I heard a radio discussion about the high drop-out rate in high school. Some of the kids complained they were bored, and the panel chattered with great concern about these darlings who are being let down by school and society. The poor dears are unchallenged. I flashed back to a long train journey I once took with my four year old. After many hours on the train, she looked at me and said “Mommy, I’m bored”.
Smart people don’t get bored.
That's what I told her. A little heavy handed – but I believed it. This was a girl who could amuse herself for an hour with a few toothpicks. And I was determined to pass this lesson on to her because I believed it: you are responsible for engaging yourself in this wondrous world.
Fact is, unmotivated kids have come to realize that if they lack drive – are afraid to try, to engage, to succeed, or to fail – if they shun effort – they can say they are bored and parents and teachers assume they have a brilliant and unchallenged mind on their hands. They fret. What do we do to up the challenge for this sparkling soul who is being short-changed by a failing school system?
What a load of cow dung!
I’ve heard this from students and I have them figured out. There is plenty enough stimuli in this world to keep one engaged, and even more so in classrooms stocked with books, magazines, computers – with new information and projects and socialization happening at any given moment. The problem with these students is not that they are burdened with intelligence, but overflowing with attitude. The world owes them a steady flow of mindless entertainment. The world owes them a job when they show up with a festering circle of steel through their eyebrow and lip. The world owes them understanding when they commit crimes. Someone should notice their glum countenance and dirty hair and purchase their art. People should appreciate them just the way they are – regardless of the fact that they don’t participate in anything worthwhile and look down on peers who do.
Oh, it’s a shame,for sure. But these attitudes have been a long time in the making. When there was no bedtime. When there were no family meals. No family games. No family conversation. No family. And now we think they are bored for lack of challenge?
Most of these kids don’t know what challenge is. Everyone receives a trophy; everyone wins first place; there is no longer a Most Valuable Player. They are not motivated by challenge or competition for they don’t know what is! They have learned that competition isn’t about doing ones best but about be given first place with no effort. Self-esteem isn’t about earning accolades or feeling an integral part of a unit but about being dressed nice and coddled. The kids – the bored ones – are empty wells that can never be filled, sucking the world dry unappreciatively.
And teachers go home feeling drained and worried, seeking new ways to get little Miss Ho-hum engaged in the class activities that seem sufficiently engaging to everyone else. Yes—little Johnny is bored. Little Susie is unmotivated. They must be brilliant!
Because the educational system has been perplexed as to how to deal with these budding geniuses, new philosophies have emerged and taken hold. These are the “child-centered” initiatives. Educational standards have fallen far and fast, with its twisted and miserable understanding and execution of child-centered education. We need to bring back standards that acknowledge competition and rewards, not just self-regard, which is often confused with self-esteem. Which comes first -— a job well done? Or the boost in self-esteem that comes from it. These kids, who received everything except discipline, are already child-centered enough. And we see the result. We see it in test scores, in juvenile crime, in tragedies like Columbine, and the lesser tragedy of boredom.
I suffer from such ennui some days; I long to sleep just to escape. I could write, read, clean, paint, organize, research, sew, exercise, play piano, sing, walk, talk – but nothing interests me. I have those days. Perhaps smart people do get bored. But they don’t stay that way! It is not a constant state of mind. And I certainly don’t confuse it with brilliance!
My four year old, bored on a train trip, was not demonstrating her deep intellect but a desire to get up and walk around. A desire for more! More experience. Not less. Our intelligence is demonstrated in what we do – and the fact that we do it. Not by what we avoid! Now excuse me while I go find some toothpicks to play with.