What Is Meant by Integrative Complexity?
The claim that President Obama is an “integratively complex thinker” has been making its way around the blogosphere. If anybody wants to known what, if anything, is meant by “integratively complex,” the late Richard Mitchell gave an example of the contrast between integratively-complex thought and integratively-simple thought. Two students submitted essays in response to the following question:
Suppose that your school is short of money and can keep only one of the following: driver education, school athletics, art, music, or vocational programs. You and other students have been asked to write to the principal and tell which one program you most want to keep. Be sure to give the reasons for the one you choose. Remember, you can choose only one program.Student A wrote:
You have proposed an illogical situation, but I will do my best to give you an answer. I choose driver's education over the other classes on my own special process of elimination. School athletics is out because I can't stand the class and have no wish to inflict it on others. Art and music are really unfair electives to leave out, but they are certainly not as important as driving unless you plan to make a career of them. In that case, I'm sorry but life is hard. Vocational programs were the toughest of all to leave out (and it is the subject your mythical school will probably keep, despite this recommendation), because you do make a career of them, but look at it this way: Driving is almost essential to a person's life, and although one could learn to drive elsewhere, it would be much more expensive. Actually, my whole rationale doesn't have to make sense because your question didn't in the first place.Student B wrote:
I think you should keep Athletics. Because its good for the Body. And it can Help you if you would like to Become a pro football player.In case you were wondering what grades the two students received:
Integrative complexity is what the second essay had and the first essay didn't.
And thus it comes to pass that, on a scale from 0 to 4, Essay B gets a 2, witness to mastery, and by far the most common score. Essay A, however, is not up to the standards of focused primary trait holistic scoring. It gets a 1.
How so? Simple. Writer B gave two reasons for his choice. That is mastery in the "organization of ideas." What is more, his prose style suggests that professors of education and superintendents of schools won't feel too déclassé in his company.
Writer A gave only one reason for his choice. However, even had he given fifty reasons, he would not have earned a better score. Focused primary trait holistic scoring is not intended for the encouragement of wiseacres like that snotty A kid, and it provides that no score better than a 1 can be awarded to any writer who "challenges the question." You have to nip that funny stuff right in the old bud. You let that once get started and the next thing you know some of those brats will clarify some of our values and that will be the end of life adjustment as we know it.
On the other hand, the President can write better than the second student. On the gripping hand, he's being praised by the same people who would give high marks to the second student.