The limits of our vision…

Often when we talk about how we want kids to meet their potential, what we mean is that we want them to do well in school, or at academics – at things that we have come to believe/understand/know to be predictors of success.  And we have operated according to the well-meaning and equality-driven commitment that every child can meet the potential they have in those areas.  We strive to make it happen.  We pour ourselves into it.  We even, astonishingly, sacrifice our relationships with them for it.

What if we expanded our conception of potential so that instead of only the academic, and that which we can easily and confidently (though not necessarily accurately) map onto economic utility, we were to include the wider more complex and comprehensive realm of human potential?  The capacity for and strength in matters of empathy, technical prowess, social innovation, commitment to justice, and all the rest of the rich and boundless realms which humans have the opportunity and ability to explore and master? These capacities extend so far beyond the boundaries of what we’ve historically imagined to be essential, and can offer actual individual humans the chance to realize what they’re uniquely qualified and suited to contribute.

We have yet to come close to exhausting the potential combinations of genetic and experiential material in humans, and yet we continue to keep ourselves confined to a tiny sliver of what we’re capable of, what our young might become; what they might create, produce, and solve.  It’ll take the courage and faith of the adult set to make room for what could actually be.  If kids are to know themselves for their own actual capacity and intellect, we’ll have to step outside of and beyond what we have always understood to be available in human capacity and intellect.

I read this quotation on the walls of a New York City subway car last year, from Arthur Schopenhauer: “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”  What might become possible if we removed the limits of our own fields of vision from those of our kids?

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