Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Big IDea

Whose Intelligence? Whose Design?

Polls are showing large or majority preference for the teaching of creationism or its current iteration, “intelligent design,” alongside the theory of evolution. However good this proposal, problems remain. Given that the presumption on teaching intends the public schools, the first question becomes, where in the curricula?

Popular understanding sees creationism (the act of God as creator) as the explanation for the natural order. Creationism accepts that species have always existed as they are at present and that the Biblical record is inerrant and sufficient on the subject. Intelligent design offers that though it took ages to get to the present state of existence, current species are too complex to be explainable by the accidents of adaptation and natural selection. This complexity requires, therefore, the originating agency of intelligence at work in the universe. Creationists and design theorists do not necessarily agree on the issue.

Likely, the proponents of side by side teaching would like these subjects taught in science classes. To do this requires the application of scientific principles to the discussion. Science is based on theories that must explain existing observation and data and be subject to publicly verifiable tests of evidence, experiment, prediction and disconfirmation. Creationism and intelligent design cannot hold up to scientific requirements because they argue from revelatory authority and conjectural inference that do not account for all the evidence except in dismissive ways. Put the duo to the test in science classes, and they would not hold up. Do their proponents want that? Public school science classes are inappropriate venues for topics that are not scientific. Of course, we could radically alter the basis of what constitutes science.

Another possibility for teaching creationism and design theory is in some social studies or history class where students explore the function and effect of ideas in civilization. This approach is certainly preferable to science classes, because here the particular requirements of science give way to how ideas stand and have stood through time on their own. Such ideas do not have to be valid, just widely and long held. Ideas of a Creator or of a Design Agent are of long standing, and here the tests are ones of reason and the rules of logic while the evidence is the effect or consequence that such ideas have in practice. Unfortunately, since the enlightenment period, these ideas have not fared well under examination.

Bishop Butler in The Analogy of Religion (1736) casts doubt on the assumption that the God known through nature can necessarily be the same God known through revelation. David Hume in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (posthumous, 1779) questions how things in the world can be comparable to the world as a whole; logic stretches beyond its bounds when one of the things to be compared is beyond the world. Immanuel Kant found in The Critique of Pure Reason (2nd ed., 1787) that the argument cannot lead to a theologically significant conclusion about God since the attributes of God are beyond causation. These are some of the major intellectual difficulties to overcome. Do the proponents of creationism and design want to come up against such critiques where they would not always fare well? Nevertheless, this approach to the origin alternatives seems a welcome way to explore the character and roots of modernity. Of course, we could otherwise radically alter the basis of what constitutes logic and reason.

Perhaps, the best place to teach these various views is in a world religions class since creationism and design agency are basically religious ideas if not phenomenological ones. Sadly, few schools have world religion classes, but this issue might be just the motivation our educational system needs to make comparative religion more widespread. Here tests for relevancy, coherence and consistency exist, but on the surface anyone’s claim to revelatory authority is potentially as good as anyone else’s claim. Creationism and intelligent design (to the extent it is religious) would have a level playing field. Put them alongside the variants in creation mythology from all times and all places and let them rub shoulders with the creation stories in Animism, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Native American beliefs, Islam and whatever others are out there. Presumably creationists and design theorists would welcome this approach since one of the talking points for alongside studies is that it is good to consider alternative ideas.

Further, this approach also encompasses the varieties of Christian doctrine and teaching. Encounter a little Martin Luther or others among the reformers and soon discover that one of their reforms was to clear away the dominance of Aristotle (Metaphysics, Physics and Ethics) and the scholastics (Peter Lombard’s Sentences) from medieval theology and get to the scriptural root of the faith. They taught that we don’t need argument to find God; rather, God finds us through the intervention of the Holy Spirit. We do not see God because we first find a creator; rather, through God’s gracious action, the divine finds us, and therefore we see God as the providential author of all things. This alternative takes the security of faith away from dependency on good argument for, instead, faith in faith alone. What a happy resolution exists amid the whole confrontation between created nature and its evolution!

Because wide availability of religion courses remains unlikely, school children and their parents can pursue the side by side examination through study and reading. Good and wide reading sets up a useful dialogue within oneself, however neglected that process may be in practice. Where Darwin is the target, how many opponents have read his books and those of his successors? How many proponents have read them?

Alas, whenever the common aim is to prove the credibility of creationism and intelligent design against either science, reasonable thought, or sound belief, these ideas will always have a tough time. What merit creationism and design theory may have, they must win in the professional areas among scientists, philosophers and theologians before they become welcome and widespread subject matter in public schools.

When ideas cannot win out in the long run, they have to be propelled by political force or unexamined indoctrination. That, too, is an option, but certainly not a happy one in a democracy where harmless actions are to be the result of self-examination, scrupulous knowledge and not wish fulfillment.
Roger Sween advocates the wary examination of received ideas by rigorous exploration of our cultural heritage through continuous, self-directed learning. For twenty years he repesented the Minnesota Association for Continuing Adult Education on the Board of the Minnesota Coalition for Intellectual Freedom and maintains a large library to support his research and writing, a library that ‘has something to offend everyone.’

© 2005, 2009 by Roger Sween.

First published in The Carp #11 (2005), and here slightly revised, the article was written at a time when Intelligent Design was a strong force and even the President of the United States was saying school children should be allowed to consider the merits of the idea along side biological evolution in science classes. Though the ID proponents promised not to go away when they lost a court case, mass publicity attendant on them has disintegrated. Nevertheless, the ID and similar arguments on the appearance of species will continue to face the same arguments perilous to them as outlined above.

I invite substantive comment on the contents of this blog. Personal comments may be made to me at my email address,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Learn Up Close

We learn where we are.

Distance learning as an expression is a misnomer and by those words faulty in concept. Learning takes place immediate to learners, not distant from them. What the expression actually intends and ought to state instead is, learning at a distance from the originating resource.

In reality, “learning at a distance” has existed since the dawn of history when scribes first created writing and sent written knowledge down the street, over land and over sea. We can study the thinking of the pre-Socratics, dead for more than 2500 years and living then thousands of miles away. Contrary to some bit of techno-prejudice, we have not thought all these years of that study in its reach beyond time and space as “distance learning,” merely as learning.

The expression “distance learning” is one more insidiously pervasive example that the institutionalized dispenser of education whether school, teacher or other agency is superior to the individual learner without whom no learning is possible. A more exact term is distance education; that is, educational content provided to remote but connected learners by using some form of technology.

Distance education is the terminology used by such reference sources as the online EBSCO MegaFILE to article texts on the subject – 2,778 of them as of this date. The Library of Congress and all the world’s libraries that follow LC’s thesaurus of subject headings as a standard also employ distance education as the established term. You can Google “distance learning” in Wikipedia and the article you turn up is headed “distance education,” brought to you by automatic referral from the common, but flawed misnomer. For a recent update, see the text Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (4th ed., 2009).

No doubt, “distance learning” is amok in current popular and professional use. One professional organization, “if your work involves helping people learn wherever they may be,” is United States Distance Learning Association. The Center for Distance Learning, affiliated with the City Colleges of Chicago offers 90 courses in a wide range of disciplines. The Center for Distance Learning Research at Texas A&M University has existed since 1991. Presumably, the term is not widely questioned and unlikely to go away very soon.

Distance education as we know it today is an outgrowth of correspondence courses, the first on record having originated in 1728 as a method of teaching short hand with delivery by mail. With new technologies, especially electronic ones – radio, television, and computers – educators have adapted each to enrolling students and classes at a distance from the teacher. Now whole schools operate online and the Minnesota State College and Universities, the state’s public higher education system outside the University of Minnesota, has announced its aim of delivering 25% of its classes by distance education.

Of course, being in a class online, however valuable, fails equivalence to being in a class face to face. Asynchronous participation replaces simultaneity: students reply to one another through postings, not interactive conversations. Though formats vary, classes brought together online require time shifting and likely a greater commitment to pay attention to all the other participants, not just those who participate in the limits of class time. As participation levels increase, in part due to individualization and the comfort of greater anonymity, students can demand in total far more effort from the teacher. These burdens lead to how courses are structured and what is required.

