ith never ending monthly tests, term tests, government tests and tuition classes that run up to late evenings the life of a child in Sri Lanka has turned out to be quite torturous. Pushed by parents, teachers and societal expectations to be the best and be on the list of 9As at the Ordinary Level and 3As at the Advanced Level examinations, has become a game of all or nothing.
On top of that, there now seems to be another challenge. While on the one hand we are getting more and more into the South Asian culture of cramming in education, on the other hand we are also fast borrowing the extrovert bias of the American culture into our schoolrooms. Even the suburban schools have started organising more and more events like class parties, birthday parties, picnics, trips and other social events where the extroverts shine. In and around the schools there are coffee shops to hang out. Besides being good at studies, the student is also expected to be good in sports, swimming, debating and everything else. The target is to be an all-rounder so that he or she becomes popular and the parents can regularly parade the child’s trophies.
Of course some students live up to these standards. They enjoy the neck-breaking ride and excel. A vast majority feel harassed. Among the worst affected are the ones who feel way too overwhelmed and drained by this constant pushing. They are the introverts. This group includes those exceptionally bright, nerdy, studious types, who prefer to study in calmer surroundings, those gifted with creative abilities in art and music, average performers in studies and extra-curricular activities and of course those who are weak in all departments. The composition is more or less like that of the extrovert’s group. The only difference is that while society is supportive of the extroverts, it unfortunately has quite a negative bias towards the introverts and often misunderstands them as either anti-social or lazy. This is turning out to be a bigger problem for the introverts as Sri Lankan culture is fast-tracked to be more and more extrovert-friendly just like the West. While parents in the West are somewhat equipped with the knowledge of the introvert-extrovert differences, in children in Sri Lanka the dialogue is yet to pick up.
Here if a child shuns crowds, parties and loud music parents often read that as a negative trait. One often hears of parents complaining “Aiyo, he is very shy” or “she is a lazy daisy” even though the child is quite normal otherwise. They fail to understand that an introverted child’s brain is wired in such a way that he or she cannot help being what he or she is. Neuro-scientists assume that nearly one-third of the global population is introverted.
However, being introverted does not mean a person is “anti-social”. When pushed into a situation where they have to socialise, most of them manage to do that without much of a problem. However given a choice they would always shun crowds and noise. Among other factors, neuro- science traces the causes of this behaviour by introverts to their relatively bigger blood flow to the brain, compared to the extroverts. As such the introverts feel too easily overwhelmed and stimulated. Naturally they tend to preserve their balance by avoiding whatever overwhelms them too much. They tend to feel content in their own company and feel quite self-sufficient when they sit in a quiet corner and read a book. Extroverts on the other hand have comparatively lesser flow and they feel much stimulated on their own. That’s the reason why they always end up in groups and need external stimulants like parties to feel “great”.
While a greater number of scientists, musicians, writers and painters were introverts unfortunately a country’s culture is often determined by the extroverts. There are much spaces devoted to the introverts as most of the cities are created by the extroverts – the politicians and businessmen. As such, cities end up being places that invariably cater to the extroverts with a very few places for the silent contemplation and reading by the introverts. In schools too teachers tend to go with the interests and the needs of the dominant talkative extroverts than the silent introverts as there’s very little time to get to know children individually.
It’s certainly high time for Sri Lanka to start discussing introverts.