Cultivating an Inclusive Mindset

The Principle: Young minds often form worldviews tainted by the need for uniformity. This herd-mentality originates from a tendency to compartmentalize thought, a lower order thinking skill. As one’s cognitive structure becomes more complex, analytical thinking emerges. It is through this critical – higher order – thinking skill that an inclusive mindset is formed.

Part One

Everyone loves a good makeover story. Ugly duckling becomes beautiful swan. Shy teen becomes popular after mall extravaganza. But can an emphasis on physical and behavioral sameness hinder the development of an inclusive mindset?

two girls

Young minds often form worldviews tainted by this need for uniformity. Walk into any elementary school classroom to see the effect of this societal trend. Even children in kindergarten are conscious of sameness. 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 an emphasis on cultural sameness, many young children may never know what it feels like to fit in. In this context, personal expression becomes a societal offence.

What can we do to help our children establish a more inclusive and accepting mindset?

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.

Yet, when deep investigative and well-reasoned thought is displaced by the need for uniformity, an inclusive mindset and original thought are silenced.

Part Two

When a scientist combines mercury with another metal, the two metals are amalgamated to form an alloy – a substance lacking purity. This same process occurs when a person’s individuality is put under pressure and forced to combine with the dictates of a – lower order thinking – uniformity mindset. The result is a personality lacking purity.

A HYCL Team Member’s Account:

I once saw this transformation consume a young friend of the family. This teen was full of spirit, bright, witty, funny, kind. Life simply emanated from her impulsive frame. After she graduated from high school we moved to another state and I did not see her for several years. When a family event led us back to the area, I met this remarkable young woman again.

To my dismay, gone was her animated expression. Gone was every hint of emotion. Gone was the gleam in her eye. Instead, every mannerism was planned, every movement purposely deliberate. Even her conversation was scripted. She had been professionally “polished.” Perhaps “finished” is a better term. Missing from her finishing school persona was the light in her eyes. For her light had not only been dimmed, the flame had been extinguished. Whatever school had done to her, she had been amalgamated, for sure, and it broke my heart.

Every day we are surrounded by people who have been amalgamated into something they were never meant to be. Life’s pressures can force a melding of spirit and fear. Of spirit and anger. Of spirit and disappointment. Under the pressures and demands of life, we all become amalgamated to some degree.

What better way to teach our children inclusiveness than by experiencing the joy of true expression. To eliminate the compromise that accompanies a sameness-worldview. Set your child free. Give him permission to stand tall, separate, and magnificent. Celebrate every child’s individuality by fostering analytical thought – a higher order thinking skill.  Before the world has a chance to dim the flame, allow your child to emerge from an amalgamated state. The purity of who he really is will emerge and sweeten the world around him. Free of pressure. Free of conformity. Free to live.

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