envisage the requirement and are working to reinstate the NON- STANDARD. But little is being done, at the moment.

The change also has to begin with us. Like all else, we cannot wait for the government, the universities and colleges to bring about the revolution. We too share some of the responsibility. ENCOURAGEMENT is the key to building the individuality. Encourage your friend, your child, your student when they show signs of individuality. Deviation from individuality should be a point of worry, not deviation from standard.

Look around you, it is the deviation from standard that are remembered not the standard. Take pride in IT. We are not statistics that can be measured with mean, medians and averages. Best way to do that is to beat the Average, not give in to it. Rising above the Average should be your goal. It can be done. You only have to apply your Specialisation!

A Fight for the (Un)AVERAGE

Witnessed a little balloon race by little children the other day. Two kids ran the combination race. Two children – let’s say – Arjun and Bheem. The race was : run to the balloon stationed in the middle of the track. Sit on it to burst it and then run to the other end. Second child repeats it, it was a group effort, I understand, it encourages team effort. Now Arjun ran like lightning, he was so quick to reach the balloon, but he was not that great at bursting the balloon, he was quite sloppy. When it was Bhim’s turn, he was cuddly to say the least and running wasn’t for him. But boy he was quick at bursting the balloon, he gave it one WWF punch and the balloon was completely out. Did they win?

Not really!! Even though Arjun ran the Fastest and Bheem was the quickest. Yeah even then they did not win. Why do you think that was? It was not THEIR RACE to begin with.

Bheem was not the runner, and Arjun was not the burster (I know it’s not a word – but applies). Yet they were put in a race that did not enhance their strengths. I imagine if Arjun ran a flat race he would leave the competitors a mile behind (even in a 100 meters race) and if Bhim were to burst balloons or perhaps had a wrestling match, he would have had no match. They lost a match that wasn’t theirs.

Let us see this objectively, yes there are some advantages to this. The children are learning to run ALL TYPES of races. They are learning the important lesson of teamwork. They are indeed learning that the world will set them against opponents with different abilities and skills. Sure these lessons of life are important and I cannot find fault. After all I too have learnt it the same way. I must have been put up against a competitor; I would have learnt to push myself and win. I apply that every day in my life. I DO!!

Then what am I really complaining about? I am NOT complaining. I am only trying to understand because I fail to understand a few questions? And as we all know – failing is not an option!!

My question:

Why was Bheem not put in a wrestling match and Arjun in a flat race?

Why they were not encouraged for where their strengths lay?

Why not let them gain the confidence with a win rather than face the ridicule with a loss? (Oh yes everyone was laughing when Bheem ran)

Would it not be a valuable lesson to let the children know their strengths before we introduce them to their weaknesses?

Should we teach to identify the weaknesses or should we teach them to apply their strengths?

I do understand that these questions cannot have absolute answers, but yet I am trying to look for SOME answers. How is this related to what I have been saying? It is!

I have, time and again, emphasized on individualism being important. I wish the students are therefore introduced to it at school level. It should not mean that we de-introduce (again not a word) the children from team work or not help them identify their weaknesses, it only means that we FIRST introduce them to their individual strengths and allow them to foster that.

Do the Schools have it wrong? Maybe in a peculiar way!

As an institution in a world that is changing at a blink of an eye, we are still preparing the students by the code of industrial revolution. How many years ago was that, anyways?

So do I have a suggestion?

I do! I am not saying that what the schools are doing is all wrong; I am only saying that there is just a little something more that we can do. Just put the children in THEIR race and see them run!

We are still looking to average out a student while we all know that there is no such thing as an “Average Child”. Like the Norma Study, if we were to make parameters to judge a student and find the closest match to an AVERAGE STUDENT, I am quite certain we will come up with none. So why then, are we so desperate to create an Average Student? Why not rejoice in their individuality and UN-Average (Oxford dictionary says it’s not a word, but should be) characteristics? Let us concentrate on creating an average computer, but let’s concentrate on creating an Individual Student with their strengths and yes, even weaknesses. After which we can venture out and teach them to use their strengths and cope with their weaknesses, but first – IDENTIFY the (UN)Average.

Identifying the (UN) Average requires that we first look at the child in clear light. We must understand and accept that the student may not run like an average runner, may not score Average grades scored by average students, and does not sing like an average singer and….

It means that the (UN) Average sings like a Rockstar but runs like a snail. It means that maybe the UNaverage student debates like a pro but does not understand the chemical formulas. It might mean many more combinations, but not the one we are looking for. So maybe it is time to look differently.

Once we look differently, maybe we can change the TAGS and not put the students in an air tight compartment – of failures. It is a compartment that they cannot break out of for a very very long time. It is time that we celebrate their UNaverage qualities and let them draw strength from them. After all when we lose ourselves to the crooning singer, do we wonder if he can tell us the square root of 156456. DO WE??

The (UN) average can be a good average if you can understand that you are not an average student and do not have an average brain and therefore do not shape your life trying to be AVERAGE. You are not AVERAGE and neither should you inspire to be. When the next test scores tell you that you are like the next average person, Don’t Believe it!!  Fight for the (UN)AVERAGE!!