Changing the Question May Change the Future of Education

November 13, 2012
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The English novelist Maria Louise Ramé wrote, “Take hope from the heart of man and you make him a beast of prey”.

I believe that statement.

That’s why I believe that helping kids achieve academic success is the single most potent behavioral intervention.  I don’t want to oversimplify this, but kids who believe they are smart and have hope that things will get better if they work hard are not as likely to do harm to themselves or others.

It seems to me that most of the “beastly” trouble kids get into is the result of living a hopeless life; one in which they really can’t imagine things could be different.

Troubled adolescents seem to ask the question “Why not?” rather than “Why would I?” When opportunity to engage in socially unacceptable ways presents itself they are likely to ask themselves “why not, what have I got to lose?” That’s not good.

Perhaps if we make sure that they have opportunity to earn something they would hate to lose, they would be less likely to engage in self-destructive behavior. 

We could, and have, spent countless resources trying to eradicate the risk factors that are tied to juvenile delinquency. I think a better investment is to ensure that everyone gets an opportunity to seize academic success and make it his or her own.  Then maybe they’ll start asking the question “Why would I do that when I have so much to lose?”

This is worth everyone’s attention because our society cannot afford, by any measure of cost, a generation of the hopeless.


Mark Claypool is the Founder, President and CEO of ChanceLight Behavioral Health & Education. Claypool recently wrote We’re In This Together.