This morning I was driving to work listening to More FM as I do each morning (I laugh so much at the banter between Simon Barnett and Gary McCormick, it’s a great start to the day!). This morning JMac, who is standing in for Simon, proudly announced that he had absolutely no qualifications at all and that he had never passed a school exam. Cue much good natured banter and comments about him not being very smart. His response; you don’t have to be smart to be a radio announcer, you just have to be able to spin a good yarn.
The very first thought that popped into my head was – his poor parents, they must have despaired. Then I pulled myself up. How judgmental! Why did I immediately assume that his parents were despairing? I was judging him from my own value base and why did I assume that his parents shared my value base?
So often, we make judgments about people and about what people are doing or have chosen to do, without stopping and trying to contextualise their choices or decisions around their lives and backgrounds, not our own. Oh we all look down from such lofty heights, secure in the knowledge that our values and beliefs are the benchmark for how others should act. We may not have chosen their course, but who are we to judge whether or not it is a good course?
Is a person a lesser being because they didn’t get a university education? Or are they somehow inferior because they didn’t pass external exams? Are they making a wrong choice in forgoing university in order to take up an apprenticeship? Sadly, there are people who believe this to be true and for a second, I was one of those people.
The world needs funny radio announcers who make our journey through Auckland traffic bearable. We need motor mechanics, doctors, builders, dentists, road workers, scientists, kitchen hands, teachers, electricians, nurses, cleaners, rubbish collectors, bus drivers, artists, CEOs, accountants, police, plumbers, courier drivers, posties, prime ministers, secretaries, economists, writers, shop assistants, sales reps……….. Our society would not function effectively without people filling every role. Who gets to decide whether one role is more worthy than another role? A doctor may cure us, but without the cleaner the doctor’s workplace would not be sterile.
All this relates very well to our judgments about children. At this time of year some parents are hoping that their child will get one of the awards at prizegiving. Parents are waiting for the end of year report to see whether their child is ‘above standard’. How will they feel if their child doesn’t get an excellence certificate at prizegiving, or is judged ‘at standard’ or ‘below standard’? Will they voice their disappointment to their child? How will their child feel to be judged and found wanting? Of course, as teachers and parents we want all our children to succeed and we work very hard to achieve that. However, every teacher knows the strengths of their students, and for many their strengths are not necessarily academic, even though we all work very hard to support and challenge their learning. They may have strengths in art, or design, or deconstructing and reconstructing things, digital technology, music, drama. They may be amazing thinkers, but poor writers. They may be able to think laterally but struggle with maths. These are our future inventors, mechanics, artists who may never go to university but will achieve amazing things in their lifetime. Steven Spielberg and Jamie Oliver are dyslexic, Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe is dyspraxic, Michael Phelps and Justin Timberlake have ADHD, Lewis Carol and Bill Gates are autistic.
Who are we to judge?