In Search of Personal Expression

Why the trend toward “sameness” is sweeping through our schools.

Everyone loves a good makeover story. Ugly duckling becomes beautiful swan. Shy teen becomes popular after mall extravaganza. But has our emphasis on physical and behavioral sameness gone too far?

The perfected mindset: A media onslaught promoting physical sameness is affecting more than retail sales. It is affecting our children. Youthful minds are forming worldviews tainted by the need for physical uniformity.

Walk into any elementary school classroom to see the effect of this television and media blitz. Even children in kindergarten are fashion conscious and aware of what is “in” and what is not. In fact, some children are left to play alone because of appearance. For both children and adults, a sense of belonging is a basic need (see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). But because of current trends toward cultural sameness, many young children may never know what it feels like to fit in. Personal expression has become a societal offence.

What can we do to help our children strive for a more inclusive and accepting environment?

First, we must recognize that this herd-mentality originates from a tendency to compartmentalize thought. This skill, also known as classification, is accomplished early in life. An example would be a toddler sorting blocks according to color or shape. As cognitive thought develops, this math skill expands to other areas of learning. For example, in language arts, a third grader learns to classify parts of speech: noun, verb, etc. And as important as this skill is, it is considered lower order thinking and concrete in nature.

As one’s cognitive structure becomes more complex, a higher form of thinking emerges, one educators strive to cultivate in each student – analytical reasoning. In this realm, well-developed problem solving skills in which analytical thought is employed take center stage. And it is through these thought processes, through these reasoning skills, that well-informed and articulate conclusions are birthed. Fostering these critical thinking skills within each student is every educator’s goal.

two girlsHowever, competing with this deep investigative and well-reasoned thought process is a herd-mentality in which students classify life by who can and who can not conform. In a culture where so much attention is placed on being “in” or “out,” “right” or “wrong,” etc., analytical skills lay dormant. And it is this silencing of original thought that plagues our playgrounds and the work place.

A new wave of perfected variation: Maybe it is time we celebrated our own individuality. Maybe it is time we yielded the floor to marvelous personal expression. And maybe, just maybe, it is time for all of us to set the example by shining a light on our own one-of-a-kind creative thought.

Let your light so shine before men …

The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5: Verse 16

– End –


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