Students will discover what suits their lives, schedules and psyches. They ought also attend to what satisfies their need and desire to learn. The learning counts most of all, not the distance or the technological abolition of distance.
© 2008, 2009 by Roger Sween.

This article first appeared on the writing platform and is here revised.

I welcome substantive comments on the content of this blog. Personal comments may be made to me at my email address,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Reading Life

Required Reading?

Actually, it only makes lasting sense to require reading of ourselves.

Of course, secondary schools and institutions of higher learning do require off-term reading when it suits their purposes and they find value in it. Students, enrolled in these institutions or such programs as honors, independent study, or advanced placement would know in advance and willingly embrace the requirements to read. The question is whether all learning institutions ought to require collateral reading. Practically, not all can; a reading requirement will not fit all purposes. But I will say, schools of any sort should expect their students to be readers and therefore encourage them in the reading life.

At basis, reading is a desirable skill, but that skill is varied. How we employ reading depends upon what we mean by it. Reading Wikipedia articles is one thing; reading War and Peace another. Reading, we should realize, is developmental; that is, we improve our reading ability and range of reading skills by reading. Yet, we leave to each individual learner to pursue the skills they identify as needed to succeed in life and those that they most cherish as enjoyable, enlightening, and meaningful to their psyches. From a humanistic point of view, reading energizes and furnishes the whole person and to read at the widest range is the ultimate practice of the learning life.

Success in reading may be defined as not only the ability to decode text, but the habit of using reading to continue reaching out to knowledge and experience through reading. As with my parents, one read mostly novels, about two a week most of her 90-year reading life, the other read primarily newspapers and magazines, but daily. Both were “well read” in their own terms, the book reader less outreaching than the reader of periodicals.

Someone once said, if you want to be a reader, chose grandparents that are readers. Many of us can credit the reading of family members to our own enjoyment and habits of reading. In my own study of hundreds of biographies to discover successful readers, I found the family example can help but does not even have the same influence on all brothers and sisters. Highly successful readers like the innovative travel writer Bruce Chatwin or the photographer Diane Arbus and poet Howard Nemerov, sister and brother, all became successful in spite of their parental examples. Reading often seems a highly personal phenomenon, one likely more suited to certain psyches and lifestyle preferences than to sheer ability.

For the successful reader in ability and habit, the ideal learning environment would be a broadly-stocked library with a few tutorial asides. Teachers, well-read themselves, would question, challenge, mentor and suggest connections to the readers they tutored. Readers would gather with one another under a tutor’s facilitation to probe questions and exchange thinking based upon the reading they had made their own.

Why is it then that though not all schools and colleges require collateral reading when almost all require attendance at lectures? Universities began in the days when books were expensive and rare. With the invention of movable type and commercial printing, the cost of books and other texts has fallen. Why then has the lecture system proliferated? Does the expansive lecture tradition mean that reading as the flexible and individualized vehicle to learning is for those few willing to do the work of reading? Reading is, after all, work.

Reading takes time. Since we all have the same 24 hours a day, reading time means scheduled time. The problem is not that we are busy; we can all be busy and most are. The question becomes busy at what. We choose to read by scheduling time to read which means giving up something else, often something distracting from the necessities of self-development and learning. For this reason, most readers will read by choice, not by requirement, and the poverty of contemporary life is not the inability to read but the refusal to follow through on the ability one has.

So read. Besides, you might as well be discriminating. Over 60 million books have been published since the invention of movable type.

© 2008, 2009 by Roger Sween.

This piece first appeared on in answer to the question, “Should Colleges Require Outside Reading of their Students?” I have broadened the response in this revision.

I welcome substantive comments on the contents of this blog. Personal comments may be made to me at my email address,

Thursday, February 12, 2009

To Know, Learn

Link Education, Learning & Knowledge.

The ability to continue learning, begun through education, leads us on to the knowledge that we most dearly need.

Education, too often conflated with learning, is the process of moving each learner to greater knowledge and ability. The education process, begins as soon as a child is present, but does depend upon a rudimentary sensate ability to learn and continued willingness to learn, or assent. Educators are those who expose learning situations to a learner. Though perpetually thought of as teachers in schools or other formal settings, educators may also be others who operate with various intents and levels of explicitness. Educators typically include parents and other relatives, various professionals besides teachers, especially clergy, the communications media allowed or followed and later sought, and one’s peers that in time become all other personal contacts.

Learning is most dependent upon education in its early stages, but learners at all stages must assent to what is being presented otherwise what is intended in education is not learned. Learning, in time takes over from education, and thereby self-directed learners become their own teachers, which opportunity they may perform well or poorly. Learners may also learn from their own thinking by post-operative examination of what they have previously learned.

The processes of education that adhere in all societies tend to become institutionalized in rituals, programs, schools, libraries, museums and other agencies. We think of schools as most prominently established and central to education. Schools, largely through teaching or instruction, aim to impart a common base of knowledge, regarded as most relevant to the society. Hopefully, schools also purposefully embed that content with the process of learning how to learn. In this manner, educators eventually make themselves unnecessary when the learners in their charge have gained mastery and can go on to the next level of education or unto learning on their own. Successful teachers put themselves out of business, except than another wave of ignorance is due to follow those who move onward to further stage teachers and their own direction.

Accessible knowledge consists of what all minds know together with what anyone has known and recorded where those records still exist. Knowledge, also said to exist in full form in the mind of God, is another delightful possibility but outside the scope of this article. Thus in human terms, knowledge is both personal and immediate, but relatively limited, while knowledge beyond the personal is vast and of long duration. Over history, various people reputedly have known everything about everything, a limited possibility. What historians meant by the expression is that the learned had knowledge of what could be conceptualized and categorized into subject disciplines. According to this latter meaning, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, 1646-1716, receives credit for being the last person to know everything that a human could know. Since then knowledge has expanded with increasing velocity, and try as we might no one can know but a part of it all. Rather, we can know about a great deal.

Knowing everything, certainly, is not our real problem as we live our lives. Our problem, and still a challenging one, is to gain and maintain sufficient knowledge so that we can live humanely and well, fulfill our responsibilities, and enjoy the benefits of civilization.

Thus, education starts us on the path of learning by which we are equipped to gain knowledge and the abilities attendant to knowledge throughout our lives. Learning becomes a lifelong endeavor for a number of reasons. The more we learn, the more we realize the limits of our knowledge and the immensity of our ignorance. Knowledge continues to advance through discovery, new activity around the world, and reformulation of prior knowledge; therefore, matters we once knew no longer fit present reality as currently understood. Just as researchers and thinkers discover they have been in error or mistaken, we can admit our own failings, and must replace discredited knowledge with new information. Alas, we have a great tendency over time to forget or misremember what we once knew or thought we knew. The joy of learning is also a powerful stimulus, beyond any utility.

Chiefly, however, we need to learn because, as humans, we are the chief actors in our own lives and destinies. So much comes to us that requires us to learn what we did not know before. Knowledge furnishes and equips life – health, family, housing, location, aging, retirement – and work and recreation and civic responsibility and philosophy of life and religion if we have one, and so on.

What then is the task that education faces to prepare us as learners for the knowledge that is always pressing at our brains and waiting for our minds to integrate the previously unknown with what we already know? Here are a few major challenges.

Determine knowledge needs. Over time, we gradually shift from following the leading dictates of others as to what we ought to learn. Following an established path in learning is a safe mode in some guarantee of less error. The first messages are healthy doses of conservatism that suit us for life in the culture and society we inhabit. Soon, however, we follow our own preferences as we are no longer just receivers but seekers and initiate our own directions. How do I see my future at this point? What is it that I want to become? What are the requisite knowledge and skills to do what I need and want to do? Am I prepared to begin? How do I have to prepare myself in the short and long range? Where is the information?

Acquire the processes of self-direction. What is the available environment for my learning? What choices do I have? What resources, personal and published, that aid choices are available? Am I able to distinguish good advice, obtain it, and upon the information received make my own choices? How do I like to learn? Can I then effectively learn in my preferred manner what I need to learn? Do I have requisite information-seeking and judging skills? How can I get them, hone them? Am I disciplined? Do I look for achievement or ease? What will pay off in my present estimation in the long-term?

