Appreciate unique, individual talents

By KRIS SHEARER Columnist Published:

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, then it will live its entire life believing it is stupid." -- Albert Einstein.

I'm pretty smart. At least I'm book smart. Well, OK I'm book smart about certain things. Give me literature, instructions, documents to explain and I can do it all day. Give me a math book to work with or explain and you're going to see a grown woman cry.

My son-in-law is not the "reader" I am. Some might, erroneously, say that he's not as "smart" as I am. But let's say you put him alone on a deserted island and put me alone on a deserted island right next to his. One of us is gonna die … and it won't be him. This college-educated, booksmart mama will be worm food within a day or two. My son-in-law would know immediately how to survive. He'd find a way to get shelter, water, food, then devise a way to signal for help even without phone service. I, on the other hand, would just keep checking my cell phone to see if I had any service YET. I might read my Kindle app until the battery died, then I'd lay down and cry till the vultures carried me away. So, while I may be "smarter" than my son-in-law as far as books are concerned, he's a smarter survivalist than I am and would likely live to tell his tale while my sad story would (maybe) be found scratched into the sand.

Yet we have a tendency, in our culture, to want everyone to be the same. I get irritated every time I see a report on how America's educational scores are so much lower than in, say, China or Japan. Our scores are often lower than many countries, but there are many reasons for this. For one, we may not be as strict as other countries. But, the main reason our scores are often lower is because we educate EVERYONE. Other countries don't do that. Germany, for example, tracks its students according to particular areas of proficiency. If you're artistically inclined, you go to an art institute. If you're career oriented, you go to a vocational school. If you're academically inclined, you're put on the college track. But here, "tracking" is a dirty word. Rather than gearing people toward their strengths, our state legislators seem to think we all have equal talents and proclivities in all areas and forces our educational systems to treat individuals as if they're all the same. Not true, even among the college-educated crowd.

Personally, I'm glad we all have unique talents. My husband has no college degree, but is married to someone who has three. But, he makes medical parts. I can explicate a poem or story for you. But if you're in an accident or terribly ill, which of our skills are you most interested in?!

Instead of trying to put everyone in some cookie-cutter mold, I think we'd better serve ourselves by celebrating our unique, individual talents.

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