Anything that you want to be

I have spent much of my life working in schools, and it warms my heart to sit in a staffroom and hear a dedicated and tireless team of professional wax lyrical about the unlimited possibilities that present themselves to the children under their care.

Sorry, I meant to say that it boils my piss to listen to a bunch of child obsessed women, probably with more cats at home than they have facial warts, harp on about the potential starved youngsters who will be dragged in by their ‘special uncle’ this morning because Mum has a hangover.  The number of children that I have seen dragged into various schools this way beggars belief.  They are pasty looking, ragged, miserable, and frequently neglected.  They are in school only because it get’s them out from under the feet of their parent(s), and because their is a fine for not sending them.

It is then, supposedly, the job of the school to make them into rounded and useful members of society, and this is where my staffroom issue arises.  We live in an age of equality, where even the most disadvantaged members of society are led to believe that the world is their proverbial oyster.  With enough hard work and dedication, they can be anything that they want to be.  The opportunities are there for the taking, and all the doors are open.  It’s the story that has been told to children by teachers for millennia.  It is often told as a control mechanism that keeps damaged and broken children calm while they sit through several dreary years of school, waiting until they are old enough to make it stop.  It has become the official line of governments, selling hopes and dreams for the price of a vote.  It has become a central notion of education, selling hopes and dreams for your passivity.  It is the line said so often by hum drum teachers, that I begin to think that many of them are starting to beleive it.

It is, however, not the case.

If a child come from a background of poverty, they will in all likelihood remain poor for the rest of their life.  If a child’s parents are uneducated shit-wits who spend their lives in and out of court for various transgressions, the child will most likely go the same way.  On the flip side, of course, if your daddy has a good job and a nice car, there is a very strong possibility that you will follow suit.  This is not written in stone, of course, and there are a good number of exceptions, but not really enough to challenge the rule.  We do see children rise up from poverty to do great things in the world, and we (more regularly) see rich kids go astray, but the former category are quite uncommon, and the latter are usually dug out of a hole by their families.

There is nothing wrong with this in itself.  It’s nature. It’s just the way of the world.  It’s only stuff.  You don’t have to like it, but it will continue regardless.

Is it fair?  Of course it isn’t, but fairness is not what keeps the planet spinning.

As humans though, being aware of this, is it really for the best to teach children to expect something other?  Surely it would make more sense to teach them that if they work hard and learn a skill, then they have a much better chance of becoming financially independent and feeding their families.

The notion that anything is possible has led to a generation (or more) of dissatisfied individuals with a ridiculous sense of entitlement.  The ‘entitled’ don’t want a menial job.  They want to be rich and/or famous, even though they have no plan for getting there.  And of course, when they don’t get there, they become bitter.

Television has played a huge part in creating and nurturing this monster.  By pushing a collection of carefully selected bottom feeders into the limelight, it sells us the illusion that anyone can become rich and famous, and in turn, that being rich and famous is the number one marker for success.  Watching these talentless lumps of humanity trudge their way across the screen certainly does give the impression that anybody could be in that position, and there is undoubtedly some truth in the notion,  but what we are encouraged to miss is that while ANYBODY could be there, not EVERYBODY can.  In fact, very very few people ever will.  Just because [insert name] from [insert name of reality TV show] drives a Aston Martin and could easily be outwitted by a squirrel, does not mean that leaving oneself less mentally astute than a woodland creature will necessarily lead you to a heated driver’s seat with massage function.

We are constantly bombarded by tales of the penniless entrepreneur building a multi million dollar empire out of an old shoe box that he found behind the toilet that he was living in.  If it can happen to him, it must follow that it can happen to anybody.  We don’t hear so many stories of the people who failed.  The people who found the shoe box, tripped over it and died in their toilet, covered in shit.  The second outcome, needless to say, is vastly more likely than the first, but because that is so dismally common, there is no fun in telling it.

So let’s stop teaching children that they can be anything that they want to be, or better yet, let’s start teaching them that what they want to be is happy, and that whatever they find makes them that way, is probably what they should aim for.  Let’s teach them as well, though, that sometimes, in order to keep ourselves happy in general, we will probably have to make an occasional compromise, and even do a couple of things that we don’t really want to along the way.

Anyone with a dream is entitled to go for it, and I wish them well.

Just think twice before you tell a kid with no legs that, with just a little work, he can become the next hopscotch champion.

Grantham Montgomery.

Minister of Stuff.

Footnote.

Here at the Ministry, we don’t pretend that there unlimited opportunities for promotion. There is a glass ceiling that is obvious to everyone. In fact, if anyone knows how to get the fucking thing cleaned, please let me know.

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