Now I don't know about you, but I really hated school with a vengeance! Primary school meant such a long walk for little legs like mine, especially in the Kirkcaldy wind and rain. My teachers were mostly grumpy old women and the kind of 'pastoral' concern taken in most primaries nowadays clearly hadn't been thought of back then in the 50's!
But sadly Secondary school for me wasn't much better. As I'd only scraped through my 11 Plus (as it was in those days) I ended up in the lowest academic stream of that particular school year. And it wasn't long before I was made to realise that we were really the dregs, from which very little achievement could ever be expected. As a consequence it was something of a relief when one day I was summoned to the Headmaster's office and told to leave. It was a 'survival of the fittest' regime and I had failed miserably.
I left school with no academic qualifications or any ambition, and I can honestly say that I hated every day at Kirkcaldy High. My happiest school day was undoubtedly my last one!
Thankfully my 3 daughters faired much better academically than I did, each going on in due course, to university. However, on reflection I do wonder if I would have had more success had I been exposed to one of the great phenomenons of our day... the 'Motivational Speaker.' Would such a person have imparted to me the ambition I lacked?
According to the fount of all knowledge, the Internet, the ultimate goal of the motivational speaker is to 'change people profoundly on an emotional/mental level, and to help them make some kind of personal or professional change within themselves, focusing away from problems and overcoming adversity through the seizing of opportunities'.
Now, please don't get me wrong, I'm all for encouraging children and young people to be the best they can be, to work hard and to climb the ladder of success to as far as their abilities will take them. But surely it must be so wrong, if not cruel, for them to be told – as many are these days – that they can be anything they want to be! Surely this is only setting up many, perhaps a majority, for disappointment, failure and an even lower level of self-esteem than they may already have!
Of course it's always been God's intention for us to be the best we can be and Scripture never condemns personal achievement in itself. It's really the glorifying of ourselves we're told to avoid. After all, ambition is a worthwhile and commendable character trait, so long as it doesn't become the kind of 'selfish' ambition, against which God warns us...
'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain deceit, but in humility
consider others better than yourselves.'
'The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: ...hatred, discord, jealousy,
fits of rage, selfish ambition...'
After all, where does our natural ability or gifting come from in the first place? We may all be a product of the interplay between nature and nurture and to a large extent we're at the mercy of our intellectual inheritance. Nevertheless, behind all of this is surely the God who made us and wants the best for us... and the One to whom all glory must be ascribed.
Now, where have I put my copy of 'Brain Surgery for Dummies' ?