February 8, 2009

Where Are All the Rationals?

Some students want to be engineers. Some want to be computer programmers. Some students want to be researchers, scientists, business strategists, professors, judges, economists, pilots, inventors, writers, and financial planners. Unfortunately, these students have very few, if any, role models in the public school system.

David Keirsey believed that personalities could be placed into four large categories: guardians, idealists, artisans, and rationals.

Artisans are observant and pragmatic. Their greatest strength is tactical variation. Their most developed intelligence operations is either expediting or improvising.

Guardians are observant and cooperative. Guardians seek membership or belonging and are concerned with responsibility and duty. Their greatest strength is logistical intelligence. They excel at organizing, facilitating, checking, and supporting.

Idealists are introspective and cooperative. Idealists seek meaning and significance and are concerned with finding their own unique identity. Their greatest strength is diplomatic intelligence. They excel at clarifying, unifying, individualizing, and inspiring.

Rationals are introspective and pragmatic. Rationals seek mastery, and self-control and are concerned with their own knowledge and competence. Their greatest strength is strategic intelligence. They excel in any kind of logical investigation such as engineering, conceptualizing, theorizing, and coordinating.

Without a doubt, most teachers are Guardians or Idealists. A few are Artisans. Very rarely will you find a K-12 educator who is a Rational. In fact, Rationals make up only 5% - 10% of the entire population, and these people almost never choose K-12 education as a career.

All Rationals share the following core characteristics:
  • Rationals tend to be pragmatic, skeptical, self-contained, and focused on problem-solving and systems analysis.
  • Rationals pride themselves on being ingenious, independent, and strong willed.
  • Rationals make reasonable mates, individualizing parents, and strategic leaders.
  • Rationals are even-tempered, they trust logic, yearn for achievement, seek knowledge, prize technology, and dream of understanding how the world works.

Rationals are rare, but we do have Rational students in our schools. They are an underserved population. These kids go to school and are a taught by adults whose personalities are completely different from their own. Most teachers don't understand their mindset, and I've seen students become visibly frustrated about this. Almost all teachers are "people people" with little interest in technical or theoretical pursuits. On the whole, I'd have to say that this is a good thing, even for the Rational students. But it's true that these students have hopes and dreams and ways of thinking that none of their teachers can remotely relate to. They pick up on that.

Before you send me any hate mail, I do want to say this. It's vitally important for a school to have a wide variety of personalities on its teaching force. We need Guardians, Idealists, and Artisans. Homogeneity is boring and dangerous, and it's not a very good way to educate kids or open minds. It's important that all students, regardless of their personalities, have someone they can relate to. It's also important that kids be exposed to personality types other than their own.

Teachers should have awareness about this though. We're all trained on how to handle individual differences among students. In college and during workshops, we're trained how to work with ELL, ADD, EBD, learning disabilities, gifted & talented, medical conditions, GLBT, different races and ethnicities, different religions, SES, the list goes on and on. Why aren't we given training on personality types? I don't mean to suggest that Rationals face the same kind of challenges as ELL or GLBT students, but they do deserve more attention than they're getting.

Keirsey's four temperaments are closely associated with the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator. This instrument has received criticism from social scientists, and the Big Five Personality Traits is widely considered to be a much better theory. While the MBTI may not be a totally accurate model of reality, it is accurate enough for the point I'm trying to make here, which is that there is a slight mismatch between teacher personalities and student personalities.

P.S. Brent Spiner is an amazing actor.

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