I have a terrible tendency to be taken in by every kind of personality test or intelligence measurement imaginable. They are simply fascinating – seeing how specific they can get without blowing the whole thing by throwing in wildly inaccurate guesswork, comparing my own temperament to that of other people, trying to determine how smart I am, and so on. We did a lot of introspection on that sort of thing last semester in my education classes, and I was completely hooked for probably a week. I think I usually ended up as the scientist-inventor-discoverer-artist type, with which I was both pleased and perplexed, because I’ve never had much of an impulse to discover or invent anything in particular, though that would be a cool sort of thing to do. Actually, as I was trying to remember what it was that has me so absorbed, I went to look up personality and temperament sorters about an hour ago, and didn’t come back until I had looked much of it up all over again (should you care to know, I tested as an INTJ personality, who is supposed to be good at figuring stuff out, especially complex intellectual problems). It’s like a kind of mild addiction.
Probably we’re all like this in one way or another – curious about how we’re different than most of the population, wanting to know how we might each be able to distinguish ourselves. With those same questions at mind, I went about trying to understand what kind of person I am last Fall and Spring, both by introspection and asking around among people I know. I got some rather perplexing answers – a physicist, an engineer, a computer programmer, a book editor. A tinkerer, a builder of systems. Odd, because other than editing, I’ve never had any particular inclination toward any of those things, though I don’t suppose I’d be bad at them, should the need arise to go into any of the above fields.
The question of temperament also rubs up against another question – one of intelligence. Our society is far to quick to test children for intelligence, forgetting that it can often do as much harm as good. We’re perpetually testing ourselves against each other anyway – what benefit is gained by adding IQs into the equation? In my case, I was homeschooled by parents with similar intellectual interests, and always read pretty good books, so the question didn’t come up in any force for quite a long time. Then I went to college, where many of my education classes were rather silly, and made friends with a fellow who had been trained from when he was a little child to consider intelligence as highly important, by the mess that is our public school gifted, talented, and honors programs. Yeah, I guess I’m pretty smart, but that’s not much of an issue when you’re spending most of your time reading classic novels and making quilts. Especially the latter occupation. And when you’re homeschooled you can’t go constantly comparing your own ability to learn stuff to others even if you want to, because everyone is learning different things at different times. So unless a person has a serious disability, or an amazing capacity for something, we mostly just are what we are, and go forward or fall behind according to how much we apply ourselves to our studies. Or at least that was my experience.
So there are, it turns out, all these interesting things to observe about oneself, and some of them are kind of exciting, like that other people see that I may be smart, or creative, or whatever. And so part of me is eating all this up, and wants to find out as much as possible about it all, and perhaps go off and become a scientist or some such, and perhaps be congratulated on being smart and competent. Then there’s this other part of me that’s worried the whole time that I’m going to end up puffed up like a souffle, and completely self-absorbed, and says that I should run away as soon as possible and never enquire into any IQ tests, temperament sorters, or anything of the kind ever again, because pride is tenacious enough anyway, and it certainly doesn’t need yet more warm fuzzies to feed itself on. And besides, it’s oh so tempting to say to oneself that it’s really alright to have all sorts of bad habits, like chronic procrastination, because that’s just a temperament thing, and cannot be helped. So most of the time the two sides strike a compromise, and just ignore the matter, hoping that it will go away at least until I have some more wisdom.
Into that uneasy truce came a demand, repeated over an entire semester, to reflect on what the College of Education calls Dispositions. A more balanced person would probably just answer the questions as they were posed to the best of their ability at the time, and move on with life. Not being particularly balanced, however, I applied my full attention to each question as well as all of its possible implications, and every detectible error of meaning or English convention. The result was quite terrible as self-reflections, because the balance between personality related introspection and the desire to avoid thinking about my own abilities had by no means been resolved, and I couldn’t figure out whether to take seriously any of the gibberish staring at my from my disposition self-analysis sheets.
Some of them were simply things that I didn’t know the answer to, like my social and emotional intelligence, while the rest were thing I didn’t yet know how to think about or made more complicated than necessary, like initiative or creativity. Bullet points such as “developing innovative pedagogical approaches” were especially unhelpful in that regard. Hence, I was miserable at the very thought of writing up a response, and blathered inexcusably when each installment of that response was finally due.
A page from my academic history.