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Memphis Daily News
Keep Hope Alive for Next Generation
April 7, 2014
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

Teilhard de Chardin, the controversial French philosopher and Jesuit priest, once said, “The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.”

He was controversial, as are most visionaries, because his insights reduced the complex to the simple, the difficult to the achievable. Long before there was a plethora of slogans to promote achievement, Chardin was a champion of potential, of unlimited possibilities, of the evolution of personal goals, of always going from good to great. But hope – what’s hope have to do with that next generation who are sitting in classrooms across our country? Actually, hope has everything to do with it. Hope gives a future orientation to students who are bored at school.

Yes, it is true, evidenced by the data. In a 2009 Gallup Student Poll, 66 percent of the respondents said they are bored in school at least once a week, some every day; 81 percent of that group said it was because the work was just not interesting, so they’re bored. Or are they? Perhaps they are thinking that this is as good as it gets, especially if they hear that their years in school are the best years of their lives. In the same poll, 42 percent of the students did not see the value of the work they were doing, or its relevance to anything in their future. This is nothing new. There were always students who were not paying attention, disengaged with the lessons, daydreaming or dropping out. There are employees at work doing the same thing. Enter hope; without a future orientation, wherever you are is as good as it gets.

What the Gallup Poll assessed was the level of student engagement, and that hope determines the students’ energy and ability to achieve their future goals. This is what education does. Education gives the next generation reason to hope. Students are given the skills to release their entrepreneurial energy, their potential and our future. So, maybe they’re not bored; maybe students just need to see more connections with the engagement in their lessons to the engagement in their future. That is actually a lesson I learned in first grade.

I was not always paying attention in class. The teacher told my parents I was daydreaming; I told them that I was bored … not a good idea. My father said I would need what I learned in school to earn money someday. He said that since I learned all my numbers, he would give me a nickel to paint the numbers on the curb in front of our house. So I did. It was an easy five cents. Then I went to all the neighbors and said that for a nickel, I would paint their house numbers on the curb. I had sixty cents in an hour, a fortune! I couldn’t wait to see what I learned next. What I learned best is that you never stop learning wherever you are, because it’s all about continuous improvement – and hope.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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