Better Is Not Always Better

I tell my classroom students to do their best, to give me their best effort. That’s all I can ask for. Of course, there are some students who think “giving their best” is like standing in front of a parent and being forced to take a dosage of castor oil. Yup!

On the other hand, there is an increasing push in the world to elevate the better in front of the rest. And the thing is, better is not always better. Better is a place that is revered, like a new car with more horsepower, hype, and an unreasonable monthly payment. There should be a striving for growth, improvement, and the best a kid or adult can do, but better has been redefined to mean replacing, leaving others behind, and advancing the already advantaged.

No better example (Pun intended!) of the deifying of “better” can be thought of than the push in the sports world. In our middle school league, the season for each sport is only about 6 weeks long, just enough time to teach the kids in a limited way the fundamentals of the sport. Most of our seventh-grade girl basketball players didn’t even realize they had a left hand that they could dribble with untold about Week 4.

But there are the players who have been playing on a club basketball team already, representative of the families that have the financial resources to shell out. Parents contributing that much moolah usually expect their daughters to be rewarded with massive amounts of playing time in the present and a college scholarship a few years down the road. There has been a growing push by some in our league to go to an ‘A’ and ‘B’ system, where the “better players” play on the ‘A’ team, regardless of their grade, and the others get relegated too the ‘B’ team.

Much of the chatter comes from parents who are from the “better is better” mindset. Why should seventh-grader Johnny, who reached puberty way too early and now is a muscular 6’0″, have to play with the less-talented boys in his own grade? None of them even have peach fuzz on their face! How in the world is he going to make it to the NBA if he has to play with normal kids for six weeks? It may teach him bad habits. He may even learn that worthless quality of being a good leader and encourager of his teammates.

Yes, I was being sarcastic in those last few sentences!

Parents want better schools for their children, even if it means uprooting their child from his/her support system and peer group. Kids want a better cell phone that can fascinate them so much that they spend even more time making it the center of their existence. Students want better food served in the cafeteria that costs less. Figure that one out!

To be sure, doing what has always been done isn’t the answer I’m looking for. After all, segregation was about keeping things the way they had always been. Desegregation, the way to make our country a better place for people to live, regardless of color, was seen as being one of those unwanted progressive agendas. Keeping the same curriculum in education year-after-year because that’s what the teachers are comfortable with does not do much for challenging students to think critically and learn concepts in new and different ways. For many of us the ruts of our existence are deep and predictable, and we’ll stay in those lanes even if we’re stuck in mud.

But there’s something to be said for the solidness of what has been. The train that offers secure passage for everyone to arrive at the next station is friendlier than the one that unhooks the last few compartments and has the passengers push it the rest of the way. Better is not always better.

Better is the incubator in which entitlement is often warmed. Or, maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe “better” is the disguise that is hiding the epidemic of entitlement.

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One Comment on “Better Is Not Always Better”

  1. mbmankin Says:

    Well said, Bill. Thanks.

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