“Have no fear of perfection
– you’ll never reach it.”
– Salvador Dali
I constantly remind myself, and others, of the dangers of being a perfectionist. To strive for perfection is to never be satisfied. And importantly, to never be happy. Endeavoring to be perfect can easily become a deadly double-edged sword.
Trying to always be perfect is pursuing the worst in us, that part that tells us nothing is ever good enough.
I have found one of the best antidotes to the unnatural inclination toward perfection is simple. Stop thinking about it and give your life, your labor and your love to others. Recognize that Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
An antidote, by the way, is a substance which can counteract a form of poisoning. The term ultimately derives from the Greek αντιδιδοναι antididonai, “given against”. Antidote is the best term to use, in my opinion, to better understand what we are really coping with. For you see, perfectionism is a form of poisoning. The expectation of perfection can poison the spirit of a child. Yes, it can lead to death, and has many thousands of times.
Allow me to mention, again, the horrifying statistic involving our precious children that enroll in a college or university.
Statistics on college suicides has tripled since the 1950s and suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college students, second only to traffic accidents.1 in 12 college students has actually made a suicide plan at some point. For more see: youngadults.about.com
It is unbelievable, but tragically true. And suicide, typically, does not discriminate based on age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. But in this country it does discriminate. Suicide rates are inordinately high for our young, vulnerable and emotional distressed and stressed out children. For middle and high school age youth (ages 12-18), suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death.
In ages 10-14, we have seen an alarming 128% increase in suicides since 1980, making it the third leading cause of death for that age group according to the Jason Foundation – see: http://jasonfoundation.com/youth-suicide/facts-stats/
More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,400 attempts by young people grades 7-12. My dear friends, these are NOT just numbers, they are our children.
War deaths in Afghanistan number almost 2,100 young Americans, lost since the U.S. entered that conflict in 2003. But most people are unaware that a much greater loss of young lives occurs every year on this nation’s college campuses.
Yes, we are effectively at war, in our own country, with what causes the death of many more young Americans. And the sooner we realize that it is a war, and one that we are losing, the sooner we will find hope for the many thousands who desperately need hope. They are the children of our deepest love. They are the sons and daughters of us all. They are my children. And they are your children.
Folks, we need to admit our mistakes. We need to take responsibility. We need to love each other enough to see the light of our neglectful transgressions. We need to stop pretending that we are doing what is right. We have failed so many of our deeply loved children, by not having the courage to say no. Say NO to outdated and oppressive teaching methodologies. Say NO to antiquated and overly stressful and unnecessary assessment strategies that place so much stress on children that they simply stop breathing. Say No to anyone who expects our children to be perfect. Shout No. And then, by God, go out into this world and do something about it.
My friends, there is simply too much stress placed upon our young, sensitive, vulnerable children. And what have you gained, if your honor roll child no longer exists. The only thing to be gained from such tragic loss is knowledge – truly sad knowing, and deep, everlasting regret.
We now have the wisdom, garnered from an unimaginable price paid by so very many children, to know that a precious child means far more to us than a crippled letter of the alphabet printed upon a piece of really dumb looking paper.
LeVonna and I have come to the realization that such artificial contrivances as report cards and grades, are highly superficial and deplorably subjective. Our state government (that’s us, Folks, you know – WE the people!) is responsible for adding even more unnecessary stress through mandated testing. And, importantly, these man-made artificial contrivances can become highly destructive of fragile self-esteem and of life itself. And the truth is, they are really meaningless, in the grand scheme of things. But, on the bright side, corporate profits are up, as they have effectively lobbied to market these very expensive examinations.
By the way, Martin Carnoy, at Stanford University and Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute examined test series over the last decade.
An analysis of international tests suggests students in the U.S. are not lagging behind their peers in other countries. Based on their analysis, the researchers found that average low, partly because a disproportionately greater share of US students comes from disadvantaged social class groups.
My friends, this is part of the price we pay for living in a vibrant democracy. We educate and test EVERYONE. Many other countries test ONLY those that are not screened out and placed in fast-track vocational programs. If you are not bright enough, off you go to the factory! And guess what, these students are not included in tests that compare the U. S. with other nations.
Based on analysis, these researchers found that average U.S. scores are low partly because a disproportionately greater share of US students comes from disadvantaged social class groups. (Remember, we include EVERYONE in our testing.)
The analysis also shows how errors in selecting sample populations of test-takers and arbitrary choices regarding test content contribute to results that appear to show US students lagging.
Folks, the UNFAIR and highly publicized comparative results create panic and stupidity in response to a very unreal scenario. The results can be abhorrently devastating to your child, who is NOT doing poorly in comparison. The stress placed upon the teachers, administrators and your child is unwarranted, and many times, destructive. It is dangerous and contributes to very deadly atmosphere that pervades academia. We now live in a dangerously delusional place. And only the truth shall set us free.
Remember the TECAT testing fiasco – the infamous Texas Examination of Current Administrators and Teachers. It was a test of basic literacy given to Texas teachers in 1980’s. This test, seen as politically essential, was intended to raise the public esteem of teachers by weeding out incompetents. Teachers expended massive effort in reviewing basic skills and drilling on the test format (yes, the format of all things, and totally useless in this life or the hereafter).
