Home > Uncategorized > Thanksgiving Wisdom from Kurt Vonnegut… and Thanksgiving to My Parents

Thanksgiving Wisdom from Kurt Vonnegut… and Thanksgiving to My Parents

November 26, 2020

A Facebook friend posted this wisdom from Kurt Vonnegut, who clearly understood that the competition implicit in public education works against the well being of children… and create a constant sense of ill-being that is hard to shake as an adult: 

“When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.”And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.”

If only we could emphasize the enjoyment that comes from mastering a skill, from learning how something works, to look at things from a different perspective instead of trying to “win”…. On this Thanksgiving, I am grateful my parents accepted my decent but unexceptional schoolwork, valued the work ethic I developed under their guidance, laughed appreciatively at my jokes— even the bad ones, and patted me on the back every time I did a little better on something than I did the day before. 

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