Growth Mindset (Inspired by an AP Forum Post)

The Post a Student Wrote in the Forum:

Maybe we know that there is a power of sharing ideas and in our massive egos or our attention to the expectations and conventions of the world we live in, we obstruct the purity in our thoughts? Our thoughts are ghosts that we give bodies when we write them down and when we put our own selves into motion in order to give the words a place to breath. Are those greedy for power afraid that in sharing our common experiences, we might find a semblance of unity and shed blind following? Can we ever shed blind following or will we just transfer our faith or trust into the next person to come that we can deem as more pious or more of a rebel-someone more like who we want to be?

My Response:
Borges addresses this in his discussion of what it means to be a “good disciple:”

“…I have had many masters in my life. I am proud to be a disciple – a good disciple, I hope. And when I think of my father, when I think of the great Jewish-Spanish author Rafael Cansinos-Assens, when I think of Macedonio Fernandez, I would also like to hear their voices. And sometimes I train my voice into a trick of imitating their voices, in order that I may think as they would have thought. They are always around me.”

Such a happy little bit of irony – I am proud to be a disciple, because what does it mean to be a disciple but to humble yourself, to submit your “massive ego” so it doesn’t get in the way of your own growth. Borges writes that this allows him to train his voice to imitate the voices of those he admires so he may think as they would have thought – to escape his default modes of thinking and gain a different kind of perspective. To think from someone else’s point of view is to think in different words than you would yourself use; to think in different words is to think a different thought.

If you as a high school student can allow yourself the humility to question, to try on the thoughts of great masters – Marquez, Dostoevsky, Borges, Steinbeck, Woolf, just to mention the masters you’re encountering in these first three weeks of senior year – without feeling the pressure to assert a judgment; if you can allow yourself to listen to the way they give you a means of continuing a conversation, rather than closing the door on them when you turn your attention to Sophocles and Achebe, then you can be a good disciple, too.

The idea of “the purity in our thoughts” embraces a false choice – that thinking for yourself means coming up with an idea that is untainted by what others have thought. It carries in it an assumption that this whole dialogue business is nice and all, but its purpose is only to take us to an original expression. Similarly, the idea that following means blindly following taps into extremes. Consider your masters as tour guides on a loosely structured tour. You’re allowed to stop and linger for a while even after they have moved on, to have a discussion with a friend about an exhibit you find particularly fascinating. But don’t fret – you won’t get lost! – another guide speaking in another voice will bring another tour group your way, and you can just pick up on the conversation they’re having. And when you’re through with the tours in this particular place in May or June of CE 2016, you’ll be ready to hop on to a better class of tour in some other place. And so on.

Here are some videos on what is called the Growth Mindset. They might better explain what I mean.

Leave a Reply