Ok, I decided to take a break from creative writings today, which I’ve been on a bit of a roll with. The other day, I had a class where we had a guest speaker named Dr. Jawaharlal come to talk about the social aspects of Engineering (the class is closer to liberal arts than “pure science”), and he brought up some issues that I have already talked about at length, but he got me thinking more deeply about Nature and Nurture. Now, I’ve always been pretty far on the side of Nurture as being the key aspect in development of thought, and for the most part Dr. Jawaharlal agreed with that. He used the term “social background,” which I think is quite fitting in many ways.
That being said, he was talking about how a person’s background is the main reason they do not succeed in certain areas. For example, at a young age girls are told—directly or indirectly—that they are not supposed to be good at math. Even unintentionally, people are pigeonholed to think they cannot or should not do something. Take genetics, I’m sure someone has heard the phrase “I don’t know where she/he get’s that from. It’s not from me, and it’s not from his/her mother/father.” Isn’t that somehow negative? Well, Dr. Jawaharlal went a little further, and said that this is creating an expectation within someone that they should not be able to do this, and therefore they are less likely to choose a path that takes that. Through the trends of this, less women are pushed into STEM areas (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Now this is a pretty smart engineer—he’s currently working on biomimicry, which is creating technology that is based off processes in nature so as to reduce waste produced by modern technology.
That aside, his idea of a social background got me thinking that nurture is more than just our environment around us, but also ourselves. Think about it, if you tell yourself “I can do this” a thousand times per day, won’t you eventually succeed? What if you told yourself every day for 10 years “I can’t ride a bike.” When you get on that bike, do you think you will be able to do it? Would you even get on the bike? So apply the same logic to math. And sure, it is easy to write this off by saying “well, that’s their personal error. They should be able to drone out the voices of others and be more positive.” But that’s hard to do in reality.
I know there is a term for this; it is called internalization, which means you take something to heart from outside. The psychology idea is a self-fulfilling prophecy (sort of). Yet neither of these ideas have an answer for how to fix it. At least, that’s not what is taught in classes. Problems without solutions. The answer is simple in reality—don’t put people down like this. Think before you speak. That doesn’t just mean figure out what you are saying, but also figure out how they will impact the people around you. There’s a huge difference between “you suck at that” and “you could do better at that.”
*Once again, I do not own this image. It is from the University of Surrey website.