Not Yet

I combat ignorance on a daily basis. I don’t interact with unintelligent people – I teach teenagers who have a difficult time being level-headed when overwhelmed with passion. Being ignorant has become a dirty thing, and rather than address it, those guilty (and guilty of bystanding while it runs rampant) prefer to march ever forward, blithely whistling that the haters, indeed, will continue to hate.

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Four days out of five, I leave work feeling like I’m a crappy teacher because my students can’t seem to live up to my 50% Voltaire, 50% Common Core teaching philosophy: “I don’t care which way your opinion leans, just please argue it using academic language and properly cited, relevant sources.” Kids, it seems, don’t care what they sound like on paper… or in person. At least, not yet.

Now Dr. Carol Dweck, has some inspiring words to stomp down the helplessness that blossoms from being an educator in a time when youth embraces being “ignant”. Dweck knows more than nothing about ignorance, intelligence, and how the former can  – and does – overcome the latter. In addition to being a professor of psychology at Stanford, Dweck literally wrote the book on the correlation between motivation and cognitive ability.

Dweck shared her research in an utterly transcendent TED Talk – which I realize is a somewhat oxymoronic description but whatevs – that you should watch as soon as you’re done reading my non-transcendent words. Or, just watch it right now. I won’t even be mad.

Within her ten-minute Talk, Dweck discusses the idea of “Not Yet.” In a single sentence, Not Yet is knowing that failure isn’t just impermanent; it’s not even real. It’s also not exclusive to academic endeavors. That may be two sentences, but I’ll let Homer play me out of this pickle.

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For instance, I live 60 miles from where I work, and have Not Yet allowed myself to collapse into a weeping pile of panic. I’m also learning Spanish, but have Not Yet mastered anything beyond, “¿Cómo se dice…?” and, “Gracias, muy amable!” I have a budding career as a teacher, but I’m Not Yet entirely sure how unit plans are supposed to look, and grading students’ writing still feels like 40% wine, 25% dice rolling, and 35% wine. The dice rolling might also just be wine.

However, Not Yet goes beyond skills. It goes beyond habits. It burns through anything that involves just the individual and smokes out the very fundamentals of our society until the naked, mean reality is forced out into the public eye. Not Yet is a philosophy that promotes growth, change, and betterment. But inherent in the possibility for growth is the fact that right now, pre-change, prior to betterment, things might be a little less than ideal.

So yes, while it isn’t okay that a homosexual teenager came to me, distraught, after being was turned away from the blood drive at school because the Red Cross has Not Yet pulled its donation eligibility criteria out of the Dark Ages, it has to be accepted that Not Yet, not now never means not at all. It just means that someone – whether it’s me practicing my Spanish more frequently, or a community mobilizing to equalize Red Cross donation criteria – needs to put a little more effort in to shift “Not Yet” into “What Next?”

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