Last night, while doing late night doctoral work online, a student from this school year messages me via iChat. Through a little banter and conversation, this student asked how my doctoral work was going. I related to him that my professor, who I’ve had now three times, was really terrible. I reported blatant plagiarism of this professor to the university, and he is still employed. Further, he does not read our assignments, I’m sure, because he deducted points on something I had under a bold heading for him (I know he doesn’t read, so I make it easy for him.). I had to HIGHLIGHT my work so he could regrade and find his mistakes.
After all this, my student asked why teachers or professors do not understand the value of the job they have. He finds it shameful that these leaders, who hold the key to shaping the future, take it so lightly. I told him its like anything else; unfortunately a few bad individuals taint an otherwise noble profession. I let him know this is really the way it is in many professions.
My student then said something to the effect of: So, how can anyone expect anything to get better if everyone accepts mediocrity?
I WAS ASTOUNDED. This, from a student who isn’t the hardest working or the brightest, but perhaps the most transcendent and insightful. Yes, he did get detention this year for a very immature stunt on the school bus, but he is wise beyond his years. I told him that recognizing such a powerful idea at such a young age means he is now personally responsible for himself and those around him to push well beyond mediocrity and closer to perfection.
Did Matt Cain settle for getting most of the guys out? No. (yes, a shameless, unrelated tie-in, i know, but i am a baseball fan).
Teaching as a profession, and to a greater extent society as a whole, will only improve when we begin to push beyond mediocrity because in is good enough. Wasn’t it Jim Collins who said “Good is the enemy of great” and Dr. Seuss who said “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.”
Don’t accept good. Pursue great. Don’t accept mediocrity, pursue perfection.