“Embrace your inner weirdness”

A parent recently sent along this article: Why geeks make better adults than the in-crowd.  The article draws it’s lead from Alexandra Robbins  book The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth.

While there is something of a defensive, passive-aggressive revenge fantasy to the tone, it is undoubtedly true that conforming to the conventional as a way to be popular is a dead end.

It reminded me of two things.The first was a post I wrote in 2009 that was along the same lines. The second was last January’s young alumni/ae panel.

We invited college age alums to come back and talk to current high school students about college life. They offloaded a trove of invaluable expertise and good humored advice about the transition from high school.

We learned that:

Getting grades in college is no big deal
PDS really teaches you how to write and be a learner
Joining an athletic team is a great way to make friends and have fun
Owning a frying pan for making egg sandwiches and knowing how to cook  is a really good move

There was advice on how to become a research assistant, get an internships and get into the best science classes.

And then there was this on college life in general:

When you get to college, embrace your inner weirdness. We all know that PDS kids are weird and in college they will love you for it.

So I started thinking about that because I know that PDS kids are actually not weird (apologies to those invested in trying to be different for the sake of it!)

They are themselves though. And that – maybe –  is the difference. If most schooling is inclined to promote conformity and compliance through a relentless emphasis on standardized tests and narrow measures of achievement, then it is no wonder that the most successful students are those who have jumped highest through the regulation hoops.

Success at PDS is not like that.  Sure we have plenty of excellent test takers and achievers and the scores to match. But it is not the purpose of a PDS education to raise scores. The purpose of a PDS education is to raise learners. The focus is not on tests but on learning. And, because that means thinking about learners, it means recognizing and valuing the amazingly different capacities and passions of every student. Being who you are means being part of the in-crowd.

So if a school enables, encourages and educates each child to be who they are and who they might become, then it is no wonder that PDS students are “weird”. They’ve not been obsessively tested and graded and numbered and labelled.  They’ve been spared the widget factory approach to schooling and they emerge from the process as individuals on a unique journey. That’s what we strive for. Being a teenager is hard enough without the added pressure of an education designed to create alienated and isolated outsiders along with the few winners who have raced to the top.

So “embrace your inner weirdness” is comparable to “follow your passion”. We all do better and go further and deeper when we find and follow that inner drive and purpose. And in this era of innovation that spells a competitive edge. PDS kids stand out because they are who they are. Like all kids, each one is a bundle of unique qualities and not one of them is off the assembly line.

And sometimes – being conventional is where a student wants to be.  And that is just fine too. After all – with everyone else busy being different, conventional stands out.  And how PDS is that!

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