The Pressure of Perfection

One thing I advocate for and try to push on my students is the concept of improvement. Whereas perfection was the goal in this article, I think measured, continual improvement is a much more healthy goal to set for oneself. For example, it is unrealistic to expect a “D student” to transform into an “A student” overnight. However, it is realistic to expect a “D student” to clean up some aspects that cause them to barely hang onto a passing grade. For most of my D students, their biggest problem is simply not turning in all their assignments. For these students, a good goal would be to make sure to turn in all their assignments–regardless of their quality. Even a poorly done assignment that only receives a 50% is significantly better than a zero. This is the next step toward perfection without making perfection the invariably losing goal.

While demand for academic excellence in Alaska is not nearly as high as it is in a place such as Massachusetts  or South Korea, the problem of suicide is high and deserves our attention and sympathy.   I think it is important for us to ask ourselves what kinds of messages do we send to students in our class who might be contemplating suicide? Do you send a message of hope for self-betterment or defeat? Do you send a message of interest in their life, accomplishments, and opinions, or a message of dispassion? Do you send a message of stigma for mental illness? Or do you send the message that the brain can malfunction just like any other organ in the human body and to belittle those with mental illness is not only a rejection of science but also immoral?