Determine accuracy or truthfulness. Does what I find fit what I know? Am I in error somewhere? What is the evidence for the information and how does it fit criteria for validity: up-to-date, authoritative, publicly tested, corroborated by other sources, appropriate to the question? What other questions does this new information open? Where do I go next? What choices do I make?

Whether inquiry-based learning will ever obtain much ground remains debatable at present. Although inquiry is how scientists and other scholars work, the approach is not the practice among most folk. State departments of education and school districts that have tried to implement inquiry as a means of authentic learning usually face a persistent public uproar until they have to give it up or state legislators put a stop to strategies of learning through questioning and testing information. Inquiry is messy, confusing, unbounded and questioning of traditional values, ones that parents and the public feel are endangered. Children can be at odds with their parents over such sensitive subjects as U.S. history, classics of literature, logic and fallacy, evolution, environmentalism, economics, sex education and a host of other subjects on which the public divides.

The debacle over inquiry vaults the politics of education, learning, and knowledge to the forefront. Individuals may learn all they want, despite obstacles. However whenever an environment based on learning and not teaching occupies public institutions, some constituents will fear those choices and muster complaints. Then those authorities, the ones who do not realize that the Bill of Rights grants freedom to all, will always make learning subservient to education and bind up its content. Limitations settle upon us, as knowledge becomes what some middle of the road position says it is.

© 2008, 2009 by Roger Sween.

This article, here revised, appeared in a slightly different form on

I welcome substantive comments on the contents of this blog. Personal comments to me may be made to the email address, given above.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


1. Discovering My Personality Type.

According to: David Kiersey and Marilyn Bates, Please understand me: character & temperament types; 5th edition. Gnosology Books, Ltd.; distributed by Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, c1984. 210p.

Kiersey and Bates base their book on the Myers-Briggs typology of 16 personality types that originated in the thinking of Carl Gustav Jung. Here, the instrument for identifying type, “The Kiersey Temperament Sorter,” has 70 questions that each ask for choices between two alternatives. Answers when tabulated from an inventory sheet translate to personality preferences.

They describe and compare each of the preferences that go into making up personality. These are preferences between:

Extraversion (E) and Introversion (I);
Intuition (N) and Sensation (S);
Thinking (T) and Feeling (F);
Judging (J) and Perceiving (P).

Choices between pairs of preferences may vary markedly or split evenly so that Kiersey and Bates allow for 16 additional types to the Myers-Briggs 16, so called X types. Not all students of personality agree on these X split types.

Kiersey and Bates describe four possible temperaments resulting from the combination of preferences. Temperaments, though not understood here as “functional” as Jung did, carry his descriptions and become operational or predictive as to how types deal with different issues and forces. They name these temperaments as:

the Dionysian (SPs) who must be free;
the Epimethan (SJs) who long for duty;
the Promethean (NTs) who must understand and control nature, not people;
the Apollonian (NF) who seek to become themselves.

Two chapters follow that discuss how differing types play out among partners and within the family where there may also be children. These are interesting and helpful in understanding and working with relationships especially when the relationship established itself without the benefit of prior knowledge in typologies and in what manner partners would find themselves. Equally illuminating is a chapter on the behavior and relationships of each personality type in work situations.

An appendix, pages 167-207, provides summary descriptions of the 16 profiles, apt and illuminating even after all the preliminary profiling and information. Previously, Kiersey and Bates attached each of the types with an occupational character, given below. Each of the types constitutes an approximate percentage of the U.S. population. Apparently, breakdowns vary among other nations and cultures.

ENFJs (Pedagogue; 5%) place people as the highest importance and priority;
INFJs (Author; 1%) are complex and reserved, yet empathic of and concerned for others;
ENFPs (Journalist; 5%) strive for the authentic and intense emotional experiences;
INFPs (Questor; 1%) have strong internal values and care deeply, but selectively;
ENTJs (Fieldmarshal; 5%) are driven to lead and provide structure for tasks;
INTJs (Scientist; 1%) live in an introspective reality, focusing on possibilities;
ENTPs (Inventor; 5%) want to exercise their ingenuity in the world;
INTPs (Architect; 1%) seek precision in thought and language and work through contradictions;
ESTJs (Administrator; 13%) are responsible, orderly and fond of following procedures;
ISTJs (Trustee; 6%) are dependable, as good as their word, and thorough;
ESFJs (Seller; 13%) seek sociability and promote harmony;
ISFJs (Conservator; 6%) want to be of service and minister to individual needs;
ESTPs (Promoter; 13%) are action-oriented;
ESFPs (Entertainer; 13%) are generous and fun to be with because they want to be with others;
ISTPs (Artisan; 7%) are impulsive and enjoy action in itself;
ISFP (Artist; 5%) express themselves through action in finished form (art);

As for me, I am an INTJ with a score almost as 100% on the INTJ inventories as you can get. I am absolutely as happy as can be with being INTJ because it not only coincides with my own level of self-awareness, but also helps explain why the rest of the world is not like me and never has been throughout my lifetime. It is a great relief, having regarded myself as markedly different through most of my childhood and life besides also treated as different by others, finally to find a pleasing and well-worked out explanation as to why this difference exists.

Where Kiersey-Bates and I coincide is in how I see myself:

The world of thought, developed through examination and logic, is more real and certainly preferable to the outside world.

Formal logic is useful, but secondary to intuitional coherence.

The long run is of far more importance than the immediate.

My proper work is theory, and theory is the studied precursor to action. However desirable it is for the ideal to become real, this desired realization of the ideal, given history, does not readily happen and may not happen.

Unfortunately, I cannot see learning as accumulative either individually or collectively. Rather the ignorance of individuals and societies is pervasive, recurrent and often regressive.
Many problems take a long time to think through. How preferable it would be to think about them in single-minded mode, but that is often not possible, since multiple problems confront us simultaneously.

I can live with a lot of uncertainty and imprecision thanks to tentative confidence in some basic principles undergoing development. Given enough time for investigation, analysis and thought I, or some others, will arrive at an eventual and positive resolution, even though that may be temporary.

Changing ideas means changing reality. Even when I see the need to change my thinking it is hard to do and often requires mulling time.

Authority is meaningless apart from an idea that is convincing.

Correlatively, most decisions about ordinary things have marginal significance and are easily made. Social conventions are easy to follow since they are arbitrary and matter little one way or another unless they get in the way of more important things.

I like people in general and have no skepticism of individuals until shown otherwise. I have always had only a very few close friends since the depth of relationship that is wanted requires sharing of values, ideas, and aims in a fuller dialogue than can be achieved from most acquaintances.

I am most fortunate to be in love with my best friend to whom I am married and to have wonderful children and grandchildren. I believe in the mutual nurturing of family members and am pleased to be surrounded by independent and responsible people.

As an INTJ, I may have in the past verged on the following but am glad I am not:

an ENTJ, because I have no desire to lead except in functional or intellectual capacities;

an ISTJ, because though I can handle data and detail, I want to chose it and not become mired in it;

an INFJ, because ideas are more comfortable to me than people (I could have become a theologian, but not a very good pastor);

an INTP (to which I see myself closest), because I focus on coherence not contradiction and want closure - even though I recognize its tentative nature - rather than seeking more data.

My typology weaknesses are:
I am no good at conversations that are phatic, composed of small talk or exchanges of everyday events, just to be friendly and establish relationships. If we’re going to talk lets talk about tasks, issues, and ideas.

I do not like games and am no good at them either as participant or spectator because they seem distractions from the important matters of life, and they require so much time and sometimes money to get good at them, resources better spent on more significant concerns. To me games are basically boring and ultimately wasteful.

I have a tendency to judge too quickly when I think other viewpoints or data are out of bounds or won’t make any difference. I see this as my worst fault.

I regret that I cannot narrow my interests or focus sufficiently to pursue one thing to the end. I try to discipline myself to complete work on a schedule, but I fail.

Usually, I have to think about important and new matters for some time before I can act, and that causes a time crunch down the line.

I’m engaged in nearly constant revision because the expression is not ever as full, clear, elegant and convincing as it could be.

I tend to spend time on the matter uppermost in my mind or current priority to the neglect of other things until they become a priority. This leads to last minute work, which I do not like, but has the benefit of having been in my mind for a while unless I forget it.

