Looking back, I suppose my “teacher burn-out” in my educational career began with the fad of Minimum Competency Standards. Although I was not able to speak eloquently of my distrust of the concept at the time, in retrospect I can now understand that seed of displeasure which lurked within me.
True learning does not come from achieving minimum standards; true learning is measured by that which is beyond the minimum. After all, what credit should be given to that person who only does what everybody else does? What person is recognized as a scholar, who knows only what everybody else knows? Heroes are those who go beyond the minimums; heroes are those who do those things which most other people will not do. Scholars are those who already know what others have not yet learned.
It is not enough for a student to gain learning by study. True learning comes from action which produces results. Sometimes this can be called experience. Not all action produces positive results, but even learning which comes from negative consequences can be a positive outcome.
In today’s culture, far too many people have accepted “Minimum Standards” as their personal goals. The very idea that a “Minimum Wage” should be a “Living Wage” is an idea that comes from a “Socialistic Perspective”. It is a leveling of humanity in which everybody shares the same level of misery. In recent years, the Chinese government has expressed a concern about the “lack of creativity and invention” by its younger population. Perhaps it sounds too simple to attribute such a lack of creativity and invention to a lack of a need to do better than the minimum, or to contribute more than the minimum. The mantra of Communist/Socialist: “From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs.”
Perhaps, the level of invention, or lack thereof, may be attributed to a felt need to stand out. When first stated, the concern that all people have a right to have their “needs” met by society sounds like an irrefutable statement of compassion. However, the human condition allows people to become comfortable at their “minimum level”. At the level of the cave dweller it becomes: “If I am warm, I can sleep; I don’t need to gather more wood for my fire.” Problems arise when the cave dweller awakes to find his fire is low and a storm is raging outside the cave. The cave dweller sees that the easiest source of more wood to be the supply that his neighbor brought in before the storm. The petty crime of stealing a twig becomes a war to decide who gets the woodpile.
And so it is in America today. America has groups of people who demand an increase in the minimum wage without considering any increase in the “value of the labor”. This is the miracle of “Capitalism”. “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a pathway to your door.” For proof, look at the chemical company which realized the limitations of mousetraps and then created “mouse poison.” That company, incidentally, is now selling that patented chemical to the medical community as a “blood thinner”.