Set the Bar Low and Tell Kids to Aim for the Middle

Do the children in DeKalb County think they can be anything they want to be? Or do we just put the bar on the ground and hope a few make it to the other side?

Do you remember a pro basketball player in the NBA a few decades ago named Spud Webb? What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you recall that name? He was SHORT, right? A very SHORT, yet very good professional basketball player. You would never have believed this guy could play NBA ball until you saw it with your own eyes.

He even played for the Atlanta Falcons and won the 1986 slam dunk contest to the dismay of millions!  Read more about this amazing athlete here.

But, even more interesting than his game was his attitude. I have to wonder if he ever saw himself the way most spectators did - as an anomoly. Where did this guy get the guts to play basketball as a kid?

My point is that he likely had some fans from within his family or a close network of friends who encouraged him to keep trying, even when he was the smallest guy on the team. He must have had a great cheering section, both on and off the court, in order to continue playing against the other guys on the block who were likely much, much bigger than him.

I doubt that, as a child, he would have told people he wanted to be a pro basketball player when he grew up. I doubt a guidance counselor (or graduation coach) would have led him in that direction. But, somewhere along the line, this guy got the confidence to follow his dream and let it take him as far a possible.

I'm sure there were plenty of times he thought he might quit, but someone must have been there for him to tell him that he had to keep trying. There is so much power in simply having the right attitude, or the belief in yourself, that you can literally be small in size, but dream big and have those dreams come true.

Yeah, great story, but DeKalb isn't buying into it

What disturbs me is that I thought everyone knew this story already. I thought it was a sort of folklore passed down to each generation of kids so they would keep trying things until they got them right. I thought we were all taught from a young age that we are supposed to believe in ourselves and push the limits of how much we can accomplish in our lifetime.

But, at the DeKalb School Board forum for candidates I attended recently, there did not sound like any Spud Webb stories were being told to any children these days. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Time and time again I heard both incumbents and challengers stating things like, "we know that not all kids are cut out for college." Or, "some kids will just naturally want to be some kind of technician and never go to college.

There was a pretty long discussion about how soon to send these kids over to the machine shop all day so they would not have to sit through their normal classes. One exception was Ms. Denise McGill, a challenger in District 6.  Ms. McGill, to the applause of many in the audience, said that a quality education is something that can and should be delivered to all our children.  And they can all feel just as good about themselves as those few gifted children who get all the perks of the system today.  I really enjoyed listening to Denise McGill as she shares my attitude about what is possible.

Mr. Paul Womack, incumbent for District 4, said that some kids are just going to want to do something else, like be a cook or a cop or a bag boy at Publix, I suppose. I thought the audience was going to come unglued, but much to my dismay, they mostly just sat there and nodded thier heads in agreement.

What planet are these people from?  Oh, that's right... Georgia

I don't know about you, but when I was in school, it was assumed that college was the natural next stop for every student. We were told that pretty soon a college degree would be the minimum you would need to even work at McDonald's. We were going to be part of a new global marketplace and we would have a lot more competition for every job out there.

If your family could not afford a big tuition, you planned to go to community college. If your family could not afford a community college, then you started looking for ways to get a scholarship early by playing a sport, an instrument or excelling in academics. Some kids even had Summer jobs that they used to save for college and others ended up taking out student loans in order to get through. But, we believed what our parents and the teachers and everyone else was telling us back then.

We were college material. All of us. Every last one of us could and should work hard now and plan on a future that included college and then a career. Did everyone end up going that route? Probably not.   But, I know we all tried.   I don't think anyone really knew what they might be one day when they grew up, but we all had dreams as I'm sure that all the kids growing up in DeKalb County right now do, too.

Kids will do what you expect them to do

If we expect a certain percentage of our chilren to fail, they will fail. If we accept that not all of our children will ever be college material, then they will find a way to make sure we are right. Children love to please the role models in their lives. They have a way of living up to your expectations even when you do not realize they are even trying.

And if we can openly talk in a meeting where candidates should be telling the audience what they will do better than the incumbents if we elect them, it's sad to hear so many of them talk about what they think we should do with the kids who will want to drop out and take a shortcut out of education and a fast track into blue collar life.

Have we forgotten that education, a good education, gives you so much more than just an entry ticket to the career of your liking? Education, especially higher education, gives a person a greater respect for all people, an understanding of the way the world works, an appreciation for one's own talents and a confidence level that will take them far in life no matter what line of work they ultimately settle on.

Education has long been known as the "great equalizer" and the one thing that is almost certain to "prevent poverty."  Here is an article written by Eric Waldo,  Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education and Frankie Martinez-Blanco, Director of Advance at the U.S. Department of Education on this subject:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/10/07/renewing-american-dream-education-great-equalizer


C'mon!  Let's do education RIGHT for a change!

Education, if done right, is a life-long process. We learn to appreciate ourselves and others, our strengths and our challenges, our history and our current lot in life. And, most of all, we learn how to dream, to believe and to strive to achieve something bigger and better than we ever thought possible when we were just coming up in the system.

