My sincere apologies to Aesop, but since he can’t defend himself, he and I will just have to agree to disagree.
I recently read the story of the turtle and the hare to my youngest. To my surprise, I found myself not liking the story very much.
What changed, I wondered. It was always one of my favorite stories as a child. A nice, dependable one to lean on when I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Slow and steady, I told myself. Slow and steady wins the race. And shelved it away.
And then recently, when I read the story again, it hit me as false.
Slow and steady after all does not always win.
I mean, come on, think about it – wasn’t the hare the worst mascot ever for speed? He goofed off, spouted off, showed off. He was arrogant and incredibly rude. Anyone’s money would be on the turtle.
Anyone could ask, well, what if the hare had been diligent? What if he hadn’t been proud and foolish?
Would how fast he ran hindered him then? No? Then his speed wasn’t a problem, was it? His liabilities lay elsewhere.
They lay in his attitude.
Imagine your child is thrilled that he is learning something new. He has hit upon his passion and he’s going for it. He’s learning at breakneck speed. He’s in the flow. He can’t wait to learn more. He ignores every other subject because he focused on his favorite.
Do you purposely slow him down? Do you make sure he “catches up” with everything else before pursuing this singular thing? Worse, since we’re talking of hares and all, do you hold it as a carrot for him?
Or do you let him take off and take over?
Apply that same principle to anything else – opening a business, for example, or even losing weight. If you succeed at first, do you go for it or do you temper your emotions and then sabotage yourself in a misplaced attempt at false humility?
Who would do that? How about the entire system of education?
Think of grade levels. Children are assigned a grade by their age and age alone. They are judged and tested by age and age alone. Basically, they are asked year after year after year if they are a turtle or a hare. And, if they are lucky, or so they are told, they are assigned to a track.
The institutions of education have all bought in to the story of the turtle and the hare.
But slow and steady does not always win. It does not win because education, if it is a race at all, has no finish line. See, when you buy the idea of grade levels, and the fact that someone is giving you this privilege of education, you force yourself into being a turtle or a hare.
There is no finish line. Education is not a race. It is only possibility. It is potential. Slow and steady does not always win, but can. The fastest does not always win, but might.
Winning is not defined by public accolades; it is defined by personal satisfaction.
If your child wants to obsessively learn some one thing, let him. If you hit upon a business venture and want to pour your soul into it, go for it! If your friend is excited about a project and can’t stop talking about it, don’t tell her to slow down.
“Pace yourself” may be one of the most annoying two words in the English language I have ever heard.