Here’s an email I received last night:
Dear Mr. Walsh,
I’m a public school guidance counselor and I am aware of your work. Im writing to tell you that you shouldn’t be so open about your opinions regarding college… I get that you don’t think all kids should necessarily go to college and that’s fine if that’s your opinion. But it could be dangerous for you to be so open about it… It might not be for everyone but IDEALLY all kids will follow the normal path.
Please consider becoming an advocate for education rather than an opponent of it. I’m afraid you may be doing serious damage in your community.
Well, I have been lectured by many a guidance counselor in my day, but I have to admit that I thought it would stop after I graduated high school. At least this one didn’t tell me that I need to be on medication.
This email of course represents an extremely common attitude. And that’s what makes it so disturbing on so many levels. I think we should all naturally cringe when any government worker uses the phrase “follow the normal path”. In fact, “follow the path” sounds like the title of a Scientology seminar or something. Sorry, that’s not a fair comparison. I mean, we’re talking about a bizarre cult that preaches pseudo-science, fabricated history, hedonism and false salvation. But enough about public school.
I admit that I am guilty of being both an idealist and a radical, so maybe that explains why I am so horrified at the notion of putting all kids on a preordained “normal path”. It’s normal, but is it good? Or is it good because it’s normal? And in order to put all kids on the “normal path” don’t we first have to make them “normal” themselves? We certainly can’t have any pesky abnormal specimens on our normal path, can we? After all, they might be “too open” about their “dangerous” ideas, and next thing you know they’re causing everyone else to develop some critical independent thinking skills! Oh the horror! Dear God, they might even stop taking their pills and start exploring their own unique and creative potential! Someone, quick, double their dosage and turn on the TV!
Look, there is only one “path” we should ALL be walking down, and that’s the path of truth and virtue. But — because truth is as real and as wide as the universe itself — that path can come in a billion different forms. It’s a damn crime that we only allow our kids to follow one particular form of it. And we do it, not because it’s necessarily best, or right, or the most fulfilling, but just because it’s “normal”. And it’s normal because that’s what everyone does. And everyone does it because it’s normal. And the circle spins round and round and round.
The saddest thing is that these kids come out of high school and their lives have been planned for them for so long that they truly don’t comprehend, and they certainly don’t take advantage of, the freedom they now have. I don’t mean the freedom to get drunk and play video games all day. I mean the freedom to actually DO something. Anything. They have no kids (hopefully), no dependents, no spouse, no mortgage, nothing tying them down or constricting them. They could go anywhere, pursue any dream, explore anything, take any risk, set out on any journey. Yet we force them to squander this moment by quickly putting them back on “the normal path” and shipping them along the conveyor belt to the next facility.
The normal path is fine for normal people. But your kid might not be normal. Try seeing that as the beautiful thing that it is. And then try letting your abnormal kid try an abnormal thing.
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