Conformity vs. Individualism

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While we give out plenty of summarised articles,  we also understand that our students are sometimes overburdened by the sheer amount of reading articles (i.e newspaper cut-outs, selected magazine pieces etc) especially for the General Paper. So we do provide content knowledge in the form of bullet points. Not always the best way to nurture critical thinking but students sometimes just need brief notes to help them study for certain issues.

Lessons would then be used to substantiate and clarify the points for a fuller understanding and to equip them with examples to drive the argument.

In this case, we can look at is the not very popular issue of Conformity vs Individualism. This appears in questions such as “Should schools promote conformity?”, “Individualism not conformity is good for the society”, “Is conformity never to to be encouraged?” and so on.

In a nutshell, some key points students can raise include:

  1. First define what conformity means and what areas will it apply to. A low level argument or D grade essay would be to argue about the impact of conformity in fashion, design or consumer choice. These are valid but lack the depth and macro perspective needed for higher grade essays.
    A better argument would include social values, personal enterprise, societal needs and even politics-based considerations.
  2. Criticisms against conformity would include:
    a) A reflection of the needs and challenges of modern times – creativity and dynamism is more appreciated. Entrepreneurial skills are encouraged. Arguably, conformism, where one is encouraged to follow the crowd or is fearful to be different, stunts the development of these necessary qualities.  An A-grade essay would not just discuss the ill effects of conformity but would stress why it is especially harmful or undesirable given today’s context or ‘your society’.b) A discussion how the majority is not always right. How following the majority can lead to horrific decisions committed en mass. Students would need to provide examples to substantiate this point. It can be further developed on how much change in the world happened when an individual or groups of individuals challenged the status quo or to overturn the current zeitgeist.c) Too much conformity is dehumanising. Students would need to explore the meaning of life or what it means to be human. Students have to explore the ramifications or consequences or living in a society where we are torced to suppress our quirks, go against our instincts or blindly follow hierachy and protocol. Is such an existence meaningful? Do the needs of the community outweigh the needs of the individual?d) Lastly, conformity might lead to  . .  . [truncated. filed under GP notes – Misc questions]
  3. So at this point the student might then discuss the benefits of Individualism. Points would include:
    a) A respect of individualism and encouragement of independent thought is healthy in society. In addition to the previously mentioned benefit, such individuals can act as a check against questionable values or by playing devil’s advocate, promote a spirit of inquiry and critical thought. Examples would include . . .b) Individualim is essential for growth and development of both the community and the individual.
    . . .However, students might also want to consider than an overemphasis on individualism without considering the context of your environment is also inherently bad. Selfish Individualism emphasises self before others. It’s about imposing one’s ideas or actions without due consideration on their impact. Individuals have the right to express themselves, the right to their own beliefs, but a sensible student would address how such freedom must be used appropriately. Sometimes, compromises must be reached.
    This level of nuancing would help differentiate an A essay from a B essay.The rest of the notes will cover how to organise the rebuttals and structure the points to create a coherent essay.

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