The biggest reading for our next class on social capital was “Tracing Civic Roots” and one of the main points in that reading talks about the difference between horizontal and vertical structures in the north and south sides of Italy, respectively. I thought that this reading was surprisingly fitting to our discussion last class about teaching styles, and wanted to analyze that further in this blog post.
One of the main drivers for my writing about teaching styles was this New York Magazine article on Asian-Americans in the workplace (you don’t need to read it unless you have a lot of time, because it’s really long). The basic gist of this article discusses how Asian-Americans struggle to obtain higher positions in the workplace because of the education styles they were exposed to while growing up. As a culture, we’ve been taught primarily to just achieve high test scores but when it came to talking to people, we tanked hard because we never had enough practice through school (or even in our homes) to develop a confident voice.
To me, the education system I grew up in reminded me a lot of Southern Italy, or a vertical network. There was a power disparity in the sense that only my teachers had the correct answers and we, as test takers, had to obtain them. Coming to Stanford, however, I became exposed to more horizontal networks like our discussions. There is a mutual sense of reciprocity, trust, and engagement where it feels highly productive without singling out one specific person as the “leader” of the entire class. I am still grappling to come to terms with how I should view the education system I grew up with, I have no doubt in my mind that discussion groups (aka horizontal networks) really do produce high yield and high performance.