Attitudes to be eliminated

Published 6:31 am Monday, May 31, 2010

Microsoft founder, CEO and computer guru Bill Gates is credited with — or blamed for — some insightful and provocatively expressed rules to be taken seriously by young people. I am told he asserted these recently to a group of high school students. The thrust is that schools and society have been setting young people up for failure in the real world. The feel-good, politically correct teachings have created a generation of kids with no concept of reality.

I suggest you think about each rule individually. Then consider the young people you know well enough to recognize how well these fit. This is what came to me:

1. Life is not fair— get used to it!

2. The world doesn’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

3. You will not make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

4. If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping. They called it “opportunity.”

6. If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault. So don’t whine about your mistakes—learn from them.

7. Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes, and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

8. Your school may have done away with “winners” and “losers,” but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

9. Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you “find yourself.” Do that on your own time.

10. Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

11. Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

I don’t have a research staff to do fact checking and, so, I’m not willing to vouch for these actually having been said by Gates. Although I can  believe the concepts are his, I hope the language was not, because it was necessary for me to make many grammatical corrections. If he didn’t make these points, he should have.

I have given the original list to college professors who immediately posted it as advice to students. In one of these schools, a visiting authority on undergraduates brought the house down with applause by saying, “Eighteen-year-olds are idiots.”

Two months ago I listened to teachers on the secondary and undergraduate levels talk about their students. They were from all regions of our country, but they were agreed such observations are accurate, at least as generalities.

I, as well as you, can name many young people of whom these are not true. That we can but again demonstrates that the exception proves the rule.

What is important is that all young people ensure these attitudes are not true of them individually and that they correct any that are. We share the responsibility to help them mature and be adults in the real world.