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Reform: Adults' Expectations As Misguided As Kids'

It’s widely noted that too many kids -- especially low-income, minority ones -- seem to think that they’re going to be professional athletes, or performers, or models.  Those goofy kids.  So easily influenced by pop culture. 

What’s less widely noted is that many adults hold onto their own, equally unrealistic fantasies.  They are, I'd argue, just as if not more destructive than kids thinking their going to be ballplayers.

Picture 3Most destructive of all is adults’ the belief in their own or others’ power to fix things for kids, to save them, to turn things around against all odds, make a substantial difference. 

This belief is entrenched in popular culture, in the news media, and to a certain extent in school reform circles.  It manifests itself in “magic bullet” and “secret sauce” stories focused on some special innovation that’s being tried here and there, or the “hero” story in which an individual teacher, principal, reformer, or politician rides to the rescue. 

Not that these things don’t occasionally happen, or aren’t worth attempting.  They do, and they are.  But any such effort should be done with full knowledge of the complex, entrenched dynamics that have created the original situation and will challenge any changes.   And any occasional successes should be treated as just that – a combination of luck, smarts, and effort that might just was well have failed, or may well falter next month or next year. 

Exceptions can't become expectations.  And we adults shouldn't make fun of kids for pinning their hopes on unrealistic expectations until we're willing to do the same first.

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