Then I read this artlcle Little League Pitcher Banned from Playing Because He is Too Good after seeing this story on the Early Show. This boy is nine years old and his fastball can go as fast at 40 mph. When he took the mound the other week, the opposing team forfeited and left the game. The league told the coach that this boy could not pitch any more. Imagine not allowing a child to play a game because he is too good? That is what is wrong with America right now. We are holding back children who are too good in whatever they are good at but other countries are pushing their children to be the best at extremely young ages. Look at the controversy over the age of the Chinese gymnasts. They push their children at a very young age to pursue excellence. Yet, we tell this boy he can’t play with children his own age because he is too good. Then of course he can’t play with children who are older than him because he doesn’t meet the age requirements. What will happen to this boy? Do we let his talent fall to the wayside?
When my daughter was in fourth grade, I would have to drop her off early at school so I could get to my school early and prepare for teaching. She would go to the cafeteria where all early arrivals met and proceeded to keep herself occupied so she wouldn’t get in trouble. I didn’t know there was a problem until I was called for a conference at her school. Apparently at the end of each day, the teacher would put up the next day’s assignments while they waited for dismissal. My daughter would copy the assignments down and in the morning while she sat in the cafeteria for 30 minutes, she would complete all of the assignments. Then during class, she became disruptive because she had nothing to do and bothered other students while they completed the daily assignments. I asked how well the assignments were completed and was told that she made 100 on all of them. The teacher and administrator insisted that I make my daughter stop doing the assignments ahead of time so she wouldn’t be disruptive in class. My concern was that if she could make 100 on assignments without classroom instruction that maybe she wasn’t being challenged enough. Both refused to give her alternative assignments or look at any other alternatives. They refused to think about the gifted program because they felt she was a behavior problem. As a teacher, I tried to be sympathetic about the behavior problem and promised that we would address that at home but I was insistent that the academic problem was the school’s problem. Needless to say, we were at a standstill and the rest of the year was just miserable for all of us.
Here are two examples of how we hold our children back. Then we wonder why the rest of the world is forging ahead of us. After reading Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat, I am impressed at how India has looked at the needs of their country and tried to find ways to move forward quickly. I recently attended a forum on the need for finding alternative fuel sources and the research that is being done. In the future, who will be doing this research if we continue to hold back our children. If our message to them is to not be too good or try too hard, then we become a mediocre country with mediocre talents who only produce mediocre results, while the rest of the world passes us by.
How can we combat this pressure for mediocrity? I don’t know but I’m feeling very frustrated by it. I think one way would be to look at our students and make sure that we are challenging them to work to their full potential. If they are behavior problems, look beyond the behavior and see what the cause is. Let’s not treat the symptoms but find out why the child is behaving this way. Maybe the need more challenges or need to be pushed to fine tune their talents. We are the ones that can shape this child into someone who could change our world. Our children believe that we can help them and we can’t let them down. We need to believe that we have the power to help them find success.