A temperamental argument for political resentment
Continuing last week's discussion of psychological types, the book Please understand me also has some trenchant things to say about the educational system. Following on Carl Jung's four-dimension system, Kiersey and Bates condense it into four basic types, mixing in a bit of Hippocrates to get the "Dionysian", "Epimethian", "Promethian", and "Apollonian" temperaments. To be crudely brief, the Dionysian (SP) temperament is experiential, impulsive, and freedom-loving, the Epimethian (SJ) duty-bound and methodical, the Promethian (NT) intellectual, curious, and self-directed, the Apollonian (NF) imaginative and highly empathic. Schools tend to be run by and for the Epimethian type, and teachers have a rather hard time understanding students who do not obey directions, line up in rows, seek approval, and do their work on time- a description of the Epimethian temperament.
This regime serves the Dionysian type particularly poorly- the student who has to be active, who learns by doing and handling things, whose impulses must be obeyed and expressed, who, as the authors state, needs to "fly the plane, drive the truck, climb the mountain, toot the horn". These students lose interest quickly, tend to say to their neighbors in class that "this is stupid!", and run off to join the military right after high school, if indeed they make it through at all. They think about now much more than the future, and handle people, negotiations, and crises well. They make up over one-third of the population, and according to the authors are massively under-represented in higher education. Not because they are not intelligent, but because their style of learning is not suited to the dominanat style of teaching. One can easily make an evolutionary argument about this, but I'll pass on that now. Examples of this type, according to last week's political link, are John McCain and G. W. Bush- both impatient with abstractions, eager to mix it up, and who thrive on excitement and crisis.
Dionysians in our society live in a somewhat alien world that values abstraction and book learning, and many of whose ever-growing complexities are difficult to master in concrete, hands-on ways. Thus it seems that they are probable candidates for political resentment in US politics, forming a class of voters who resent the success of those who get the rewards of higher education purely because they can sit still, not because they are particularly bright- those who are the self-annointed elites, while it is the Dionysians who eagerly run the levers that actually make the world go around. Dionysians naturally appreciate leaders who, like them, denigrate pointy-headed pencil-pushers, and who "go with their gut" to make decisions.
One problem is that, while the Dionysian has just as much native intelligence as anyone, there really is a point to sitting down and hitting the books. Impatience with abstractions can be fatal if key aspects of the world are best understood on exactly that basis. Important concepts and processes really are imparted in the precincts of higher education, though making people better leaders or more compassionate or moral are certainly not among them. This is not an argument for sending more students to college (let alone treating hyperactive students with drugs!). Indeed proposals to send all high schoolers to college are dead-wrong, sure to waste the time of both students and teachers. It is an argument to value those with different skills and temperaments by beefing up alternative hands-on education systems like trade schools, internships, apprenticeships, arts schools, etc., so that each person can flourish in the most congenial and effective way.
One can take this kind of typology too far, and no person is a pure type let alone just a type, but it seems beneficial to realize that people are different in deep ways, to the extent that they can be almost mutually incomprehensible. Thus it can be helpful to have explicit descriptions for (and appreciation of) differences that I, for example, as an Epimethian, would otherwise be oblivious to.