A typical problem in many educational systems and the institutions that comprise them is ‘grounding.’
Postdocs, postgrads, youngsters, and even children are instructed to ‘keep both feet on the ground’ and stop looking at the sun or stare at the stars. In my native country, Greece, this has been a leitmotiv for generations, distorting a child’s perception of reality and diminishing its potential.
Instead of being realistic, this approach is disturbingly pessimistic. And it produces grown-up professionals full of unexpressed, unfulfilled dreams, resulting in toxic working environments later on. It explains why the first stages of school education, grade school, and even ‘kindergarten’ as we call them in Germany need total and urgent reform in most countries.
Children are not infants; they are humans with distinct personalities in smaller bodies but with more extraordinary powers than us adults. And postgrads are not aspiring professionals but emerging potential leaders. By clipping their wings, revisiting the example of Icarus, and insisting they focus on their lunch instead of the landscape, we deprive ourselves of what they could be capable of in the future.
All the abilities children possess that could lead to successful careers and happy lives later on (e.g., quick decision-making, the demand for immediate results, uncompromising spirit, the embrace of risk, excitement for new adventures, curiosity, accustomed to winning and being loved) evaporate by wrong schooling and destructive influences.
Some individuals lose all those assets by their 13th year, others around 23, and some by 33. If you haven’t lost them by then, you never will.
A simple experiment is in order: Try to assemble people or attend an event where 100 individuals or more are gathered in a single space, in any country, city, village, or (for increased diversity) airport, train station, hotel, or conference. You will discover that between 3 to 5 of those genuinely believe they are capable of extraordinary accomplishment. And from those, only one or none is ready and dedicated to making it happen.
Constant grounding is useless, then. Of course, such an educational approach can provide a comforting pillow to those exceptions who cannot reach higher standards for various reasons beyond their capacities. Therefore, it should be used as a ‘special’ approach for the minority who needs it and can benefit from it.
The rest of the world is always capable of the impossible. And yet, they are consistently taught throughout their most formative years to ignore that reality…