I tend to forget things.

My INTJ is part 1 of a 5-part look at my personality based on various approaches. See also My LifeKey (2), My Learning (3), My Thinking (4), My Solo (5).

© 2009 by Roger Sween

I welcome substantive comment on the contents of this blog. Personal comments may be made to my email address, given above.

My LifeKey

2. Discovering My Personality Type.

According to: Jane A.G. Kise, David Stark, and Sandra Krebs Hirsh, LifeKeys: discovering who you are, why you’re here, what you do best. Bethany House Publishers, c1996. 272p.

These three authors make a wonderful transition from the “better management through psychology” approach to values-based, kingdom of God-oriented personal worth and work. They do so by using their talents and skills as a writer, pastor, and management consultant with actual experience in the techniques the book outlines. As a team, they worked with their own congregation, a Minnesota Twin Cites suburban protestant church. This stance, a pronouncedly evangelical one, presents Biblical grounding and psychological foundations so that individuals see their gifts and connect with opportunities to use them in serving God and others.

Their aim for Christians is that more lives will be fulfilled with purpose and meaning because they have helped individuals see the match between who they are and what they do or may do. Service and satisfaction are the desired intertwined outcomes. They found church members curious about lives of fulfillment or bothered by changes, either external forces or their own anxiety to find a better fit by doing something different.

Often members do not recognize the gifts they have, do not value them, and do not use them as they might. Change begins in the Christian understanding that God created and values every individual and that God has work for each person to do. Members may accept this piece of doctrine, but regard their own part in it as insignificant and in no way special. By a combination of scriptural promise, scientific information, life examples, exercises and thoughtful self-examination men and women open to their LifeKeys. The battery of techniques used in small group settings come together in this manual for self-analysis and personal decision-making left to each person.

Holland’s hexagram of six areas of preference in work becomes the first approach. The preference clusters are the Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Identification tables for each preference lead to an examination of experience in each of work area and rating what one liked most or where individuals feel most comfortable. These preferences are called “life gifts,” what we have been given for our lives in the world.

The Biblical bases of “spiritual gifts” follow as evidence of God working in people’s lives. Each gift is peculiar to Christian life and teaching with meanings distinct from their secular references where they may occur: Administration, Apostleship, Discernment, Encouragement/Counseling, Evangelism, Faith, Giving, Healing, Helps, Hospitality, Knowledge, Leadership, Mercy, Miracles, Prophecy, Shepherding, Teaching, Tongues, Wisdom. Questions help identify one’s experience of each gift, and suggestions offer guidance in how the gift may be exercised and strengthened. Afterwards, people rate their endowments in each gift and select their top five.

A section on the Myers-Briggs typology briefly guides people to identify their preferences among the E-I, S-N, F-T, P-J pairs. Profiles of each of the 16 resulting types follow. They identify the order of Jung-identified dominance among preferences and warn against a dysfunctional “trap” for each type. Types come with an identifying scriptural quote and outlines of church relationships:
Contribution to the spiritual community.
Leadership style.
Preferred environment for service.
Common confessions [that is, weaknesses].
Possible spiritual helps [ways of addressing the weaknesses].

In an exercise of values clarification, 51 values are stated and briefly defined on attached card sheets. The 51 range from “Accuracy: Being true or correct in attention to detail” to “Variety: Desiring new and different activities, frequent change.” People may include values not listed. The cards allow for sorting and prioritizing. By this process, individuals identify the top 8 that are “very valuable to me.”

In putting all these self-assessments together, the inventory asks people to consider their “passions,” where they are most eager and how they want to expend their energies. Concluding chapters take a “go slow” approach so that people give thought and reflection to themselves before they identify their mission in Christian life and plan how they will commit to it.

Where I match with Kise-Stark-Hirsh has its basis in that I am a Christian of the Lutheran persuasion and believe that I have had a blessed and fortunate life within the church that has been one of the major factors in my life. Although dutiful as a child and teenager, and although I attended a college of the Lutheran church, I have had a number of ethical and theological issues with the church over the years, most of which I have resolved. I was very studious about the Bible and church teachings as a child and remained active in Luther League and attended Sunday School until I graduated from high school. I was best friends with the pastor’s son, and his father encouraged me towards the ministry and most likely assumed I would go there. I certainly thought about it but regarded myself as too shy and incapable of performing the all the social requirements placed on pastors, especially Lutheran ones. Chiefly, I did not see myself as overtly evangelical and shunned intruding too much into the lives of others. Had it been offered, I could have gone to seminary and become a theologian and teacher. I might have done that, but it never dawned on me. I never really thought how pastors in the Lutheran church prepare to be pastors. Besides languages were always difficult for me and I doubted I could learn Greek, let alone Hebrew.

My alignment with Holland’s hexagram is in the obvious Investigative preference where possible activities include:
Inventing; for me, inventing systems and expressions of thought.

Researching; for me, learning and examining what our progenitors thought, especially philosophers and theologians, and what is thought about them.

Conceptualizing; that is, developing ideas and theories.

Working independently; which is obvious when you do thinking and research, though I do acknowledge the benefit of dialogue with others of shared interest.

Solving complex problems; which are, what shall we do in our contemporary lives and society in the light of the Gospel? This is an age old problem expressed as, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”

My identification of my spiritual gifts readily named the top five (listed alphabetically):

Administration: the ability to organize to work efficiently for the Body of Christ.

Discernment: adept at recognizing what is and what is not of God.

Knowledge: the ability to understand, organize, and effectively use information for the advancement of God’s purposes.

Teaching: the ability to understand and communicate God’s truths to others effectively.

Wisdom: the ability to understand and apply Biblical and spiritual knowledge to complex, paradoxical, or other difficult situations.

For me, these five are interrelated aspects of one whole. The administrative ability is of information and ideas, not of organizational structures. The teaching ability may be face to face but is more likely communication through some media. Knowledge is more my forte. I recognize discernment and wisdom in myself, but discernment is a scary business bothersome to me by its potential for falsity and persecution; and wisdom shall ever be humanly incomplete though I most desire and seek it.

In practice, it is easier for me to find my niche outside of a specific congregation or denomination in the wider community. There the teachings of the church in the universal sense can be announced and explored as a basis for human behavior, human relationships, and social or political action.

Of course, I am an INTJ. “I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven.—Ecclesiastes (NRSV) I:13. Incidentally, Saint Paul by psychohistory gets typed an ENTJ.

The profiling fits me to a T, such as “Contribution to Spiritual Community:”

Envisioning systems to create a better world.

Breaking new ground, shifting paradigms, and changing the way people view things.

Designing or adjusting strategies and structures for future needs.

Thinking and acting independently from traditional or outmoded ways.

As far as values—those things I most deeply honor and must follow to achieve the life I want – I identified only 6 of the requested 8. Kise-Stark-Hirsh ask for 8 and a second 8 as they expect people to grow and shift their relative values over time. At my age and after decades of reflective introspection, I have settled on 6. My ranking as follows.

1. Learning—Lifelong commitment to growing in understanding. For me, lifelong questioning and growth of knowledge towards breadth and wisdom.

2. Independence—Wanting control of own time, behavior, tasks. For me, freedom and ability to probe and formulate.

3. Artistic expression—Expressing self through the arts: painting, literature, drama, etc. For me, high quality creative written communication that reaches others with meaning and significance.

4. Service—Helping others or contributing to society. For me, benefit the common good over time and distance.

5. Influence—Capacity to affect or shape people, processes or ideas. For me, positive impact on others learning, thinking, knowledge and understanding.

6. Friendship—Placing importance on close, personal relationships. For me, close and deep personal connections; these are necessarily few.

I thought it significant, that though the exercise asks for no more than 8 values, I could readily identify the six priority ones in the first pass. In part my selections are due to my own definitions of them. Service ranks high because it is for the common good, not otherwise listed as a value. Influence ranks because it means ideational impact.

As far as “passion” is concerned, it is hard for me to think of this characteristic other than where I focus my efforts. I am not passionate about anything in the emotional sense because I am usually and try to maintain a rational, reflective, objective, polite and sedate approach to life and its challenges. I do get quickly irate, however, over stupidity-based decisions, persistence in ignorance, the flight from problem identification, and the persistent desire for a simplicity that is less than the dimensions of reality. Unfortunately, none of these demonstrate positive passion. Nevertheless, I regard that my whole life has been in the service of human potential through discovery, learning, educated growth and informed decision-making. For these endeavors, I see myself a missionary.

