Poverty 101? Take An Incomplete!
After I spoke at an event this morning, the mom of an Auburn journalism student approached, naturally incandescent with pride in her daughter. Proud, but a tad troubled, I could tell.
Someone, or a group of them, at Auburn has been filling her daughter’s head with gloom speak about her chosen profession. You’ll make nothing. Brace for poverty. Steel yourself for a life lush with canned beans and government cheese. (Not a thing wrong with either, by the way).
There is, however, something wrong with educators trying to cap the expectations of a student. Education is about broadening, not narrowing, expectations. No, that’s no sturdy realism they deliver. Nor is it refining pragmatism, teaching a kid she’ll be poor. It is, I believe, a rant of quiet resentment. A seething desire not to see the student out-soar the instructor.
In my college experience, at Georgia and North Carolina, rare was the professor who tried to cap me with low expectations. Those who did, I don’t remember. I recall only those who said, yes, get after it. Your dream is up there. Here are the afterburners of learning. The tools. Light ‘em up and get the hell after it. Work hard. Get there.
I am a student of the liberal arts, and I celebrate this. Yes, I studied journalism, great literature, the humanities that make us human. I did the math, too, sure. But language lit the air of my heart. It’s still my electrical charge. And I am not poor! Not by any definition. Thank God, I am anything but poor. I have a tremendous lot, and many to thank for it.
But more than this, I am not measured by my wealth, nor by poverty. I take my measure by the capacity to scatter some worth about the place, especially to those on the downside of advantage. That’s wealth. That, in the end, is what this essay is about. That value set should forge its way off the tongue of those professors at Auburn, and every college and university around the globe. Teach it. Demand the mindset from your students. Inspire them, after all.
Students, don’t believe the drivel of little minds with big pedigrees who say because you study this, you’ll never amount to some significant that. You get to choose whether to believe the doomsayers who, so often, were too afraid to dare. Don’t believe them. Haul off and dare. Dare grandly.
It’s up there. You can reach it, with work. What you love will give you the ride.