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Comments about ‘Wright Words: Teacher tells 4th-grader to ‘be realistic'’

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Published: Tuesday, Jan. 21 2014 5:00 a.m. MST

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Semi-Strong
Louisville, KY

Not sure I agree. Yes 4th grade (10 years old?) is young and dreams are still big. But dreams toward education can take a lot of divergent paths that still lead to a very good place. The same cannot be said of the sports and pop star dreams. The deck seems so incredibly stacked against anyone ever actually achieving that dream. Also, the fascination with sports and pop stars seems problematic from a societal point of view as these young millionaires often make poor choices. I get the point that big dreams can help kids to think wider than their small world. But so many seem focused on what is a near impossibility. Perhaps if the teacher were just a bit more gentle in their approach to the issue.

Jace the Ace
Stratford, CA

Let the fourth graders dream but still stress the importance of education. Pro Athletes and professional singers still need the education to handle their business affairs and avoid getting ripped off. How many ex pro athletes and entertainers end up broke because they never took the time to learn? So there is a way to handle this topic without wrecking a child's dream. My list of future vocations included police officer, fireman, Force Recon Marine, and football player. The dream to become a Marine was in 4th and 5th grade by the way. In 8th grade I gave a speech at the graduation ceremony where my goal was to become a CIA or FBI agent. In high school I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. My first year of college found me in Air Force ROTC with the idea to become a missile launch officer for the Air Force. Then towards college graduation I decided on becoming a Navy fighter pilot like in Top Gun. I did the physical, testing, etc. In the end I became a small business owner, something I never dreamed I would become. But the dreams kept me moving forward and focused.

GreyWolf
Weston, ID

To Semi-Strong, of course it is not easy to become a professional athlete. I would not suggest lying to children about their talents, but at the same time, I would suggest encouraging them to dream. The economic problems we are currently experiencing are due at least in part to people who are "realistic" and have been conditioned to believe they cannot compete in the marketplace.

Semi-Strong
Louisville, KY

GreyWolf,

Understood. And I encourage dreaming. But the pop star/professional athlete dream has two strikes against it. First is that it seems to not really benefit many of them. Second, in so many professions there is an element of control in the hands of the pursuer. My observation of the pop stars and athletes is that there is far less control in the hands of the person pursuing the career as to who makes it and the percentages are almost infinitesimally small.

No, I would not step on a kids dream. But I would encourage them strongly to look elsewhere from those two fields.

t702
Las Vegas, NV

@ Semi..."But the pop star/professional athlete dream has two strikes against it. First is that it seems to not really benefit many of them." how did you know that? With this type of attitude, why even try anything? you already give up before trying... The dream belongs to the kid (4th grader), who are we to tell a kid or anyone what he/she can dream about?

Prodicus
Provo, UT

Kids should dream big. But becoming a famous athlete or musician is generally the wrong dream. Half of today's kids dream of those two exceedingly unlikely outcomes. Many kids discount their education as a result. Even among the little aspiring athletes who eventually play on their high school varsity team in their chosen sport, roughly one in five thousand will go on to play professionally. How many of the rest didn't take parts of their education seriously or neglected their other talents because they were clinging to this dead-end dream?

If a fourth-grade kid dreams of becoming an astronaut, a deep-sea diver, a novelist, a skyscraper architect, or President of the US, their dream may not be "realistic" by some metrics but it does involve healthy ambitions regarding their next ten years of education.

Brent T. Aurora CO
Aurora, CO

Love Jason's books and almost all these columns. But sorry, disagree here. Too much dreaming going on and not enough realism; too many wanting that "lottery" path of superstardom fixated on the idea that fame equals success, and not enough people growing up more down-to-earth; too much entitlement.

fani
wj, UT

@ Prodicus: "Kids should dream big. But becoming a famous athlete or musician is generally the wrong dream..." how do you define "big dream" and "wrong dream" really? How can someone put a limit on a kid's dream is beyond me.

Read the story titled: "9-year-old girl writes letter to Seattle Seahawks' Derrick Coleman about hearing impairment, Coleman responds" -

Two weeks ago, Duracell released its latest commercial featuring Coleman's hearing impairment. The commercial shows the struggles Coleman endured from being teased on the playground to struggling to play football with hearing aids. Although Coleman was continually told he couldn't do it, he didn't believe that.

"They didn't call my name, told me it was over," Coleman says in the video. "But I've been deaf since I was 3, so I didn't listen."

Johnny Moser
Thayne, WY

Sad to see so many adults that would squash the dreams of so many kids. Reality is that sports teach more than most of the teachers in school when you get down to lessons that really make a difference in life. Sure reading is nice, writing is great, math is important too, but learning how to win and how to lose are applicable to everything they will do all of their life. Sure they won't all be professional or even semi-professional athletes, but that IS NOT the teacher's role to point that out. I can honestly say that I use the skills, people, teamwork, etc, learned from sports more than I use my chemistry, art, biology, etc. The fact that these people want reality to begin early shows me that they likely never had those experiences in life or they are the prototypical Uncle Rico. Dream kid, dream and when reality sets in, use what you learned in the process of not getting that goal to be successful at something else.

spydyee
Asheville, NC

What the teacher should have done instead was ask the child what the game plan was if he got injured and had to quit playing before he made millions as a pro. So many college athletes that have huge potential get injured and never have a pro career. This is true with dancers too. So a very realistic point of view that doesn't keep them from dreaming but also keeps their feet on the ground is to ask them what will they do when that physically demanding sport is no longer a possibility due to health problems including injuries. They need to have a Plan B anytime they choose a physically challenging career.

SlopJ30
St Louis, MO

Hmm, encouraging children to ground themselves in reality and truly evaluate their own skills, strengths and weaknesses is now a fault. Interesting.

I generally disagree, but it's honestly probably not a big deal. Most kids eventually figure out that, hey, I'm probably not physically inclined towards being a pro athlete, and I'm not willing to put in the countless hours of work to overcome my physical limitations. If a kid (or an adult, for that matter) entertains a fantasy once in awhile, so be it, but at some point any kid with good parents starts differentiating fantasy from reality.

Nan BW
ELder, CO

I think you are Wright on with your philosophy. Fourth graders have plenty of time to realize that they need several plans. Fourth grade is a wonderful age to let imagination blossom and dreams float high. Students will be in middle school soon enough for realism to start hitting home. Children have far too much exposure to realism and not enough time to enjoy childhood. I have a daughter who wanted to be a dentist for many years. She planned to encourage the eating of candy to increase business. She is not a dentist. She has a master's degree in statistics and excels in teaching math along with lots of home diversions. We all enjoyed hearing of her dental aspirations while they lasted and were fine when they faded away to be replaced with others.

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