Besides the weaknesses already mentioned, my preference for distance from most other people limits me. It is difficult for me to get too far engaged in my own congregation, though I have at times taught Sunday school, served on committees, been an usher (which I detested), led adult forums, and participated in many other forums, especially if they had intellectual content. Mostly, I find it exhausting to expend the effort to do things that ought to be done in due course in the church anyway. Within its bureaucratic structure, Lutheran congregations and the church-wide assembly can be more concerned about not giving offense than about doing the right thing. If I was better with people or felt I had more time, I might try harder. At my age, I feel myself in retreat to regroup, psychologically and intellectually, and choose the battles where I just might be able to do something productive.

My LifeKey is part 2 of a 5-part look at my personality based on various approaches. See also My INTJ (1), My Learning (3), My Thinking (4), My Solo (5).

© 2009 by Roger Sween

I welcome substantive comment on the contents of this blog. Personal comments may be made to my email address, given above.

My Learning

3. Discovering My Personality Type.

According to: Gordon Lawrence, People types and tiger stripes: a practical guide to learning styles; 2nd edition. Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc., c1984. Appendix A, “Introduction to Type,” by Isabel Briggs Myers, c1980. 101, A1-A14p.

Following from the Myers-Briggs type indicator, Lawrence discusses the relationship of types to learning in the school setting. Though all types are valid, teachers have traditionally done a better job of relating to some types than others. The variety of types in one classroom challenges teachers: the average breakdown of a random group of 35 students, as in a required class, is 7 IS, 3 IN, 18 ES, 7 EN. A study by Myers of 500 students who had not finished 8th grade found that 99% of them were sensing types. The bulk of the book consists of profiling types and recommending learning activities that various types will relate to, like, and thereby learn.

As an INTJ learner and teacher, how do I fare under Lawrence?

My mother used to remark that I was a poor reader until third grade, and she credited Miss Efteland (later Mrs. Sandberg) for turning that poor performance around. I puzzle over this difficulty because I grew up in an excellent reading environment. My parents were readers and always had a lot of newspapers, magazines and books around. Dad read to us almost daily, first the comic strips, but later poems, stories and eventually books. After I could read myself, I listened intently off to the side as he read Kon Tiki (1950) and The Journals of Lewis and Clark (DeVoto; 1953) to my brother and me.

I remember being impressed in first grade by things that other children knew, such as the names of colors, and the way they took to the alphabet and words on the page. I felt inadequate next to them in reading aloud sessions. In the second grade, Miss Wilson sent me down from the Bluebirds to the Bears, and I knew I was in disgrace. When in the third grade, policy allowed us the school library on a regular basis, and I could choose from a large pile of books put out on the table. Reading became an enjoyment and exploration in which I leaped at the invitation to partake. Besides, I could do it by myself, not out-loud and in public.

When I look at it now, those Dick and Jane readers were pedestrian where the biggest drama was Sally’s teddy bear disappearing as the family car containing it went up the grease rack. The books I had access to in third grade were more the equivalent of my favorite radio shows – Let’s Pretend, the episodes on Buster Brown, or The Inner Sanctum.

Reading became my major way of learning, and I gradually discovered that I was in charge of my own learning. Thanks to the books I read, I was ahead of the class in most subjects. I scored high in the Iowa tests because if I knew the topic, I didn’t read the sample test text, I went direct to answering the questions. Never studious in school – I was too busy reading – I never got grades as high as my two diligent sisters achieved. My real downfall came with 10th grade. I had signed up for all the college prep courses, and so many of them did not depend upon reading, but doing. The math courses bothered me because there was no discussion of why things are the way they are. I could abstract concepts from words, but the abstractions of geometry, algebra and trigonometry were pure and seemingly without referents. I tried to imagine how a line could touch a circle at only one point that had no dimension and felt I was going mad. Biology I got through thanks to Leonard Espeland, likely the best teacher I ever had, and Elizabeth Weber my lab partner. But the hands-on aspects of chemistry and physics became as frustrating to me as mechanical drawing and shop. I dreaded all the experiments that failed and the pressure to arrive at principles. I wanted the principles first. Couldn’t we just read about these things and discuss them. INTJ!

I was a failure as a school librarian because I couldn’t figure out why almost everyone wanted to talk, flip through magazines, and not read as I had done in my own high school years. Quickly I was off to academic librarianship and college teaching, then other types of library work, consultancy, and at the end graduate teaching.

One thing about teaching a foundations course in library and information science, which became my specialty, was that most of the students are INs or NTs, the same is I. I am far more conscious of differences in learning now, and try to give students a lot of choices and opportunities to converse and question. Still, clearly the approach is the overview, heavy on the reason why or the possibility of what might be.

My Learning is part 3 of a 5-part look at my personality based on various approaches. See also My INTJ (1), My LifeKey (2), My Thinking (4), My Solo (5).

© 2009 by Roger Sween

I welcome substantive comment on the contents of this blog. Personal comments may be made to my email address, given above.

My Thinking

4. Discovering My Personality Type.

According to: Allen F. Harrison and Robert M. Bramson, Styles of thinking: strategies for asking questions, making decisions and solving problems. Doubleday: Anchor Press, c1982. 202p. Index.

Harrison and Bramson found that as behavioral scientists, consultants and teachers that people approach problems in identification and resolution by ways fundamentally different from one another. Decisions follow from differing psychological bases as well. Therefore, they have concentrated on the “styles of thinking” that people use to attack and deal with issues.

Much of their work is based on the studies of C. West Churchman (The Design of Inquiring Systems, 1971) in the analysis of his five identified modalities of thinking. An inventory, developed by Harrison-Bramson, the InQ, offers five choices for each of 18 questions. Respondents rank the choices from 5 (most like me) to 1 (least like me). A scoring sheet calculates scores to each of the modes that translate to preferences in ways of asking questions and making decisions. These preferences are:

Sythesist (11%): Look for perspectives that link otherwise contradictory views and produce a “best fit” solution.

Idealist (37%): Look for shared goals among a group or society as a whole and that commonality, when recognized, will bring people together.

Pragmatist (18%) Look for whatever works based upon experience with the immediate situation, here and now, in order to get on with the task.

Analyst (35%): Look through examination and application of theory for a scientifically verifiable best way that is rational, predictable and stable.

Realist (24%): Look for verifiable facts on which people can or ought to agree in order to fix things.

In successive chapters, Harrison-Bramson, discuss each style as to its character, approach and methods or strategies for problem solving and decision-making. Since combinations of styles are also possible, one chapter describes the Synthesist-Idealist, and so on.

Harrison-Bramson aim at two objectives. People can learn the differences in the styles so they appreciate better their differences with others and can learn to work with them. People can also understand their own style more profoundly so that they can develop their strengths and know when they should correct, temper, or expand them by the processes of other styles. Another whole chapter is devoted to very clearly presented ways to employ thinking processes in each of the styles.

Using InQ, I show a strong preference for the Idealist mode and a moderate preference for the Analyst mode. I took the inventory at two different times with the same results as to style but slightly differing emphases.

As an Idealist-Analyst (IA), the Synthesist mode comes in third but not high enough to score as a preference. Generally, I have thought of myself as a synthesist, but this preference did not score distinctively high because I flee from conflict. Synthesists are on the lookout for conflict, identifying and articulating conflicts in order to bring opposing views together. Surprisingly, I scored higher as a Pragmatist than a Realist, through both were low. Philosophically, I have had a low opinion of pragmatism, regarding it as a valueless and unexamined expediency. But, this inventory showed on the first results an absolute neglect of the Realist position because I can only stand just so much minutia when they begin to crowd out principles from their deserved – and for me – primary consideration. The second time, scores showed a better balance and more attention to data at the further weakening of the Synthesist position.

Happily, I resonated with Harrison-Bramson’s characterization of the Idealist-Analyst combination as one who takes a broad, comprehensive view, and one who is a future-oriented planner. The IA seeks to achieve high standards and aims using the best possible methods. Therefore, the IA process takes time for examination and mulling over.

