“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”
- Booker T. Washington
Recently a riveting ExxonMobil commercial has found its way to an early morning time slot. And if Americans catch its airing before their first cup of Joe, it’s likely to cause a headache in an already headache riddled nation. Its thirty-second message succinctly states…”In a math and science test given internationally, the United States comes in twenty-fifth.”
Twenty-fifth? Unthinkable…unbelievable…unacceptable! Yes, but there is our little icon…each day traversing the screen, trailing behind a line of twenty-four higher achieving other countries.
As has become almost common in our culture, when the going gets tough, we point accusatory fingers at others we deem responsible, recently that would be our educatioal systems, and specifically our teachers…then there’s the media and technology and the pressures of a fast-paced, high-achieving lifestyle. In so doing, we allow our students to think of themselves as victims, helpless in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Could it be that this line of thinking is programing our youth for underachievement…that the real problem lies within…and that each of us is ultimately responsible for our own successes and failures? There are always obstacles to overcome, and there are always stories of those who overcome them. Success is a personal choice; it requires perseverance and hard work. Maybe that’s the better message to pass onto our children…maybe we need to stop encouraging excuses…maybe we need to start expecting achievement.