This week, we'll be exploring the second half of what makes kids drop out of school; dropping out of college. Do college drop outs always have personal problems like being unmotivated or unwilling to try? I think not. Moreover whose responsibility is it anyway, to make learning interesting? This week we'll look at how The Funnel of Specialization affects higher learning, as our weekly ongoing series on education and learning continues.
"Back to the Future"
This week, we'll be looking at the second half of the Funnel of Specialization. And at how the trend in early education, toward depersonalizing the learning process, reverses in college. We'll also be looking at how the rate at which kids drop out of school directly correlates to this over all trend. As well as at how Emergence Personality Theory correctly predicts this correlation.
Now for those who have not read last week's column (and for those unfamiliar with Emergence Personality Theory), let me briefly review the basics.
First, there is the idea that personality has a structure, a library of sorts within which we organize and store what happens to us in life. Unlike traditional library buildings though, this structure functions more like a series of ten "Russian Nesting Dolls," each of which resembles a layer in an onion. Or the ringed city walls in Plato's fabled map of the capitol of Atlantis, if this evokes a more vivid image.
Where exactly does this structure come from? Some of it emerges in the moment in which we are born, the first four Layers anyway. The remaining six Layers emerge in us, one Layer at a time, as we grow older.
Said in fancy words, the structure which houses the "library of our life experiences" emerges in us in a sequence of ten, holistically developmental, interactive layers, the first four of which appear at birth, and the rest of which develop over the course of our lives.
Of course, like all libraries, the point of this library is to store and organize "information." Thus, the second idea Emergence Personality Theory posits is that personality has a content which gets stored within this library structure.
What is this content then?
Essentially, it is a sort of ongoing personal life history which we keep revising and adding to. More important, rather than being a "literally true" history, these personal life histories very much resemble the degree of truth contained within the "histories" we learn in school. How so? Both are best seen as histories, "written by the winners." Which is to say, we base most of what we store in our personal life histories on whichever of our personal beliefs currently "win out."
And which beliefs usually win out? Whichever beliefs best match what we currently expect life to be.
Taken together then, while the structure which houses our inner library (the ten layers of the mind) continues to develop in response to our growing older, the content within this library (our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and ideas about what we think is historically true) is not necessarily developmental. Nor does it resemble anything like cause and effect sequences, despite what we like to think.
Most important, this content is not necessarily based on any literal truth. Although it can be. This means, while at times our personal "truth" may be close to a literal truth, more often, it is simply the way we explain life so as to make it feel safe and predictable.
The third idea then is what we might call, the "organizing principle," and this is the overall focus of the theory. In Emergence Personality Theory, the overall focus is on how personally or impersonally we experience life. Thus, as we begin life, we experience the world in highly "personal" ways. The older we get though, the more we tend to experience our world in increasingly less personal ways.
As adults then, while we occasionally long for the more intensely personal experiences we store in Layers 9 and 10 (e.g. spiritual experiences, like love and beauty), more often, we opt for the less intense and impersonal, zoned-out experiences we store in Layer 1 (e.g. vegging out on a couch). Or the beautifully logical, but cold and safely distant, head-with-feet views of life we store in Layer 2 (e.g. our political views on what's wrong with the world).
The key then to understanding the theory, and this article in particular, lies in noticing how I am using the word, "personal." I am using it as a way to refer to how "connected" we feel, as persons. To others. And to ourselves.
Here then is the main function of the ten layers of the mind. They organize and roughly separate the degrees to which we feel personally connected to each other. As well as how connected we feel to the world at large.
For instance, in the highly personal experiences of the Inner Layers, we feel very connected. Here we store things like watching babies be born and falling in love. And getting flowers. And playing with puppies. And sunny fall days spent with someone you're close to.
What makes us connect so well in these experiences? Mainly one thing. When we share intense experiences with so few people, we usually feel quite personally close to the people in them.
Contrast this then, with the highly impersonal experiences of the Outer Layers, wherein we store things like political associations and psychological beliefs; religious dogma and philosophical ideas. Here too, we may feel highly intense personal reactions. However, because these experiences refer to such large numbers of people, we usually do not feel personally connected to them, as we have no way in which to personally "connect" to all these folks let alone to know what it's like to be them.
At best then, in the Outer Layers, we connect to people only as some vague collection of faceless folk, a group of people whose beliefs roughly match our own. Or not. Moreover, the point here is that what we store in the Outer Layers involves too many people to connect to personally. At best then, we connect to a few of their more potent ideas, but rarely know much about them as people.
Now consider what I've just been saying. We use the ten layers of the mind to organize our life into a sequence of progressively less personal experiences. Thus, at the heart of these layers, we connect to God or god. Whereas the further out in the layers we go, the more disconnected we feel.
Can't we feel strong emotions though while talking about things like politics and religion? Of course. However, in the Emergence Personality Theory sense of the word "personal," things like politics and religion are very impersonal experiences. Why? Because the ideas, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs we store in the Outer Layers are what we see as we to watch people from a great distance. The "what would be good for society" distance. Or the "way life is" distance.
In essence then, because these experiences generalize the way we feel to such large groups of people, there is no way in which we can personally connect to any of these people. Which explain why we most often know so little about their personal lives. And why we so rarely feel connected to each other as individuals during these kinds of discussions, heated or otherwise. Other than in the "herd of individual lemmings running over a cliff" sense of connecting.
Contrast this with how it feels to be sitting around a camp fire with a few good friends. Or how it feels to share your deepest darkest childhood secrets when you've just fallen in love.
Like your feelings about politics and religion, these Inner Layer experiences often evoke powerful ideas, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. However, because they refer to so few people, we feel more personally connected to these people. And to the people with whom we share these experiences.
Perhaps the simplest way to say all this then; how Emergence Personality Theory organizes human personality, is to say that Emergence Personality Theory describes a continuum of life experiences which extend from the life experiences wherein we make people more important than information (our Inner Layer experiences), to the life experiences wherein we make information more important than people (our Outer Layer experiences). In between then are our Middle Layer experiences, wherein we make people and information equally important.
How does all this apply to the rate at which kids drop out of school? It turns out that the degree to which we feel motivated to stay in school and learn directly correlates to the degree to which we feel personally connected to those around us while we learn. No surprises here. However, restated, this means that if we are asked to learn too much information in school, this ruins our chances to connect to each other. School becomes too impersonal. Which then raises the chances we will drop out.
Given what I've just said about Emergence Personality Theory, this correlation is exactly what we would expect to find. We would expect to find that the more we make information more important than people, the higher the drop out rate will go. And visa versa. And this is exactly what does happen, based on a general overview of how curriculums develop between Pre-K and doctoral degrees.
This then is what these two funnels visually represent.
Now let's take a more detailed look at how these two funnels portray these correlations.
The Second Half of the Funnel of Specialization