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OP/ED: Candy, Crayons, & College Applications.

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posted on Mar, 7 2004 @ 10:06 AM
It seems like everything you do today is going to affect your future. Where you go to school, what classes you take, who you hang out with, what you wear, what summer job you want, even what music you listen to seems to take hold of your destiny! Are these things actual measures of your possible success, or one more mold we're raised to fit into?

So, attitudes change, attitudes can be changed but, now, I am not terribly optimistic that there is much anyone can do now the machine is set to go.
-Gore Vidal

This morning I would like to deal with some of the challenges that we face today in our nation as a result of the American dream. First, I want to reiterate the fact that we are challenged more than ever before to respect the dignity and the worth of all human personality. We are challenged to really believe that all men are created equal. And don’t misunderstand that. It does not mean that all men are created equal in terms of native endowment, in terms of intellectual capacity—it doesn’t mean that. There are certain bright stars in the human firmament in every field. It doesn’t mean that every musician is equal to a Beethoven or Handel, a Verdi or a Mozart. It doesn’t mean that every physicist is equal to an Einstein. It does not mean that every literary figure in history is equal to Aeschylus and Euripides, Shakespeare and Chaucer. It does not mean that every philosopher is equal to Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, and Friedrich Hegel. It doesn’t mean that. There are individuals who do excel and rise to the heights of genius in their areas and in their fields. What it does mean is that all men are equal in intrinsic worth.
-Martin Luther King Jr.

I recently talked at length with a good friend of mine who has been a little strung out lately. I assumed that he was worrying about which story to publish, which zine to pass out, or whether he should use charcoal or graphite on his newest canvas. Being stubbornly biased towards graphite, I asked him just what's been keeping him down. His response shocked me, not because of the actual worry, but because of its commonplace in the heart of every kid in America.

His future.

This seems to be the growing concern of even the most radical students in America. The ones most opposed to the corporate mess are the same ones struggling to be in that Top Ten Percent, hoping to graduate with honors and a few hours of college credit. But how many of these achievers really want to be there? I asked many of my peers, ranging all over the grade scale, wondering simply, why do you want this? Nine cases out of ten, the answer was "my parents."

Parents of most students today seem to be more involved in the school than the students, and seem to get more upset about a lowered GPA than a lowered self-esteem. Many parents' mindset is one that once the child can write they should be filling out college applications. Forcing not only top-quality grades but forcing the "option" of college seems to be average, accepted, and even applauded. The question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has completely different meanings than it did in the past. Our dreams and wishes are slowly abandoned over time, with the realization that we have to “grow up” to survive in the myth of the real world. A more suitable description of the world outside of school would be the same as the world inside of it; constant struggle to reach the top of a never-ending ladder. “Success” has become a standard, and “excelling” in life is no longer a distinguishing trait, its expected. Parents pound so many “if-then” scenarios into the minds of their children that the child cannot even imagine a life without a job, a house, a car, a cell phone, and a high salary. And thus the child enters the “real world,” which, in all actuality, is not a different world. It’s simply the slaughterhouse of dreams.
Ok, that was harsh, but like many will tell you “the real world is harsh.” The real world is the world without ambition, unless you count the ambition to be content. Many do not understand the difference between “what you do” and “what your job is” because they have been raised to think that your job is what you do, and nothing more. Parents are so afraid that their child will not “succeed” that they go to great lengths to wipe out the possibility of their child doing anything that has risks. So the dreams of being an artist, a musician, a model, an astronaut, an actor, or the president of the United States are clamped down on, duct taped, and thrown into the closet with all of the other childhood memorabilia. Children are raised to think “realistically,” though at the same time, creativity is applauded, as long as you are only creative when you are told to be. So children are educated as slaves and those who attempt to break free of their chains are immediately labeled as “failures.” Those who stay inside the prison walls, whether out of fear or denial, are labeled as “successful.”

But what is success today? Asking many parents, the average response was someone with a good paying job, a family, a house, and enough money to pay for their children’s education, so that their children can also have a good paying job, a family, a house, and enough money to pay for THEIR children’s education, and so on, and so on. Look around, how many people do you know with good paying jobs? The number of people living in this American Dream is astounding, so the question arises, “How successful are you when you are the same as everyone else?” Parents harass their children about doing well enough in school as to escape mediocrity, when actually, they are doing one in the same: living in the mediocrity of success. Success in the eyes of today’s elders is not achieving your dreams, changing the world, or enriching the lives of those around you. It is simply playing into the American Dream, and how deep you are actually sleeping.

Then there are the rebels. Those children and students who are wide awake and will not succumb to the American Dream and the mold their parents wish to shove them into. They retaliate in every way imaginable, until their junior year in high school rolls around. Then suddenly they straighten up, take that good old SAT, and buy into the mediocrity of success like the rest of their peers. But there are always those who do not. The renegades who remain renegades until the day they die. To most, they are failures and unsuccessful because they have no money. However, it seems as if the most important jobs to enrich the world are the ones making the least amount of money. Artists, teachers, lovers, dreamers, writers, poets, friends. Yet the big paying jobs, the CEO of that meaningless company, or the entertainer who is really just a face to go along with the computer-generated voice, are the least needed in our lives. True, there are those who are meaningful yet still have a lot of money, but they contradict their purpose. Instead of giving the money to those who DO need it and could use it to help our planet, they keep it for themselves. And thus their purpose becomes void.

So what are we to do? The rebels, of course, are more secure in life than any of the others, because they actually LIVE instead of just exist. The cheapest, the lowest grade, the standard are all plenty enough for them, because their lives are not dictated by what is in their wallet. Their souls feed off of something that money cannot buy, life, emotion, truth, and the wisdom of moments over the knowledge of years.

But what about the sleeping children, the ones that are being shaped into the same success their seniors are, thus putting a halt on evolution. We must begin, obviously, with the children themselves, by giving them a taste of life without borders, without chains, and without the growing fear of losing the risk free existence they lead. Yet no matter how we speak to the students, it will be in vain if the parents of these students are not changed. It is time for us to stick the parents back into the classroom and teach them a lesson they shall never forget. We will teach them, once again, how to LIVE. How to dream, how to dance, how to smile for a reason other than a camera being pointed in your direction.

Dreamers of the world, this is a calling to you. Can you teach the teachers? Or is it too late to wake them from their bondage of the American Nightmare. When the option of college and a mediocre life are not an option anymore, they are forced upon our backs like slabs of stone forced upon the backs on slaves building a monument to true failure, it is hard to tell.

I recently talked at length with a good friend of mine who has been a little strung out lately. But he is not in fear anymore, for the dreamers of the world have not merely shown him life, but they have broken his chains, and they have let him live.
The American Dream

[Edited on 9-3-2004 by Banshee]

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