30 March 2011

The Jig is Up.

Sometimes I think that people have a hard time with the idea of consequences. Our culture breeds the idea that if you are mediocre or try really hard, then the universe should give you a cookie and a hug and a shiny letter A and a gold star and a one way ticket to success for the minimum amount of work. It's the Music Man "That's my Barney on the Clarianet!" idea - just because you're cute and you blow your instrument with vigor, you should be amazing.

I've never really sat well with this idea. I think much of this comes from the fact that I've spent so much time in the arts, particularly in the worlds of writing and theater. In theater this principle is quite easy to spot: a person can love the theater as much as they want and practice as hard as they want but at the end of the day, if they're not good, everyone knows it. Trying just doesn't cover it. You see this all the time in audition segments of shows like American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance - people can dance with as much heart and excitement as they want, but if they don't have the technique, they're out of luck. In the real world - you have to have both to be successful. A friend of mine puts it something like this: "I can give your kid the grade, but it doesn't change who they are or what they are actually capable of."

But there are plenty who would try and tell you otherwise. And, to a degree, there is a place for these people. (Heck, most of the time we call these people "mom" and "dad". These are the people who are stuck with you and should honor what you do for what it's worth.) When you're trying to change or influence the world, though, you have to be a little more accepting of reality. Mediocre is simply not good enough. It's not an insult, it's just life.

You see this principle outlined pretty clearly in The Social Network - a movie which, for what it's worth, I didn't really like. Personal opinion aside, the history is pretty clear: Two people, two ideas. One was better than the other. Thus, we have Facebook and not. . . whatever the other idea was. The other idea is only relevant because the movie has made it so. If the movie hadn't been made, almost no one would know (or care about) the difference. If you're going to make a difference, you have to be better than the next person - and that takes work. It can't happen by checking things off a to-do list.

So, to the individual(s) involved in making my day more stressful and frustrating and obnoxious: please remember that my job description requires me to teach. Furthermore, my humanity encourages me not to settle for mediocrity. I'm sorry if yours does, but if I'm going to do my job with any level of integrity, it means being a bit of a hard nose sometimes.

1 comment:

A. Bailey said...

I know exactly how you feel. I LOVE this post. I think it was meant to be that you and I are teachers at the same time. You inspire me with this words and validate all of my feelings!