It's Parent-Teacher Conference time again, which mean both parties get to share positive and constructive feedback (neither of which is mutually exclusive, mind you). After such a conference earlier today, a friend of mine lauded her friend for telling the 2nd Grade Teacher, "Oh, I just don't care if she (her child) is smart...I just want her to be well liked and average academically."
I do not know the mother, the teacher nor the child, but I am all too familiar with that mindset, as it has become overly prevalent in our society. Replace "well liked and average academically" with "well mannered and challenged academically" and I agree 100%. Don't get me wrong, I would rather be "well liked" than the alternative and there are many things at which I would rather be average than my current proficiency level. However, a 7 year old who is taught that the ultimate goal is being "well liked" and not the result of following "the golden rule," or who is encouraged to be average may never be either well liked or average. In many circles, I would prefer my child not be well liked since being well liked is normally a product of demonstrating certain behavior deemed enviable by the target audience. I am not an advocate for making enemies, but should we care if bullies, burnouts, or slackers particularly like our children?
Well liked, average business owners often times go out of business; well liked, average athletes often times find themselves on the bench; well liked, average students often times find getting into their college of choice overly challenging. We have little choice but to accept mediocrity in many aspects of our life, but we need not encourage, nor embrace it. I think we would all agree that as parents and teachers we should collectively build a nurturing environment that demands well mannered behavior and continually challenges our children. A truly nurturing environment helps our children to reach their potential (which may very well be average and that is OK) and produces a person that cannot be anything but well liked by contributing members of society.