Revised Fall 2008
No two people are born exactly alike. Individuality is particualar qualities or interests that a person posses. These qualities or interests distinguish one individual from another. Individuality encourages creativity(#), increases happiness (2) and can make a person feel like they are leaving their own unique mark on the world. Individuality also helps develop the values of tolerance(#) and cooperation(#) in our communities.
What would the world be like if it suppressed individuality? Maybe something like Kim Jong Il's North Korea. Press outlets and broadcasters are all state controlled in North Korea, along with everything else. The only point of view you get in the news is that of the governments1.
There are a variety of subcultures in Billings that pride themselves on straying from the norm. When I was going to Senior High, the halls were lined with “Mansonites” - kind of an off-shoot of the goth scene. They were deemed this title for their fascination with shock rocker Marilyn Manson. Maybe more-so for what he represented: the outright rejection of what most kids found suppressing. Lips were painted black, hair could dyed jet black, blue, red, purple, in dreads, shaved.. You also had the punk straight-edgers who were proud of their abstinence from alcohol and drugs, their hands marked with black x's. Men could be seen in dresses, there were people with duct-taped shoes. My friend Rico had a uniform made up of a long green trench coat and a fedora both lined with safety pins. People just got creative and had fun. Subcultures can be a way for teens to break away from mainstream society, be introduced to new ways of thinking and start to form their own points of view.
You don't have to dress differently to be an individual. Every person has their own unique background and circumstances that make them who they are. It's just important that you acknowledge your own viewpoints as valid and do not give in to what the majority of society is subscribing to. Choose to take your own path and find where it leads to. Do not let other people make your choice for you. Learn to do what is right for you instead of what everyone else thinks is right for you. Individuality is more being true to yourself and not letting other people make decisions for you, whether it comes from the mass media, your family, society in general or even your own government.
School programs are very important as they can either help or hinder the development of our youth. Encouraging creativity by way of art classes and the funding of music programs would help individuality in our children. Many educators wish that we would go one step further and seek to reform our current educational system2. Kids need an outlet in which they can express themselves. How many people come away from school saying that it “put them in a box”? It is better for children to grow up with a strong sense of self than to be molded to some ideal. Having the requirements may be good fundamentals, but many students are forced to take a class to fill these requirements. Many take the lesser of two evils to fulfill the requirements placed on them. Expand the variety of classes available to the children so once they are out of school, they are able to make their own paths, not only choose one.
We can promote individuality by acknowledging the beauty(#) in our differences, encouraging creativity(#), building diverse communities(#) and by helping to develop a sense of self-awareness(#) in our children.