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.


8 Responses to “Poverty 101? Take An Incomplete!”

  1. Natalie Tyson Says:

    I’m so glad this student’s mother came up & spoke to you. You were just the right medicine to make her feel better & shame on those at Auburn who belittle any students’ future pathway. Keep the blogs coming; you’re so gifted!

    • Natalie, thank you!!! I’m out to evangelize this word of daring all I can. When I heard that, it reignited what’s always simmering in me — a devotion to remove all human obstacles. It’s tough to get people out of their own way. But when they venture standing in another’s way, this we’ll not tolerate!!

      Peace. Best of times!

  2. yvonneeileen Says:

    Reblogged this on 1,000 Words or less and commented:
    This blog actually hits near a topic that I plan to blog about in the very near future. How many parents squash their kids’ dreams by refusing to hear them? We teach our children to want less, but we should be teaching them to want more.

  3. yvonneeileen Says:

    I was just sitting down this morning (on my planning period at school) to begin outlining a blog that I wanted to write about the damaging affects of low expectations. In schools, this is actually a strong factor in school failure. Your words caused me to pause and reflect about how many times adults inadvertently pass on their beliefs about success and failure just because they were frustrated as a young person. What I realize is that many people don’t think that is what they are doing even as they are doing it. Thank you for this post. I enjoy your warm writing voice.

    • Yvonne, I’m honored!! Thank you for these insights, running deep, and your kindness. We tend to get what we expect, of ourselves and others. Not only schools, but families, churches, scouting programs, employers, so many aspects of life stratify people. People expected little of Richard Branson, but he defied them. I salute what is clearly your work to educate and inspire. Never to settle.

      Please, steer this way often. I’m honored to have you explore this corner of my world. Warmest peace.

  4. sharonlynn22 Says:

    I remember a moment in my life as well. I had always wanted to be a teacher but my mother told me I would never make a living, that I should be a nurse. Having little thoughts of my own at that time, I changed my major. The Superintendent begged me to return to teaching, promised me a job but I yielded to my mothers voice. After passing out with the site of blood in iv tubing I came under the wings of a professor who told me I would never amount to anything. I remember graduating, running to her and proclaiming “I did it” She smiled and said she knew all along I would.

    It turned out nursing became the love of my life but again my mother intervened writing a letter to my manager for letting me work there. My manager came to me and told me of it and that I earned my place, that I was a good nurse and not for pity.

    I am glad you brought this up, the different influences that come into our lives and that it is our choice whom we listen to and the paths we follow. As always, thankful for your words that continually challenge to open wide our minds and drink what is to saver

  5. Oh, Mr. Cogdill…I hate that you posted this site. Now I’ll never get anything done. Great work!

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