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A mother in Chicago wrote for help: “Dear Abby: All of my grown children are underachievers. When contemporaries talk about their children getting jobs, getting married, having kids, going on vacation, buying a house/car, I have nothing to contribute. My children do not have lives; they work low-paying jobs and scrape by. Worse, they have no ambition to do better.”
Dear Abby responded with little insight: “Your children are adults. If they were motivated, they would be doing more with their lives than scraping by. Be glad they are independent and have good relationships with each other—it’s a plus, and continue living your life.”
Dear - Abby - Nothing - Mysteries - Ambition
Dear Abby has nothing to say about the curious mysteries of absent ambition and missing motivation. She, and the unhappy mother, should consider the possibility that major factors have so far been ignored in this Q&A.
What could be more devastating to a child than pervasive, day-by-day failure at school? Most pundits agree that public schools do a terrible job on the basics and essentials, particularly reading. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which tracks fourth and eighth graders, consistently reports that two-thirds of American kids are “below proficient.” This causes a crippling slowdown in every direction. How can they learn history, geography, science, literature, or anything else if they can hardly read at all?
Bet - Kids - Adults - Readers - Terms
It’s a safe bet that the kids and adults “scraping by” are not good readers. We hear the terms illiterate, functionally illiterate, struggling, poor readers, and such. Point is, they don’t read effortlessly; and they can’t read for fun. Naturally they have trouble filling out forms and understanding manuals. Wouldn’t it be surprising if these kids were motivated? It’s much simpler to drop out, hang with your friends, and smoke a joint.
The real questions are: why do our schools do such a poor job;...
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