I see parallels in this inventory with Myers-Briggs where I am a strong INTJ. Certainly, however, I am less of an analyst in the collection of data, due to my judging (J) preferences, than I am an idealist, being iNtuitive (N), my dominant preference.

My Thinking is part 4 of a 5-part look at my personality based on various approaches. See also My INTJ (1), My LifeKey (2), My Learning (3), My Solo (5).

© 2009 by Roger Sween

I welcome substantive comment on the contents of this blog. Personal comments may be made to my email address, given above.

My Solo

5. Discovering My Personality Type.

According to: John M. Oldham and Lois B. Morris, Personality self-portrait: why you think, work, love, and act the way you do. Bantam Books, c1990. 438p.

Oldham is one of the members of the American Psychiatric Association who worked on revisions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd ed., rev., 1987). From the identification of those disorders, he and Morris identified thirteen normal personality-style categories from which disorders are the extreme aberration. Although this method seems backwards, students of the human psyche have historically been interested in the ranges of behavior among personality types and the styles identified “are the common, utterly human, non-pathological versions of the extreme, disordered constellations identified in the DSM manual.

Between the optimum and disordered ends of a style, range various behaviors so that the dividing point between health and dysfunction fails exact definition. Nevertheless, productive and satisfying lives exhibit flexibility over inflexibility, variety over repetition, and adaptability over the incapacity to cope. Psychiatry focuses on the disorders. This book focuses on the healthy styles so that individuals will know themselves and appreciate the ways that those of the other styles act and express themselves that are also healthy but different.

These thirteen styles are:
1. Conscientious: People of strong moral principal and absolute certainty who will not rest until the job is done right.
2. Self-Confident: People of a quality born of self-regard, self-respect, self-certainty, showing faith in oneself and a commitment to self-styled purpose.
3. Dramatic: People who are all heart, full of feeling and emotion which they can transform to a high art.
4. Vigilant: People of heightened awareness to their environment, looking for what is awry, to announce and denounce it.
5. Mercurial: People who want to experience life fully in whatever it brings.
6. Devoted: People who care about the identified team to whom they are loyal, considerate, and helpful.
7. Solitary: People who need no one but themselves, remarkably free from involvements and emotions that distract others, to discover on their own.
8. Leisurely: People who, apart from their responsibilities, seek to be themselves and do as they wish.
9. Sensitive: People who seek a world, small and familiar, where they find comfort, contentment and inspiration.
10. Idiosyncratic: People who, whether eccentrics or geniuses, live lives apart from the conventions that most others follow.
11. Adventurous: People who will take risks and long leaps where others are cautious or afraid.
12. Self-Sacrificing: People who put other’s needs first and live to serve them.
13. Aggressive: People who move instinctively by force of personality to command.

These personality styles operate within six functioning domains. Styles show their characteristics in the domains and various domains are key to each of the styles. The domains are
Self: How one sees, thinks, and feels about their own self, their place in the universe and among others.
Relationships: How one regards other people as important to themselves. This is a dominant factor in more than half of the styles.
Work: How one regards what it is they do and how they about doing things, not just work but everything to which they give time.
Emotions: Includes moods, feelings, and emotional states, the place people give to them in their lives and their intensity.
Self-Control: How one governs themselves in meeting desires, temptations, and impulses before action.
Real World: How one regards the world, its existence and nature, and what is real for them.

Chapters define these terms and sizeable chapters on each style discuss the domains pertinent to each in turn along with characteristics, tips on dealing with others of the style in one’s own life, and exercises for making the most of the style. Half the chapter treats the flip side of the normal style, the corresponding personality disorder.

A Personality Self-Portrait Questionnaire is the entry to identifying the styles operating in each life. For 104 questions, one of three answers is possible: Yes, I agree; Maybe, I agree; No, I don’t agree. The maybe responses are for questions where the individual agrees with one part but not another of the same question. Through scoring, a self-portrait graph emerges.

For me, the Questionnaire produced the following results in order of importance. Ranking for each style is the number out of the top possible number.
Solitary: 12 of 14
Sensitive: 8 of 14
Conscientious: 10 of 18
Idiosyncratic: 8 of 18
Self-Confidant 8 of 18

Vigilant: 4 of 14
Aggresssive 2 of 16
Self-Sacrificing 2 of 16
Leisurely: 2 of 18
Adventurous: 2 of 22
Dramatic: 0 of 16
Mercurial: 0 of 16

Resulting Personality Profile Functions in the Domains:
My dominant styles (as defined above) are I. Solitary (7), II. Sensitive (9), III. Conscientious (1), IV. Idiosyncratic (16), V. Self-Confident (2). I have noted those domains key to each style. I also briefly quote characteristics of each style especially pertinent to me in each domain.

Sense of Self.
I. (Key) self contained; own best resource; psychological gain from self; prefers own company.
II. Know self when not exposed to others.
III. Self is work; sets high standards of responsibility; no desire for ease.
IV. (Key) Determines own world; willingly breaks with tradition.
V. (Key) Self-esteem; self as purposive, meaningful, source of enjoyment.

Emotional States.
I. (Key) Dispassionate; prefers to observe.
II. (Key) Security in world of own; life-long personal attachments.
III. Seeks calm and reserve.
IV. Intensity is aesthetic, intellectual joy of comprehension.
V. Optimistic.

Control Level.
I. Heightened self-control; desire to avoid pain, impulse or spontaneity.
II. Self-disciplined to shape behavior and keep to self.
III. Self-discipline through knowing and reasoning.
IV. Feelings are internalized.
V. Self-contol.

Relationships with Others.
I. Uninvolved; need distance and time alone.
II. (Key) A few people or one; knowing others well relieves anxiety.
III. Steadiness over intimacy and romance; loyal to those they value.
IV. Not defined by others; risks loneliness when cannot connect.
V. Work at.

I. Self-directed; desire for concentration; avoid conflict, politics, competition.
II. Work is the nest; work at home.
III. (Key) Where shines; extends to all hours, intense, focused, detailed; never retires.
IV. Does best in own niche; neither ambitious or competitive in traditional sense.
V. Cooperative; flexible, non-hierarchical; needs to be effective.

I. Privacy provides a pocket for endeavor.
II. Prefer home; look forward to return when away.
III. Choices are between right and wrong; grey areas mean unfinished thinking.
IV. (Key) Perceive differently from others; curious; speculative, original.
V. World in own image.

Necessarily, one should be wary of behaviors that each style might bring with it and how a more varied life might be possible or beneficial. I, likely as others, appreciate those aspects of my life that comfort or please me the most in a self-reinforcing way. For me the following bear watching.

As a Solitary (I) and Sensitive (II) where the danger is to cut oneself off from others, I like people in general but more so in the abstract and at a distance than face-to-face. I crave friendship, but have high standards for it, and as a result have had few truly close and lasting friendships. Close friends I have had in the past, who have died, still haunt my thoughts. I work at keeping the friends I have but am not good at making new friends. I have trouble expressing myself verbally because I have to be sure of the right words; therefore, I prefer writing to speaking. Even though I know that social communication constitutes the bulk of conversation, I am no good at small talk. Instead, I converse most easily with people I already know, especially when the connection enjoys long duration. Often after an encounter with someone, I review what I said, and analyze all the things I could have said better. The reading, thinking and writing life depends upon solitude and the desire to be productive in these endeavors further rev up the demand to be alone.

Being Conscientious (III) risks also becoming obsessive-compulsive. I am far from that, except that I berate myself that I do not stick to one thing at a time until finished. In other words, I am obsessive about not being obsessive. When I cannot sleep, it is often because I review what I have said and done and mull over yet one more time how I could have done a better job of it in the first place. I endeavor to narrow my focus, but find it difficult to give up long-standing interests or concerns over issues that were ever important to me in my lengthening past. My long-term goal is to be free of all committees by the time I am seventy, but I still volunteer for new assignments that I regard to be of short duration. I realize that I will never understand everything or anything, but keep on trying to figure things out and do my best.

