Confounded by conventionality

FTLComm - Tisdale - Friday, March 2, 2007

Many psychologists believe that conformity is one of those things built into life itself so that when ever something a little different crops up, it is dealt with amazingly harshly. Among chickens, if a cruel scientist applied some paint on a little chick hatchling then put it in with a bunch of other birds, the marked animal is almost immediately killed.

Among us humans, daring to be different can get you into really serious trouble on the playground, in school, or even at home. As a species, we praise conformity and shun those who are different.


It would come as no shock to you to know that during my lifetime, left handed people have had to adapt to a right handed world, even though they are a significant proportion of the population. Similarly, we know that homosexuality has been around forever and the persecution of this difference is only modestly curtailed in our society.

As a part of my training, as an educational psychologist, I spent a lot of my time working on the measuring tools that are used to determine the relative abilities of developing children. We like to refer to this as intelligence, but have come to realise that remarkable differences in ability exist in the population, yet we exercise extreme measures to get just about everyone into the same relatively narrow band of abilities. People with very high ability and very low cognitive abilities are rarely given an opportunity in our world of conformity, as we demand rigourous similarity.


One of the elements that has fascinated the psychological community is the one factor that is difficult to measure, but dramatic in its enhancement of an individual's ability and the contribution that individual can make to society and that one factor is called "creativity." The studies of this component of cognitive ability has suggested that often really minor differences can produced amazing results.

A quick survey of successful novelists and writers will immediately show you the


disproportionate number of these creative people to being just a bit odd, in one way or another. For example, there tends to be large numbers of left handed people, homosexuals and people whom we would consider eccentric, among the successfully creative.

A Yale psychology professor Robert J. Sternberg has put together teaching materials and activities that would tend to improve a person's creativity and he is only one of the many psychologists who have realised that the seed of exceptional ability is being able to think creatively.

Today our world is faced with some very serious problems. Many of these problems are extremely complex, yet we seem bent on attacking these things with standard conventional means. Despite the massive amounts of money raised and spent on cancer research, the innovations in medicine and treatment are coming not from the research money, but from odd-ball creative thinking. Global warming, racism, cultural conflict, the raping of the natural resources of the planet, are all real and dangerous problems that need to be solved, and sadly, all of them seem to be failing.


If you are not old enough to remember, it would be worth your while to take a quick look at the cultural background and societal trends that smashed their way into the conventional world in the early 1960s. Social scientists do not have a coherent theory as to what brought about a massive rejection of the conventional, but in 1962 it was cool to be different. We who were creative, were admired and encouraged, and in two decades the conventional iron curtain descended once again, cutting off development and the progress of humanity.


As a high school principal I had to witness the amazing swing away from creativity in the classroom and by the very conservative nature of students. The generation who came along in the eighties and nineties were all seemingly bent on out doing one another by being so sucked into the corporate world, that we have seen social sciences being snuffed out in colleges and MBA programmes flourishing. As a student in the sixties we considered commerce and engineering students as the grunts, unable to think themselves out of any issue and prone to repeat the same mistake time after time after time. Has that changed?

The problems facing mankind in this twenty-first century need more than those who think that strong leadership is the solution to political problems, we need people willing to risk, willing to take a chance on being different and suggesting solutions that are radical. This is not the time to turn to bible thumpers who declare that all is needed, is faith and rigid conformity to dogma. We need cutting edge science, that will ask hard questions and not accept traditional theory as answers.

The responsibility of shaping the future is not in the hands of the children of tomorrow, it is in the minds of those who demand conformity today. You individually have to do a reality check and note that the lack of success and the achievement of failure is so easy and as the path of least resistance it is the trail most followed.



Return to Ensign

This page is a story posted in Ensign a daily web site offering a variety of material from scenic images, political commentary, information and news. This publication is the work of Faster Than Light Communications . If you would like to comment on this story or you wish to contact the editor of these sites please send us email.

Editor : Timothy W. Shire
Faster Than Light Communication
Box 1776, Tisdale, Saskatchewan, Canada, S0E 1T0
306 873 2004