We must stop wasting money and effort training people who don’t have a chance of ever using the skills they are being taught and start putting our efforts into teaching the things those particular people will need to succeed. That means discovering early what an individual’s potentially useful talents are and then training that individual to be really good at that particular thing. Discovering a child is brilliant in some particular thing and then not giving him the materials to develop that skill does a great disservice to that child and to him when he grows into an adult. The whole country, even the world, loses when a child is told he can do something, which is absolutely outside of his capacity. Why tell a kid he can be anything he wants to be, even an NBA basketball star, when he has only average stature and abilities? The problem is that he might believe an adult, just like the story, Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus, and waste years of effort in aspiring to a futile goal. Teaching a kid inappropriate things only leads to a life of despair and distrust. Instead teach them something which they can succeed in and which will be socially useful. Teaching kids they can be artists, rock stars, TV personalities, star athletes is setting 999 of a 1,000 on a road to failure and disappointment.

Typically, it will be said that an intelligent child will do okay without any special help, and that is probably true if you define okay as graduating from high school, but with the right encouragement and support they might become a fantastic benefit to all humanity. I have a lot of personal experience with this issue, because it wasn’t until years after leaving college when I was departing the Air Force that I discovered I had above average abilities. The only time I remember in my entire academic career anyone ever giving me a single word of encouragement was from my high school buddy Orrin Pilkey when we were walking down the street in Pullman, Washington. It was so absolutely shocking I remember it clearly 57 years later. Every other comment ever made to me about my academic achievement was negative, I’m not kidding. There were some very strange events along the way, but when it came to grades, etc., it was always the same old litany “Charles, I know you can do better so I am giving you this low grade to encourage you.” What foolishness. I carry on with this, not because I feel sorry for myself; I had personality flaws which showed mostly as arrogance and sarcasm. The teachers hated that and hated me, but it was almost certainly a childish response to being mishandled.

My personality problem percolated up a few days ago, and I have been mulling over that rebuff.