To reroute children toward a pathway that does not include all the benefits, tangible and intangible, of a real education is a sorry goal for a school system that has a billion dollars a year at its disposal.

I wonder how many of our school board members are truly happy in their jobs right now, knowing that they are partially to blame for the jobs that were recently cut? I wonder how many teachers could have gotten through to those kids that we plan to pass on down the line without the skills to even write a cover letter or read a want ad?

Please get out and vote July 31.  Remember what this is all about!

I know there are a lot of people feeling sorry for themselves right now. But I'm just feeling sorry for all those children who don't really want to be auto mechanics or assembly line workers, but they were never given a bar to even try to jump over.

We just set the bar on the ground, tell them all to run as fast as they can and aim for the middle.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Delores North July 25, 2012 at 02:11 PM
I have three children; one is academically gifted, the other two have very, very low IQs. I believe that trying to give these 3 children the same education does a disservice to all of them. The academically gifted one sits in classes with kids who can't read and, of course, gets overlooked while the less gifted children get all the attention. So much potential she has is just being wasted while the teachers try to get the kid sitting next to her to understand that 2 plus 2 equals 4 because someone somewhere insists that all children must be given the same education, regardless of capabilities. The other two, on the other hand, can barely grasp the concept of 2 plus 2 equals 4. They try so hard, year after year, to succeed and, at best, wind up with Cs and Ds because someone somewhere thinks that a kid with an IQ of 144 and a kid with an IQ of 88 can learn at the same level. I watch them struggle year after year and am just waiting for the day that they drop out of high school because they realize that they will never be able to learn the things the school system insists they learn, instead of putting them on a path to sucess. We need to quit trying to teach calculus to kids with IQs of 88 and perhaps teach them a skill or trade so that they are not completely worthless when the graduate high school. Just my two cents as someone who experiences the frustration of equal education for all from both sides of it.
Cheryl Miller July 25, 2012 at 02:37 PM
The goal of education IS education. Teachers are there to teach, not train, otherwise they would be paid by the business sector and earn a hell of a lot more money than they do now. It would also be a more highly competitive profession with a lot more emphasis on the outcome. To try and fail is human and is all part of how we learn. To never try at all because you don't believe in yourself is truly the only failure you can never overcome.
Cheryl Miller July 25, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Delores, thank you for sharing your story with us. I feel for what you are going through as my daughter had several non-English speaking children in her class and they were not only lost, bored and confused, but they didn't even realize that they could have spoken to each other in Spanish. The teacher didn't speak Spanish and I think a special education person came in for about an hour which was the only time I ever saw these kids' faces light up. (I volunteered in the classroom.) It was confusing to my daughter because these kids were getting so much attention and were often not behaving correctly. She thought maybe she was doing something wrong, but really it was just that it was easier for the teacher to ignore her because she knew she would be "ok." And our teachers are not being judged on how much greater they can make a good student. They are expected to work miracles with the most difficult ones and also bring the others along. I agree with you that this does not make sense and I guess when I was writing my article I was thinking of kids on the same basic skill level, but I definitely agree that there needs to be a better way to separate them based on what they are able to do so the ones who need help will get it. Unfortunately, the Title I money that goes to the schools with kids who need help does not follow the student; it stays with the school. But, when the school does not make AYP, the kids are encouraged to leave for other schools without the funds.
Cheryl Miller July 25, 2012 at 11:53 PM
by the way, how old were they when you had IQ tests done? who ordered them? I have not heard of the school system doing this across the board for kids, but it would not surprise me. Don't put too much of your time worrying about a number. We all have obstacles to overcome in life. Some of us are just presented with them at a younger age than others, but we are also given what we need by God to find a way to push through. Have faith. It will get better. It always does.
Delores North August 02, 2012 at 04:19 PM
The two that struggle were 9 and 6 when they had their IQ tests done as part of testing done by a private psychologist to help us determine why they couldn't learn. The gifted child was tested to determine eligibility for a private program for intellectually gifted children. None of them were tested through the school system. We are concerned that the oldest, who is now 17, is on the verge of dropping out of high school because she cannot succeed. And, honestly, as her parent, I don't think she will succeed as she is being taught things she doesn't have the mental capacity to grasp, even with all the special accommodations. I would prefer they quit trying to teach her geometry, biology and who signed the Magna Carta and teach her a skill, or at least something at which she can excel. It is very damaging to her self-esteem, to say the least, to continually struggle and to continually fail, hence my fears that she may just give up once she turns 18. I'm not suggesting she be passed for the sake of her self-esteem, but a recognition by the school system that it is a waste of its time and hers, not to mention money, to teach her things at which she will never succeed, and that perhaps a better solution would be to teach this child a trade so she has a clear path to success post-high school. I find, in the school system as it is today, only the average students get taught to success. The gifted and the special education students both seem to get the shaft.


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