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Debunking the Improvement Myth

Posted July 9th, 2010 by Carroll King Schuller

“Improvement” is a national problem.

I know this sounds wacky, but hang in there.

A distressed mother called a friend, asking for advice on her son.  “He wants to fight with everyone, and I don’t know what to do with him.”  He was on the verge of being kicked out of school.

The friend—smart lady that she is—suggested that the kid start going to martial arts lessons.

It worked like a charm.

If a kid is good at fighting, why not let him fight?  Just—ahem!—as long as he fights in a positive way.

Similarly, if a kid is good at math, why not give him a math tutor?  When our kids are good at sports or the performance arts, we often encourage them in those directions—giving lessons to the 4-year old piano prodigy or the 6-year old gymnast.

We don’t often do the same when it comes to intellectual talents.  Instead, of encouraging people to practice what they naturally excel in, we scold them and tell them to “improve” their areas of weakness.

Why, why, why?

Why make the brilliant scientist slog through added language arts lessons?  I know everyone needs basic competencies, and I’m not arguing against that.  What am I saying is that we shouldn’t be investing extra time in “improving” areas of natural disinterest.

We should bag the idea of improvement and embrace excellence.

Challenge yourself to climb mountains rather than perform at sea level.  If we let our best and brightest climb with their intellectual talents, the world would be a more exceptional place.

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