Why do we have persisting “Achievement Gaps” both in public schools and on the job … why do so many business owners complain that they can’t get “decent help” … and why do so many fail, personally, to achieve what they “reasonably” ought to achieve – never mind reaching their full “potential”?
I submit that a lot of the answer has to do with inadequate application of – or sensitivity to – consequences of behavior.
It’s particularly difficult to understand or appreciate the potential impact of long-term consequences. Counting on delayed ramification is like counting on virtual fungible currency borrowed from the future; with any luck at all, we tend to believe, there won’t be any consequences … at least of any consequence … even as the statute of limitations on “delays” progressively runs out and “ramifications” progressively pile up.
We have heard much in the news recently about the “Rule of Law”. But I think we have a much larger and more pernicious problem in the lack of a “Rule of Consequences”. One shouldn’t have to wait until only the most offensive breach of accountability occurs (as when the “Rule of Law” has to be invoked) to hold a person accountable for less than “accountable” behavior. Accountability (both to oneself and to civilization at large) is a citizen’s responsibility across the board – else one risks a loss of “enfranchisement”.
While a loss of “enfranchisement” may be “no big deal” in the moment – and may even be perceived as a “badge of honor” to the more defiantly disposed – the collateral damage from losses of association, affiliation and indemnification (which translate to deficiencies in respect, legitimacy and trustworthiness) required to significantly advance in the universe represents a much larger and longer range liability.
Conservative psychologists and educators have long decried the emergence of permissiveness in parenting, combined with educationist innovations of the mid-20th century, which shifted the focus of nurturing future generations from disciplined and “consequential” guidance of youth to the minimization of consequences, elimination of competition, inflation of grades and enhancement of self-esteem, with “Trophies for Everyone” … thus, fairly convincingly foreshadowing the emergence of “Achievement Gaps” and regression of personal potential. In fact, one might argue that “Achievement Gaps” only exist because the “overachievers” (both parents and youth who refused to give in – and who insisted in both getting and being the best) kept forging ahead, leaving the willful or baneful non-participants behind.
One might also argue that such a state of affairs has given a “windfall” advantage to less talented individuals and “Unlikely Champions” who adamantly maintained an insistence on both getting and being the best, while the more savvy were seeing how much they could “get away with”, “beating the system”, outsmarting the “authorities”, writing their own rules … beating their own drums … etc. – trying to force the world to meet them on their own terms and to compel the universe to bend to their personal will!
From this perspective, the more consequences we minimize and/or eliminate, the more “equal opportunities” become available to those more goal-oriented and positively driven.
The Urban County Council General Government and Social Services Committee of the Lexington Fayette UCG recently passed a proposed change to an ordinance that would expand the current city-wide curfew for youth 18 years of age and under from 11 pm to 1 pm on week nights. http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/counties/fayette-county/article131285794.html
What a great way to “thin the competition”!
[Unfortunately, it’s also a sure-fire way to “thin the herd” http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/crime/article124332179.html ]
For a similar reason, one might be inclined to support legislation legalizing the recreational use of marijuana; it would bring in massive amounts of tax revenue and open a lot more opportunities for the more disciplined and positive consequence-driven to rise uncontested.
The blossoming of craft beer and bourbon enterprises in the Bluegrass Region, combined with the change in curfew, will be expected to have similar impact … driving revenue and creating increasing numbers of job vacancies for the more soberly ambitious to fill.
There are gut-level fundamentals of human psyche and physiology in play here. Perhaps first and most of all, we’d simply rather NOT if we don’t HAVE to. Thus, finding ourselves in a civilization where we’re as free to do ourselves harm as we are to chase our dreams, we have a sure-fire formula for degenerative regression, not progression. Add to that our innate “Rogue”, defiant, self-serving nature, and we become extremely creative – even dedicated to a point of preoccupation – with “Beating the System”.
It takes an extremely diligent application of discipline – and at least the awareness of potentially harsh consequences – to forge our way through, above and beyond the latitude we are given to do ourselves in.
My short-lived and exhausting term of volunteering in the public school system during 2015-2016 left me with the unalterable conviction that a lack of interventional guidance is THE core element in the emergence of “Achievement Gaps”. Not only are poverty-riddled parents unable to spend the time and energy necessary to supervise and mentor children toward productive citizenship, they are unable to get them engaged in positive community-supported activities where significant others [the “Village”] can have a positive impact and where they can gain a much broader and more global view of how the world works. Personally, I was very lucky. I was raised in a small community where noble role models dotted the landscape and strict behavioral expectations were de rigueur. I was in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, church choir, church youth groups, 4-H, the American Federation of Music Clubs, took piano lessons, was in band, had excellent coaching in baseball, football and basketball, and attended a college which had a 10 pm curfew.
This brings us to our final, defining moment revelation: Positive Consequences make Negative Consequences totally irrelevant and unnecessary! Give a person a Vision, a Purpose, a Mission and possibilities large enough to capture their hunger-to-succeed in that Vision/Purpose/Mission for an entire lifetime, and all you have to do is stand back and watch miracles happen! Except that you won’t be able to stand back at all; you’ll be itching to help!! All we have to do is find the switch that turns it on. How “turned on” are YOU? Quartermaster