22 August 2011

Be Ye Therefore Perfect

I was up this morning listening to the news when one particular story caught my ear. Today is the first official back to school day for most people across the state, so they had a brief news story on not overbooking your student. Fair enough. There are lots of opportunities in schools and it's a good idea for a student to balance themselves so that they have time to take care of all their responsibilities. I get that.

But then the person they were interviewing said one thing that made me a bit chagrined. She said that it is a myth that every student is exceptionally talented. "Exceptionally talented students are the exception," she said. Instead of trying to expect or encourage exceptional things, we should expose students to a wide variety of activities, she says.


First of all - isn't exposing people to a wide variety of activities what often leads to overbooking?

Second: I hate that many parents will listen to this and use it as an excuse for not having their students commit to the tasks they agree to do. I've seen this at every school I've taught at in the last three years - parents model a kind of behavior in their students that encourages partial commitment to any task and end up using church activities as an excuse for that partial commitment.

Third: If said woman belongs to the same church that I do, then a phrase that says "Be ye therefore perfect, even as I (and your Father and Heaven - depending on the location of the quote) am perfect." I'm fairly certain that the idea of perfection could more or less be acquainted with the idea of excellence. In fact, I think they're probably pretty good friends. I seem to remember LDS Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley saying, "Mediocrity will never do, I am capable of something better." But this woman seems to be encouraging parents to expect their son or daughter to be only normal.

Well, that's a load of junk.

I'm not a parent, but I am a teacher. I agree that "exceptionally talented" students are rare, but "exceptionally capable" students are not. So often people use lack of talent as an excuse for mediocrity. But this is not good enough. The LDS church teaches that we are, through following Christ, capable of becoming like God. This life is not a time for us to accept our own mediocrity but for us to learn how "to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" ("Ulysses", Tennyson.) So why are we encouraging this in our youth? Why are we satisfied with letting them - or ourselves - be given symbolic trophies for little or no real accomplishment? Gold stars and stickers are all well and good - but if we are to become truly great, then we need to seek for a better world - and that takes focus, hard work, and determination.


Nanakat said...

There are educational philosophies that assert that it is actually possible for everyone to be "exceptionally talented" in something. The thing is that each of our somethings is different. Some find it in academics, some in the arts, some in athletics, some in people relations, and so on. A few may excel in more than one area, but no one is a genius in them all.

As you say, and as others have said, the real goal is not to be exceptionally talented (though finding out where you are, can be very lovely). The real goal is to WORK HARD and learn as much as you can in each area, and everyone can do that to some extent.

The more we know about something, the more we can appreciate it and enjoy when someone else actually is exceptionally talented at it.

As we are told in the scriptures, there are many gifts and not everyone is given the same gifts, nor are any given all gifts. We need to be exposed to opportunities to discover our gifts, and we need to remember the reason our gifts were given to us.

We're not supposed to strive for excellence because of the glory it brings us (or our parents). I believe we're supposed to develop our gifts so we can serve each other and in so doing, glorify God.

Thank you for such interesting topics. I hope you don't mind my commenting on them.

Have a good year teaching!

Joni said...

Thank you for your thought provoking comments! I always like comments that are more of a conversation than an "I agree"/"I disagree" type thing. Thank you for your comments. I'd love to see you back.