I have always been Idiosyncratic (IV), I realize, having felt the difference of being different since I was a very young child. Once at a birthday party for Dicky Connors – our mothers had been friends since being next-door neighbors as children – while the rest roistered in another room, I found refuge in a corner where I looked at his comic books. I was about 5 years old. Imagination became more vivid and preferable to actuality. Then also, reading proved more expansive than experience, history demonstrated more pertinence than a transitory present, thinking arose precursory to doing. Being so different bothered me for all my early years, but could not stop me from continuing on the same track. At about age 16, I embraced my uniqueness. Total alienation likely threatened. At one point, I even thought about becoming a Trappist monk, thanks to the appeal of the reflective life. Other people always rescued me, mostly at first caring relatives, games played with my siblings and in the neighborhood, classmates and other friends at school, Bible camp, Luther League, the prospect of college, and the widening circles of moving away from home. Ultimately, I learned the prevalence of differences among people and the need to find one’s niche in association with others. I could not participate, but astutely observe; I could not compete, but became a specialist in collaboration; I could not lead, except intellectually; I could not fight, except by argument (in the rhetorical or philosophical sense, that is not argumentative, but stating a position and defending it).

Fortunately, I learned to be Self-Confident (V), confident in the virtues of my own idiosyncrasies, without being schizotypal or narcissistic. I do border on narcissism (self-absorption): I am reconciled with my identity to such an extent that I dearly prefer my roster of styles to other possibilities. Clearly, I remain more in pursuit of understanding myself than of understanding and relating to others. Even in creating fictional characters, try as I might to make the leads different, there is always too much of me in them that I cannot expunge. In short, though other people interest me, especially those that provide models, I fascinate myself to a greater extent than others can command. Perhaps what saves me from psychotic narcissism, is that I have become primarily a questioner of received ideas and beliefs, even those I have about myself. I continuously ask myself, even about myself: Is this true and how do I know that? I have learned to live with ambiguity at worst, provisional truth at best.

I wonder, also, about the styles on which I rank the lowest. Does this mean these styles portend their own disorders.

Vigilant: Though very low in this ranking, I still exhibit this style’s characteristics, chiefly autonomy, caution in relationships, perceptiveness, self-defense in my own behalf, openness to criticism, and fidelity or loyalty. I am far from being paranoid which I would consider a laughable state, were it not so pathetic.

Aggressive: Since I am far from being feisty as Vigilants can be, I also long ago gave up any desire to be in charge or top dog. (What a horrible expression!) Though I have been the president or chair a few times of certain organizations, chiefly as Coordinator for nine years of the Minnesota Book Awards, basically as a facilitator. I have more often been the secretary or administrative assistant where I saw the real power resides to get things clarified and on track. I share no characteristics here, except the desire for order that to me is a matter of negotiated goals and standards, not rules. As condescending as I can be, I do not enjoy power over others.

Yet, neither am I Self-Sacrificing. Though I am willing to do a lot for the common good or the benefit of near and dear, I learned on the verge of adulthood that it is precisely the self, as the source of human worth, creativity and efficacy, that must not be sacrificed. My sense of doing good for others as altruists do is tempered by thinking of it as doing good for all, including the self as part of the whole. I share the characteristics Self-Sacrificing – generosity only to a certain extent, service as my arena of action, and consideration of others at least in being polite. I accept others though I will always reach some level of judgment about them (the J in my INTJ typology). I am humble as to my own lacks and willing to endure if the end is worth it, though I am not typically patient with the tedious, repetitious, or foolish. Also with this style, I am naive in every individual encounter, however skeptical I may be about people collectively.

The Leisurely style is not all the word implies; they do their bit, but are not overzealous, and clearly want their own thing and their own time, as they deserve. Though I share the right to be left alone, as a solitary requires, I recognize the obligations of being part of the whole. But neither am I passive-aggressive, though I do have my explosions of resistance, mostly against what I see as stupidity. I am willing to do my share. And as I resign from all committees, I do so on the grounds that what I have left to do has benefit for others; besides by age 70, I will have done my share of group work.

Neither am I Adventurous except about ideas. Even then, I move from some hierarchy of thought to a sequential change in a specific principle, issue, or tactic. I search for holism. Although a nonconformist in some things, I am modest in most regards as to the conventions of everyday life. My wardrobe alternates between black, gray, brown and blue as long is the blue is not too bright. I have one red tie for Pentecost and other high holy days. I fear being too wild or daring, a caution that has likely saved me from drugs and much other immorality. I take risks in speaking out on unpopular issues, but believe that one of life’s objectives is to minimize risk. Thus I am not anti-social, the extreme dysfunction of the Adventurous. Rather than wallowing in the virtue of independence, I see humans as essentially inter-dependent.

The Dramatic are those that are “the life of the party.” By now, you know that is not me. I had a secretary for some years, who often accused me of being dull. ‘I am,’ I said; ‘I am very boring.’ Whenever I showed up at work in a back suit and black topcoat, she would ask, ‘Where are you preaching today?’ I find the pursuit of fun a shallow one though remaining open to joy. Yet, clearly I am as far from the Dramatic characteristics as I can be. I do not repress my feelings, but I try to command them and allow them because of some originating and controlling reason. I limit color, as I said, more for aesthetic reasons than personal ones. I gave up on romance as traditionally understood, but see myself as a romantic as long as romanticism is the dramatization of ideas. As to spontaneity, I have said that I can be spontaneous as long as I can plan ahead for it. I flee from attention, except the attention to what I write, but then not too much. The idea of becoming famous and signing autographs would frighten me except that I think it highly unlikely. Compliments are nice, but only in moderation; mostly I appreciate the awards I have received for long-time accomplishments even when those efforts have sunk into the duff of time. I try to look presentable and am vain about body image, but with restraint. I’d rather be noted for what’s inside than outside.

Neither am I Mercurial. I seek the even keel. I can be intense about concentration, but live otherwise without passion, which I distrust. ‘Are you having a good time?’ a friend once asked me at a party. ‘Yes,’ I quietly answered; ‘Why do you ask?’ ‘Because,’ he said, ‘when you are having a good time or not having a good time, you act the same.’ I try to smile more, but am usually somber as I think things over. It takes me awhile to assess exactly how I feel and then whether or not I should feel that way. My heart is not on my sleeve, but in its chest cavity where it belongs. You know already what I think of spontaneity and fun. Though I sit at my computer at least six to eight hours a day, I remain active, but always after some end, trying to keep up a brisk pace. I retain an open mind, especially about ideas, but cannot otherwise just experiment for the sake of discovery alone.

The study of personality remains a precarious endeavor. I have looked for the scientific approaches over the astrological, ennegramatic, personality tree or other speculative treatments. Still, I accept that we have a lot more to discover and learn and so it is necessary to keep searching.

My Solo is part 5 of a 5- part look at my personality based on various approaches. See also My INTJ (1), My LifeKey (2) My Learning (3), My Thinking (4).

© 2009 by Roger Sween

I welcome substantive comment on the contents of this blog. Personal comments may be made to my email address, given above.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Why Both School and Public Libraries?

From a lay point of view, questioning why we have both school and public libraries seems very reasonable and utterly logical. From the professional point of view, such questions, guaranteed, prove provocative if not exasperating. What if we ask, instead, what is the best way to give library service in a community? What do we want our libraries to achieve?

The facts in the matter are that there are many more schools, whether districts or buildings, than there are public library administrative units or buildings. And there are far more libraries than school and public ones. All libraries, except private ones, are the creations of publics, and as such they reflect what their parent publics want and need in terms of library services.

Of course, the realities are that libraries are only possible in ways and to the extents that their publics are willing to afford them. Large corporations spend millions of dollars on their libraries but always with the view that these expenditures are profitable. Yet corporate librarians will tell you, whether they are in a museum, a hospital, a government agency or a manufacturing conglomerate, that they always have to defend the value of and return from what they do. The value of information in the abstract is almost impossible to defend, and a research firm would much rather have one more chemist than another librarian when toting up the bottom line. And priority of interest prevails: the same community of 1100 people which may support five different churches cannot afford a single library.

Until we can offer people compelling research-based reasons for why a certain kind of library service is to a public’s advantage, we have to pursue a heavily value-laden path. That's what makes so difficult convincing people that a library designated to a specific mission can be most effective and efficient, that is - economic. To outsiders, libraries look alike – they all get Time Magazine; they all have dictionaries, encyclopedias and catalog access to their collections. What is the necessity, the public wants to know, of a library devoted to high schoolers and two blocks away one for the public? After all, when kids are out of school they go to the public library. Agreed. Some do, but many do not.

