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Still waiting for the hush to fall

Western business and professional culture, in its current state, favors the outspoken. Gregarious, loud and outgoing people who actively strive for leadership positions find their extroverted traits advantageous to social success. More often than not, the quiet archetype is a hindrance to reaching achievements of personal potential. Recently, this reality has been treated less like a matter of fact and more like a construct open for innovation.

Several prominent speakers and authors, such as Susan Cain and Jonathan Rauch, have begun to address the loss of creative potential that occurs when one communicative style dominates the social framework. The validity of this observation or its moral justness is not under review here. Extroverts: be mindful! Introverts: be advocates! Rather, I am questioning whether this climate should extend into the university environment.

Ultimately, academics should find a balance between providing a solace of scholarship in its most meaningful form, as well as preparing students for success in environments beyond those of pure erudition. Some courses will necessarily favor the extrovert, as many western professional environments do. The former, however, is the paramount and unique purview of academia and should compel the cultivation of an environment which respects intellectual expression from any communication style.

It is worth noting that the professional academic environment can be a comfortable fit for many introverts. As a student, however, falling within the same trope can prove a hindrance to success. Many grading systems favor the extrovert, who may easily take center stage in classroom discussions or opportunities to answer questions where speed or outspokenness matter more than the thoughtfulness of the answer. Ironically, a larger class can be conducive to introversive advancement; participation of every student, measured through clicker polling or frequent digitally collected feedback, allows introverts and extroverts equal space to express their capacity to engage the material.

In significant expanses elsewhere in the academic climate, however, depth of thought matters less than the behavior through which it is communicated. Several years navigating this system may result in a student’s adaptation to this environment, but what may be lost along the path to conformation within the constraints of extrovert-centricity? It is true and good that the academy should cultivate effective leaders. More deeply-rooted in this cultivation should be the fostering of thoughtful leaders of all intellectual processing styles and the conscious construction of an environment with space for fruitful discourse from all.

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