The focus in our public schools, at the time, was drawn AWAY from teaching and placed entirely upon preparation for the test. 99% of the 210,000 who took the test had passed. And we lost thousands of experienced vocational education teachers, special education-teachers and others who were overrepresented among the failures. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled it an UNFAIR TEST. This, so called, literacy test, it ruled, discriminated against teachers who were black or over 40.
I recall one very dear and deeply loved third grade teacher, with over thirty years of experience, who was so nervous that she could not cope with the stress. It was over three decades ago when she took her last test in college, at Texas Wesleyan University. I was her Principal and found her to be not only highly competent, but very, very loving and deeply dedicated to every child. The students in her class were privileged to be in the life-affirming, warm and loving environment she created for them. I attended her funeral shortly after she lost her employment and all hope. I cried for weeks. This was yet another example of an ill-conceived assessment program with deadly consequences.
Yes, it was another testing fiasco that slapped thousands of educators in the face. It devastated the lives of precious, dedicated veteran educators – people that our kids needed in their shop classes, elementary classes and special education programs. What a horrible experience for everyone. It scarred educators so much that it was never repeated.
And all it accomplished, other than spending our money in a cruel and unwise manner, was to leave the landscape of so many dedicated and experienced educator’s lives in ruin. What a way to appreciate those precious people who chose a life of near poverty (yes, some teachers received food stamps to survive) in order to help our children. But, we had people who needed to get re-elected, regardless of the cost.
Remember folks, your vote is the single most valuable thing you possess! When you place someone in control of your life, and the lives of your precious children, by giving them your vote – make certain that they possess the qualities of being truly human. If compassion and common sense have not been the hallmark of their life, vote for someone else. It is that simple.
I have a suggestion for you. Please take the last report card you received and tack it to the wall. Throw darts at it until it has so many holes in it that you can see the light of day through it (another way of saying – the truth). Now, when you have put enough holes in this byproduct of an ill-conceived, panic laden, distortion of reality, you will realize that it shall never do your child much good. After all, it is not really accurate and can convey negative connotations that are simply harmful.
These reports are are so subjective they are not really telling you much of anything, at all. But, you got in some good practice throwing darts. I also recommend the same for those self-destructive and illusory state exam results. You know, the ones that have resulted in closing entire schools, while stroking the egos of a few politicians. Oh my God! Please forgive us. And hand me another dart.
If you really want to give your child an assessment, give him or her a huge hug at the end of day and tell the one you cherish just how much he or she is loved by you. Take the time to say everything you ever wanted to tell your child, each and every single day. Let them know that they are the PERFECT gift from God. And they need not even try to improve upon such perfection. Now that is a genuine and heart-felt assessment. And it is one worth giving.
And if your really feel compelled to have a written report card, write “I LOVE YOU” on a piece of paper, fold in half and hand it to your child.
The Love of God is perfect. And the Gift He has given you, in a child of His, is all you need and all you shall ever need. Please, do not even think about asking for more. That would truly be an affront to God. Please do not insult and offend the One who has given you a Perfect Gift in the form of His precious child.
And please, don’t allow your child to be given contrived, superficial, highly subjective grades for anything. Do not allow some pretentious, philosophically antiquated, overtly biased and over bearing teacher to do this. Hey, give your kid a puppy, or a smile, or the wink of an eye, or a big hug or a new toy or a good laugh or a trip to the back yard to play with him or her.
Squirt your kid, regardless of age, with the water hose, and then take off running. (Expect to get wet within the next 15 seconds. You cannot have more fun than a great water fight on a hot day). Give your child the very firm knowledge that whatever they do is good enough. In fact, tell him or her that what you EXPECT is not to be perfect. No one is. No one. It would be abnormal to be perfect. Trust me, you would not fit in with the rest of us. A perfectly behaving child really doesn’t exist. And, nothing good will ever come from it.
The only thing you should expect from your deeply loved child is that he or she be happy. If he or she is not, do something different. If you think about what makes you happy, you can make someone else happy. It is that simple.
Yes, it is important to graduate. But in order to graduate, you must survive. You must be alive. And your child will, if you relax, and pray and play with him or her (by the way, more play results in a better preparation for the game of life. And, in many ways, it is a game!).
If your child is being provided with an antiquated grade from a philosophically outdated school, give the grade back to the teacher, where it belongs. Yes, just hand it back. A superficial and subjective grade truly belongs given back to the instructor. Isn’t it a reflection upon how the child did under the tutelage of that teacher? Hand it back! Ask why the teacher did not do a better job teaching your child. And inform the teacher that you really don’t want or need his artificial appraisal of someone he will really never know.
Fear can keep you, and your children, from living. But with God on your side, you need not fear anything or anyone. You are perfectly loved by your Creator. In fact, you are the very definition of perfection.
But perfection from human beings is unattainable. The expectation of perfection from children is as deadly as any toxin, infection, contagion or war.
We are already perfect. Now, you can say a simple prayer of Thanksgiving. And give that perfectly wonderful child of yours a big hug for me.
Hey, give me one too! I will be perfectly happy with that.