For Wednesday’s in-class assignment, I wrote about the portion of pages 164 – 165 in which Ifemelu narrates how the American education system grades on participation and values talking, which only leads to “class time wasted on obvious words, hollow words, sometimes meaningless words.” I recently read the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Cain’s book discusses how America has developed a culture that thinks extroversion equals competence. People are more likely to be placed in leadership positions if they have charisma, talk loudly and often, and are seen as good public speakers. However, this culture disregards the good characteristics that come with being introverted, and ignores the fact that talking a lot does not imply a higher IQ.
Ifemelu narrates that “Americans were taught, from elementary school, to always say something in class, no matter what.” As an introvert, I’ve always been incredibly uncomfortable with the idea that “participation” through talking, asking questions, and vocally contributing to class could be calculated into final grades. I feel that active participation can occur through note taking, listening, and mentally processing information. I’ve often found that the person who talks the most in a class is not always the most competent, or best academic performer in that subject. It is a struggle for me, when applying jobs, to feel that my non-extroverted personality could harm my chances for receiving a job, no matter what the job is. I think Ifemelu makes a really important observation on how we’ve twisted this idea that certain personality traits that have no correlation whatsoever to intelligence, work ethic, or ability to carry out a task well, are valued and praised more than others.