Monday, January 23, 2006

self-confidence and education

This week we'll have the first neuroscience recruits come visit Penn again. I like the US system a lot where the university actually invites prospective grad students to visit, and interviews with them. This is not only for the university as a means for selection but also to try to lure the student into studying at the university. Letting the student know in this way that she/he is valued creates a lot of confidence in them; it makes them feel more valued and accepted. This is very important in a time where students are so focused on performance and academic results that they often feel very insecure.

Sogyal Rinpoche teaches that often we are so insecure because we feel that the love we received as a child was always conditional, conditional upon being "good", having good results in school, in sports, in whatever we did. If we could only just remember that no matter what, we can always connect with the gigantic store of love that is somewhere within all of us, that Buddhists call the buddha nature, then we can become so much more confident!

So, both encouraging not to rely too much on achievement for self-confidence, as well as a supportive environment in which the person feels respected are important principles in education.


Floris van Vugt said...

Oscar Wilde said: "I never let schooling interfere with my education."

It has sometimes been suggested an institutional education could be counterproductive to the learning of the individual since standards of, to give it a capitalistic name, productivity are imposed on the students and hence their activities spring from the desire to reach up to that point instead of to satisfy their inner longing for knowledge. The thought struck me that perhaps the effectiveness of the giving of trust to a student, as you described, is due to this phenomenon.

Marieke van Vugt said...

I like your always counter-comments ;-) Maybe formal education does make us behave like in a rat race (especially pre-meds, whom I see a lot around when I have just graded my exams ;( ), but they also make us move on. I think the one who is able to learn on his own is lucky, but a lot of people need some pressure and pushing in order to actually get to study something (which is the reason that people have to take classes instead of simply reading the books on their own). It would be awesome if students could simply be left to learn on their own, exploring as it were, but many people would then not have enough incentive to do anything at all, even though it would have the advantage of not creating a sense of failure in them either that results from not being able to live up to arbitrary productivity standards. I guess there are many ways to learn...