For every success story, there are thousands of heartbreaking stories about people who never got a fair shot. This unpleasant fact has led some to believe that we shouldn’t share such stories with people who grow up under harsh conditions. Such critics fear the false hopes and unrealistic dreams that might be inspired by rags to riches stories of people who overcame incredible odds.
The solution to this problem, however, is not for us to stop telling success stories. The solution is to continue fighting for those who are not yet able to achieve their own breakthroughs. The underprivileged don’t need to be protected from philosophies of self-empowerment and personal responsibility. They need to be protected from the unnatural forces that stifle their natural ability to create a better life.
We can’t help the people who struggle by telling them that their problems are unreal. But we also can’t help them by encouraging them to ignore the testimonies of those who’ve found a way to do the impossible. Success stories are insufficient, but insufficient does not equal unnecessary. The real key is not Either/Or thinking; it’s critical thinking.
Children will never be able to grow unless they develop the capacity to learn from a diverse range of people who have advantages and/or disadvantages that differ from their own. If we protected children from being influenced, inspired, and impacted by people who have advantages that are different from theirs, they would never learn how to think critically and creatively about personal growth.
Yes, children need to know about their disadvantages. They also need to know about their capacity to extract meaningful lessons from those who don’t share their disadvantages. This capacity is not the end-all-be-all of success, but it’s definitely a necessary condition.