The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

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What is a Non-Conformist? (Are you one?)

“Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.” At least, that’s what Ralph Waldo Emerson, a renowned Romantic writer, believes. You won’t get out of HSMSE without seeing this quote, among many others by John Keats, Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. It’s plastered on the wall of our English classrooms and after learning about it, you’ll find references to the Romantics everywhere. However, does nonconformity make sense in today’s world? And what defines you as a non-conformist?

Simply put, a non-conformist is someone who is different from others in their actions or beliefs. For instance, it could be someone who does not want to do everything that is expected of them by others, often those in positions of power. Or, it could be someone who doesn’t want to take a normal job because they aim to pursue a more creative and specialized career path. In terms of what identifies a person as a nonconformist, though, it comes from the decision to forge their own path instead of following in the well-tread footsteps of others.

The nonviolent resistance leader Mahatma Gandhi tells us “It is beneath human dignity to lose one’s individuality and become a mere cog in the machine.” People should not be forced to meet the demands of others. They should instead have the right to their own identity and express their individuality. There are many examples of historical and modern day nonconformists, but it’s important to remember that the individual has the potential to be a nonconformist by making their own decisions and following their own path.

When referring to the historical nonconformist, the Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh is a prime example in his era. His use of bold, vibrant colors, and thick, textured brush strokes set him apart from the more conservative artists of his day. Although he only ever sold one painting in his entire lifetime and wasn’t recognized until years after his tragic death, he ultimately succeeded in expressing his individualism relating to great themes of life like anxiety, suffering, love and hope. HSMSE students can learn from this artistic nonconformist’s dedication to his vision by understanding that even though pursuing one’s own path may come with criticism and challenges, the effort put into the path will be acknowledged.

As for the present-day, there is Elon Musk. As the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, he is known by many for his seemingly unrealistic goals for his companies, and has made a practice of setting aspirations for his companies that goes beyond what is typically expected in the business world. For example, he has announced his ambitions for SpaceX to colonize Mars and Tesla to transition the world to using sustainable energy. The transition to the new form of energy requires changes in consumer behavior, including adoption of new technologies and energy management practices, which may be challenging to implement. Despite the difficulties associated with using new ideas, nonconformists have the ability to see beyond what is expected and challenge the status quo. They have the courage to take risks and pursue their goals – even if it seems insane and impossible to the rest of the world. 

However, what exactly are the risks in nonconformity? Well, nonconformists have to face criticism from those who adhere to more normal practices, which may lead to isolation and rejection from society. Pursuing an unconventional route – such as dropping out of college and traveling the world in a minivan – comes with more risks than that of a normal one. On the other hand, while pursuing a conventional route may provide a state of security, it can also limit creativity and your own individuality. For example, a young person might decide to pursue a traditional career path by completing a formal education, obtaining a stable job, and settling down in a stable home. They may prioritize financial security, societal acceptance, and a predictable future, which could lead them to choose conformity. 

While HSMSE is a rigorous academic environment, in that the teachers require you to follow their criteria of doing certain difficult projects/homework, it’s important to remember that success and fulfillment comes from following your own path, not the path that others have laid out for you. Armed with the knowledge of nonconformism, HSMSE students can think critically about the expectations placed upon them and make conscious decisions about their own lives. This is especially important for students who may feel pressured to follow a certain path in order to achieve success. 

By understanding the value of nonconformity, students can develop their ability to think creatively, take risks, and challenge the expected. This will not only help them succeed in the business world but also in all areas of life. As the world continues to change and evolve, it is important for individuals to embrace nonconformity by staying ahead of the curve.

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