Wanting every child to succeed

I’ve been a teacher for my whole professional career and have taught every grade. I’ve sat untold hours in staff meetings, conferences, IEP meetings, grading discussions, etc all predicated on the axiom that every student should succeed. They should, of course : What else should one try for?

Still, this rarely gets balanced against the sense in which not every student should succeed. Any endeavor in which everyone could excel would be almost by definition pathetically mediocre, and would certainly have to be both rigged and contrived. Though I have no idea how I would carve up all the activities I have to engage in, any fair divvying them up would make me average at most of the them and below average in many others. Even where I’m above average, is it any great shakes to be in, I dunno, the 72nd percentile? Said another way, would you feel that tall if you’d were a woman between 5 ft 4 and 5 ft. 5?

So we have a human instance of antecedent and consequent will: antecedently, we wouldn’t make a school or admit any student with an eye to them failing, and every one enters a program that expects him to succeed. For all that, consequently, the very nature of success makes it impossible that everyone achieve it.

Both antecedent and consequent will are real and structural. The antecedent will isn’t wishful thinking undone by the consequent will’s hard facts, nor is the antecedent will any more abstract and idealistic than the consequent will. They are simply different axes of the one reality of wanting everyone to succeed.

It’s not hard to see that our era focuses on the antecedent will to the suppression of the consequent one, though this is a contingency that has been different in the past and will be different again. Seeing reality requires seeing both wills, but this is hard both to manage and accept.

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