The Allergy to Conform

Every child is like a single piece of tree. They each serve a purpose in their own unique way. Just as each tree matures at different time, a child will also mature when she is ready.

More often than not, a child who is mature enough and ready to take on the world, her vision is conflicted with that of her parents’ imagination. Because this is, indeed, the gift of parenting.

A parent had asked my opinion regarding one “famous school” in Shanghai. While I will always stand by my position regarding the fragility of the education system, I told her that any school is sufficient enough to teach students how to do well while they’re enrolled in the institution, but, as with any school, it does a poor job in teaching important things that will be needed after they are finished with.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize what children are learning today is the same as what kids were learning thirty or forty years ago. Some schools do offer slightly modified courses, otherwise, they’d have no reason to profit from you. The truth is, what schools are teaching today has no relevance whatsoever with what young people will do in the future.

“I think if someone knows what they want to do,” I said, “which school they attend doesn’t really matter at all.” Most of the time, people have no clue, so they follow the “famous school” dictum. But even if you do know, will you realize it, and make that your life mission?

Why do we follow other people? Even though it seems clear the consensus is wrong, yet, we still do it. Why?

It always fascinates me to hear the different point of views from a few intelligent children regarding this matter.

One said, “We really don’t have a choice in China. We usually follow other people.”

“I would do both, what I want to do, and follow other people at the same time,” said another. This puzzled me. Aren’t time and energy finite resources?

It doesn’t matter what the majority thinks. What’s important is what led them to the idea. The consensus is determined by facts, ignorance of facts, various experiences, circus of biases, degree of prejudices, and so on.

The bottom line: don’t merely agree with something because everybody thinks it’s right.

The other day I saw someone posted on social media captioned: “Culture is like a smog. To live within it, you must breathe some of it in and, inevitably, be contaminated.”

While its quality may be in accord with the familiar axiom: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” given my nature, I would be skeptical.

The majority would agree that it’s good to follow the traditional customs and decency of country where they choose to live. But, do you care if what you’re doing makes you confused, anxious, worried, brutal, or even violent?

It is always handy to remind ourselves whenever we encounter conflict between the consensus and our own thoughts by asking: Why do you imitate others?

Many people are still bound by tradition. When the elder generation says "no" to something, then the present-day people will strongly disapprove of it as well. If the elders say that something is wrong, then they also will believe that it is wrong. They seldom use their mind to seek the truth and seldom express sincerely their genuine feeling. The simple truth is that tradition is nothing more than a "formula" laid down by these elder people's experience. As we progress and time changes, it is necessary to reform this formula.