Before I start opining, HAPPY NEW YEAR. How long is it going to take YOU to start writing 2009 on important documents?
Second, don't forget that book reviewer P.J. Coldren is my guest blogger on Wednesdays in January. She begins with a piece on judging for contests.
The subject that comes to mind this morning is personality. We all have one (although it's hard to see in some people), and it seems to be a mystery where it comes from. Why are some people shy? My roommate in college was a witty, clever conversationalist among two or three friends, but add more people and she clammed up completely. I know people who continue to look for good when everything in life tells them otherwise, and people who have every reason to be happy who aren't. So my decidedly unscientific theory is that we are born with a personality gene.
It's not all my creation. Research indicates that there are inborn tendencies that make us likely to be introverts or extroverts, fearful or confident, talkative or silent. There is also the Learning Styles research, which has shown that our brains are pre-programmed to like to learn in specific ways. For example, I am a verbal/linguistic learner with musical/rhythmic secondary tendencies. That means I did pretty well in school, because school is often centered on being able to listen to words and respond with words.
I propose that our brains also like to act on certain premises, and each person views the world in a certain way based on the brain's predisposition. It explains why one person may totally ignore a comment that another person takes as a deadly insult. It explains why some people can only see things from their own point of view while others can listen, reflect, and actually change their opinion.
Sure, we know that mentally disturbed people are often unable to process outside information, but I think it's a continuum. It isn't insanity, it's more a disability, like ADHD. Many can't look at the world in any way except their own. An acquaintance once told me quite seriously that he was shocked when, upon a death in the family, people at his workplace took up a collection to help him out. Being one who expects the world to be negative, he truly couldn't understand why people would be so nice (and truthfully, he wouldn't have been if it were the other way around). I saw into his mind for a moment, and it was like that block of information didn't fit in any of the holes where he stores things. It is probably still hanging there, outside his ability to fit it in.
As I reread this, I guess it's not a revelation that we're all different. It's just that in education we now take learning styles into account and plan lessons that cover the spectrum rather than just verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical learners. Maybe we should also consider personality styles, which may very well affect drastically what a person does, maybe even what he is able to do, with knowledge he acquires.