The A+ Student


Sanaya Varma

We all know the A+ student. The one who raises their hand in class for every question. The one that always contributes their opinion. The one who is constantly praised for their participation in class. The extravert.

“Participation is the key to success.” We hear this mantra day in and day out; it’s embedded in our school system. We see this whether that’s through the “interpersonal skills” learning habit or through the quantitative measure of a student’s capability: grades. To succeed in the “real world,” you have to be willing to speak your mind and constantly have your voice heard. I’ve heard that a million times, and it’s entrenched in our psyche. Extraverts are naturally disposed to leadership roles as compared to introverts. But how much truth does this really hold?

Jeff Bezos. Bill Gates. Warren Buffet. Mark Zuckerberg. Elon Musk. What do these names have in common? Well, besides the fact that they are all ridiculously successful people, they’re all introverts, which leads me to question where these unfounded claims stem from. Why do people constantly belittle introverts and try to change their personalities under the guise that it’s for their own good? That it’s for their future success?

What’s the science behind introversion and extraversion? In reality, it’s as simple as sensitivity to dopamine. Introverts are more sensitive to dopamine, so they only need small amounts, otherwise, they become overwhelmed. Extraverts, on the other hand, are less sensitive to dopamine, therefore requiring larger amounts which they seek in social situations. When it comes to leadership, it has been proven time and time again that introverts are significantly more capable as leaders. Why? I’ll lay out the facts.

In a recent study, 56 groups were made. Half of the groups were assigned an extraverted leader, while half were assigned an introverted leader. They were given a task to fold as many t-shirts as possible within 10 minutes. The results of the study indicated that the introverted leaders’ teams were 28% more productive.

Furthermore, in a Harvard study, it was shown that extraverts are more successful in leading passive teams while introverts are better at leading proactive teams. In other words, extraverts can lead teams where everyone just listens to them, while introverts can incorporate other people’s ideas. Isn’t the true mark of leadership listening to the people around you? I’ll let you decide that.

This may be because overall, introverts are shown to have increased blood flow in the frontal lobe. Hence, they can problem-solve and make more deliberate decisions than extraverts.

Clearly, the evidence suggests that introverts are naturally inclined to being better leaders than extraverts. So why is it that introverts only make up 2% of leadership positions? Perhaps because not enough value is given to them. Silence is mistaken for a lack of intelligence. The very system that the education system is founded upon constantly rewards the extraverted child while teaching the introverted one that they must change who they are to succeed. It sounds like great advice, but in reality, it’s demoralizing. It’s telling children that they are less capable than their classmates because of who they are. If a child hears something since the beginning of their school career, then it’s only natural that they internalize it.

It is constantly said that the difference between an A and an A+ is participation. The difference between failure and success is participation. It’s not. Yet, because it is so deeply entrenched in the education system, it often seems that the only path to success is saying any and everything that crosses one’s mind. Introverts are not reserved; they are reflective. They have been proven to be more articulate and use more concrete language than extraverts because of that very trait.

So maybe it’s time to stop teaching kids that they are only valuable once they change their fundamental selves. School should be a place where each student is given the opportunity to thrive because of their personality, not in spite of it. A student’s caliber should not be gauged based on how many times they raise their hand, how many questions they ask in class, but rather how much they truly know. Behind a quiet front, there is an entire stream of thought and effort to learn and grow as a student. Maybe it’s time to reconsider who the A+ student is.