John Stuart Mill, in Chapter 3 of On Liberty, says individuality is needed for society to thrive. Though he advised that society strays from conformity over a century ago, his advice has still not been taken, leading to a major problem today in the 21st century. As opposed to every citizen attempting to match the majority, everyone should focus on their own individuality as a source of strength. He claims that society can only benefit if every individual is built upon, which can only be done by ignoring conformity and focusing on individuality. This concept is not widely accepted especially in society today, affecting many things including the education system.
The modern American education system is nearly entirely based on standardized assessments or quantitative data. While many high school students may spend their time and efforts focusing on special skills that may not exactly be in tune with the majority of others. If a high school student receives a lower ACT or SAT score, he or she may not get accepted to a respected university. That same student may have been technologically inclined providing critical thinking and reasoning skills that will certainly be beneficial to society in the long run. The individual skills of that student have the potential to form an enormous contribution to society, but because of widespread emphasis on conformity, that student cannot join the academic program he would like to. This is happening to millions of young adults in the United States of America. Because students are so stressed about traditional requirements for certain educational or employment opportunities, they are eventually becoming incapable of succeeding in the workplace. Students graduate top tier schools but lack essential skills needed to thrive in the fast paced economy of the 21st century.
From a personal perspective, as a first-year student applying to the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, I will shortly be going through an application process again. Looking at grade point average, extra-curricular activities, and essays, there are many aspects of a student’s life that will not be considered for admission. For example, one must know how to effectively communicate with others, especially in any field of business. An individual skill like this can be essential to success in the professional world, but can easily be overlooked by admissions directors at Ross. Though I am working hard to meet the fit that Ross normally accepts, I am discouraged by the fact that many of my personal strengths will be ignored by the admissions committee. If all the applicants aim to fit the conformist trend and strive solely for a strong GPA, the Business School will simply accept one type of student and let one type of student into the workforce. Though my long term goal may be to be a qualified employee, I still have to adapt to the majority’s skill set in an effort to obtain the opportunity to work in the business field.
Though I can only relate to the admissions process for the Ross School of Business, I am sure that this flaw in society affects many other graduate programs. Medical school may ignore the other personality traits that doctors need to thrive in their profession by solely focusing on standardized test scores and grades throughout college. Nearly every profession will be affected if conformity is favored. There will be little diversity in skills, strengths, and interests, affecting not only the educational institutions, but also society as a whole. For society to progress forward, Mill claims there must be originality brought forth by “freedom, and a variety of situations” (Mill). Individual specialties should be focused on as opposed to the strengths of the majority because not only will it provide knowledge for the conformists, but it will also bring originality and true genius to a world that needs to advance from the ground up.
Though one can certainly argue that there needs to be a method of standardization for application processes, there also should be more emphasis on uniqueness. Striking a balance in this case may be difficult, but the strong trend on conformity will lead to more competition, and less genuineness in the world, which will affect the arts, technology, as well as business. Mill’s political opinion needs to be enacted at a large scale through institutions of higher education as well as employment. If schools and companies being to look for unique qualities, they will come to see that many qualified applicants can bring success to their institution in numerous ways. In addition, it would provide motivation for students and prospective employees to focus on the distinct qualities that will allow them to contribute to society in a nonconformist manner.