Thursday, July 18, 2013
We live in a culture in which young people are constantly told that with enough hard work, anything is possible. "Follow your dreams" they are told. Optimism is good. Believing in oneself is also good and it's a vital part of every teacher's job to encourage students to reach their full potential. But that optimism also needs to be tempered with some realism as the law school crisis has made abundantly clear to thousands upon thousands of law students who can't find employment no matter how hard they try simply because the jobs aren't there. Law teachers at lower tier schools in particular have to be more careful and responsible in the messages they send to students since it's a fine line between offering appropriate encouragement and enabling an unrealistic dream. A culture of grade inflation makes things worse because nearly every student gets the message that their work is "special."
That's why this short editorial from the Chronicle of Higher Ed, A Father's Sad Truth, is such a breath of fresh air. In it, a faculty member at liberal arts college who just became a new father vows to level with his children in a way that he wishes someone had done with him; follow your dreams but only up to a point. The world may not place an economic value on your dreams that is equal to your passion for them. The cold, hard reality is that you're going to have to pay the rent too and that sometimes means finding a different dream.