what i learned in kindergarten was a load of crap

When we were kids, we couldn’t wait to grow up. We couldn’t wait to be big so was could do all the things we spend all day pretending to do: be astronauts, dig up dinosaurs, drive cars.

Is is right to let kids dream? Is it right to let them reach for the stars? What happens when they get older and they learn what a light year is and they learn that Proxima Centauri is 4.37 of them away and that they will never see it rise over an alien horizon?

One could argue that you tell kids that they can do anything because there will be some that achieve great things. But where does that leave the rest of us? A generation of kids that are slowly finding out that most of the things we were taught in kindergarten isn’t true. You can’t be anything you want to be. The world has racial discrimination, glass ceilings, class systems, IQ tests, nepotism, deadlines, and entrance fees and while a few will break through such barriers, the rest of us won’t. That’s assuming you even do want to break through. Often you look through the bars and realize that the grass is astroturf on both sides.

You realize that there are only 40 or so astronauts a year and you aren’t very high on the list. Dinosaurs tended to die in areas that are really hot and dry and digging them up involves more than just a trowel and some old pork-chop bones and that’s when you aren’t petitioning the National Science Foundation for a grant to keep from being shut down. Car insurance is expensive and you can really only afford the basic coverage so you spend most of your driving time hoping not to be in an accident because you probably couldn’t afford to fix your car.

I don’t wish for youth, because when you are a kid your life sucks, too. You don’t have a say in when to go to bed, what you are going to eat for dinner, or even what you are going to do tomorrow. Kids pretend because their minds are the one thing they do have control over. When you are a teenager you are a the whims of your biology and are so desperate to not be alone that you turn into someone else to be accepted by someone else who is also trying to be someone else.

But in the end, every single one of us when faced with a six year old who wants to be a firefighter reply that yes, if that is what you really want to do, you should do it and you can do it. It doesn’t matter that the kid will grow up to be only 120 pounds and will barely make enough money as a firefighter to raise his family. We tell him to follow his dreams because no matter what, there is part of each and every one of us that really needs to believe that he can. That maybe he’ll be different. That against everything that we have observed in our own lives, that that six year old will stand on a planet 4.37 light years away and watch as Proxima Centauri peeks up over the mountains. And that it will be amazing.

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  1. kim

    that was a rant. do you need to talk? are you feeling ok? hmmm? i wanted to be a gymnast that didn’t quite work out

    Posted March 16, 2008 at 10:30 pm | Permalink
  2. Thanks for adding me to you blog Clint.

    Posted March 17, 2008 at 12:02 am | Permalink
  3. Valoree

    Clint…your posts have been a little depressing lately! What’s up with that? Funny but depressing. Richard and I were just talking about this yesterday. But we were thinking more of how great we had it as teenagers but couldn’t wait to grow up. Oh, to only have to work 16 hrs a week, no bills, no BAK (just kidding). Great times but no, I wouldn’t want to go back.

    Posted March 17, 2008 at 2:10 pm | Permalink
  4. Of course it is okay to let kids dream! And you should still dream! I have dreamt to be Christine in the Phantom of the Opera just to prove to the world that I really do have her range…to conduct a major symphony orchestra…to finish my thesis…
    …and you know what? I could do it. I just have to work for it. Lose the weight, get some more vocal training and find one heck of a tall Phantom and I have it! :)
    But, much like the dreams we have at night, they take sharp turns sometimes and change. That’s okay too. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind, or rather, your dream.
    There’s my two bits.

    Posted March 19, 2008 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  5. Well, Clint, I have often thought about this topic. I mean it. I think about it a lot. I feel like with the right amount of work, a lot of people could probably follow and succeed in their dreams. A lot of people definitely can’t, though. I can tell you right now that I could never be some of the things I want to be because calculus and physics are tough mathematical areas for me. There are definitely people who don’t have the natural abilities best-suited to the dreams they have.

    So the question is, then, what do you tell a child? Do you explain that not everyone has the body to be a model, the strength and agility to be an athlete, or the brains to be an engineer? Or do you say, “Yes, you can be whatever you want to be!” so that regardless of their circumstances, they grow up with a positive outlook, confidence, and ambition?

    Right now I think I wouldn’t tell my kids they can be anything they want to be. Right now I think that mentality creates a sense of entitlement — the idea that we can have, do, and accomplish whatever we desire. And the fact is that we can’t. More importantly, though, I think we shouldn’t. I think I’ll teach my kids that sometimes there are things we want to do, but other things come first, and sometimes we don’t have the time or the means to do the things we want.

    I think instead of telling my kids they can do whatever they want, I’ll teach them to find their natural talents and abilities, work on their weaknesses, and see what fits. I think I’ll tell them that there will be time later (in the afterlife) to do ALL of the things they want to do. We have limitations on earth, but in heaven, who knows?

    I hope all of that makes sense . . . I kind of rambled, but I really did mean everything I said. :)

    Posted March 21, 2008 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  6. My words were not — by any means — “pithy.”

    Posted March 21, 2008 at 2:36 pm | Permalink