Thinking well with others

We now have a tiny puppy and one of the things we’ve been told many times is that “socialisation is important”. We have to do our best to introduce our little friend to as many other little friends and as many other big friends—humans—as possible. We’ve done that and the effect is obvious: a friendly, playful canine.

The importance of socialisation is there for humans too. The biggest drawback of homeschooling, for example, has nothing to do with curriculum. It’s the little moments of social interaction that the child misses out on. It’s the walk between classes. It’s the ten minutes sat waiting for a teacher to arrive. It’s the impromptu decision to go to someone’s house for tea. But I think the importance of socialisation for humans goes further than that.

Puppy socialisation and the minute, improvised social interactions that occur between children at school are all about learning to play well together. Just as important is learning to think together.

I didn’t go to university. At college, I was absent on every plane except the physical. And as I’m discovering now, because of this I don’t know how to think with others. When someone tries their best and does their utmost in higher education, they usually end up in debates. They usually end up discussing and exploring ideas. They learn to listen to other’s thoughts and form their own. The further up the education chain you go, the more this becomes apparent. Those slaving away for PhDs have to complete a doctoral thesis—such a thing is conceived, drafted, improved and approved by a carnival of individuals.

As someone who wishes to ply their trade using the rather abstract medium that is the written word, my lack of socialisation is a problem in need of remedy. It may seem like a molehill, but only if you subscribe to the trope of the lone and solitary genius. I don’t—the more I learn, and the more I understand about how people learn, the more I’m beginning to see that it is relationships that colour the breadth and depth of our thoughts. Specifically, when we think together, insights and ideas that were previously out of reach become available to us. Which is why there’s been an uptick in my public and private correspondence—I’m socialising, learning to think with others.