Thanks for Not Dumbing It Down

Last weekend, I had the privilege of teaching leadership to the sharpest high school students in Gwinnett County. They are part of GSLT: Gwinnett Student Leadership Team. I love these students. They are bright, alert, grateful, energetic and hungry to grow and learn.

At the end of the training session, one girl approach my colleague and said something we hear students say from time to time:

“Thanks for not dumbing down the principles you teach. Thanks for not making this easy, but expecting us to rise to the challenge and actually apply what you share with us.”

This junior in high school was simply saying she appreciated adults who spoke to her as an adult, who relayed life-changing principles her and the other teens in the room and believed they could actually go back to their campus and practice it.

I have said for years that we, adults, under-challenge students today. They are capable of so much more than we expect. And they want to achieve more, but often fail to because mentors don’t pull it out of them.

We dumb it down.

In our desire to make sure everyone gets it, that everyone feels like a winner and no one ever feels left out—we over-simplify; we introduce a world that is far too syrupy and unreal…and kids know it. Sadly, we prefer a happy student who may be oblivious or numb to the tragedies around the world. We leave them unchallenged. Consequently, they live “down” to our expectations.

I have a deal to make with you. How about we stop that? Instead, let’s believe in these students and challenge them to rise to their potential. My guess is, they’ll do it and surprise us with their gifts, ingenuity and influence. I’d like to give it a shot. What do you think?


Thanks for Not Dumbing It Down