Dreams, entitlement, and reality

200702252129Good stuff from Tony Woodlief’s blog:

I recently crushed the dreams of about 400 high school students. I was asked to give them career advice, and so I told them to stop believing that they can achieve anything they want simply by wanting it. “I Believe I Can Fly” may be an uplifting song, but it’s a stupid life philosophy. You can’t fly. If you study about ten times harder, and have an ounce of common sense, and work really long hours, then perhaps you can build yourself a plane, and then you can fly. Otherwise, get used to walking.

It was not altogether well-received. I think they are used to being told that they will achieve their dreams, as if dream-achievement is some kind of massive entitlement program, and one is enrolled in it simply by aching for things.

I think a surprisingly large number of the problems we encounter with high school graduates not being prepared for college would vanish overnight if everybody simply stopped affirming them so much, started pushing them to the limits of their potential through rigorous academic work, and then rewarded the legitimately positive results.

Go read the whole thing, where Tony argues that today’s teenagers are less competent than in the past because they spend too much time with each other. Money quote: “Eighty-seven percent of teens report regular Internet use. While Al Gore (along with public school IT administrators) may tell himself these kids are downloading Frost poems and physics problems, I suspect otherwise.”

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