One area in pursuing information on which we do have considerable research from the 1930s onwards is on the high value of given the convenience factor and the detrimental cost of one's own labor as a barrier. This research harmonizes most obviously with individual observation and professional experience. My own testimony is that I once participated in an ad hoc faculty group on learning at a state university where, much to my surprise, I observed other faculty regularly exchange knowledge and publications among themselves to the exclusion of library use. All this sharing took place despite that their offices were built in wrap-around wings on two sides of the library, not more than 50 to 100 steps away for most of them. Convenience, or the perception of it, is the primary criteria by which most people choose the information they use; it has more impact than accuracy, currency, relevance or any other evaluative criteria. Thus, the closer you can bring information to its intended users, the easier you can make it, and the more help you can give directly to users, the more likely you will succeed in achieving satisfactory information use. More agony goes into the most apt sighting of a public library than any other building consideration; the strongest virtue of school library media services consists of placing them in the midst of the students.

Of course, I don't expect many people to believe this fundamental piece of library research. Most will not admit to the convenience principle, however well documented it is. Typically both users of libraries and non-users will tout how actively they pursue information in making decisions regardless of all the surveys that show library use somewhere between .5 and 1-3% out of the total of all information sources sought by the public. Co-workers and family members rank highest among sources because, need we say, they are close, readily available and trusted by information seekers – that is, convenient!

The most important reason for specific libraries dedicated to their users is just that: special treatment and specialized expertise devoted to and focused on the intended users. And of all the elements in library service, the essential one is staff. Nothing can substitute for a school library media professional, educated to quality service and giving that service on a par that is integrated with the best of other faculty.

This is not to say that in no case should a school and public or any other combination of libraries be combined. The point in sharing of services is that they reflect the needs of the whole community to be served, that they be planned to handle the number of issues that arise in jointly operated services, and that the issues be addressed and settled or answered in advance of a decision to co-locate. Problematic issues include questions of funding, governance, and staffing among other service questions; combined libraries fail most frequently over these issues when they are not resolved in advance.

Libraries, after all, stem from sharing with one another; otherwise we would each have our own stuff. We need to approach all questions of library service within terms of sharing, both among our users and with other libraries and other non-library sources.

A final word of advice: approach issues of joint libraries calmly as an idea to be explored. In providing library services, we have always to look at what is to be achieved, who is to be served, how they are to be included in the decision process, and what the evaluation will be. Joint library planning takes steps that represent the community of interest, that communicate between all affected parties and with the public. Potential partners have to examine what they can contribute to the whole and how they will continue to pay their share in order to accomplish the greatest total of which they are able.

The experience in Minnesota is that since 1990 when the law was changed to allow for joint school and public libraries, only one--already pre-existent--organized under these provisions. After almost ten years, only one other followed, and in that case a tornado obliterated both school and public library so they had motivation to start from scratch. Many other communities addressed co-location and eventually decided to remain separate, most in very small towns where co-location is especially appealing. Still, however, the seemingly obvious logic of combining libraries goes on. It can't be turned aside without the interested parties pursuing for themselves the steps they need to take to make it work, and thereby learning a lot more about libraries, their nature and services.

Welcome them.

Roger Sween wrote this article as a “think-piece” while a library development consultant in the Minnesota state library agency. He has been in his career a school librarian, an academic librarian and professor of library science, a public librarian, a freelance information broker, and a constant user of libraries throughout his life. This version has been revised over the original.
© 2009 by Roger Sween.

I welcome substantive comments on the contents of this blog. Personal comments may be made to my email address, give above.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Libraries in the Rehnquist Decision
United States v. American Library Association 539 US 194 (2003)

*Note: The following presents collapsed statements from the Rehnquist decision upholding the Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and are given here without quotation marks or ellipses. Quotation marks and ellipses are used in the dissents. CIPA required all schools and public libraries that received certain federal assistance programs to install filters against pornography.

Rehnquist for the 6 to 3 plurality begins.

To determine whether libraries would violate the First Amendment by employing the filtering software that CIPA requires, we must first examine the role of libraries in our society.

Public libraries pursue the worthy missions of facilitating the learning and cultural enrichment. Libraries should provide books and other resources for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves.[1]

To fulfill their traditional missions, public libraries must have broad discretion to decide what material to provide to their patrons. Their goal has never been to provide universal coverage. To this end, libraries collect those materials deemed to have requisite and appropriate quality.[2]

The librarian’s responsibility … is to separate out the gold from the garbage, not to preserve everything.[3]

Public library staffs necessarily consider content in making collection decisions and enjoy broad discretion in making them.

Internet access in public libraries in neither a traditional nor a designated public forum.[4] Firstly, the Internet did not exist until quite recently, nor been held in trust for the purposes of assembly, communication of thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions.[5] We have ‘rejected the view that traditional public forum status extends beyond its historic confines.’[6] Nor does Internet access in a public library satisfy our definition of a designated public forum. To create such a forum, the government must make an affirmative choice to open up is property for use as a public forum.

A public library does not acquire Internet terminals in order to create a public forum for Web publishers to express themselves, any more than it collects books in order to prove a public forum for the authors of books to speak. It provides Internet access, not to encourage a diversity of views from private speakers,[7] but for the same reasons it offers other library resources; to facilitate research, learning, and recreational pursuits by furnishing materials of requisite and appropriate quality. …As Congress recognized. the Internet is simply another method for making information available in a school or library.[8] It is no more than a technological extension of the book stack.[9]

Most libraries already exclude pornography from their print collections because they deem it inappropriate for inclusion. It would make little sense to treat libraries’ judgments to block online pornography any differently. Moreover, because of the vast quantity of material on the Internet and the rapid pace at which it changes, libraries cannot possibly segregate, item by item, all the Internet material that is appropriate from all that is not. Neither can it provide access to only those it chooses without excluding an enormous amount of valuable material. Given that tradeoff, it is entirely reasonable for public libraries to instead exclude certain categories of content.

Stevens dissenting
“Rather than allowing local decisionmakers to tailor their responses to local problems, [CIPA] operates as a blunt nationwide restraint on adult access to ‘an enormous amount of valuable information’ that libraries cannot possible review.[10] Most of that information is constitutionally protected speech. In my view, this restraint is unconstitutional.

“The unchallenged findings of fact made by the District Court reveal fundamental defects in the filtering software. …The effect of the overblocking is the functional equivalent of a host of individual decisions excluding hundreds of thousands of individual constitutionally protected messages from Internet terminals located in public libraries throughout the nation. …The District Court expressly found that a variety of alternatives less restrictive are available at the local level. …These findings are consistent with scholarly comment on the issue arguing that local decisions tailored to local circumstances are more appropriate than a mandate from Congress. The plurality does not reject any of these findings.”

Instead the plurality “relies on the Solicitor General’s assurance that the statute permits individual librarians to disable filtering mechanisms whenever a patron so requests. …Until a blocked site or group of sites is unblocked, a patron is unlikely to know what is being hidden and therefore whether there is any point in asking for the filter to be removed.”

Souter dissenting joined by Ginzburg

“I agree in the main with Justice Stevens. …I also agree with the library appellees on a further reason to hold the blocking rule invalid. …The rule mandates action by recipient libraries that would violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of fee speech if the libraries took that action entirely on their own. I respectfully dissent on this further ground.”

Prepared by Roger Sween.

I welcome substantive comments on the contents of this blog. Personal comments may be made to me at the email address given above.

[1] This is a quote from ALA’s Library Bill of Rights.
[2] William Katz, Collection Development (1980) 6.
[3] F. Drury, Book Selection (1930) xi.
[4] As defined in Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. 473 U.S. 788, 802 (1985).
[5] International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee 505 U.S. 672, 679 (1992).
[6] Arkansas Ed. Television Comm’n v.Forbes, 523 U.S. 678.
[7] Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of University of Virginia 515 U.S. 834. (1995).
[8] United States Senate, Report No. 106-141 (1999) 7.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ante, at 11.