where wildly different is perfectly normal
Underachievement according to whom?
Underachievement according to whom?

Underachievement according to whom?

Please, someone, tell me you also sometimes take the 30,000 foot view of humanity while lost in thought. Stepping back from the day to day nonsense and inspecting humanity as though we’re insects as viewed from a high-altitude jet. I do it most often when I’m driving alone, silence as my favorite music, wondering who we are and how we got here. I’ll pick out an object and contemplate all the people and thoughts and knowledge that came together to create it. I’m writing at the library, and everywhere I look I see this. The signs indicating the different book locations were designed by one person, the font created by another, the paint made and chosen by others, printed and assembled by still others, hanging from wires someone entirely different designed and manufactured, bolted into rafters designed and painted and manufactured and installed by still others. It goes on and on. Even the smallest, most insignificant part to a larger entity has someone’s touch on it.

As a species with opposable thumbs and enough grey matter to give us raging anxiety, we’re amazing in that we have created nearly all we see and a whole lot we don’t. We’ve built the humblest hut to the awe-inspiring International Space Station; handshake agreements to multinational accords. Nothing has come down from on high, we’ve done it all ourselves. We’ve designed systems of governing and ways to educate our young. High fives all around, we’re awesome.

So, if we’re so awesome…

My favorite thought experiment is “The zombie apocalypse has occurred. Society as we know it is kaput. What does our education system look like now?” (Go read The Passage. Yes, that’s an affiliate link. Yes, the first book is awesome; book 2 irritated me and I haven’t read book 3). I’m willing to bet that in such a situation we no longer care about standards and achievement. So how about we take the 30,000 foot view now, and skip the whole zombie apocalypse thing entirely? My zombie apocalypse plan is to throw myself to the ravenous hoards so as to save my sons, and while it looks like I’ve been fattening up for the opportunity, I’d really like to avoid that at all costs. My brains (and my hips) are for me, thank you very much.

If we are so awesome as a species, to have created things such as the International Space Station, push-up bras, and Dippin’ Dots, surely we can RE-create our educational system. If a student is described as an underachiever, please tell me…according to whom? What metric? WE came up with those metrics and cutoffs, surely we can change them.

Underachievement is a label humans have come up with based on an educational system we created. Really, what is underachievement? Achieving below a random standard created by the very species that evaluates itself.


Does underachievement really exist then? How about we rethink this? Again, take the 30,000 foot view.

There is no underachievement. There is only how a person (young or old) contributes to society in the way they best can. That could be as a physician, that could be as a storyteller, that could be as a farmer, that could be as a comforting lap in which to land, to be loved and accepted as who one is at their core. I am a huge proponent of technical education; I’ve seen the benefits firsthand. Andy attended our county’s Tech Campus the last two years and will attend Skills USA Nationals for the second year in a row, in the Computer Information Technology area. People look down on VoTech, but it is a vital educational option for so many of our students.

Underachievement is the result of an education system hell bent on ranking students coming through the schools. It is something we created, so it is something we can change. It doesn’t have to be this way. I don’t believe any student is an underachiever. I believe that if a student is labeled as an underachiever it is the fault of the educational system, not the fault of the student. Every student achieves in their own way, as they are able, as best as they are supported.

My husband and I are achievers. Over-achievers, in too many ways. Schools would tell us that at least one of our sons is an under-achiever. Taking the entire educational juggernaut out of the equation, I see us as individuals working with our strengths while managing our weaknesses as best we can (yes, over-achievers have weaknesses, we just learn to hide them early). We are all human, we are all contributing as we can, we are all worthy. While I believe in some labels, the underachievement label is not one of them.

I think we can do better. I hope someday we will do better. Underachievement is just a construct we created; it does not actually exist.


Today’s post is part of GHF’s June blog hop on Underachievement in the Gifted.

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  1. Pingback: Parenting 2e Kiddos, Summer, More | The 2e Resource

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